Eric English
June 1, 2003

Horse Sense:
A strict diet brought Tim's Cobra R from a portly 3,610 pounds to a more svelte 2,980 pounds. Weight distribution was improved from a 56.5-percent front-weight bias to just 53.5 percent. Part of the improvement comes from the carbon-fiber hood (9 pounds versus 48 pounds) and fiberglass doors (10 pounds each versus 85 pounds each) from fellow Canuck Larry Lefler.

It's funny how times have changed. Back in the '60s, when a manufacturer assembled a run of special competition models, the majority of the cars were actually put to work on a race track. In the Ford world, legen-dary machines such as lightweight 427 Galaxies, Thunderbolt Fairlanes, and Shelby GT350 R-models stand out in such regard.

Perhaps because such cars became sought-after collector pieces, 1993's resurrection of factory-built competition Mustangs saw the new racers immediately in the crosshairs of modern collectors. We're talking Cobra Rs here, and while some have been raced with varying success, the ultimate Mustangs of 1993, 1995, and 2000 have made their biggest mark simply by virtue of their ultralimited production and high-performance stature. To own one is to have a legitimate piece of history and the opportunity to enjoy a high-water mark in Mustang performance-though such enjoyment takes all forms. While plenty of owners have chosen to cherish their R-models on static display, we see others running hard at club-oriented open tracks, and a few-such as Vancouver, British Columbia's Tim Brown-have actually gone for the competition.

We should be up front and mention that Tim is in a unique position most Cobra R owners don't enjoy. You see, he owns two '00 Rs-one is completely stock and the other is the racer you see here. Talk about having your cake and eating it too! Of course, it helps that Tim is a successful Ford dealer, operating the family business started by his grandfather more than 50 years ago-Brown Brothers Ford in Vancouver. We suppose there's a certain liberty one may feel in substantially modifying an ultrarare piece, knowing you have a pristine stock example at your beck and call as well. Regardless, we applaud Tim for entering the fracas of racing with such a rare beast.

After taking delivery of the car in June 2000, Tim racked up 3,000 miles of street driving before diving into serious modifications. As nicely equipped as the Cobra R came from the factory, an intent to race in GT1 and SPO road-race classes meant big revisions would be necessary. However, it's interesting to note which original parts still remain after race prep was completed. This includes a stock 5.4 mod motor and its Carrillo rods, Canton oil pan, and March underdrive pulleys. Likewise, the McLeod aluminum flywheel and Tremec six-speed still see duty, as does the Fuel Safe cell out back.

Race prep for the '00 occurred in two main phases. The first saw a gutted interior, Lexan quarter and rear windows, fiberglass doors, a full cage, a NASCAR style fueling coupler, a differential cooler, revised rear suspension geometry, a larger engine oil cooler, a race exhaust, and a myriad of other tricks and tweaks. Much of the work was performed by Specialty Engineering in New Westminster, British Columbia, while spraying the cage and doors in a matching hue was done by J&F Collision's Russ Bradley.

The first competition test occurred shortly thereafter at Thunderhill Raceway in central California. Tim, an accomplished racer who honed his skills in a tube-frame GT3 Ford Probe, qualified well in the 50-some-car field-seventh overall and fourth in class. Unfortunately, just over an hour into the 12-hour enduro, a front rotor cracked at the hub, sending Tim to an off-track excursion and early retirement. Since this was essentially the team's first test, they chalked up the experience to lessons learned and returned home to regroup.

The 5.4 '00 R engine is always a sight to behold. Rated at 385 hp from Ford, Tim believes it now pushes about 50 more thanks to a custom computer processor from SVT and an '01 Lightning mass air. At our shoot in late 2002, the SVT-spec engine had proven up to the task so far, though Tim expressed concern should he damage the unavailable and unique R-model cylinder heads. He was eagerly looking forward to the new Ford GT engine program, which should fill the pipeline with good parts for the 330-cuber. Just before going to press, however, Tim told us that Ford Australia is introducing a new Falcon known as the FPV GT. This hot new four-door sports a modular 5.4 DOHC engine replete with "improved" Cobra R cylinder heads-and we thought Mercury's new Marauder was a neat piece! If Tim has need for replacement heads anytime soon, it appears his source could be Down Under. Check out the FPV GT at www.fordperformancevehicles.com.au/.