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The future of the lightweight, high-performance sports car will be unveiled during the April 12-15 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the form of the street-legal Rush roadster.

Brothers David and Thomas Kirkham, of Provo, Utah, married clean-slate engineering to minimalist design and created a four-wheeled rocketship that, by their own account, will "run rings around a Cobra on the track"-and these guys know something about Cobras!

The Kirkhams began building aluminum-bodied Cobra roadsters in 1995 after discovering a dormant aircraft factory in Poland full of skilled craftsmen and idle machines. Since then Kirkham Motorsports has sold more than 500 replicas of Carroll Shelby's 289 and 427 lightweight sports cars to buyers in America, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, England and many other countries. Their handcrafted Cobra bodies garner so much attention that they have been displayed with Ford products at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association mega-show in Las Vegas.

Eager to provide their sponsor with an eye-catching display for last year's convention, the Kirkhams designed the Rush roadster from scratch around one of Ford's Duratec engines. The frame is an elegant but strong cage built from two-inch stainless steel tubing, on which an innovative pushrod suspension, disc brakes and high-performance wheels and tires are mounted. Placing the 500-horsepower, supercharged V-6 engine behind the seats balanced the chassis' weight for better cornering at extreme speeds.

The mid-engine design also allows a wide range of drivers to sit comfortably behind the steering wheel-one of Kirkham's regular customers is more than seven feet tall.

Artfully shaped panels of polished aluminum accentuate the car's exoskeleton and offer a small amount of protection to the driver and passenger from flying road debris. There is no windshield on the prototype, so goggles are probably a good idea, and there is not a fender to be found on any corner.

Kirkham will make lights, fenders and a windshield available for customers who intend to register their Rushes for street use. Front and rear stabilizer wings will be optional on the production models.

Weighing only 1,400 pounds-about a half-ton less than the tiny Mazda Miata-the Rush prototype is lightning fast and its creators expect a zero-to-60 time under three seconds once the car goes into production.

Keeping with the practice that has served their Cobra replica business for several years, the Kirkhams intend to sell the Rush as a rolling chassis, with the buyer providing a powertrain of his choice. Kirkham Motorsports expects to build 50 Rushes a year for $29,000 each.

"The secret to the Rush's performance is obvious," David Kirkham said. "It's as light as we could make it and still keep four wheels and an engine. We've also spent a lot of time developing the car's suspension components so they could be as sophisticated as possible without adding weight."

Other attractions scheduled for the Food Lion AutoFair include an Evolution of the Stock Car exhibit; prized rides of NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart; a real-life version of "Doc Hudson" from the animated hit "CARS"; a pair of futuristic bubbletop show cars from the early 1960s; and a 75th anniversary display of 1932 Ford "Deuce" hot rods.

The Food Lion AutoFair, the world's largest automotive extravaganza, attracts more than 160,000 visitors and features 50-plus car club displays, more than 10,000 vendor spaces and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

For more information, contact the speedway events department at (704)455-3205 or click here.