Frank H. Cicerale
June 26, 2007

Since its beginnings, dragstrip shootouts have been a big hit with the MM&FF crowd. We love doing them, as it gets us to the track and it gets our readers' vehicles in the magazine in a very cool way. These days, we use the Internet to put out the call for cars when a shootout idea arises, and never have we received as much e-mail as we did when we drummed up the idea for the Mach 1 vs. '99-'02 Cobra confrontation. In fact, we may have even gotten the idea after our computers were flooded with 50 or so e-mails from readers with cars who wanted to see this go down.

After some discussion, we devised a plan and sent out the word. While it may not have been a heavyweight fight, we did have a pretty decent card. In one corner was the '03-'04 Mach 1. From the factory it had a naturally aspirated, 4.6L, Four-Valve engine rated at 305 hp. The Mach 1's signature came in the form of the ultracool Shaker hoodscoop and its unique body and stripe package. In stock trim, we've run as quick as 13.13 at 105 rpm.

In the other corner was the '99-'02 Cobra. While the Cobra also came with a naturally aspirated Four-Valve, that's where the similarity ends. The Mach 1 is better equipped for the strip due to its solid rear, while the Cobra came with the often-looked-down-upon IRS rear suspension. The Cobra also has a cool body package, and in our testing we've lit up the clocks with 13.30 e.t.'s. Compared to the Mach 1's 305 hp, the Cobra was rated at 320. All in all, though, we had the makings of a great fight.

The thing is, most people get confused and think the engine in the Mach 1 is the same as that in the Cobra. That's not the case. Basically, the engine between the strut towers of the Mach 1 is the same one found in the Mercury Marauder. For starters, the Mach 1 has a higher compression ratio than the Cobra-10.0:1 versus the Cobra's 9.85:1. In addition, the Mach 1 has the same high-flowing heads found on supercharged Terminator Cobras. The rear-gear ratios are different (3.55 for the Mach 1, 3.27 for the Cobra), and, more importantly, the camshaft profiles are different. The Cobra showcases intake cams with 0.392-inch lift and a duration at 0.050-inch lift of 196. The Cobra's exhaust cams spec out at 0.390-inch lift and 194 duration. Compare that to the Mach 1's camshafts. The Mach 1's intake cams are basically the same ones found in the 5.4L Navigator engine, featuring specs of .394-inch lift and a 184 duration. The exhaust is more in line with the Cobra, with the specs coming in at 0.397-inch lift and a 196 duration figure. With shorter duration, though, the intake cam makes great midrange torque, although the high-rpm horsepower pales in comparison to that of the Cobra.

The rules for our Mach 1 vs. Cobra shootout were fairly simple. A stock-style suspension was required, though we allowed the Cobras to ditch the IRS for a solid-axle. All cars had to have a full interior, a Four-Valve engine, and 28x10.5 non-W or 325-sized tires. The kicker was that any engine modification was allowed, as well as any and all multiple power adders.

But our doorbell barely rang. The call heeded a surprisingly low number of entries, so we made the best of what we had and brought six cars to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, to see who would come out on top. This made us wonder if there were just a bunch of posers out there-fast with a keyboard but not on the track.

Right out of the gate, the Cobra contingent was in trouble as only two came to duke it out alongside four Mach 1s. While the power adder of choice was a supercharger, there was a mix between centrifugal and positive-displacement huffers as well as naturally aspirated Stangs. Everyone was given an equal chance, but each army was clearly not as strong as it could have been.

While the results weren't lightning quick, the competition was so close you couldn't fit a nose hair between First and Second Place.

1st Place
Matthew Wadel
Manassas Park, VA
'03 Mach 1

Matthew Wadel drove up from Virginia with his '03 Mach 1 and ripped off some blistering low-11-second times to claim the overall win for Team Mach 1. In a sense, he was straddling the fence as his Mach 1 had its engine bay stuffed with an '04 Cobra motor. The stock powerplant has its power output helped via a 2.3L Whipple supercharger stuffing 20 pounds of boosted atmosphere into the Four-Valve engine. Excessive Motorsports handled the tune, and according to Matthew, the engine was readied with little time to spare for the shootout, resulting in him running the everyday street tune. After opening the day with a couple of mid- to high-11-second runs, Matthew pounded out a pair of 11.30s with trap speeds well into the 120-mph zone. While his first pass was an 11.86, it was on that run that he recorded top speed of the day at 127.53. Adding looks to the purpose of the Mach 1 was the carbon-fiber hood with corresponding Shaker scoop cutout.

Weigh In
Owner:Matthew Wadel
Hometown:Manassas Park, VA
Driver:Matthew Wadel
Car:'03 Mach 1
Weight w/Driver:3,638 lbs
Engine:Stock '04 Cobra Four-Valve
Built/Tuned By:Excessive Motorsports
Power Adder:2.3L Whipple supercharger pushing 20 lbs of boost
Best ET/MPH:11.304/127.53
Log Book
Run No.60-FtETMPH