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"R" Kind of Racer
Paul Svinicki is looking to rewrite the record books with his one-of-a-kind Cobra R drag car.
When Ford Motor Company slapped the 2000 Mustang Cobra R on us, we pretty much flipped out. This new piece of Detroit iron was capable of low 12-second blasts down the quarter-mile, insane handling and had an appearance and attitude all its own. From its pavement-scrapping front splitter to the aircraft-style rear wing and trick IRS suspension, this 385-hp beast was just what the doctor, and the racing world for that matter, ordered.
Ford was looking to capture the racing consumer with this awesome display of metal, and proof of this was the fact that if you were looking for a fancy radio, a back seat or air conditioning this was not the car for you. Simply put: it didn't come with any of those things. If you weren't into the creature comforts, but had big speed and neck-snapping cornering on your mind, this was the machine to have.
Because of the fact that this car was built in limited numbers (300) and that it came with a pretty hefty price tag ($54,995) the odds that someone would pick this type of Stang to turn into a full fledged racer would be extraordinarily slim. Paul Svinicki of Paul's High Performance in Jackson, Mich., has been modifying street and race cars for a very long time and was not about to back down from a new and exciting challenge. He had always been into the racing scene and has been knocking them dead with his blue '98 Cobra in the Fun Ford Weekend and NMRA Mod Motor classes for the past few years.
His '98 Cobra had some healthy modifications and ran a best of 10.70 at 126 mph with a normally aspirated setup and a Tremec 5-speed transmission. While this car was extremely successful (he wound up finishing in the runner-up position in NMRA Mod Motor points in '01), Paul had an exciting and powerful trick that was yet to be pulled from his magical sleeve. As the 2000 racing season came to a close, Paul mailed a proposal to John Coletti and Mike Luzader of Ford's SVT Engineering division and asked if they would be interested in helping him out with a 2000 Cobra R Mustang. The two were happy to lend a helping hand and by July of last year the new racing project was underway. Finally, there would be a Cobra R that actually raced. A 2000 Cobra R mule car was delivered to Paul's shop and this would be the starting point for what would eventually be one of the coolest Mod-motored racers in the sport. "The car was a Ford test vehicle," said Svinicki. "Ford used it to test out different ideas and wound up sending it to me so that I could construct a race car out of it. John and Mike were the two men responsible for making this happen."
He began by stripping the car down to the bare shell so that a complete roll cage could be constructed. Miller Performance in Langsburg, Mich. was responsible for constructing a full chrome-moly cage that would stiffen the car up and protect Paul in case of a mishap. With the cage completed they topped off the interior with a set of Racetech seats (that were custom-built in Australia) and lightweight Auto Meter gauges.
Paul's old '98 Cobra had a stock rear suspension system but he wanted to install ladder bars on the R. "My goal [with this car] is to run in the mid-9s," explained Svinicki. "I wanted a chassis that can handle that kind of power. Plus I want to eliminate the IRS system that the R comes with. It won't be up to the task of living with the power that I plan on making, especially with the new engine that is under construction."
With the roll cage finished Miller Performance cut the rear of the car apart and installed a custom Strange Engineering-equipped "Fab 9" 9-inch rear end with a full ladder bar suspension system that is suspended with trick Penske adjustable shocks and springs. The rear end houses a steep set of 5.13 gears and puts the power to the ground with 10.5-inch Mickey Thompson tires which reside on 10-inch-wide Weld rims.
The next step was to drop in the new engine. That feat would prove to be a difficult proposition, as the engine that Paul originally planned on running was not completed in time. For the time being, his tried-and-true '98 Cobra motor was stuffed in the R. "The engine that we are in the midst of constructing should make upwards of 200 hp more than the mill that is in the blue car," said Paul. "For now, just to get the R on the track, we will use the less powerful '98 Cobra piece."
The old engine was constructed around a Ford Racing "spray bore" block that uses a special sprayed on coating to create a rough finish on the cylinder walls, which then must be finished on a hone machine. A Ford Racing crank spins Oliver rods and custom pistons that offer a mild 10.5 compression ratio. Paul assembled the engine himself but the machine work was handled by Performance Auto in Hillsdale, Mich.
The heads of choice are the FRPP aluminum 4-valve versions, which have been modified by Paul and good friend Steve Stratton. They house FRPP springs, valves and camshafts and are fed via a Cobra magnesium intake manifold. The rocker arms have a 1.8 ratio and are covered with a set of stock valve covers. Modular motors are notorious for having oiling problems but Paul kicked that problem to the curb by using a Peterson oil pump and a Canton Racing pan. He explained to us that all of his oiling problems were eliminated with this new oil pump setup.
Part of what makes this engine run as good as it does can be attributed to the ACCEL Gen 7 fuel management system. "Job Spetter of Turbo People in New York has been helping us tune the new system," explained Paul. "He, along with us, has really been able to make this car run. It is running faster than our blue '98 Cobra and the R has an automatic transmission." The ACCEL fuel management system works with a full array of MSD Ignition products that send a massive amount of electricity to the eight spark- plugs.
"I also have to give credit where credit is due," said Paul. "Richie Brandl of Superior Custom Classics in Fla. wired the entire car for us and did a terrific job. We brought the R out to the '02 Spring Break Shootout in Orlando, Fla., and the thing was not even wired. Richie finished all of the wiring for us and even installed our coil-on-plug system as well. He did a terrific job and worked through the night to get the car running for us."
The transmission that Paul is referring to was built and supplied to him by Len Bertrand of Lentech Automatics in Richmond, Ont., Canada. Len custom-built a bulletproof Ford AOD Strip Dominator and stuffed a trick 6800-rpm 7-inch converter in the bellhousing to get Paul off of the line in record time. The converter is tailored to help him hit the .400 pro tree as well as with the stick previously used in the blue car. Paul leaves the line with a transbrake and shifts the car at 7000 rpm.
Supporting the engine and transmission is a complete line of Anthony Jones Engineering frame products. Paul scrapped the stock and bulky frame for a lightweight AJE unit and topped it off with a set of coil-over struts and tubular control arms. The frame gives Paul some much needed oil pan clearance and reduces the front end weight, which helps to improve the car's hook on the starting line. \
Paul has set out to construct one of the bravest Modular motored cars in existence and, from the looks of it, he has done just that. Average people don't usually build and race rare and expensive cars such as this but Paul is far from average. His plans include his quest for the '02 Mod Motor championship and he will also try his hand in the Hot Street (normally aspirated) class when the new powerplant is completed.
Still, with the smaller engine stuffed under the hood Paul has run a best time of 10.69 at 129 mph and has recorded a dynamite 1.39 60-ft. time as well. His goal with the new engine is to run in the 9.20 to 9.50 zone and that should put him right in the thick of things when he steps up to Hot Street.