Eric English
November 1, 2006
Photos By: Michael Johnson

Horse Sense: With fewer than 5,000 '93 Cobras built, Donnie Nance didn't want to hack up his Vibrant Red example beyond the point of no return, limiting himself to a serious bolt-on routine. Though unlikely, it's conceivable the car could be returned to stock sometime down the road-but not on Donnie's watch.

When we began discussing the sweet SVT Cobra seen here with owner Donnie Nance of Trinity, North Carolina, he prefaced the story by explaining a lust for Ford's ponycar that began at the age of 14. Since Donnie is now working on his 36th year, even our math-challenged minds can easily compute the more than two decades of dedicated fanaticism, and, for much of it, Donnie has viewed the '93 Cobra as one of the best. Though his stable has at one time or another consisted of a wide variety of the genre, it wasn't until 2003 that the right car, at the right time, stared him right in the face.

Being a street/strip sort to the core, Donnie knew a good thing when he saw it-the Cobra being a well-kept street machine with a burned-out bottom-end, courtesy of some screwed-up blower tuning. Fact is, somewhere along the line it was said the car had been a lemon, yet Donnie found it the perfect candidate for taking to the next level of modification. Perhaps the best part was that despite being in excellent cosmetic condition, the '93 was no virgin collector's machine that Donnie would feel sheepish about turning into a hard-charger. After coming to terms with the former owner, Donnie worked with several shops and spent plenty of his own time during the next two years to come up with what you see here.

For starters, Johnny Akines and The Hot Rod Shop were tapped for a potent new powertrain and a top-coat quality respray of the dull finished engine compartment. Beginning with a four-bolt Dart iron block prepped by Tony Nance, Akines assembled a high-powered combination, which consists of a Cola forged crank, Eagle rods, and low-compression Ross pistons in deference to a big-boost Vortech YS. Fox Lake performed its Stage III port job on a set of Canfield aluminum heads, which are fed from a port-matched Trick Flow Box R manifold and 83-lb/hr injectors. An all-Comp Cams valvetrain dictates the timing events, while Hedman long-tubes, a Dr. Gas X-shape exhaust crossover, and Flowmaster two-chambers dispense with the burnt remnants.

Backing the hard-hitting 306 is a Super Comp C4 from Performance Automatic, equipped with a custom-built, 10-inch, 4,200-stall converter from Greg Slack. An FRPP aluminum driveshaft transfers the spin to the expected 8.8-inch rearend-this time fortified with Richmond 4.10 gears, Strange 35-spline axles, and a Strange spool.

Wishing to avoid the same kind of grenading nightmare experienced by the previous owner, Donnie has wisely invested in appropriate tuning-a combination of an Anderson PMS and the hands-on wizardry of Randy Haywood. With a custom water-to-air intercooler by TBC Chassis Works, and the Vortech driven to produce as much as 22 psi at 6,300 rpm, the result is a claimed 725-rear-wheel horsepower. Such grunt is barely harnessed by the Hoosier Quick Time Pros, and translates into a best eighth-mile pass of 5.90 at the local track, yet Donnie tells us his Cobra sees just as much use as a wicked weekend cruiser and show car-so much for a lemon.

With a definite street bend, plenty of stock Cobra items remain, while some of the expected hard-core racing hardware is MIA. For example, the body is all stock and original save for an H.O. Fibertrends cowl hood, the interior still sports its full complement of leather, and the Hooker four-point rollbar is chrome. The brakes are another area of streetable compromise. Rather than pure race lightweights, Donnie opted to keep the stock Cobra pieces save for '86 SVO rotors that enable the use of Weld Magnum rims in a five-lug configuration. The remaining underpinnings are a mix of race-worthy components from D&D Motorsports, UPR, and others. D&D's springs, control arms, and tubular K-member work in conjunction with Lakewood struts up front, while UPR's control arms and antiroll bar mix with Edelbrock adjustable shocks and stock GT springs out back.

Donnie realizes his Cobra will need further upgrades if he's to step up to NHRA regulated quarter-mile work. A suitable rollcage and battery kill switch are just a couple of obvious requirements for a car with this potential, though for the moment, Donnie is content enjoying the low-production snake as described. With loads of potential waiting in the wings, we'd guess it's only a matter of time before the competitive itch will simply have to be scratched. When it does, we expect many a foe will be seeing plenty of Vibrant Red.

Besides a Dart block, Canfield heads, and a Vortech YS blower, a host of other components combine for a big number. Count a Trick Flow intake, Pro-M 90mm air meter, BBK 80mm T-body, Comp Cams valvetrain, Hedman full-length headers, and an MSD ignition as important members of the team.

The '93 Cobras had few available options, but one was leather-seating surfaces. Donnie's car still sports its original gray cowhide, and other than a B&M Pro Stick, Auto Meter gauges, and a Hooker rollbar, the interior remains surprisingly stock.

The spare tire well is now home to a water reservoir for the intercooler. Tim Bradham of TBC Chassis Works gets credit for this hand-fabricated setup, with the reservoir holding as much as 7 gallons of water/ice.