Justin Fivella
October 24, 2017
Photos By: Stephen Brooks

Life has a way of sapping the once-unrelenting passion gearheads have for our project cars. One day we wake up and realize that weeks have become years and the small setback we intended to fix the following weekend silently sidelined the build for several seasons.

Thankfully, despite all odds, the tale of this 1995 Cobra doesn’t end how you might think. Mel Josafat not only managed to keep his beloved Cobra through the ups and downs of life, but he eventually built the car of his dreams thanks to levels of dedication seldom seen. Each month he stashed $50-$100 into his dream car fund, and 15 years later he built the Cobra before you. How’s that for dedication?

Most people’s project-car story goes a little like this. When we are young and don’t have two nickels to rub together, we sink every last penny into our cars, even if it means eating cheaply until the next meager paycheck. But with age comes more money and more responsibility. There it is, the wretched R-word. Responsibility has a knack of diverting time and money into anything but a project car, no matter how special it might be.

Most would not know that a corner-killing suspension and chassis combo lurks under this clean Cobra thanks to a Max Grip Box from Maximum Motorsports.

The disconnect happens sometime between the days when we spent countless hours daydreaming beneath that poster of our dream car as a kid and the time when we assumed all those adult responsibilities. We eventually abandon our dream builds after realizing the two nickels we finally can rub together are already spent on responsibilities long before they land in the checking account.

But as we mentioned, this is not a story of shattered project car dreams or failure. Instead, this is a tale of steadfast dedication and sweet, sweet victory. To those wavering with their projects, let this be motivation to remain strong!

Josafat says, “When the SN95 Cobras first hit showrooms while I was in college I immediately fell in love with the sleek bodylines and the proven pushrod motor. I knew I’d do whatever it took to get one after graduation.”

True to his word, in 1996, after landing his first real job outside college, he went looking for his own Cobra. “After realizing that the then-new ’97 Cobras were out of my price range, I went looking for a used ’94/’95 Cobra with low mileage.”

It took several weeks, but eventually he found a pristine, low-mileage, one-owner 1995 Cobra. It was love at first sight. “It was pristine, white, and owned by an older lady who only put 6,000 miles on it.”

The slammed stance, negative front camber only looks better when you notice the Saleen front bumper and T1 rear wing atop the GT rear hood—simple, clean, and mean.

Thankfully, he had a small pile of money saved up. He immediately add H&R springs and Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers to make it his own. He says, “It’s all I could afford at the time, but the mufflers and springs gave it my own style—I was just happy to finally own a Cobra.”

He daydreamed of building his Cobra into a drag car, then a show car, and eventually into a road-racer after seeing the Saleen SR in 1997. “I still vividly remember seeing the SR for the first time. My jaw dropped. It was so clean and so aggressive with the chameleon paint, the five-spoke wheels, and that wing and front bumper. It was perfect.”

With the image of the Saleen SR indelibly burned into his mind, Josafat decided that his dream build was, in fact, a road-race ready SN95 Cobra with five-spoke wheels, a Saleen front bumper and wing, and full Maximum Motorsports suspension. The only problem was, he was broke. But that didn’t matter in his case because in the absence of money he had diehard commitment.

“I have never had deep pockets, but thankfully I was able to add a few mods in the first year before I could not afford to do anything for over a decade,” he explains.

He diligently saved money every month, and in the first year he managed to have a custom set of 18-inch Simmons five-spoke, three-piece wheels imported into the U.S. via Group-A Autotrend. If you ask us, there’s no better wheel for his combo. Perfection!

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“I never lost sight of my dream,” says Josafat, “but the responsibilities [There’s that R-word again! —Ed.] of life and the expense of the parts I wanted meant I would not add many parts for over 15 years.”

While he would not mod his beloved Cobra for a long time, in the ensuing 15 years his Cobra served him well as a daily driver for over 140,000 miles and through several moves, all without garages, and it continued to mature with him through a marriage and the birth of his sons.

“For years I daily drove the car and it sat outside, but I always took care of it, keeping it clean and covered every night,” Josafat says. “There were some months it was really hard to put that money in the bank, when times were rough and I sold a lot of things to stay afloat. The thought of selling the car entered my mind, but only for a minute. Thankfully, my wife was always supportive of the car.”

And so month after month, Josafat added small amounts of money to a savings account that slowly grew as the years and miles wore on. “I had my eye on a Maximum Motorsports Max Grip Box for years, and after I got married in 2010 my wife told me that I’d better finish the car before the kids came. Thankfully, she helped me fulfill my goals for the car.”

With the support of his wife and his monthly contribution of no more than $100, he depleted his savings account and threw the books at it with a complete makeover thanks to a Maximum Motorsports Max Grip Box installed by Matt Medeiros of Performance Technic. As you know, a Max Grip Box will turn any Mustang into a complete corner killer thanks to an entire suspension overhaul with a tubular K-member and A-arms, coilovers, caster-camber plates, a torque arm, a Panhard bar, lower control arms, an upgraded steering shaft, chassis bracing, and much more.

Josafat says, “The Max Grip Box was a complete game changer. It literally took the car from fun to absolutely insane in the canyons and on track.”

The newfound grip and handling prowess drove him to attend several track days, where the car was much better than he was. “I spun out several times at Thunder Hill during my first track day. The car was great, but I needed some work.”

It had taken him nearly two decades to get the car to this point, but with the greenlight before his children were born, he spent the next six months hitting it with serious upgrades.

Simple bolt-ons are all it takes to have fun on a road course. Thanks to a BBK CAI and shorty headers, a Bassani X-pipe, and Flowmaster mufflers, this Cobra has plenty of poke on the straights.

“Since I was bitten by the track bug, I decided to add some safety, braking, and chassis and engine upgrades to finish it off,” Josafat tells us. The safety upgrades came in the form of a Maximum Motorsports roll bar, a Cobra driver’s seat with RCI harnesses, and a Sparco steering wheel with an NRG quick-release hub.

When he wanted more speed on the straights, he added a BBK Performance CAI and shorty headers, along with a Bassani X-pipe. Energy Suspension engine mounts keep the motor secured, while a Fluidyne radiator keeps it cool. Ford Performance 3.73 gears also help performance, and a Torsen differential with a T/A girdle and Moser 31-spline axles help put the power down.

Few rollers look better on an SN95 than these 18x9.5 front and 18x11 rear Simmons FRs wrapped in Sumitomo rubber and hiding a Brembo front big brake kit with two-piece rotors.

Speaking of traction, a performance alignment from Roger Kraus Racing with more negative camber and max caster, along with Maximum Motorsports full-length subframe connectors, added to the Cobra’s handling prowess. Of course, we cannot forget the Brembo big brake kit with two-piece front rotors.

While the OG Simmons wheels make us drool, they would not be anything without the rest of the package, completed thanks to a Saleen front bumper and T1 wing mounted atop a GT trunk lid, which was actually sourced from a local Pick n’ Pull.

We often talk about a cohesiveness that makes certain cars stand out, and truthfully, it’s hard to define it because there is no one path to greatness. For Josafat, his road to Mustang greatness wasn’t lined with deep pockets and a mile-long mod list. Instead, while his car’s cohesiveness is striking, what’s most compelling is the blood, sweat, and tears this car oozes—it doesn’t take long to see this car has heart. Every mile it has rolled, ever nick or blemish it has amassed, is another story to tell and another memory to recall.

“I love this car,” says Josafat, as if there could be any doubt. “It’s been around forever, and it’s part of so many stories. It’s like a tattoo, I remember every story and moment with it—the sacrifice and determination it took to keep it all these years taught me a lot about sticking to something.”

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