Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
November 1, 2002

Horse Sense: Those who've been following NMRA racing know Mike used to campaign the Cobra in Outlaw. However, "I thought 8.50s were too fast on the small tire," Mike says. The irony is that now the car is on the brink of those times in Renegade form.

Let's forget for a minute about what's under the hood of Mike Freedman's Cobra and focus on the beauty that surrounds its monstrous power. No matter the color combo, SN-95 Cobras make awesome-lookin' race cars. However, Rio Red has to top the list of eye-catching factory colors available on the first SN-95 Cobra models. And the now-trademark round foglights at the bottom of the Cobra-specific bumper cover differentiates it from the non-SVT crowd right nicely, as does the rear wing. These front bumper covers, mixed with the SN-95's rounded shape, bridged the gap between the boxy Fox years and the New-Edge '99-up models.

In racing form, an SN-95 Cobra with a matching set of big 'n' littles may just be more attractive than a Fox coupe in the same fashion (a nice package in its own right). The addition of a Cobra R hood only adds to the mystique that is the SN-95 Cobra.

Combine Mike Freedman's Rio Red Renegade Cobra with a fall sunset and a picturesque Cecil County Dragway backdrop, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better-looking race car. And while some people get excited over the annual color change of the leaves, we're more moved by Bogart Force 5 wheels and a Cobra R hood. The Cobra's beauty is... oh, who are we kidding? Forget this namby-pamby, pretty stuff-this thing rocks the house!

With fewer cubic inches than most Jersey street cars, Mike's Cobra has zipped into the eight-second zone more times than a Professional Bull Rider tour regular. Sure, the little 306 is stuffed with the best billet components money can buy, but that's a necessary evil to stay at the top of the Renegade ranks these days.

Speaking of staying on top, with Jimmy LaRocca of LaRocca's Performance at the wheel, the car recently set the World Ford Challenge Renegade record with an 8.86 at 156 mph. That time was established with a horrible 1.36 60-foot time. With no one within a city block of those times at WFC5, Jimmy figured to have the win in the bag, but in the final against Bob Kurgan the car spun to a 1.50 60-foot time, costing Jimmy the victory.

The cockpit of Mike's Cobra is race ready with a 10-point cage from Rick's Custom Fabrication in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Auto Meter gauges keep Mike and Jimmy abreast of what's going on under the hood. We don't think many readers will be familiar with the shifter of choice since it manipulates a G-Force five-speed, but it's a Vertical Gate unit from Long.

Mike and Jimmy have been chasing everything under the sun to get 60-foot times down in the respectable range, but the power hit from the G-Force five-speed is still too much for the M/Ts to handle. The duo has done everything they can to the rearend, adding a John's Racecraft-installed (Brockton, Massachusetts) Wolfe Race Craft suspension featuring a double antiroll bar and control arm package, Koni double-adjustable shocks, and AJE wheelie bars. The two spend most of their time maximizing transmission gear ratios and fine-tuning the McLeod Soft-Loc clutch.

Mike and Jimmy have a sort of partnership with the Cobra. Even though Mike owns the car and has driven it the most in the past, it's Jimmy who's doing the majority of driving for 2002. This is due both to Mike's new job and the fact that they're focusing on winning the NMRA points championship. In order to be successful, they decided to have one person run the car the entire year. Once at the track, Jimmy does the tuning on the car while Mike concentrates on the mechanical side of things.

When we photographed the Cobra at Cecil County, it had a D-1R supercharger, but now the car wears ATI-ProCharger's new F-1R. There, Mike and Jimmy tested a theory by adding two components that Renegade rules prohibit, a cog drive and an intercooler. With the D-1R, a cog drive, and an ATI-ProCharger three-core sheetmetal intercooler, Mike ran an 8.67 at 162 mph with a 1.37 60-foot time. Even though that's a monstrous time, the Edelbrock QwikData showed the intercooler was too small. "By looking at the data-logger," Mike says, "you could see the airflow flatline, but the air temperature and the boost were still climbing." With a six-core intercooler on board, Mike thinks the car could have gone even deeper into the 8s.