Penn freshman builds classic car from scratch

Shelby Cobra

Comedian Bill Cosby was once given a custom-made Shelby Cobra (from race car driver Carroll Shelby no less) but decided to give it back. Perhaps Cosby should have chosen Penn.

Mike Peisach, a Penn Engineering freshman from Miami, built a rare 1965 Shelby Cobra from scratch while in high school, and he too gave his away. But while Cosby returned his Cobra because he couldn’t handle its supercharged engine, Peisach auctioned his for charity.

Peisach’s dream project started during his sophomore year of high school, when his fellow classmates were practicing three-point turns. Peisach was tempted to tinker with his first car from the moment he turned 16. His father, Engineering alum Alberto Peisach, noticed his son’s interest and remarked, “If you like cars so much, why don’t you build one?”

For two years, Peisach worked on his homemade car for four hours each day. Short on cash, Peisach located a sponsor to help with the expenses, Wences Casares (founder of Bling Nation), who agreed to back the project as long as the completed vehicle would be donated to charity.

Peisach scoured automotive websites and area car shops to find parts. To ensure authenticity, he purchased an old Cobra mechanic’s manual, studied the parts and sought advice from a mechanic who stopped by weekly.

He completed the car during his senior year and had only two days to savor it before it was shipped to a California auction. It sold for $111,000, which Peisach donated to Endeavor, a nonprofit organization that assists high-impact entrepreneurs. The Cobra now “resides” at the home of Tim Draper, one of the most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

Peisach says the project was an opportunity to help others while pursuing a personal passion for mechanics. “If you have a dream, do not start toward the goal thinking of the dream and wondering how to accomplish it; instead think of the first step and how to accomplish that,” he says.

To view "Endeavor Start Young," a seven-minute YouTube video Peisach produced detailing his work on the car, click here.

Originally published on April 15, 2010