Dale Amy
January 4, 2007
Predator vs. Alien, Mustang style. We square off this pair of torque monsters-wearing some affordable and effective bolt-ons-on the dyno and dragstrip. It's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it.

Horse Sense: Since our test, Paul added Borla's new long-tube headers and swapped on a set of Mickey Thompson slicks. The headers were good for another 12 peak horsepower and a fatter midrange. So equipped, Paul's GT 500 ripped off a 10.90 e.t. at 124 mph at the NMRA's Bowling Green Finals. Paul believes there was a lower time in the car, but he drove it gently as he was only afforded one exhibition pass.

They're officially known as the '03-'04 SVT Cobra and the '07 Shelby GT 500, but during their factory gestation periods, they went by the respective internal codenames of "Terminator" and "Condor"-with both monikers suiting their larger-than-life personas. Only if you've just fallen from Uranus will you not already know these are two of the most powerful and coveted ponycars ever to come out of Dearborn. It just so happens they also respond favorably to simple modifications.

We started thinking: why not add some of the most common and affordable bolt-ons to each, then send them out to the dyno and dragstrip to duke it out-in a friendly kind of way. On the same track, the same day, and under control of the same driver-in this case, our old pal and quarter-mile hot-shoe Paul Svinicki of Paul's High Performance (www.paulshp.com). Everybody seemed to like the idea; Paul had just received PHP's new in-house GT 500, so all we had to do was round up a moderately modified Cobra to join the party. Luckily, Paul has a fairly large Cobra customer base, and was able to talk Marc Bouhana out of his pristine Satin Silver '03 Terminator for our dyno and dragstrip shootout. Check out our sidebar (All in the Family) for the story on this one-family Cobra. We've also provided a list of the exact modifications-engine and otherwise-found on each combatant.

And so on a cloudy and cool September day, we descended on Milan Dragway, southwest of Detroit, for a half-day's testing-and maybe just a bit of fun. How closely matched in quarter-mile combat are the Terminator and Condor? Let's find out.

The Toys
Our '03 SVT Cobra has the following modifications:

* PHP Cobra high-flow airbox/filter
* Bassani midlength headers, high-flow cat crossover pipe, and after-cat exhaust
* PHP throttle-body package
* PHP fuel rail kit
* PHP shifter assembly
* PHP Heat X-Changer with dual fans
* PHP blower snout with a 2.8-inch pulley delivering 15 psi (stock is 3.6 inches)
* PHP IRS toe links and pinion-support bushings
* PHP/SCT tune

Paul received his GT 500 the week before our test, so he tried to match the Cobra's modifications as closely as possible:

* PHP GT 500 high-flow airbox/filter* Bassani high-flow cats* MagnaFlow after-cat exhaust* PHP 2.6-inch GT 500 blower pulley delivering 13.5 psi (2.8-inch also available)* PHP ported throttle-body inlet* PHP shifter bushings* PHP/Metco adjustable third link and rear lower control arms* PHP/SCT tune

To try and plant the resulting riot of power from both blown beasts, the Cobra was run on 275/40x17 BFG Drag Radials. The GT 500 got the same Drag Radials in 315/40x17, mounted on Cobra rims, which have the wrong offset for S197 applications and stick out in the breeze like a lowrider. Why not run slicks? Two reasons: first, this test was meant to replicate typical street/strip combos, and second, we wanted to avoid drivetrain breakage. On the latter, we would be only partially successful.

A couple of gallons of 110-octane race fuel were added to the pump premium already in the tanks. We tried to run with no more than a quarter tank of fuel. That said, no effort was made to strip or lighten either vehicle. Paul weighed the cars before hitting the strip, with the Cobra coming in at 3,600 pounds, while the GT 500 tipped the scales at 3,820 pounds. Add Paul's 250 or so pounds and that horsepower got a good workout.

The Day
The forecast was for bright sunshine and high-70s temps. This being Michigan, what materialized were clouds, temps hovering around the 63-degree mark, and a headwind meandering between 5 and 10 mph. Density altitude generally ranged between 1,200 and 1,300 feet. The actual track temperature at approximately 11:30 a.m. was 75 degrees. We rented the track, so we had the only cars running, and therefore traction wasn't the best. Even so, Paul managed to get 60-foot times in the 1.7- to 1.9-second range, with the Cobra's slight deficit in torque (at least compared to the Condor's hulking 5.4) generally allowing slightly quicker times.

Since the Cobra was borrowed, we decided to make as few passes as possible with it, while still establishing what Paul considered representative times. The task was made tougher by its original Traction-Lok diff and clutch. The first few passes were in the low 12s at about 112 mph, but the smell of frying clutch material gave evidence that the automatic adjuster was about at its limit. Paul was sure there was an 11 in the car-even with the dicey traction conditions. Luckily, he had a manual firewall clutch adjuster in the trailer, which his trusty techs- Karl "Halfshaft" Roekle and Mike Sears-installed. The next pass was the Cobra's best-proper clutch engagement permitted a solid pass at 11.88 seconds and 116 mph. Tucked safely in the 11s, everyone decided to rest the Cobra and roll out the GT 500.

From the moment of its first launch, it was obvious the Condor was going to be a tough bird to keep grounded. Those fat 315 Drag Radials spun all the way through First, and well into both Second and Third. Still, it ran consistent 11.48 to 11.50 e.t.'s at 124 mph right off the bat. Paul fiddled with tire pressures and launch rpm until he managed an 11.37 at 123.39-mph pass that was to be the car's best on the radials, with the GT 500's brawny torque curve still spinning the rubber furiously down-track. The PHP crew also brought along a sticky set of 275/40x17 M/T ET Streets to try. They offered minimal improvement over the Drag Radials, coming in with a best of 11.36 at 124.35. Paul's sly observation? "It ain't got enough tire." It was obvious a GT 500 with minimal bolt-ons launching with a decent set of slicks would easily be a 10-second performer.

Another amazing thing about the Condor is its consistency. With the hard scientific work out of the way, Paul allowed just about anybody on the track grounds to have a shot at his GT 500. No matter how inexperienced the pilot, the thing never went any slower than the high 11s, always at a trap speed above 120 mph.

Our final goal of the day was to set up a side-by-side launch, mostly for photo purposes. A coin toss determined that PHP's Karl Roekle would pilot the Cobra, while his shop-mate, Mike Sears, would try to tame the GT 500. You may have noticed there are no side-by-side photos in evidence. Why? Because Karl managed to break one of the Cobra's factory halfshafts at the launch-our only breakage of the day. Did Karl feel remorse? Of course, but mostly because he had wanted a piece of Mike. Mike just smiled.

So what did this prove? Well, for one thing, the truth of the old axiom that "there's no substitute for cubic inches." With similar mods, the Condor produces about 100 lb-ft more torque than the Terminator, basically across the board. And torque is like having a gorilla on your side-albeit one that's sometimes hard to tame. Then again, on streetable tires, there's only about a half-second difference between the GT 500 and the faithful old Terminator. You can pick up used Terminators for fairly reasonable coin these days, although the same can't be said for the Condor. Most of all, it proved I'm stupid for owning neither a Cobra nor a GT 500.

Wonder what these things would do with screw blowers?