Dale Amy
January 1, 2003

Horse Sense:
As many as 13 engineering prototypes served in the creation of the 2000 Cobra R. Most were destroyed, though this wasn't the only one that survived. Stay tuned for news on one of the other survivors in an upcoming issue.

Fate is often cruel to a prototype automobile. Generally illegal to sell for use on public roads, the life expec-tancy of a typical prototype can usually be measured in mere months, ending with an unceremonious trip to the crusher. No matter how special that preproduction model might have been, no matter how many young enthusiasts' hearts it may have set afire in its all-too-brief existence, the best it can normally hope for is to have its carcass recycled into a truckload of particularly attractive bar fridges-or microwaves, maybe.

But sometimes, at the last minute, a stay of execution is granted and the condemned gets a second chance. Such was the case with this genuine '00 Cobra R Mustang engineering prototype that now serves as Paul Svinicki's cur-rent NMRA Hot Street contender. (Weird, isn't it, how a vehicle not legal for use on the street is now a Hot Street car?)

Though the R was conceived primarily as a road-course specialist, the folks at SVT were apparently intrigued by Paul's proposal to use one as the basis for a drag car, particularly one that would be campaigned in a heads-up class mainly populated by pushrods. So, after execution of a ream of legal documents to guarantee it would never, ever see street duty, the previously doomed prototype was handed over to Paul's High Performance to begin a new life on the quarter-mile. Actually, only the rolling chassis went to Paul, as the drivetrain had previously been yanked.

Paul says SVT would have liked to see it run with an R-style 5.4, but the scarcity of R engine parts and the considerable additional weight of its cast-iron block precluded that idea. Instead, the engine room would be fitted with an alloy-block, FR500-style, spray-bore 5.0-initially, in fact, the same one Paul had campaigned the year before in his old car (a new, slightly stroked version of the spray-bore short-block was still under construction). The breathing parts would consist of Ford Racing Performance Part's Four-Valve heads (PN M-6049-T46) ported by Steve Stratton, teamed with a prototype version of FRPP's new matching intake manifold. Paul used one lacking the variable-geometry runners of the street version, ported it, and fed it through FRPP's oval throttle body (PN M-9926-D464). To make the entire thing run, he wired up one of ACCEL's new Gen VII Digital Fuel Injection systems, in concert with stock '03 Cobra 39-lb/hr injectors and an MSD DIS-4 ignition. With its Meziere electric water pump and lack of any mass air, the fat-headed modular is amazingly clean in a way that only a race engine can be, and it would look right at home in a street rod.

To prepare the chassis for straight-line duty, it was stripped down to its unibody underwear at the PHP shops, and all vestiges of the factory IRS were removed in favor of a ladder bar-located 9-inch filled with Strange guts. Paul also dialed Lentech and ordered up one of the Canadian firm's AOD Strip Terminator Lockup transmissions to mate with the new rearend through an aluminum PST driveshaft. Up front, just about the whole Anthony Jones Engineering catalog of tubular parts was hung in place, while Wilwood brakes were called into service at all four corners.

The interior was stripped out, fitted with a Miller Performance rollcage, and then put back together to look practically stock, save for the substitution of a pair of Racetech race buckets and the complete abandonment of the rear seat.

Headers are much modified MACs, feeding a 3-inch Dr. Gas X-pipe and DynoMax Bullet mufflers. Under the safety blanket is one of Lentech's bulletproof AOD Strip Terminator Lockup automatics, with a 6,800-stall converter.

All possible weight was shed wherever possible during construction. The result is a Cobra R that weighs in at a svelte 2,900 pounds, including Mr. Svinicki's considerable heft. The problem is, the NMRA's Hot Street rules permit a mod motor/AOD combination to run as light as 2,450 pounds with driver, so that, in effect, Paul's now running low-10-second e.t.'s with a 450-pound weight penalty. Now you can see why he really didn't want the extra 100 pounds a cast-iron 5.4 block would have cost. With the chassis about as light as it can safely be, one possible recourse to get the car to run the mid to high 9s to be competitive is to increase displacement. Since he can't really mess with the spray-bore's bores, this means stroking-still a fairly pricey proposition in the modular world. But we have no doubt Paul will do whatever it takes to get the R up to speed.

In a final sad footnote to this story, Paul's agreement with Ford provides that, once he's done racing it, his R prototype cannot be sold (even to another racer) and must be returned to the company for-you guessed it-crushing, meaning its stay of execution was really only a delay of execution. So if that microwave you buy in a couple years seems to cook particularly fast, better have it checked it for prototype Cobra R DNA.