The Ford SVT Mustang Cobra is a pony car built by Ford since 1993. It is generally the highest performance version of the Mustang built by Ford, sitting in the model range above the Mustang GT model. On rare occasion, Ford produces a higher-performance Cobra R variant.
The 1993 Mustang Cobra was the first vehicle produced by Ford's newly minted Special Vehicle Team. The model was based on the Third-generation Ford Mustang, built on the Fox platform. The car was powered by a Windsor 5.0 L engine rated at 235 hp (175 kW) and 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m) torque. A limited run of 107 Cobra R units was produced.
Ford re-introduced the Cobra for 1994 featuring the new styling as well as larger brakes, a revised suspension setup and wider wheels than the outgoing version, but the engine was essentially a carryover. Power was boosted to 240hp, though. New colors were introduced, increasing the total palatte. Differences between GT and Cobra included the front bumper (Cobras feature round fog lights), Cobra-specific wheels, and the Cobra utilized the V6-spec rear bumper, with the MUSTANG name debossed into it (The GT read "MUSTANG GT").
1995 Cobra RRectify
In the wake of the '93 R’s unexpected success, SVT engineers developed a more powerful R-model based on the 1995 Cobra. Top priority became addressing customer requests for a larger, more powerful engine and more fuel capacity. In response to those requests, SVT replaced the Cobra’s 5.0 L V8 with an SVT modified version of Ford’s 5.8 liter Windsor V8, re-engineered to produce 300 horsepower and installed a 22 US gallon fuel tank. To handle the torque of the more powerful engine, a Tremec 3550 5 speed manual transmission was installed. Again, weight-savings was targeted, so there was no back seat, radio, power windows/seats or air-conditioning – not even fog lights, which were omitted to provide ducts for getting cool air onto the front disk brakes. Heavy-duty progressive-rate springs, thicker stabilizer bars and a front strut tower brace helped improve handling on the racetrack. Only 250 vehicles were built, available only in white with saddle interior, each with a unique center-tiered fiberglass hood tall enough to clear the engine and induction system.
For 1996, Ford finally did away with the aging 5.0 liter V8, replacing it with a new aluminum 4.6 liter, DOHC, "modular" unit that was smoother and had slightly better fuel economy. This engine produced 305hp and 300lb-ft of torque, making the new Cobra capable of mid-13 second quarter miles. Early models were backed by the Borg Warner T-45 5-speed manual transmission. Late in 1998, the transmission was changed to a more sturdy Tremec T-45.
With the introduction of the "new edge" Mustang in 1999, came a new SVT Cobra. All 1999-2004 Cobras featured independent rear suspensions, unique to the Cobras. The new Cobra had an upgraded 4.6L DOHC engine with 320 hp (239 kW) and 317 ft·lbf (429 Nm) of torque. Due to problems with the 1999 Cobras producing the claimed power (remedied via recall), the 4.6L Cobra was not produced in 2000. Ford replaced the intake manifold, exhaust and computer components to produce an estimated 15hp. The Cobra came back in 2001 with the same power rating with the problem fixed.
While the 2001 Cobra shares almost all the same components of the 1999, some changes were made. The changes included:
- The engine block was changed from the Teksid block to the Windsor Aluminum Plant or WAP block. The WAP block is regarded to be weaker than the previous Teksid block. Some 2001s received the Teksid, either from the factory or as a replacement motor
- Newer revision cylinder heads.
- Cobra-specific seats with a combination of leather and alcantara [suede-like microfiber] inserts - 1999 Cobras had normal Mustang seats.
- A rear bumper that reads "COBRA", instead of "MUSTANG", as the 1999 Cobra had.
- A rear badge on the trunklid was changed to say "SVT" instead of "SVT Cobra" as the 1999 Cobra had.
- The wheels for the 1999 and 2001 are 17x8. The '99 & '01 were sold with silver powdercoated aluminum wheels. The 2001 had the option of polished wheels in the same style.
- The T-45 transmission in the 1999 model was replaced by the 3650 in the 2001 model.
- The IRS halfshafts and differential were changed from 28 splines in 1999 to 31 splines in 2001.
- The spoiler was redesigned.
- The CD player was upgraded to a 6 disc unit.
- The center console and trim were redesigned.
- The emergency brake was fitted with a 'boot' of leather to cover the hole in the console where it protrudes.
- The headlights were changed from a chrome background to a black background. The newer headlights are sometimes referred a "smoked" or "tinted" but this only refers to the black background. The actual lenses are clear and identical to that of the 1999.
- The color of the odometer digits was slightly changed, and the color of the instrument cluster lighting was slightly changed as well.
In the pictures at left showing the two blocks of the SN-95 2 SVT Mustang Cobra, note the extra ribs designed to impart stength to the weaker WAP. Also, note the hatching in valley of the Teksid is square, while the WAP has diagonal hatching.
A similar Cobra model was produced in the US in 2002 for export to the Australian market.*
2000 Cobra RRectify
In 2000, a special Cobra R came in limited production of 300 with a 5.4 L DOHC engine that produced 385 hp (287 kW) and 385 ft·lbf (521 Nm) of torque. This model was street legal; however it lacked many of the comforts the base production line Cobra enjoyed. This model had no radio, no air conditioning, no heating, and no back seat.
The 2000 Cobra R had several distinguishing features that allow one to easily identify it as something more than a normal 1999 or 2001 Cobra. The "power dome" hood for instance, is taller than the normal Cobra hood, and has gills that can be cut out to reduce engine compartment temperatures. The rear spoiler is tall and wide, providing much needed down force at high speeds. The Cobra R is equipped with dual side exhausts, and a race-style fuel cell is clearly visible protruding under the V6-style rear diffuser. The front bumper is adorned with a low riding, removable splitter that keeps air from getting under the car and inducing lift. The wheels are also uniquely styled five spoke 18 inch x 9.5 inch alloys.
With its aggressive styling and harsh suspension, the 2000 Cobra R was essentially a street legal race car.
- It should be noted that the 1999 Coupe production numbers are incorrect (4,113). According to SVT, there were only 4040 1999 SVT Mustang Cobra Coupes built, #3892 of 4040.
Debuting in early 2002, the 2003 Cobra came with a supercharged 4.6 L DOHC engine rated at 390 hp (291 kW) and 390 lb·ft (529 N·m) of torque. It was later determined that Ford had underrated the Cobra, as actual output averaged 430 hp (321 kW) and 430 lb·ft (583 N·m) of torque. Numerous improvements were made to the powertrain and driveline to handle the increase from the previous model year. A cast iron block was used instead of aluminum, with stronger internals (forged Zolner pistons and Manley H-beam connecting rods) to handle the 8 psi (55 kPa) of boost delivered from the supercharger. Other improvements include the use of an aluminium flywheel connected to a Tremec T-56 six-speed transmission, 3.55:1 rear axle ratio and stronger 31 spline half shafts with revised upper and lower control arms.
For 2003, SVT offered a limited-edition Tenth Anniversary Cobra which featured unique color schemes, wheels, and badging. SVT produced 2,003 units of the Tenth Anniversary model, which was available in Red, Black, and Silver. The 10th Anniversary Package was offered in both coupe and convertible, featured unique wheels, red leather interior accents (seats/door panels), "carbon fiber-look" interior trim , red brake calipers, and SVT 10th Anniversary badges on the floor mats and rear decklid.
The only major addition to the 2004 model was the optional Mystichrome paint scheme and Competition Orange. The Mystichrome appearance package included a unique color-shifting exterior paint that was meant to be an improvement to the Mystic paint offered for the 1996 Mustang Cobra. The Mystichrome interior seating featured a unique color-shifting leather that mimicked the exterior paint.
While in production, SVT had codenamed this model the "Terminator", since it was supposed to finally put an end to any competition between the Cobra and the Trans Am / Camaro. Accordingly, the 2003-2004 SVT Cobra is noted by many for offering excellent performance coupled with poor reliability. With expensive "bolt-on" modifications such as intake, exhaust, ECU tune, and a smaller supercharger pulley, Terminator Cobras have been known to exceed 450hp at the rear wheels.
A definitive history of this model and John Coletti's SVT operations was captured in the non-fiction book Iron Fist, Lead Foot by John Moriarty.
Carroll Shelby lends his name to a 2007 Mustang, officially called the Shelby Mustang. Ford has not announced production of a Cobra built on the newer Mustang platform. The GT500 is marked with prominent Cobra badges, long a trademark of both Shelby and SVT, and sits atop the mustang range, ostensibly replacing the SVT Cobra.
For SVT Cobra Production number determination, all an owner has to do is call SVT at 1-800-367-3788 and give last 6 digits of the vehicle's VIN #, and have proof of ownership, such as a vehicle registration card.