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Jimmy Peebles in his Cobra, a car he assembled himself, at his home in Lawrence County. Assembly was nearly overwhelming at times because even though it comes in a kit, it's not like snapping pieces together and following step-by-step instructions.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Jimmy Peebles in his Cobra, a car he assembled himself, at his home in Lawrence County. Assembly was nearly overwhelming at times because even though it comes in a kit, it's not like snapping pieces together and following step-by-step instructions.

A sports car powered by the Lord
Lawrence man assembles, uses vintage replica to share gospel

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

FIVE POINTS — Life was running smoothly on all cylinders for Jimmy Peebles in the fall of 2004.

We’re talking eight, asphalt blistering, 435-horsepower-producing cylinders in a 427-cubic-inch engine.

The Lawrence County resident was building his dream car, a reproduction of a 1965 Shelby Cobra, perhaps the ultimate achievement of the American sports car movement.

Even with the pain of severe arthritis, Peebles, 50, was undeterred to single-handedly use his novice skills to construct a high-performance machine. Though an experienced electrician, he had never attempted anything remotely this complicated.

It was as rewarding as it was challenging, he said, and certainly worth the sacrifice of selling his Corvette to pay for the project.

Heart attack

Then, on a December evening, that dream came to a grinding halt as if someone had jammed a monkey wrench inside the engine block.

He had a severe heart attack.

“It felt like a house was sitting on my chest,” Peebles said, recalling the pain. “The nurses asked me to describe the pain from one to 10, and I said it was an eight or a nine.

Half his heart was damaged, and Peebles now wears a defibrillator, implanted in his chest.

Initially Peebles was frightened of overexerting himself. He didn't want to die, or to endure that pain again. By his own reason, he would have to give up the Cobra project.

But the more he thought about it, the more he realized God could take his life anytime. So why worry about something beyond his control? From now on, he would simply enjoy the time God gave him.

"When I started building it, my first thoughts were, 'I'm going to look cool in this.' It was all about me," he said. "Now it's about God. He allowed me to live and keep working on it."

Dedicating it to God didn't make the project easier, though.

Construction was nearly overwhelming at times because even though it comes in a kit, it's not like snapping pieces together and following step-by-step instructions.

The kit basically consists of the internal chassis and exterior shell. Builders must provide the engine, transmission, rear differential, wheels, instrument gauges, even the seats.

'Room for imagination'

"They really leave a lot of room for imagination," he said. "It comes not so much with a set of directions but a bunch of suggestions."

He finished the car, last year. He won't admit how fast he has gone for fear of giving his wife, Debbie, a heart attack, but he guarantees it will do the 180 mph listed on the speedometer.

Because it's lighter and has a more advanced engine than the original, it ought to surpass the Cobra's legendary ability to go from zero to 100 and back to zero in 13 seconds, Peebles added.

Peebles gave his Cobra a vintage look with the exception of the fender emblems. What would normally have read "Powered By Ford," he wanted to read "Powered by Lord."

He couldn't find an emblem plate with that exact inscription so he went with "Jesus is Lord." He is working on a new hood emblem that combines the classic Shelby dual stripes with the words of Isaiah 53:5:

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."

Peebles hopes it opens opportunities to share the peace of the gospel while exhibiting the Cobra at car shows.

He said he can talk about how he became a Christian at 17 but over time got caught up in manmade rituals and clouded the transforming message that God accepts people just as they are.

'Part of our lives'

"A normal person would say, 'Hey, it's just a car.' But it isn't. A car is a major part of our lives," he said. "And this car, people ages 5 to 90 love it."

When they see the emblems, some will likely inquire why he put them there, and Peebles said he can share his testimony of finding peace after his heart attack.

"God takes care of us like I take care of this car," he said, "only more so."

Multimedia online extra:

‘Cobra with a Mission’

www.decaturdaily.com

The Cobra legend

The A.C. Cobra was the brainchild of Carroll Shelby, an American auto visionary who in 1962 combined a small English roadster with a thumping Ford V-8 engine.

The fastest models, equipped with a 427-cubic-inch engine, could go from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. And it was far more nimble than the typical American heavyweights.

Production of the Cobra roadsters stopped in 1967 as Ford concentrated on the Mustang.

In all, a few more than 1,000 Cobras were built worldwide. Cobra replicas (kits without engines costing about $13,000), however, have become popular, and have increased that number.

- Paul Huggins

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