Factory Five Files: Customer Dan D. 15 Years of Adventures

Meet customer Dan D. from Southern Maryland, a dedicated Factory Five owner with plenty of stories to share about his Mk3 Roadster of 15 years.

Dan says, “I brought the kit to my friends place to begin this journey of building my Mk3 Roadster back on August 22nd, 2007. Never in my wildest dreams did I know this would change my life, socially and mentally. 

Over the years the people I have met, strangers off the street, cruise-ins, car shows, along with other events have shown immense appreciation for my ride. I have had people who question my style of stripes which is not up and down, front to back. Instead, mine are across the nose cowl with the rear section similar in style across the trunk lid. 

My explanation is simple, in a group of Cobras, you can find ‘Red’ easily amongst the crowd. I chose the front stripe because it represents my time in Texas while in the Air Force during the Cold War (1984-1988). The rear striping is a product of seeing it on another car which broke up the main color like my front stripe. Since I have a love for some MOPAR as well as Fords, the Superbee is another beast I love and that has a rear deck stripe. 

People have criticized my decision on the stripe design as well as ridiculed me for not following the standard striping for the Cobras, but after a while they come around and enjoy it’s classic style.

The friend I had who helped me in discovering the love for this project, took me and the kit into their house’s garage. With the approval from his wife, she relinquished the garage spot for me to begin this build. I was so grateful for my friend giving me a place to build my Mk3. 

Everyday after work, weekends, off days, and holidays I spent working on getting it completed and out of the garage so his wife could have her garage back. My friend and I laughed, drank, and played billiards while working on the car. My friend and I worked together in the Air Force Reserves as aircraft mechanics working on the C-141B/C from 1990 to 2006. We had been through Desert Shield/Storm to 9-11. Afterwards we worked in separate areas. I went to heavy maintenance working the KC-135R for a few years before moving into production. We would argue or disagree during the day but would have a beer at the end of day, reset, and start over the next day.

By the end of February of 2008 the roadster was ready to leave its nest after 5 months of pushing the envelope. Cold weather, rain or snow, didn’t matter when it came to getting this thing out of the garage. It was time to drive it to Winchester, PA to store it there until I could find a place to keep it indefinitely.

It was a super cold Sunday, but luckily I had a top and a heater box to keep me warm for the hour plus ride. My brother’s youngest son rode with me, and his cousins and brother followed us out to Winchester. On the way through Purcellville, VA I saw a deputy sheriff pull onto the highway in my rearview. I had tempory tags, and not everyone approves these DMV paperback displays, so my attention was on the deputy’s car. 

Sure enough it began to accelerate and I thought, “Oh great, I see a ticket in my future!” As the cruiser came up to me on my left, I turned to look to see if wanted me to pull over. Expecting an angry disgruntled deputy pointing me to pull over, I was surprised to see a huge smile and two thumbs up! I gave a shaky thumbs up in return and mentioned to my nephew, “Didn’t see that coming.”

While waiting a few months for the state to approve my car for titling, I helped my brother-in-law who was also building a Factory Five Roadster in West Virginia —North of where I kept mine. Finally, I made an appointment with the inspector to get titled, and two weeks later I hit the road! 

A year had passed when I decided it was time to upgrade with some Halibrand replicas, and maybe do some stripe experimentation. The Halibrands make the car feel properly dressed wearing 355 fatties in the rear! Before the new wheels and tires, I painted a yellow rear stripe on the car to get a visual, but I kept it in the gel for 7 years before committing to paint!

In 2009, I was fixing things that I felt needed to be addressed for safety like a driveshaft safety loop. I also installed a fire suppression system in addition to the mounted fire bottle in the cockpit. Finally, I changed out the transmission crossmember with a custom one my brother-in-law made for me.

Before my next deployment, I realized the car needed a finished look to accent the Halibrand wheels. I had no clue on what color it was going to be, but I found a place to do the paint work and polish the exposed aluminum.

It seems without thinking about it every four years the car went on a hyatus for work I wanted done, or upgrades. Mid July 2011, I parked the car at my sister’s garage and added the trunk’s drop box, trunk lighting, a spare tire mount, painted calipers, ceramic side pipes in black, powdered coated panels and swaybars, rewired paneling, seat heater switches, replaced gauges no longer required, replaced heater ducts and fresh air ducts, added a new hood scoop, and access panels for the gas tank sending unit and pump. I also added new trunk carpet, and external battery terminals located in the trunk. The list is long for repairs, add-ons, upgrades and rebuilds, but I enjoyed making the build my own.

A bigger change I made was removing the supercharger. It helped to not wear my engine down. It was causing additional stress and strain, so I took it out. Now, 95,000 miles later, I got my money’s worth. 

As for a minor upgrade, I started with a different license plate than I have now. I started with one that said, “WCKD 65” and then moved onto one that said, “F5 Cobra”. Now, I just have a 50 Year Street Rod tag on my car -don’t ask me how I got it! 

I cannot think of a better car. This car has given me adventures and a collection of friends over the years. The car has given me time to reflect, and meet strangers and have conversations about the car. In some part of our conversations I always tell them they need one of these, and lead them to the Factory Five brand. 

More overseas deployments gave me time to think of what’s next on the ol’ ride. After seven years in gelcoat, I finally took the plunge to get her ready for pain. I was thinking of dark blue with white stripes. I made up copies of a drawing of a Cobra with my stripe design on them, grabbed some coloring markers, and began to experiment on color configurations. It came down to red with black stripes. But what color red? I wanted something that said red, deep red but not deep enough to blend with the black stripes. It needed to be stock so that if damage or repairs are needed it can taken off the shelf. I went with Toreador Red – medium, and it turned out beautifully.

This car never fails to make me feel good. I took it to the dyno and let the gentleman working there take it for a test drive. After he came back he said, “this thing is freaking wicked!”

October 2015, I was off on a Friday heading for the CACC lunch we do in Great Falls, VA. I was driving up Rt.395 to pass by the Pentagon in the roadster and I heard a helicopter coming up from behind me. After a few seconds I realized it wasn’t passing me. I looked up and over my head to find an UH-60 hovering over me at 60mph. I could clearly see a person hanging out the side door window. I waved, and they waved. Then I took this picture before I taken my exit. When I zoomed into the photo you can see a hand waving back!

I’ll share a fun story with you from about two Halloween’s ago. After a trunk or treat, me and Fred (The Skeleton) were heading back home, when I witnessed a collision ahead of me. As I approached the accident I saw the car that caused the collision had smoke inside, and I wasn’t sure if it was from the airbag going off. 

I pulled over with my fire extinguisher at the ready. The tinted windows prevented me from seeing what was going on inside, but I did see movement. Then the car began to move forward and attempt to make a u-turn before speeding away! I looked back at the other wrecked car off the road. My thought was, ‘Oh no!’ I jammed into first gear launching out to chase down the perpetrator who caused the accident. It took me five minutes to catch up with him on the back roads, and slowly gain on the car. There was flying debris falling off the car and anti-freeze spewing everywhere, so I struggled to get close enough to see the license plate.

Leaving the pursuit, I returned to the scene of the accident and was met up by one of the witnesses, telling them I couldn’t get close enough for the tag number. His reply was, “Don’t worry, he dropped something.” He shows me the smashed front license plate. I stayed to give my account to the state police of my pursuit plus a video recording on my phone, all the while, laughing at my partner in crime… Fred the skeleton!

One of the things I love to do is intentionally get lost and find my way back. I was with my brother-in-law a few years ago and he was like “let’s go for a cruise”. We ended up in Martinsburg, WV. We went around the mountainside and got up to a section of highway where his sister lived up the road. We decided to go and visit, but she wasn’t there. He ate her cookies and washed it down with her milk without her knowing! 

Then, we went back a different route through more winding roads along the mountainside. We lost track of time, so we had to pull over and get some gas. There was a house at the very bottom of the mountain, and we had to knock on the door because they had just closed. If they hadn’t opened up and let us pump some gas, we would have been stranded! I upgraded the seats after that trip.

15 years of ownership and 95,000 miles later, this is more than a car – its a culmination of years of adventure and passion. I love my Factory Five and everything it has given me.”