Eric English
May 1, 2008
Even though it's off by a year and a different engine family, we keep thinking "Cobra R" when we see Tom Meyer's '96 Cobra-something about the shape and colors. Too bad the R didn't have the cool tan Recaros fitted to this one.

Horse Sense: We've surely noted it before, but Tom Meyer's Cobra reminds us of the sturdiness and performance that Ford builds into its SVT product line. This car easily doubles the factory 305 hp at the flywheel, yet it does so with the factory block, crank, cylinder heads, and cams.

Right up front, we want to acknowledge that Tom Meyer's SN-95 Cobra is no sleeper. Individuals with any brain function at all should recognize the Cobra emblems and callout on the rear bumper cover. Anyone even slightly observant will see the large rolling stock, and if given a chance, hear the healthy sounds emanating through the aftermarket exhausts.

All of this should tell even the most ignorant that something greater is at play here-then again, the most ignorant are probably talking on a cell phone and are oblivious to everything around them. This '96 isn't a sleeper, yet few would suspect the capability lurking within. You might more accurately call it a cruise missile in a plain vanilla wrapper, for in this machine, form most assuredly follows function. There are no unnecessary appendages or billet doodads to be found, and make no mistake: That's exactly the way Tom intended it.

Tom shuns the flash and bling of the show car realm, avoids the cosmetic bolt-ons that announce the supposed presence of big league performance, and invests his dollars where they count the most. The end product comes off much like the '95 Cobra R, a car that shares the same color combination with this mod-motored '96, along with the same easy-to-overlook persona. As the original owner, Tom is solely responsible for every twist and turn that has led to the car's current state of being. If you like it, Tom is your man of the hour. If you don't-too bad.

It's all business underhood, with no money spent on superfluous spit and polish. It's still an attractive scene, as we've long regarded the '96-'98 Cobra DOHC 4.6 as some of the most attractive late-model Mustang powerplants-largely due to the snake emblazoned intake. This one has been treated to the Extrude Hone process to eek out every last bit of flow potential.

Purchased in early 1997 on a closeout deal at Chuck Clancy Ford, the early story is a repeat of oh-so-many, with a bolt-on this and bolt-on that-until the whole thing was too much for the stock reciprocating mass to handle. With a wounded short-block in hand, Tom found it time to get serious and turned the car over to the crew at Brad's Custom Auto in Seattle, Washington. From the start, the intent was to build a hot street car that was well mannered and capable of serious road work, and Tom says the package delivers on all counts.

Building a bottom end to endure brutal power was the responsibility of Dave Bliss at Bliss Performance. He prepped and punched the aluminum block 0.020-inch over and hung JE pistons and Manley rods from the re-machined factory forged crank. That's oversimplifying the work of a top-quality engine builder, but you get the idea. Up top, the stock intake was Extrude Honed, IMRC delete plates were fitted, and the Four-Valve heads were ported by JDC Engineering. Being that power adders are an undeniable prerequisite for major modular power, Tom gave the nod to an aftercooled Vortech S-Trim fitted with an Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe.

More power-making ancillaries come in the form of an Accufab single-blade throttle body, a full exhaust consisting of Sean Hyland long-tube headers, a Dr. Gas X-shape crossover with Random Techonologies cats, and all else Bassani. Adequate fuel is assured by an Aeromotive pump, braided steel lines, custom fuel rails, and 50-lb/hr injectors. The whole affair is directed by an EPEC computer, expertly tuned by Blood Enterprises in Auburn, Washington. Proprietor Craig Blood ultimately worked his electronic magic to the tune of 596 pump gas horses at 6,500/505 lb-ft at 5,500-measured on the conservative in-house Mustang MD250 dyno.

Backing the big power engine is an equally competent drivetrain. McLeod's street-twin clutch engages a T56 six-speed, in turn sending the rotating grunt through a Critical Link carbon-fiber driveshaft to the expected 8.8-inch rearend. Inside, we find an Auburn Pro diff, Moser 31-spline axles, 3.73 gears, and a Ford Racing Performance Parts girdle/cover. Likewise modified is the braking system-as competent as the factory Cobra brakes may be, they'd be easily overcome by twice the original horsepower. This upgrade was straightforward yet effective, with Brembo Cobra R calipers out front, upgraded pads all around, and braided lines for a more solid pedal feel. Only partially hiding the assembly are 18-inch Saleen wheels in 9- and 10-inch widths, shod with beefy Michelin rubber.

All the brakes and tires in the world will be a lost cause if not teamed with a competent suspension. In this case, the lion's share hails from Griggs Racing. Count the company's K-member, front control arms, coilover Konis, and caster/camber plates as the basis for some tenacious frontend grip, while augmented by a Maximum Motorsports Panhard rod and sway bars from Kenny Brown.