Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
May 1, 2002
Photos By: Rod Short

Horse Sense: Mike Fraley, the original owner of this Cobra R, defines himself as a "car "guy-not a Ford guy or Chevy guy. "I like all cars," Mike says. "I enjoy building them, more so than anything else. I try ideas and see if they work." Mike and his buddy Jamie Furman together own a collection of 12 cars. They're mostly exotics, but the list includes a real Cobra, a Hemi 'Cuda and Road Runner, a Ferrari 360 Modena, and a '67 L88 Corvette.

In its third incarnation, the Cobra R brought with it the title of "The fastest, best-handling Mustang ever" into the 2000 model year. Ford backed up that claim with hard numbers-0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, 12.80s in the quarter, and a top speed hovering around 170 mph. The Cobra R boasted a naturally aspirated Four-Valve 5.4 modular engine cranking out 385 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. Ford put a Tremec T56 behind the big modular and stuck an IRS rear out back with 3.55 gears. Everything a Mustang fan has dreamed about was on the car. But was it enough?

Mike Fraley of Dumfries, Virginia, didn't think so. He bought the Cobra R seen here and raced it a few times at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. Though he was able to hang with the Vipers and Vettes in the turns, the Cobra R lacked the grunt to keep up and pass its opponents on the straights-especially the Vipers. He knew there was only one way to tilt the power scale in his favor-his R needed a supercharger.

Everyone Mike talked to said it couldn't be done because of tuning and fuel-system issues. Of course, being told it was impossible made him even more determined to supercharge the car. Fortunately, Mike is pals with Jason Heffner of Heffner's Performance in Glen Burnie, Maryland [(410) 766-2800].

Having owned two Saleen Mustangs-both equipped with Vortech superchargers-Mike already knew which blower he wanted to go with, but his former supercharged cars let everyone know what was under the hood. With the Cobra R, he wanted to be able to sneak up (if that's possible) on Vipers and Vettes and fly past them. With this in mind, and with a lot of help from Jason, a Vortech S-Trim SQ V2 supercharger found its way under the hood.

Before you go thinking this was a simple bolt-on, remember that no one makes a Cobra R-specific supercharger kit. Basically, Mike and Jason started with an '01 4.6 Cobra kit, but they still had to heavily modify the mounting brackets, fabricate the blower's tubing and a water crossover, then weld on new mounting tabs.

With the supercharger in place, the tuning process commenced. The major thorn in the side proved to be the fuel system. Because this was early 2000, many of the tuning breakthroughs we enjoy today had not yet been uncovered. Unable to crack the code, the two decided to forego the returnless fuel system and run a return line back to the tank. Along with a DiabloSport chip capable of eliminating the need for a fuel pressure sensor on the stock fuel rail, custom rails were added with a built-in regulator and 42-lb/hr injectors. To feed the hungry injectors, a Weldon pump with an integral pressure relief valve was installed, along with a custom-built pickup for the fuel cell.

After the fuel system was taken care of, little else could have been, or needed to be, modified. No one made an aftermarket ignition for the coil-on plug configuration at the time, and the stock throttle body and mass air meter remain in place to this day. However, the stock components don't seem to hold up things, as the Cobra R spanked Heffner's Dynojet to the tune of 569 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque.

When Mike introduced the newfound power of the R to his Viper and Vette buddies, they didn't like the fact they were being beat by "just" a Mustang. Hmm, if most people think of a Cobra R as just a Mustang, that means every time they see a Mustang, they'll wonder if it runs like that orange one with the wicked front splitter and big ol' wing that snuck up on (and passed) them the other night. Let's keep it our little secret!