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Flawlessly Fast Sonic Blue 2003 Terminator Cobra
Sonic Blue Memories : Built on Billowing Smoke, Single-Digit Slips, Genuine Friendships & the Fondest of Memories
Much like the path of a project car, our journeys through life are anything but predictable. We expect the path to be a straight stretch from start to finish, but in reality our roads are often filled with sharp corners and rough patches laden with bumps. And yet, in overcoming even the toughest of obstacles we eventually find sweet solace, like the long-awaited first drive in a project car, the sound of a fresh motor taking its first gasps of air, or recognizing moments of strength while reflecting upon times of struggle. These brief moments of redemption teach us that no matter how difficult it once was, there is always a silver lining. It’s the reason we push on, and why, no matter what, we’ll never stop wrenching, racing, or cruising. The silver lining is never immediately apparent, but in time it always appears. Maybe it’s the first 1-2 powershift with a new combo, the first victory with a new project car, or the first fond memory from the toughest of times. Whatever form it takes, it’s the glimmer of hope that reminds us never to forget what’s important.
Sadly though, the silver lining for this build, this shoot, this story is still hard to find. You see, the narrative was never supposed to read like this; instead, it was supposed to begin with strokes of fate followed by the recollection of great memories and times of struggle, and finally a triumphant conclusion. Unfortunately that’s not how this story ends. All those close to Jim Bryant, the owner of this impeccable Sonic Blue Terminator Cobra, struggle to find the silver lining as just days before the shoot, Bryant left us.
Solace evaded those close to him in the wake of his passing, and the thought of this feature was heavy on everyone’s heart. But as days passed, bits of the silver lining shown through. Sorrow was slowly met with recollections of what Bryant would have wanted. he would have wanted to proceed with the photos and proudly share his story. He would have been honored to have his beloved Cobra on the cover. In his absence, there was nobody more appropriate for the burnout than his close friend and the wrench behind the Cobra, Drew Wallace. And so with Bryant in everyone’s thoughts, what initially began as a feature turned into a collection of wonderful memories centered around a topic to which we can all relate: good friends and fast cars.
Selflessness runs deep in the Mustang world. Just ask anyone who has broken in the heat of battle at the track, been sidelined at a cruise, or had problems at a show. There’s always a helping hand ready to assist a fellow Mustang fan in need. When Bryant bought his 2003 Sonic Blue Cobra new, he unknowingly ended his long streak of sports cars and joined a family of like-minded gearheads.
Although the Terminator blew everything off the road when it first hit showrooms, stock was never going to cut it for Bryant, a true aficionado of speed.
Wallace says, “When I met Jim for the first time in 2007, he’d seen me running my SN95 at Sacramento Raceway and was pumped at the e.t.’s, so he came blowing into the pits and proceeded to, without asking, line up a bunch of races against other Mustangs. It was the unique start to a great friendship.”
When Bryant met Wallace, co-owner of AED, his car was already equipped with a 2.2L Kenne Bell supercharger and supporting mods. Long before the days of AED, Wallace began working on Bryant’s Cobra out of his home garage when Bryant’s appetite for more performance surpassed the level of support offered from another local shop.
“I’ll always have a special place for Jim and his Cobra, not only because of our great friendship and the many memories we shared, but because his Cobra is one of the first cars I worked on for the business,” Wallace explains. “To be honest, it helped start my career in the Mustang industry.”
The Blue Devil, as it came to be known, was one of the first 2.2L Kenne Bell blower–equipped cars to eclipse 700 rwhp, run 10.50s at 135 mph with the stock six-speed and IRS, and bring local recognition to the shop.
“The car was really fast for the times, and while I advised Jim to pick between keeping it either a track car or a street car, not both, he insisted he wanted to make it as fast as possible and still drive it to the local coffee shop no matter how radical it got. . . a sentiment he stuck to even until the end,” Wallace recalls with a laugh.
After plenty of WOT at the dragstrip and countless trips to the local coffee shop to embarrass every contender in its path, the factory motor finally lifted its heads. At that point they built the first motor for the Blue Devil, a 5.0L motor using a Ford Racing BOSS block with factory rods and crank, JE pistons, hand-ported heads, and Ford GT cams. The built motor was topped with a 2.8L Kenne Bell blower with a modified sheetmetal inlet along with an Accufab throttle-body and a JLT intake.
“This was long before Kenne Bell made the Mammoth and high-flow inlets, so we uncorked the inlet with a custom sheetmetal piece that was worth nearly 100 rwhp,” says Wallace. As expected, the combo was a handful thanks to 780 rwhp hooked to the stock T56 and IRS.
“The car was a beast that was in need of suspension and chassis components, so it received several different combos before landing on the current setup that works well,” Wallace says.
That combination consists of a chromoly K-member and control arms up front working with AFCO struts and coilovers as well as QA1 caster/camber plates. The factory IRS was ditched in favor of a solid rear axle built by Rivercity Differentials filled with 31-spline axles, a Detroit Truetrac differential, and Ford Racing 3.55 gears.
Suspension duties out back are handled by relocated upper control arms and matching lower units, AFCO shocks and coilovers, and of course a Racecraft antiroll bar. When consistency evaded them, Bryant and Wallace made the move to the Bogart and Hoosier big and little setup along with a built 4R70W transmission and a 5,500-stall converter. The new automatic might have dropped power to 740 rwhp, but it brought consistency and the first 9-second pass.
“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” says Wallace. “We’d run a string of 10.0s and 10.1s as we desperately tried to sneak into the 9s, and it kept eluding us, but finally, after some last suspension tweaks, Jim managed to blow right to a 9.80 and we couldn’t have been more excited.”
Remember the part where Wallace tried to wrangle Bryant into reserving his high-powered Termi for just the track? Yeah, that was never going to happen.
“Jim just loved taking the Cobra on runs to the coffee shop to meet up and talk friendly smack with all the car guys in the area. He got tremendous enjoyment from taking them for joy rides. . . Who am I kidding? He loved hitting WOT with the supercar owners riding shotgun just to scare them,” says Wallace.
As anyone can attest, when a motor is highly modified for the track, hot-lapping it on the street for thousands of miles can take its toll. And take a toll it did, in the form of a toasted motor, but Bryant was never deterred. Instead, each bump in the road was seen as an opportunity to add more mods.
“The car continued more towards a track focus, and yet he never wavered from his commitment to race it at the dragstrip and drive it on the street, even with the slicks and skinnies, rowdy built motor, and all,” says Wallace. “It’s what brought a smile to his face.”
Other additions included an upgrade to Metco pulleys, a smaller blower pulley, Kook’s long tubes with a 3-inch X-pipe, and 2 1/2-inch dumped MagnaFlow mufflers along with a Nation’s Auto Electric alternator, RC825 injectors, an AED VP C16 tune, and a wicked fuel system comprised of a Behind Bars Race Cars aluminum sumped fuel tank, a Weldon 2025A fuel pump and controller, and XRP lines sized in AN-8/AN-12 variants in preparation for a move to E85.
Every wave of new parts came with the removal of the old go-fast bits. In true Jim Bryant fashion, he lovingly gave everything, even the most expensive parts, to friends.
Other go-fast goods came in the form of a one-off roll bar with removable swingout door bars, custom cams from Accufab Racing, and an upgraded heat exchanger and reservoir. With C16 in the tank, a pulley good for 24 psi, and a tune loaded, the car pounded out 811 rwhp through the auto and cracked off a new best of 9.59 at 148 mph at Sacramento Raceway.
But just as the car was coming together, life threw Bryant a succession of curves that included a string of health issues nobody could have guessed was coming. As the years wore on, he transitioned in and out of the hospital, but his love for his friends and his commitment to finishing the car motivated him to carry on.
“He never lost sight of his car. Even when he was too sick to finish it, he’d come to the shop just to hang out or to see my baby daughter, Raelynn,” Wallace says.
Generosity was Bryant’s middle name. When Wallace realized that Bryant may never get another shot at driving his beloved Cobra again, he scraped together the funds and built him another motor as a token of his appreciation for all the kindness Bryant had shown him and his family. This bullet featured an aluminum WAP block filled with a stock crank, Oliver rods, CP 10:1 pistons, Fox Lake Stage 3 ported heads, and much of the salvageable go-fast parts from the last build, like the custom Accufab racing cams.
Wallace says, “We surprised Jim by inviting him over for a BBQ and opening the garage in front of him only to find his Cobra back in action. Jim couldn't have been happier.”
But there were bigger plans for Bryant. When Bryant was given just six to eight weeks to live, Wallace mentioned the heavy blow to us. It was then that we made the big push to help see one of Bryant’s dreams through before he left us, to feature his Termi. But by now you already know that he left us for the land of endless grudge nights and perfect track prep in the clouds shortly before the shoot.
As the sun made its descent behind the horizon on the evening of this shoot, everyone remained in a state of reflection, drifting between sorrow and fond recollection. But the moment the cammed-up modular snapped to life and the rear tires spun into clouds of smoke, we were sure that Bryant was smiling, yelling for more smoke, and laughing with enthusiasm just as he always had. It was in that moment we were reminded that the sorrow of his early departure may never completely leave us, but our memories of him will live on in our minds.
And if ever we need a reminder, his Cobra would never be far away. Just as he always had, Bryant put his loved ones first. Before he left us, he willed the Cobra to Wallace’s daughter, Raelynn, with the hope she’d one day drive it to high school and enjoy it just as much as he did.
Bryant was a caring man and a diehard gearhead who will be remembered for his big heart and his love for the sport. Perhaps his closest friends recall him best.
“He was like part of the family,” Chris Easton says. “There’s a reason he was affectionately known as Uncle Jim or Old Man Jim to everyone.”
“Helping people was his number one priority. You just don’t find kind people like that too often,” says Wallace.
“He loved his car, drag racing, and his friends more than anything,” says Kenny Daly. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget his favorite saying he’d habitually bestow upon us with a beaming smile: ‘Drive fast, take chances.’”
Thanks for the memories, Jim. You will be missed.