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Project Aurora Cobra: Part 1 - Back From the Dead

by Ashley DeLuca

I’m sure the first question that you are asking yourself is, “What is an Aurora? I thought that was a crappy Oldsmobile!” Well you aren’t wrong, but there was also another type of Aurora that was originally manufactured by a Canadian automotive company from 1981-1983 designed to be a limited production replica to the slab-side Shelby AC Cobra.  I absolutely fell in love with this two seat roadster as a child and saying that this car and I have a long history is an understatement.  Let me tell you a little about the car that peaked my interest in the automotive world and the journey that we have been on in my short 25 years of life.

 

Here the car is, in all her glory, before the accident. Take note of the goofy looking side blinkers that were a requirement in the early 80's for street legality reasons. 

This car has been in my family since the late 80’s and I have been obsessed with it ever since I was old enough to talk.  The car is an 83 Aurora Cobra MKII and is based off the less common, and much slimmer, early 60’s small block Shelby AC Cobra. In case you were wondering where this sleek body style came from, since the most iconic big block AC Cobras have large fenders and roaring side exhausts, the original Shelby AC Cobra was a British car designed by AC and fitted with an American engine.  The late Carroll Shelby took in this car and molded it into the classic vision that pops into your mind when the words "AC Cobra" is mentioned.  

Only 170 of these cars were built by hand with over four hundred and fifty man hours per car.  A few more unfinished cars were built and sold after the early 80's but in terms of production, the Aurora was restricted by its limited release.   It is the only replica subjected to US DOT specifications for crash safety and EPA compliance allowing this car to be street legal in all 50 states, yes including the ever looming smog dictatorship known as California.

 

When I was a little girl I would spend hours sitting and pretending to drive this car in the driveway.  It was such a treat for me to go on a drive with my dad and shout at him over the engine to go faster!

The original marketing of this car in their brochure seems like a page out of a Calvin Klein ad.  The targeted demographic was clearly with the status elite as all the promotional pictures include posh, expensively dressed women standing around the car with their champion dressage horses and oversized yachts.  Aurora Automotive boasted in its advertisements, "A rational man cannot justify the exhilaration of an Aurora on the open road. To those few who absolutely demand an uncompromising automobile...Anything less would be cheating yourself."  That statement definitely seems like a tall order considering its limited production but with its initial price tag of a cool $35,000, this car was nothing to snub your nose at.  

 

When your pillar entry way house, championship equestrian horse, and red headed trophy wife just aren't enough, Aurora is here to save the day so you can show your neighbors just how ballin' you are. 

If you aren’t convinced yet how awesome this car is, let me continue… after its initial release, this car had its own feature in Playboy magazine claiming the Aurora to be "One of today's most exciting sports cars" as well as multiple Motor Trend cameos back in the 80s.   With its light weight construction based on a tube frame chassis and hand laminated fiberglass reinforced plastic that is bonded to the chassis, the total weight of this car comes out to a whopping 2,150lbs.  The bonding of the fiberglass to the chassis eliminates the mechanical joining with no squeaks and rattles and insures the durability of the nine coats of acrylic lacquer . The low weight includes the 1983 five liter Ford GT Mustang 302 motor mated to a super T5 transmission that makes right around 206hp and 235 ft/lb of torque.  Although this car is small, with an overall width that is almost 5in more narrow than a Miata, it can still pack a punch and plaster a smile on your face.

 

The Aurora made its initial debut on the pages of Motor Trend magazine in 1982 and focused on the Aurora GRX.  The following year the MKII was compared to two other Shelby Cobra replicas in the magazine but make no mistake, Aurora makes it very clear that this is not a kit car. 
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Comments
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Friday, November 28, 2014 4:25 AM
Okay, *this* is going to be cool to watch. Awesome project!
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Friday, November 28, 2014 7:49 AM
Oh, and before anyone else beats me to it... KW Suspension doing a Cobra replica application? Heh heh heh.
Option13
Option13link
Friday, November 28, 2014 4:53 PM
Respring and revalve those Billies! A MotoIQ guide for that would be awesome, I'd like to do it to my Miata Bilsteins.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Friday, November 28, 2014 5:01 PM
You know, I'm working on doing that... just need to get a shock dyno built first, as I'm not totally convinced on the accuracy of some simulation stuff I have for valve stacks without a lot more testing.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Monday, December 01, 2014 5:06 AM
This will certainly be a different build for MIQ, but should be very interesting! It's great that you're saving your family's car. I'll be doing the same to my '86 Integra in the near future, though that car has succumbed to chassis rot as opposed to an accident. Looking forward to seeing how this one turns out!
ED9man
ED9manlink
Monday, December 01, 2014 8:47 AM
Does the car not have a dual circuit master cylinder? Half of your hydraulic brakes would have still worked even with a burst line if so equipped. That might be a good place to start for safety upgrades! I think the FMVSS requiring them for production cars dates back to the 60s, so you'd think it would have one.
jeffball610
jeffball610link
Tuesday, December 02, 2014 7:40 AM
I love project cars that have a story behind them. This is great that it's been in the family and you're continuing its life. Can't wait to see what you do with it.
Burninator
Burninatorlink
Tuesday, December 02, 2014 7:59 AM
Great project and story! Should be fun reading about it. It's a real shame the bodyshop left it outside uncovered. It wouldn't have been too much trouble for them to throw a tarp over it at least.
Ashley DeLuca
Ashley DeLucalink
Tuesday, December 02, 2014 12:46 PM
Thanks for all the positive feedback everyone! I'm really excited to add a classic car to the MotoIQ mix!

Option 13- It is a possibility to revalve the Bilsteins and definitely would be more cost effective than completely swapping it out for something else. Honestly though, I think that this suspension set up has a little too much travel/ droop so I might be looking for something a little shorter and more responsive.

Also ED9Man - The car did have a dual circuit master cylinder but I think at the time, after the line burst, it was such an emergency stop that even though one line broke, the other wheel still caught slightly sending the car into a skid/spin. Honestly it all just happened so quickly. There was a car at a stop sign in front of me and I just tried to avoid a car on car collision. Brakes are on my top list of priorites to change out though!

Burninator - Believe me, after finding out that the car was left outside without any cover was probably one of the most discouraging things about this rebuild. Everything in the interior of the car was pretty spotless and in great condition when we dropped the car off for body work. It really is such a shame that essentially everything in the interior is ruined.
Burninator
Burninatorlink
Wednesday, December 03, 2014 12:23 PM
How does having less travel/droop help? I thought I remembered Mike saying you want as much travel as you can get with the space you have. With the same amount of travel and stiffer springs and dampers I'd think you could get the responsiveness you are looking for and stay off the bumpstops.

Just trying to understand how less travel could be a benefit. Maybe I have to wait for that part of the article series though.
Ashley DeLuca
Ashley DeLucalink
Wednesday, December 03, 2014 9:15 PM
Burninator you are correct that you have to have both sufficient compression and droop travel for optimum grip. But the issue with the Aurora as of now is the front damper bodies are so long that they give the front an excessive amount droop travel that is compromising an adequate amount of compression travel. There needs to be an equal balance between the two
Burninator
Burninatorlink
Thursday, December 04, 2014 7:11 AM
I see, thanks for the clarification!
capri466
capri466link
Tuesday, August 25, 2015 1:37 PM
you seems to know very much about Your aurora , do you know anything about the weights of a mark2? I have bought and imported #132 to Norway where the inspectors have found the vin sticker in front of drivers door and it states the weigths like this: gvwr = 2150 pounds (less than a Spitfire!), front axle 1000 pounds, rear axle 1150 pounds, but the car weighs 2469pounds with full tank ,empty seats, 1367 rear and 1103 frontaxle, must be a fault from the factory? do you know the actual weight of Yours? what is the gvwr on Your doorsticker? (Aurora MkII Corner Weighting found at www.auroracobra.org is very similar to my car) what number is Your car?
Ashley DeLuca
Ashley DeLucalink
Sunday, February 28, 2016 9:23 PM
Hey capri466~ I'm not too sure on the weight of everything to be honest. I'm currently living in Japan right now but I will definitely check my car when I get back home later this year. I know my car is number 125 though :)
HarvE
HarvElink
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 10:28 AM
I own car #151, bought in 1987. 125,000 miles on it. I'll never sell it. Road raced, lots of tours, shows. Mechanically rebuilt bumper to bumper. Upgraded every way for better performance, reliability, safety. Never damaged.

They are much heavier that AC said they were. My car weighed 2650lbs on the scales as new. I have it down to 2300.

Totally great car. Had a $Million in fun with it.
HarvE
HarvElink
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 10:30 AM
See auroracobra.org
Ashley DeLuca
Ashley DeLucalink
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 12:52 PM
@HarvE I'm basically in the process of rebuilding bumper to bumper. But I think the car will be better for it in the end. I need to write part II of this article :D Can't sell this car either, this was THE car that piqued my interest as a kid. I'll be back on track with it once it's "done". Famous last words right?

I have been on auroracobra.org a million times but it seems like Jim is trying to find someone else to run the site so content is very slow to get updated. Thought it would have been fun to have a link to this article somewhere on there for something current going on :)
rotten
rottenlink
Monday, May 29, 2017 9:51 PM
I'd consider taking over the site to keep it alive. BTW, Aurora delivered new cars through 1987. They went in and out of business. They delivered one to a friend in 1986. He had to wait more than two years for his car. That one had slight flares on the fenders. Really nice looking car. Here's and article on the company by a Canadian writer.

http://www.autofocus.ca/news-events/auto-retro/the-aurora-grx-canadas-cobra
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