Dale Amy
January 20, 2014

By today’s standards, its specs and appearance seem almost white-bread unassuming, but in 1995, the Mustang Cobra R was a genuine factory performance heavy-hitter. In the years prior, late-model enthusiasts had lusted over the idea of a production Mustang stuffed with the 5.0L’s big Windsor brother, and the 351-cube ’95 Cobra R finally delivered in what turned out to be a last blaze of pushrod glory before the advent of the 4.6L SOHC and DOHC replacements in 1996.

Even casual students of Cobra history will already know about the ’95 R-model’s 300-horsepower rating, an output that is handily exceeded today by the current Mustang’s 3.7L TiVCT V-6. But bear in mind that this was back when a GT packed just 215 ponies, and a regular 5.0L Cobra only 240. And forget horsepower anyway: the ace of displacement is torque, and the R’s extra half-inch of stroke brought a brawny 365 lb-ft to the game at a time when both the contemporary GT and Cobra twisted out only 285 lb-ft. Incidentally, the complete supply of ’95 Cobra R C-code 351 engines was reportedly assembled over the span of a single shift at the Windsor engine plant in mid-February, 1995.

Naturally, the Cobra R received more than just a boost in displacement. For its intended track duty, an upgraded cooling system was onboard, complete with two-row aluminum radiator and de-gas bottle. An oil cooler and a water-to-air power steering cooler were specified. Behind the 351W—which was nourished by a race-spec, 20-gallon fuel cell—sat a stronger Tremec TR-3550 five-speed in place of the normal T-5. Progressive rate coils were used (700–850 lb/in up front and 200–260 lb/in out back) in place of the regular Cobra’s less-stiff linear springs, and these were damped by adjustable Koni (yellow) struts and shocks. Again in comparison to a regular Cobra, the R got a 30mm front anti-roll bar versus a 25mm unit, though the rear bar remained unchanged at 27mm.

Naturally, the Cobra R received more than just a boost in displacement.

Though of the same 255/45ZR17 specification as a 5.0L Cobra’s Goodyear GS-C rubber, the R-model wore extra-grippy BFGoodrich Comp T/A tires, mounted on 9-inch-wide rims that subsequently became a must-have addition for a generation of SN95 Mustang enthusiasts (the only “R” markings on the whole car were found in the center of those rims). Likewise, the Cobra R’s fiberglass hood (necessary to clear the tall-deck 351) became an instant classic. The Cobra R front fascia was the same as the lesser Cobras, but lacked the fog lamps. Also absent from the R-model were power windows and locks, air conditioning, radio, most sound deadening, and any vestige of a rear seat, leaving the aft cabin area open to the trunk and semi-finished in the same thin grey material as the trunk itself. Road noise? Plenty, thank you.

These deletions more than compensated for the extra bulk of the 351 and made the R-model about 30 pounds lighter than its 5.0L Cobra brethren. Tested by Motor Trend magazine at the time, the R was also a full second quicker and nearly 7 mph faster in the quarter-mile than the regular production snake, plus it generated an impressive 0.96g of lateral grip—supercar territory at that time.

So it was potent for its day but, like all R-model variants, the ’95 edition was also destined to be rare, with only 250 scheduled for production at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. All were Crystal White with Saddle interiors (featuring basic cloth buckets). Tucked between “regular” Mustangs on the line, all these R-models were reportedly built over a three-day span in March 1995. Intended by SVT for competition but destined for instant collectability, this small run of very special Mustangs all found buyers in very short order, all of whom supposedly held competition licenses to qualify. This muscularity, agility, and exclusivity came at a price of $37,599 (including shipping and a whopping $2,100 gas guzzler tax). Or, to put it in a different perspective, the “R Competition Option” shows up as a $13,699 addition on the Cobra window sticker.

If you happen to be restoring one of these track-oriented coupes, our featured example might be a great one to emulate, as it is utterly original and has racked up only 169 miles in its 18-year existence. As we write this, it belongs to Legendary Motorcar—almost unintentionally. Legendary’s owner, Peter Klutt, tells us he was at last summer’s SAAC 37 convention at Watkins Glen, NY, where he spied a pristine ’67 Shelby G.T. 500 and asked its owner if he was interested in selling. The owner declined, but Peter left him a business card, just in case. Sure enough, a few months later, Peter got a call from the gentleman who was now interested in selling not only his ’67 but also his ’12 GT 500, plus he had a buddy who wanted to sell his pair of bone-stock, low-mileage Cobra R Mustangs—a ’95 as well as a ’00.

And so the negotiations began, all by way of the Shelby owner—the Cobra R owner apparently wasn’t directly involved. When they couldn’t come to terms on an individual price for each vehicle, Peter changed tack and simply threw out a large lump-sum bid for all four Mustangs, a bid that was ultimately accepted. To this day, Peter doesn’t know how the two sellers divided up the proceeds of that lump sum between them.

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And that’s how Legendary Motorcar came to acquire—from its original owner—number 160 out of those 250 Cobra R Mustangs built in 1995. Peter says the owner’s plan had been to race his R, but those plans changed and the car simply went into long-term storage instead. As may be visible in our interior photos, it still wears its protective factory plastic wrap over the foot-well carpeting, and we can attest that it even retains that vaunted new-car smell.

Oh, and, by comparison, that same owner really racked up the mileage on his ’00 R-model—it had a whopping 1,473 miles on it when it changed hands.