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Bob Wingard - The Need for Speed
05.15.12
 
"I’m 6 feet 9 inches tall and my son is a little guy at 6 feet 4 inches tall,” says Goddard Systems Engineer Bob Wingard. “I had to build our own sports car so we could fit.” Along the way, Wingard acquired most of the Shelby Series 1 factory creating their 427 Roadster that Motor Trend recently described as looking like a 21 Century Cobra. “Our 427 Roadster is a street car built on a Formula One platform. I’m an adrenaline junkie.”

“I was a high school muscle car kid.” Wingard still has the 427 motor from his Ford GT. After he got married, he sold the car but kept the motor and stored it in a drum of oil under the garage steps for the next 20 years.

Bob Wingard in his custom made car.› Larger image
Bob Wingard poses in his 427 Roadster that he and his son built from the ground up. Credit: B. Wingard
In 2007, Wingard and his son rebuilt that motor, now a collectable worth close to $50,000, and then looked for a car to house it. Wingard had always wanted a Shelby Cobra. Explains Wingard, “Shelby is the icon for the American muscle cars.” Wingard ran across a Shelby Series I, one of only 250 built, which he bought at auction. “It was my family car,” says Wingard. His son learned to drive a clutch on this car. Not surprisingly, the car soon needed a new clutch and floor mats.

Later in 2007, Wingard visited the Shelby factory in Las Vegas looking for those parts. The warehouse had been shut down for six years. Tools were everywhere. “All I wanted was a few parts and to build a Cobra for my son and me using my old 427 motor,” says Wingard. He left with a phone number to call, but no parts.

Two years later, he returned to the factory, which was undergoing liquidation. He ended up buying about 100 completed or almost completed frames, most of the parts to complete them, plus the tooling, all of which he shipped to Crofton, Md. via nine tractor trailers “For the want of a floor mat and a clutch, I bought most of the factory,” notes Wingard. Wingard and his team spent the next year secretly designing and building their first 427 roadster production prototype.

Says Wingard, “The really wealthy are buying toys because they cannot make any money in investments.” He continues, “Who is my size, has money, and likes sports cars? They play pro ball and many cannot fit into a regular sports car. So that’s my market.” In 2009, Wingard took a prototype to a Washington Redskins’ fundraiser to rave reviews.

Frame of the car The 427 Roadster
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The frame of the 427 Roadster. Credit: B. Wingard
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The finished 427 Roadster. Credit: B. Wingard

In March 2011, he began marketing the 427 in earnest. He sold his first car in June 2011 and, as of November 2011, he has sold seven cars without motors for $105,000 each. Every car has a $15,000 paint job done by Wingard himself. Clients include one pro ball player, several businessmen both from the U.S. and abroad, and Shelby fans.

“I had one built for me,” says Wingard. “The rest are for everybody else. I ended up with all the marbles, but I didn’t mean to grab them all. But I also have the only three Shelby Series II still in existence at our shop.” Wingard has taken his 427 to 150 mph easily, but is confident it can top 200 mph on a track. “It doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast,” he says. “Once you exceed 140 mph, it all feels the same.” Says Wingard, “The standard colors are blue and white, but you can have any color you want.”

“I don’t look at my success as luck,” he says. “It is all about being open to the possibilities, to opportunity.” He continues, “What makes me successful at Goddard is that I take on a problem and then I fix it. That’s normal here at Goddard. So I just apply the same principles to these cars. Also, you need to find the right people, which I did. I’ll hold the dumb end of a tape measure if that moves the job along. And we’ll do whatever the customer wants; even match the thread of the seat to the car color.”

Wingard sums up his playing with one word: “Fun.”

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.