5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
1997 Ford Mustang Cobra - Hail Raiser
Mike McHenry brought this hail-damaged ’97 Cobra back and better than ever
Horse Sense: Mike McHenry thanks his wife, Kim, for putting up with the tens of thousands of dollars he has spent trying to make this Cobra the car of his dreams. "I have done it," he says. "This is my dream Mustang."
Mike McHenry had a Fox Mustang that had spiraled out of control, leaving its street-car status behind. The Fairview, Tennessee, resident didn't want a racecar, so he sold the Fox and started from scratch. "I decided I wanted to try out a modular Four-Valve," Mike said. As is the case with most of us, once the Fox was gone, Mike was antsy to get into another Mustang. "The money was burning a hole in my pocket," he added.
"I found my Cobra at a Ford dealership in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and promptly went to see it," Mike explained. He wasn't crazy about the exterior color, but he loved the car's black leather interior, and the fact the car had just 5,300 miles on the clock. The dealer had just taken the car in on trade, and hadn't detailed it yet, but Mike had to have it that night. "The deal was made and I drove it home," he says. With the car back home, the next day Mike replaced the factory air filter with a K&N unit, discarding the factory air silencer in the process.
As is the case with most of us, once the Fox was gone, Mike was antsy to get into another Mustang.
After the air filter swap, Mike cleaned the Cobra from top to bottom, and that's when the shock and disappointment hit him. "When I dried it off, I noticed the car was covered in hail damage," Mike says. Many of us might've thrown in the towel after that, but Mike, after getting over the initial emotional damage, looked around for someone to do the repairs. He found a guy who would do it for $500. "I told him I would give him an extra $100 if it was perfect," he says. The guy did as promised, no doubt making Mike happy, and he drove the Cobra in this form roughly six months.
The Cobra's first round of mods came in early 2000. Mike added a Bassani X-shape crossover pipe, Dynomax mufflers, a Steeda Autosports Tri-Ax shifter and timing adjuster, BBK Performance caster/camber plates, and 4.10 gears. The 266 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque stayed that way for two years.
Quite the audiophile, Mike's next round of mods centered around the car's first stereo system. However, that led to more performance parts as the stereo's trunk-mounted subwoofer box made the car sit lower in the rear. To remedy that he called Maximum Motorsports for the company's lower control arms with adjustable spring perches. These control arms enabled Mike to bring the car's ride height back to level, but he also added Steeda Autosports adjustable upper control arms to dial in the correct pinion angle, subframe connectors to tighten up the chassis, and Saleen wheels to add some exterior pop.
The Saleen wheels, however, exposed dull brakes, and other suspension pieces. Mike couldn't have that, so he powdercoated the calipers and brackets, along with the sway bars, crossmember, and strut-tower brace. He further dressed up the Cobra by adding a Cobra R hood and a Saleen S351 rear wing. At that point, Mike declared the exterior all good.
Now it was time to add power. That sentence makes it sound so easy, but with a '96-'98 Cobra Four-Valve, it's not always as easy as 1-2-3, as Mike encountered. He started off by installing a ProCharger P-1SC supercharger and a full exhaust. The Cobra responded by making 423 rwhp and 378 lb-ft of torque.