Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
October 1, 2007
Photos By: Steve Turner

All Ben Ripstein originally wanted was to get his Cobra's transmission fixed. "I bought the car with 9,500 miles on it," he says, "and I took it to my local Ford dealer to have the transmission replaced." Ben must have been happy with the service, because the Wauconda, Illinois, resident talked to the service manager about making the Cobra a 10-second ride. Outside of the dealership's capabilities, the service manager pointed Ben in the direction of one of the technicians: NMRA racer Mark Magnuson. As a drag racing veteran, Mark knew what it would take to accomplish Ben's goals, and then some.

While having a few drinks, Ben, Mark, and Mark's friend, John Galway, laid out the plan, beginning with the installation of a Hellion Power Systems single-turbo kit. "We just kept going further until the car was as extreme as they could make it," Ben says. In went a return-style fuel system using a Behind Bars Race Cars fuel tank and rollcage, a Magnaflow fuel pump, a Dr. Evil Performance Transmissions-built 4R70W automatic transmission with an Ultimate Converter Concepts stall converter, a solid-axle 8.8 with 9-inch ends to replace the original IRS, Wilwood brakes, and an Innovative boost controller. Still, with the stock Four-Valve 4.6 engine and Mark at the wheel, the car ran a 10.50 at 127 mph on BFGoodrich drag radials and a 10.18 at 129 mph on 28x1011/42-inch Mickey Thompson E/T Drags.

Then it was off to the '06 World Ford Challenge at Gateway International Raceway. "I had never been to an all-Ford event," Ben says. Every Ford racer Ben read about was there, and Mark introduced him. Ben enjoyed that part of the weekend, but when a tuning mistake took out two pistons, the team was back to square one. "I was having so much fun, I didn't care about hurting the engine," Ben says. He was so excited about the drag racing arena, he and Mark went to see MV Performance's Tim Matherly about a short-block. Ben bought one to take back home.

Once at home, the teardown commenced. The blown-up stock engine came out, and in went the MV Performance short-block, but not before topping it off with a pair of Rich Groh-massaged FR500 heads and a Sullivan Racing Products intake, also ported by Rich Groh. A Fox-body-style 70mm throttle body was attached to a Behind Bars Race Cars elbow. Once Mark and John assembled the engine and dropped it in, the car received a new Behind Bars Race Cars intercooler and tubing.

For a new way of tuning the beast, a Big Stuff 3 engine-management system was added with Larry Stauner of ASSC at the laptop to get the tune spot-on. Larry spent four hours in tuning time on the Cobra to make a lot of power with the driveability of a stocker. This is around the time we picked Ben's Cobra to compete in the '06 King of the Street competition ("Royal Rumble," May '07, p. 40), and the story of Ben's Cobra gets interesting.

Ben and Mark needed to prepare the Cobra for KOTS, so they got everything together for some testing. Each KOTS competitor received a pair of Nitto 555R Extreme Drag radials. On the first test pass with the Nittos, something went terribly wrong. Mark says a ball joint came apart at the top end at 128 mph, making him a mere passenger in an out-of-control car. The damage was extensive. The whole right side of the car was flattened. The front and rear bumper covers were done, all four tires flat-spotted, both right-side wheels were trashed, and the front and rear suspensions were out of whack.

Mark was fine, but obviously the car was far from it-much less ready for the King of the Street competition, which at the time of the accident was less than two weeks away. Ben, Mark, and John agreed the car had to be at the KOTS competition, but they knew it would be quite the undertaking. They called in every favor-and then some-to get the repairs underway.

On Saturday, September 23, the car was at Behind Bars Race Cars so Noodles could redo the intercooler piping, but that didn't take long. The car was back at the body shop for wet-sanding and the interior's reinstallation. Monday, September 25, Mark took the car to work with him so he could get it aligned and set the solid axle's pinion angle for the new UPR Products rear suspension. The car went on the dyno that night to double-check the tune-up. The next day, the car was cleaned and loaded into the trailer for the haul to Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky-the site of the King of the Street competition.

Not only did the Cobra look better than new for the competition, it displayed road manners befitting a stock Mustang-probably better. Since we were able to drive it, we became intimately familiar with the car's personality. Even though it finished close to the bottom in the Dyno Numbers category thanks to its automatic overdrive combination and possible tire spin, this is a fast car. We proved it with Mark in the passenger seat during the Ride and Drive segment, and Mark further drove home that point by winning the Drag Race segment with a 10.31 at 132 mph.

KOTS was the Cobra's second time down the dragstrip since kissing the wall during testing. It has since run a 9.81 at 138 mph.

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINELECTRONICS
BlockEngine Management
aluminum TeksidBig Stuff 3
DisplacementIgnition
284ciBig Stuff 3, LS1 coils, MSD Super Conductor
Rotating Assemblyspark plug wires, NGK spark plugs
Cobra crankshaft, stock Cobra,Gauges
H-Beam connecting rods, CPStock
custom pistons
Compression RatioSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
9.0:1FRONT SUSPENSION
HeadsK-Member
FR500 castings, Rich GrohUPR Products
Racing-Ported, Stock valve sizes,Control Arms
custom valvespringsUPR Products
CamshaftsSprings
Rich Groh Racing custom grindsHypercoils
IntakeStruts
Sullivan Racing Products, RichCompetition Engineering
Groh Racing-ported, BehindCaster/Camber
Bars Race Cars elbowUPR Products
Throttle BodyBrakes
Accufab 70mmWilwood
Power AdderWheels
Hellion Power Systems single-turboWeld Prostar or'03 Cobra chrome
kit featuring a 76mm Q-Trim ball-Tires
bearing turbo, Behind Bars Race CarsMickey Thompson Front Runner or
custom intercoolerNitto 555
Fuel SystemREAR SUSPENSION
Magnafuel fuel pump,Aero-quip fuelSprings
lines, Sullivan Racing Products fuel'03 Mach 1
rails, 83-lb/hr injectors, Weldon fuelShocks
pressure regulator'03 Mach 1
ExhaustControl Arms
Stock exhaust manifolds, BassaniUPR Products uppers and
Xhaust after-cat exhaustlowers
TransmissionBrakes
Dr. Evil Performance TransmissionsWilwood
built 4R70W, Ultimate ConverterWheels
Concepts 3,500-stall converter,Wled Racing Prostar 15x10 or '03
stock automoatic shifterCobra chrome
RearendChassis Stiffening
Solid-axle 8.8, 9-in ends, StrangeBehind Bars Race Cars custom
Engineering differential and 33-rollcage and subframe connectors
spine axles, 3.55 gears

Adam's Auto Body was the site of the Cobra's re-creation after Mark Magnuson stuffed it into the wall during testing for the King of the Street competition. Dave Gagnon hung the new quarter and made sure the rest of the car was straight before the coats of Sonic Blue were applied over the repaired body wearing an H.O. Fibertrends hood. In these photos, the Cobra wears Weld Racing big 'n' littles, but Ben also has a set of chrome Cobra wheels with Nitto treads for street duty.


To go fast, Ben and Mark turned to the experts. MV Performance's Tim Matherly built the short-block while Rich Groh had his mitts in the FR 500 heads, cam designs, and the Sullivan Racing Products intake. The turbo kit is a Hellion Power Systems (John Urist) single-turbo system adapted to an elbow atop the Sullivan intake. The turbo is a Turbonetics Q-Trim 76mm unit capable of shoving 30 pounds of boost down the Four-Valve's throat. To keep up with the power, Ben's Cobra features a Big Stuff 3 engine-management system, 83-lb/hr injectors, a Magnafuel fuel pump, Aeroquip lines, and Sullivan Racing Products fuel rails. Since a turbo loves an automatic, and to keep car owner Ben Ripstein from being too scared, the factory T56 was yanked to make room for a Dr. Evil Performance Transmissions 4R70W with an Ultimate Converter Concepts 3,500-stall converter.

With a Behind Bars Race Cars rollcage featuring removable swing-out door bars, Ben's Cobra makes an easy transition from street to strip, and vice versa. Unlike the stock automatic shifter, the 'cage gives away the Cobra's available power-getting any street action may be hard to come by. Similar to the 'cage, the stock automatic shifter is hooked to an overdrive-boasting Dr. Evil Performance Transmissions-built 4R70W, easily bridging the gap between street/strip performance.