Michael Johnson Associate Editor
June 1, 2007
The exterior of Tim's Cobra is standard Mustang fare. The windows are tinted, of course, but the Cobra boasts clear corners, sequential taillights, AFS chrome Cobra R wheels wrapped in BFGs, a Cobra grille insert, and Tim's trademark "Ghost" sticker at the top of the windshield. To achieve the right stance, Tim chose Ford Racing Performance Parts "B" springs while the suspension is bolstered by a Steeda Autosports rear sway bar, Pro3i upper and lower control arms, and Bilstein shocks and struts. A PA Racing tubular K-member and control arms take some weight off the front, while a custom-made Roll Control device makes burnouts a breeze, as Atco, New Jersey, cops witnessed.

Horse Sense: Tim and his father performed all the upgrades on this Cobra, including the buildup of the 8.8 rearend after a shop tried two times to build it right. Tim even tuned the car himself using the SCT Pro Racer package. He then had to start all over again, thanks to a turbocharger swap.

Although some people may disagree, we don't charge an admission fee to get into 5.0&SF magazine. At the most, all a feature-car owner needs to pay for is gas in order to meet us at the photo spot-and maybe a 12-pack of Mountain Dew, but that's beside the point. Money doesn't change hands in order for us to make someone's Mustang dreams come true. We simply arrange a meeting place, photograph the car, and go on our merry way. It's no big deal really; you provide the car, and we'll provide the photography skills (or lack thereof). No one ever gets in trouble-we mean no one ever gets arrested-well, we can't say that anymore.

We know that's all you want to read about, but we have more important things to tell you about Tim Babit's Cobra.

When Tim was eight years old, he met Rick Havranek, who became his mentor, if you will. Tim began racing motocross and Rick had the same insatiable desire for speed. Rick was older, so he was Tim's version of the guy we all look up to at that age with the cool car and fast motorcycle. "If there was anyone I ever modeled my life after, it'd be him. He even taught me how to do a burnout," Tim says. That would come back to haunt Tim, but you'll have to wait.

As Tim grew up, Rick took him everywhere, treating him like a son. "He taught me everything about cars, bikes, and racing-all I ever needed to know," Tim says. Rick and Tim both had a thing for '96-'98 Cobras. Specifically, they liked the Four-Valve engine because it's similar to the motorcycle engines they knew so well.

On September 6, 1997, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit Rick while he was riding his motorcycle. "He died on the way to the hospital," Tim says. There were four services honoring Rick, and Tim was at all of them until he was told to leave. Rick's mother called Tim Rick's ghost because of how they were the same person, just in a different body. "Same attitude, look-everything," she would say. Rick's father made Tim promise to never get on a street bike. "As much as it hurts to restrain myself, I've kept my promise," Tim says.

While Tim manipulates an MGW shifter with an '03 Cobra shift knob, a Raptor Performance shift light lets him know when to hit the next gear using Bullitt pedals. Ever the music connoisseur, this Cobra has the power to announce his arrival before he's in sight. The stereo system leads off with a Panasonic head unit, and is followed up with JL component speakers and amps. It's all wired together using Phoenix Gold wiring. We have to deduct cool points for the trunk, as he's rocking a neon trunk lamp. Come on, Timmy, you should know better.

Tim visited Rick's grave every day, and what would happen to show up directly across the street but a white '98 Cobra. The owner wasn't ready to sell, and Tim wasn't ready for the financial commitment. "But I told her when she was ready, I would buy it," Tim says. Unfortunately, that particular Cobra was sold out from under him, but it was a blessing in disguise. After a visit to Rick's gravesite one day, Tim went online and found this '96 Cobra with only 60,000 miles on it. The price was right at $10,000, which was unheard of in April 2002. The next day, it was in Tim's driveway.

Since becoming the Cobra's owner, there have been some spooky occurrences with the car. One that really stands out for Tim was when he needed to have the Cobra's windows tinted. He took it to Lorenzo's Tint in the Bronx. Lorenzo told him he looked like someone he once knew. The guy's name was Rick, and he had also tinted his windows.

Fast forward to August 2006 when we photographed Tim's Cobra down the road from Atco Raceway in New Jersey. Prior to the scheduled shoot, we agreed to do a couple of burnout photos so we could get some smoky action shots. We finished the regular photos for the feature and daylight was waning, so we took the burnout sequence photos and finished by taking a few last-minute trunk shots, which was when this story takes a huge turn for the worse.

While taking the trunk photos, I heard Tim and the others in attendance say, "Uh-oh, MJ. 5.0." They weren't referring to the magazine you hold in your hands; they were speaking of the two police officers pulling up. The police lieutenant lives within sight of the photo location, and he frowned upon us leaving rubber-laden dimples so he sent two of his boys over to investigate. Of course, they already knew the full story thanks to their boss, but they asked the dumb questions anyway.

Yours truly did his best "Hey, I'm the 5.0 guy, here's my business card, and we're not out here merely trying to tear up some pavement" song and dance. But the officers weren't hearing any of it. We tried our best to explain our way out of it, but the officer put Tim in the back of the police car to take him to jail for booking. The cops said they would bring him back shortly and wait for him. Well, "shortly" turned out to be more than three hours.

Thankfully, Tim found a good lawyer and after spending way too much money, the criminal charges were dismissed, leaving him with a clean record.The whole scene was reduced to a careless driving ticket.

Remember who taught Tim how to do a burnout in the first place? That's right, his friend Rick. We don't know if Rick was trying to send Tim a message, but we have one. If we're photographing your Mustang for 5.0&SF magazine, you might want to bring bail money, 'cause we don't have any.