Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Information and History

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

The Ford Mustang SVT Cobra was a pony car built by Ford Special Vehicle Team in 1980 as a prototype that was successful again and again from 1993 to 2004. It is a car that was produced in limited quantities, making it highly sought after among Bloomington performance car enthusiasts. It is a high performance version of the classic Ford Mustang, sitting in the model range above the Mustang GT model. On rare occasion, Ford produces a higher-performance Cobra R variant.

1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Debut

Under the newly established Ford SVT division, the 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra was offered with the 302 CID V8 that produced 235 hp (175 kW) and 320 ft·lbf (380 N·m) of torque. Featuring more subdued styling than the GT, the Cobra used Ford’s new GT-40 high performance engine equipment, which could send a Mustang through the 1/4 mile in 14.3 seconds at just under 100 mph (160 km/h). The colors offered were red, black, and teal.

A Cobra R model was also produced in 1993 that used the same engine as the regular Cobra. It featured larger brakes, Koni shocks and struts, an engine oil cooler, a power steering cooler, and a factory rear seat delete. Since the Cobra R was race oriented, options such as air conditioning and a stereo system were not offered. Each of the 107 produced were offered in red only.

1994 Re-Introduction

Ford re-introduced the Cobra in mid-1994 featuring all-new styling as well as larger brakes, a revised suspension setup and wider wheels than the outgoing version, a “GT-40” lower intake, and Cobra-specific upper intake as well as GT-40 cast iron heads. Power was boosted to 240 hp (180 kW), though. New colors were also introduced – Rio Red, Crystal White, and Black, keeping the total palette at three. Differences between GT and Cobra included the front bumper (Cobras feature round fog lights), Cobra-specific wheels, and in 1994 and 1995 the Cobra utilized the LX (V-6 3.8L)’MUSTANG’ rear bumper, while the ‘COBRA’ rear bumper didn’t appear until 1996. Unique for the 1995 Cobra was the removable hard top option. 499 were produced and were only available with the black exterior and tan leather interior. These models were essentially the same as the convertible Cobra, but had several small provisions to accept the retaining mechanisms of the fiberglass top and dome/map light wiring.

Mustang SVT Cobra R-Model

In the wake of the ’93 R’s unexpected success, SVT engineers developed a more powerful Mustang SVT Cobra 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 5.8L Windsor V8, re-engineered to produce 280 horsepower (210 kW) and installed a Kevlar 20 U.S. gallons (76 L) 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 cloth interior, each with a unique center-tiered fiberglass hood tall enough to clear the engine and induction system.

1996 Cobra Updates

For 1996, Ford finally did away with the aging 5.0L V8, replacing it with a new aluminum 4.6L, DOHC, “modular” unit that was smoother and had slightly better fuel economy. This engine produced 305 hp (227 kW) and 300 lbf·ft (410 N·m) of torque, making the new Cobra capable of high-13-second quarter miles. Early models were backed by the Borg Warner T-45 5-speed manual transmission. Late in 1998, Tremec bought production rights for the T-45, although it remained unchanged in terms of strength.

In 1996 Ford also introduced the Mystic Cobra, which featured color shifting paint manufactured by BASF. The paint was green based, and depending on the angle you looked at the car the colors shifted from green to purple to root beer to gold. The 1998 Cobra was the last year of the return style fuel system, which was replaced with a newer returnless system in 1999. The 1998 Mustangs used the 1999 style bucket, but retained the previous returnless style as they were a transition year.

1999 Cobra Redesign

With the introduction of the “new edge” Mustang in 1999, came a new SVT Cobra. All 1999-2004 Cobras featured independent rear suspension, unique to the Cobras. They also used a newer returnless fuel system, which helped Ford meet tightening emission standards. The new Cobra had an upgraded 4.6L DOHC engine with 320 hp (239 kW) and 317 ft·lbf (429 N·m) of torque. The 4.6L Cobra was not produced in 2000. Ford replaced the intake manifold, exhaust, and computer components to produce 320 hp (240 kW). The Cobra came back in 2001 with the same power rating, slightly behind its GM competition, the Camaro SS and Pontiac Trans Am Ram Air WS6 package that produced 325 hp (242 kW).

2000 Mustang SVT Cobra R

In 2000, a special Cobra R came in limited production of 300 with a 5.4L DOHC engine that was rated at 385 hp (287 kW) and 385 lbf·ft (522 N·m) of torque, although independent dyno tests have shown that it produced rear-wheel output that nearly matched both of those numbers, suggesting the ratings may have been substantially conservative. 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, and no back seat. Each of the 300 produced featured a charcoal interior with Recaro buckets and a Performance Red exterior.

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 front diffuser. The wheels are also uniquely styled five spoke 18-inch (460 mm) x 9.5-inch (240 mm) alloys. The engine employed special DOHC cylinder heads, a “Trumpet-style” intake manifold, more aggressive camshafts, short-tube headers, and a high flow exhaust system sporting 3 Borla Mufflers. With its aggressive styling and harsh suspension, the 2000 Cobra R was a hard edge track day car.

2003 Mustang Cobra Debut

Debuting in early 2002, the 2003 Cobra – nicknamed the “Terminator” – came with a supercharged 4.6L DOHC engine. The motor was underrated at 390 bhp (291 kW) at 6000 rpm and 390 lbf·ft (530 N·m) of torque at 3500 rpm. The true output of the motor was closer to 430 bhp. 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 including forged Zolner pistons and Manley H-beam connecting rods that were modified with a wrist pin oiling hole by the SVT engine builders. These upgrades were critical in order to support the 8 psi (0.55 bar) of boost delivered from the stock Eaton M112 roots supercharger.

Other improvements include the use of an aluminum 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. These modifications launched the Cobra from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and the quarter mile in the high 12’s at over 110 mph (180 km/h). Some have gone as low as 12.4 seconds with a professional driver and good conditions in stock form. For 2003, SVT offered a limited-edition Tenth Anniversary Cobra, which featured unique color paint scheme and red leather inserts in the seats.

The Cobra Re-Emerges in 2007

Carroll Shelby lends his name to the 2007 Mustang, officially called the Shelby GT500. The 2007 GT500 brought back the Cobra (named after its Shelby badging, a coiled cobra snake) after a three year layoff. The new Cobra boasts 500 bhp (373 kW) from a new 5.4L 4V V8. The GT500’s 5.4L is a DOHC model like previous Cobras, but has Ford GT aluminum heads and specially tuned cams in order to flow the nine pounds-force per square inch (62 kPa) of boost supplied by the completely revised supercharger. The driveline is strengthened with a hydraulic twin disc clutch, a sturdier, re-geared Tremec T-6060 6-speed manual transmission, and a solid 31 spline rear axle. The independent rear suspension of the 99-04 Cobra is no longer available in the GT500.

With the new model, Ford has catered to the drag racing crowd, whereas previous Cobras tilted to road racer. The GT500 is heavier than other models, owing largely to the iron 86.4 engine in place of the aluminum 4.6 engine in previous years (except for 2003-2004, which had the iron 4.6). The previous body’s IRS package is generally considered weaker than the solid rear end which is thus better suited to drag racing abuse. On smooth pavement the solid rear end actually performs better than the IRS, which is mainly suited to uneven surfaces. The GT500 also has a larger set of 18″ wheels, bigger brakes, and larger sway bars to accommodate the larger, heavier engine.

Find a Mustang Cobra for Sale at Anderson Ford!

Though the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra is no longer in production, Decatur and Springfield performance car enthusiasts continue to seek it out. If you’re on the hunt for a Mustang SVT Cobra for sale, Anderson Ford can help. Be sure to check out our used inventory on a regular basis, and don’t hesitate to contact us to inquire about a pre-owend Mustang Cobra for sale – we’d be happy to help you get behind the wheel of this iconic Mustang model!