Tom Wilson
July 1, 2002

Horse Sense: Ford's Special Vehicle Team built 250 of the muscle-bound '95 Cobra Rs, and each has a known build number. Our featured car is number 17, while Larry Garuti's other '95is number 56.

R-model Mustang Cobras meet one of three fates. A handful become race cars and are immediately turned into trailer-only workhorses. Such cars are extremely rare and quickly achieve a hard-core patina of combat wounds and field repairs. Many years down the road they can be worth big money, but more typically their price reflects their utilitarian status.

Of course, most R-models are bought by enthusiasts with a penchant for street driving. These Rs end up pampered in suburban garages, coming out for brief rod runs and Friday-night drives. Often kept partially as investments, they accrue few miles or modifications and tend to stay with one owner for decades.

And then there are the busy collectors, the speculators, the high-pressure business executives, and other Type-A personalities. They dive into R-models for the thrill and possible money involved, have a great time, and then move on. These cars thus switch hands relatively quickly, tend toward high-buck modifications, and are a blessing for the rest of us who often pick them up 10 years later. Interestingly, our featured '95 Mustang Cobra R has traveled between two of these fates.

As a self-described pro-fessional "toy broker," Randy Koeppel is used to quick turnarounds on high-caliber machines, and his personal collection of hot rods naturally follows the ebb and flow of his business. So it fits how Randy bought the R pictured here on eBay. Randy reports the car was originally purchased at invoice by a Ford engineer and already sported a fair amount of engine work when he spotted it. Sensing the price was right and the car rarely driven, Randy had it shipped to his Southern California home for what turned out to be a brief but intense honeymoon. As Randy puts it, "I rolled it off the [delivery] truck, hammered it in First gear, and the engine blew up."

What was left of the engine managed to drive the wreckage to nearby Auto-sport and Performance in Escondido, California. There, proprietor Ross Zie zoomed through the engine-and Randy's wallet, we presume-in his job of rebuilding and upgrading the mangled 351. When the wrenches stopped turning, the R's engine bay was holding a 408-inch stroker Windsor with ported Trick Flow heads and a Vortech supercharger.

All the right supporting parts were used. These included a Scat 4340 forged and nitrated crankshaft, 6.125-inch H-beam rods, custom Ross forged pistons (with inverted domes for a blower-friendly 8:1 compression ratio), Childs & Albert file-fit rings, Clevite 77H main and rod bearings, a Melling high-volume oil pump, a Canton road-race pan, a Canton main-stud girdle, a Crane blower cam, and Crane dual valvesprings.

For power, the Cobra upper and lower intake manifolds were Extrude Honed. Autosport then added a Cartech 11/42-inch-diameter fuel system with stainless steel lines, a Ford Racing Performance Parts 65mm throttle body, an 80mm Pro-M mass air meter, and 38-lb/hr fuel injectors. Vortech 190-lph in-tank and 250-lph inline fuel pumps were fitted. They work with the polished T-Trim Vortech wearing a 2.95-inch pulley, of course. An Anderson Power Pipe and racing bypass valve optimize the supercharger, while a Superchip does the same for engine management.

Downstream, the R uses Cobra R headers and a 2.5-inch stainless steel exhaust featuring DynoMax mufflers. A McLeod clutch assembly spins on the stock flywheel, while a Tremec TH3550 transmission from Hanlon, a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, and an FRPP aluminum driveshaft take it from there.

The result was, and is, happily over-powered. In fact, Randy says the car had so much snort that, "Even in Third gear it would slide all over the road... You couldn't do anything with it. It had so much power, it wasn't even fun." Furthermore, Randy subsequently moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where the lack of air conditioning was telling. The pumped-up R didn't like the 115-degree Arizona summer weather either. Even fed a diet of 100-octane fuel, the beast would ping and occasionally shut off. After only a year of ownership and around 300 miles of driving, a new business opportunity beckoned and Randy put the R back on eBay along with all of his other "toy" cars.

Stepping up to the plate was Seminole, Florida, Ford enthusiast Larry Garuti. Larry's garage was already stocked with another '95 R that he races in the Silver State Classic, along with a 2000 R, a brace of Panteras, and some other cars just for good measure. As such, we'll admit some empathy for Larry's wife, who opined the classic "What are you going to do with that?" when Larry announced his latest acquisition.

It's a question he doesn't have a ready answer for. The car had arrived just a month before we interviewed Larry, and while he had driven it long enough to discover and confirm the car's easy Third-gear wheel-spinning power, that was about it. The short term plan is to take the car by Outlaw racer Dennis Ramsey's place for some final tuning-the car has never been on a chassis dyno-followed by some "let's see" action at the Bradenton dragstrip. Larry is hoping for a high 10 given enough traction. Obviously, low 11s are all but assured. Beyond that, we'll let Larry answer to his wife himself!

Block Stock 351 (stroked to 408 by Autosport)
Cylinder Heads Trick Flow
Intake Manifold Stock (Extrude Honed)
Camshaft Crane
Power Adder Vortech T-Trim
Exhaust Stock headers, DynoMax after-cat
Fuel Pump Vortech 190-lph in-tank, 250-lph inline
Fuel Injectors 38-lb/hr
Transmission TTC 3550
Rearend Stock
Engine Management Stock with Superchip
Ignition MSD
Gauges Kenne Bell (boost and fuel pressure)
Springs Stock
Struts/Shocks Stock
Rear Suspension Stock
Wheels Stock
Tires Stock
Brakes Stock