I assume as car lovers, we’re all familiar with America’s favorite pony car. The car that coined the term and has ran the longest in it’s class when even it’s competitors at GM (better performing products that they were) could not remain profitable. This car, whether good or bad, was and is the Ford Mustang.
I owned a Ford Mustang GT for a long time (it’s still in the family, my brother drives it) and it was a fun, economical car that had good looks, decent power and sounded amazing. I have to say that despite owning one I’m not completely enamored with the Fox-4 platform. If you know Mustang, you know that they’ve only recently become great handling cars. They’ve always been built on the better parts of lesser cars, since the very first Mustang rolled out. The Fox-4 platform is a side-step to this ideology, evolving on the Fox platform that was first created for the Fairmont for model year 1978. For Ford, it was their ubiquitous rear-drive platform. Technically, all the way into model year 2004, the Mustang rode on a chassis that was designed during the lowliest of times for automotive enthusiasts.
This Cobra R makes the best of a bum deal, by using a few old hotrodding tricks. If you noticed anything missing in the interior, you’re very perceptive. Keeping with the “R” moniker, this Cobra has no A/C, no cruise control and no radio. It also does without a back seat, but if you’ve ever owned a 94-04 Mustang, then you know that they’re useless for transporting more than a couple bags of groceries anyways.
Next, the 4.6L DOHC Modular Mill is replaced by a larger 5.4L V8, owing it’s increased displacement to a larger deck height, which allows an increased stroke. With four cam shafts and 32 valves on top of this glorified truck motor, it was rated at 385hp.
For reference, the standard 2000 GT is rated at 260hp with it’s 4.6L 16v V8, and the 1999 Cobra with it’s similar, but smaller 4.6L 32v V8 cranked out a respectable 305hp. The Mustang GT’s main rival for that year, the 2000 Camaro Z28 was rated at 305hp with a much larger (albeit much less complex) 5.7L 16v OHV V8.
So we have a small car with a big, mean V8. No creature comforts, and only came with a manual transmission. This car is effectively the Z06 Corvette of the later Fox Mustangs, if we take this comparison further, the 390hp Supercharged Terminator could be considered a ZR-1 equivalent.
In comparison to previous Cobra R Mustangs, the DOHC 5.4L was much meaner and much less pedestrian than the simple GT-40 converted 5.0L/5.8L Cobra R’s of the early 90’s. In fact, the engine was so potent that a lot of what made it tick made it’s way later into Fords GT mid-engine super car.
I think the only faults this car had was being built off a platform that Ford should have killed off at least with the redesigned 1994 Mustangs. It doesn’t seem like much when you hear how much people rally on about how great the Fox bodies are, but when you consider the fact that the 1982 Camaro is a better handling car than a car built in 2000, it’s a big problem. Today’s modern s197 chassis Mustangs (based off architecture made for the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-type, go figure) are a huge leap in the right direction when it comes to chassis. Pun intended.
The second problem the Cobra R had was that it’s body treatment is ugly as sin. I mean, what the fuck were they thinking when they slapped that wing on the back? It looks like some kind of architectural piece from a Chinese Dojo. The fat-lip front splitter and signature R hood don’t do much for the car either. The crazy thing is that this is still a popular style for these cars in the aftermarket. Since they only made 300 Cobra R’s in 2000, if you see one, it’s likely just a v6 with a cheap fiberglass body kit. It’s such a shame, because the aesthetics are the worst part of this amazing car.