Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
June 1, 2008
This is just your average, everyday silver '03 Cobra. Yeah, right. It may look that way on the outside, but don't let the car's subtle exterior fool you. When we photographed Matt's Cobra, it featured BBS RK Plasma 18-inch wheels, but he swapped them out for CCW SP500 wheels, 18x91/2-inch in front and 18x11-inch rear, with BFGoodrich rubber. The stock body sits closer to earth thanks to Hypercoil springs, teamed with stock struts up front and 2000 Cobra R shocks out back.

Horse Sense: Matt would be remiss not to thank his friend Chris Herring for never hesitating to lend a helping hand. Chris was a Mercedes technician in St. Petersburg, Florida, but he was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly before Christmas of 2007.

We often associate heavy metal with our love of speed. Furthermore, we use that genre of music to get our adrenaline going, which only accelerates our need to go fast. Whether you enjoy the latest Bullet For My Valentine and Killswitch Engage, or vintage Metallica and Mtley Cre, metal music and the need for speed will always be connected. For Riverview, Florida's Matt Knab, the band Disturbed summed it up best with its song "Down With the Sickness."

With its "ohh-wa-a-a-a" start, we're definitely down with the need to hammer the throttle, but Matt says it's an accurate description of his affinity for speed. Though most of us will never find a cure for this affliction, he has found it in the form of his '03 Cobra.

Matt caught the sickness from a '69 Camaro owned by a friend's father, though his mother says he has been "sick" from birth. "Sitting at a light with the cowl hood shaking, the solid engine mounts, lopey cam, and loud exhaust did it for me," Matt says.

The hook was set with the GM-throughout college, Matt wanted a Pontiac Trans-Am WS6. However, his job saved him because he needed a truck for hauling duties. "The Trans-Am didn't fit the bill," Matt says. What did fit the bill was an '00 Lightning. "I was hooked all over again." A temporary fix, the Lightning possessed the power and handling Matt needed. "The whine from the factory Eaton underhood was music to my ears," he says.

More music to Matt's ears came when his company changed its policy and provided trucks for employees; then the '03 Cobras hit the streets. "It had all the power of the Lightning with a factory Eaton supercharger, Four-Valve heads, a forged crank and pistons, and Manley rods," he says. In mid-2003, Matt traded in the Lightning for this Silver Cobra.

With the knowledge gained from the Lightning, he began the mods right away. "Within the first few hundred miles, the Cobra had subframe connectors, an after-cat exhaust, an X-shape crossover, a cold-air intake, a pulley, and a tune," Matt says. From there, his choice of mods ran the gamut of '03-'04 Cobra additions, including an attempt at a ported blower instead of a tried-and-true source, which caused nothing but detonation and headaches.

"I think I ended up with too many gauges," Matt says. This photo shows the Raptor shift light, Innovate Motorsports Wideband air/fuel ratio gauge, and Auto Meter boost and fuel-pressure gauges. To those he added a Speed of Sound A-pillar pod with Auto Meter Phantom electric water-temperature and oil-pressure gauges. To decrease clutter, Matt hid the nitrous switches in the center console.

Fortunately, that was the perfect excuse to step up and add a Kenne Bell 2.2-liter Twin-Screw supercharger. With that, along with the purchase of SCT's Pro Racer Package and an Innovate Motorsports Wideband sensor and air/fuel gauge, the Cobra made 620 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque on 19 pounds of boost. With that kind of power, necessary upgrades followed with the addition of headers, a new clutch, The Driveshaft Shop Level 5 halfshafts, coilover shocks and struts, gauges, and other typical stuff.

A trip to the '05 SEMA show led to more mechanical music when Matt laid his eyes on Hellion Power Systems' '03-'04 Cobra single-turbo kit. It didn't take long for him to place his order, and he picked it up from Hellion's John Urist at the '06 NMRA opener at Bradenton Motorsports Park. Shortly thereafter, Matt installed the turbo kit in his garage. "It fit like a glove with no cutting or modifications," he says.

A scuffed piston six months later required more modifications. The "scuffed" short-block was sent to Al Papitto at Boss330 Racing for a rebuild. While at Al's, the engine was punched out 0.020-inch (for 283 ci), and the short-block received Oliver billet rods, CP pistons, and ARP hardware. While he was at it, Matt had the stock T56 transmission upgraded with a 26-spline input shaft, a McLeod throwout and pilot bearings, and a SPEC Stage 3 clutch.

Matt then had tuning-guru Jerry Wrobleski work his magic on the car, resulting in 718 hp and 746 lb-ft of torque. Though Matt hasn't returned to the dyno, he recently added an NX dry-nitrous kit with an intercooler spray bar as the purge.

"I'm just happy to enjoy the car for now," Matt says. "After seeing and riding in many modified Mustangs, I think I have accomplished the goal." To that we say "ooh-wa-a-a-a!"