Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
June 3, 2003

For many Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords readers, quicker elapsed times are all one needs to have a better Stang. However, there are some people who, while they love the thrill of acceleration, direct more of their efforts to the cosmetic side of automotive creativity.

Such is the case with William Rios. A veteran police officer of more than 20 years and a sergeant on the Federal Narcotics Task Force, Rios put his clan on the straight and narrow by converting the formerly Chevy-affiliated family to the Ford Motor Company. William's wife, Irma, started out with a '96 Mustang GT, but he convinced her a new Snake was the way to go. The two-valve pony was then traded in on a fresh '96 Crystal White Cobra.

A common racket among male hot rodders is to justify a new purchase by putting it in their wife's name and saying it is hers. Police officer or not, William was guilty of this as the SVT replaced Irma's GT. It wasn't long, though, before he claimed it for himself, probably using the "well, we really shouldn't put the miles on it" line or the "it's too nice to mess up by driving it all the time" clause. Well, many of us are guilty as well, and our cars are better off for it.

William began modifying the Mustang by adding simple under-the-hood, dress-up and detail items. A year had passed before Rios bolted on the Vortech supercharger, fulfilling his need for speed. Sucking air through a Pro-M 80mm mass air meter, the hungry Vortech compresses the atmosphere to 10 psi before cramming it past a BBK 62mm throttle body.

BBK Performance also supplied a set of long-tube headers and H-pipe, while a pair of Bassani mufflers keep the Snake's hiss to a mellow rumble. A native of Richmond, Texas, William took the car to Houston Performance for its custom chip tuning. The final dyno number was 411 hp to the rear wheels.

Speaking of wheels, William was looking for a unique set of rims to make the Cobra stand out, and he found the right ones at a Mustang Club Of America show. "I found a guy that had these brand new wheels from Roush, and he said there were only two sets made so far and he had one of them. I talked to the guy from Roush and got the other set," said Rios. Spanning the circumference of the wheels are BFGoodrich Comp TA radials, with 295/35/18s in the rear and 265/35/18s up front. The stock Cobra brakes were left alone as they do a superb job, but William dropped the car a few inches with Eibach coil springs and Tokico adjustable shocks and struts. Maximum Motorsports lower control arms were employed and a set of subframe connectors were welded in to firm up the unibody.

With a mere 10,500 miles showing on the odometer, you wouldn't think a car would need a paint job, but William thought otherwise. Knowing a plain white car was just not a showstopper, Rios contacted Mike Milburn of Milburn's Paint and Body in Pasadena, Texas. After the scheme came together, Juan Gil of Milburn's sprayed on the PPG Cranberry and White Pearls. Amid the flying paint particles, William tossed in some Saleen side skirts and an S-281 spoiler and somewhere in between, the door handles were ditched for a smooth look down the sides of the serpent.

William's brother, Mike Rios, was also hard at work fabricating custom panels that were either painted or polished and placed in the engine compartment to make the supercharged mill look as good as it performs. These days, there's enough chrome and polished aluminum to light up Alaska all winter.

With so few miles, the factory leather interior remains in great shape. William added a host of Auto Meter Phantom gauges, aluminum pedal covers and a Kirban shifter. A custom stereo and battery relocation grace the trunk, and a tool case was fitted to the inside of the decklid.

Taking Best of Show at the Fun Ford Weekend in both Houston and Dallas were the result of William and Irma Rios' dedication to the Mustang hobby, and there will most likely be many more wins in the future. William told us the car is pretty much the way he wants it, although an IRS swap is in the works.

Pampered in Pearls? Yes, but the pedals are pumped profusely, producing a whole lot of ponies in the process.


Roush wheels wearing fat BFGoodrich rubber keep this pony planted to the pavement. Stock Cobra 13-inch front rotors haul the Snake down to legal speeds.
Vortech-blown, the stock 4.6-liter, four-cam engine is just broken in mileage-wise--leaving many more years of lead-foot fun ahead.
Stock leather was kept as it is barely used, but the Cobra's owner upgraded the cockpit with white-face gauges to monitor the supercharged mill's vitals.
The custom paint was sprayed by Juan Gil of Milburn's Paint and Body in Pasadena, Texas. Subtle mods like shaving the door handles and carrying the checkered flag into the engine bay make this one unique Cobra.