Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
March 1, 2002
Photos By: Steve Turner
Rodney used BASF Ocean (from the Extreme line of colors) from Jenkins Auto Supply to cover the skin of his '96 Cobra convertible. Proving the car is no trailer queen, the paint has endured more than 25,000 miles, and the front end shows the results of such mileage. He drives the car on a weekly basis-and it doesn't sit under a cover either. Rodney says, "Kids notice the car before the adults do." He'll see kids pointing at the car and then their parents will see it and start making comments.

Horse Sense: Though Rodney Melton's Cobra convertible may appear to be a Mystic example, the BASF Extreme Ocean offers a more visual color change from green to blue.

Many species in the wild can camouflage themselves to escape the threat of being devoured by larger predators. Whether it be through a change in body temperature because of a lingering threat or just natural ability, these species do so in order to stay alive. Blending in with their surroundings is how they stave off becoming the next value meal on Mother Nature's menu board.

The Cobra species of reptiles isn't one of those lucky few that have the ability to blend in--especially the Cobra featured here. However, that's just what owner Rodney Melton had in mind.

Rodney was always around Mustangs while growing up in Rockingham, North Carolina. Not only did several of his high school chums own Mustangs, but also many of his relatives had older fastbacks, all of which left an indelible mark on him. His first Mustang was an '88 coupe. Ending up far from stock once Rodney became the title holder, the coupe would run 10.90s with the addition of Trick Flow heads, a Nitrous Express kit, and a lot more.

Fast forward to February 1998, when Rodney had the opportunity to buy the '96 Cobra convertible seen here. No, it didn't look this good when he purchased it. As a matter of fact, Rodney says it was one of the rougher Cobras he'd ever seen. It was a triple-black car, but the body had garnered its fair share of scratches and dings. As a painter for Kings Body Shop in Rockingham, Rodney couldn't allow the car to stay in that shape for long. However, he spent some time trying to decide on the right color. He wanted something other than black--maybe blue or green.

As luck would have it, right around the time Rodney was busy deciding on a color, BASF debuted its new line of Extreme colors, which offered a more drastic color change than the Mystic color used on the '96 Cobra. Rodney decided on the Ocean derivative of colors, which featured a flip-flop color change from green to blue. He no longer had to decide on either color--he could have both from the same can.

Wanting the paint to look factory applied, Rodney removed just about every body part so the Ocean color could be used throughout the entire car, including all jambs. It was also during the painting process that Rodney added the Steeda Cobra R hood and the Saleen S-281 rear wing. Once the body parts and jambs were painted, he bolted everything back together and finished off the car with a set of silver Cobra R wheels and a Classic Design Concepts light bar.

With the car in its rejuvenated state, Rodney's plans were merely to tool around town, but during the summer of 1998 he started showing the car, with great success and recognition. Yes, Rodney was bit by the show-car bug, and it left its mark.

Rodney initially had the car tuned at UPR utilizing one of the company's chips, but he now has most of the work done at True Blue Performance. True Blue is a lot closer to home than a trip to South Florida. He hopes to improve on the 450hp dyno numbers with bigger injectors and more boost-and maybe even a built short-block.

During the winter months, the car received its second round of upgrades. Off came the Cobra Rs, and in their place went Saleen wheels and Nitto Extreme treads. Out came the factory seats, and in went Monaco leather examples, along with several Auto Meter gauges to keep Rodney abreast of the underhood goings-on. Why the added gauges? He needed to know how much boost he was laying down. That's right, Rodney decided to spice things up under the hood as well. He added a Vortech S-Trim (purchased from Holcomb Motorsports), a BBK throttle body, a K&N filter, a Pro-M mass air meter, and a UPR Products Power Tube.

And it wasn't just performance Rodney had in mind. Parson's Polishing handled the beautifying of several underhood components including the blower and the blower tubing, and the Cobra intake and intake tube. At the same time, Rodney applied the Ocean hue to the valve covers and various other paintable components under the hood.

To finish off the performance angle, Rodney summoned the services of Gurano's Muffler and Performance for a custom X-pipe, 4.10 gears, and custom subframe connectors. A pair of Flowmaster mufflers pumping out the volume through a set of polished tailpipes finished off the package. A trip to UPR's headquarters in Lake Worth, Florida, rewarded Rodney with a dyno sheet reading 450 hp to the rear wheels on just 7 pounds of boost utilizing a UPR chip.

When asked what's next for the Cobra, Rodney says he's running out of tasteful upgrades with which to outfit the car. He doesn't want to overdo it and make the car look tacky. Trust us, even if Rodney leaves the car the way it is now, it will never blend in with its reptilian cohorts. The only upgrade in the foreseeable future is the build-up of a short-block. Now that will take this Extreme Cobra to the next level.

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5.0 Tech Specs
BlockEngine Management
Stock 4.6EEC V with an Unlimited
CrankPerformance chip
Stock CobraIgnition
PistonsAuto Meter
Power AdderEibach
Vortech S-TrimK-member
Stock headers, custom X-pipe,Rear Suspension
Flowmaster mufflersStock
Stock T45, {{{Ford}}} RacingStock Cobra
Performance Parts King CobraWheels
clutch, FRPP aluminum driveshaftSaleen, 18x8 (front), 18x10 (rear)
RearendSubframe Connectors
8.8 with Auburn posi, stock axles,Custom
and 4.10 gears