Tom Wilson
December 10, 2010

At first blush you might think of Matt Snow's hot-rodded '93 Mustang Cobra as another corporate publicity stunt. But that's impossible once you've met Matt, who's so obviously excited about the latest iteration of his car that such jaded thoughts just don't stand up to his infectious enthusiasm.

In other words, we think he really built this one for the fun of it, even if the over-powered red rocket gets some publicity for Matt's Snow Performance business.

If you need more proof than the audacity of stuffing a little over 900 hp into an otherwise fairly stock Fox Mustang, consider Matt has owned his Cobra for years, and this is hardly its first rodeo. It began in 1999 when Matt bought the Fox from a guy in Oklahoma. "It was in real rough shape," as Matt tells it, "but it was fast! It had a 308-inch engine with AFR 165 heads. I started modifying it right away, playing with a supercharger and stuff."

Matt eventually coaxed 670 hp out of the Cobra's rear tires using a small ProCharger and 100hp nitrous shot. It was at this time when Matt became interested in water-methanol injection. Using the '93 as a test mule, he developed his own water-methanol injection system and opened Snow Performance, which is dedicated to water-methanol injection systems.

Even then we get the idea that Matt-whose energy level was apparently set to a low boil at birth-was having a good time. In one memorable weekend he used the stock-block combination to win a dyno contest, run an open-track, and post a 10.6-second run at the Pueblo, Colorado, dragstrip. All fun stuff-and why Matt says the car has true sentimental value to him.

Happy thoughts or not, Matt's restlessness had him chaffing against the combination's power limit. "The blower was a little P-1 ProCharger," he recalled. "Spun it for all it was worth-about 570 hp-but we couldn't get any more out of it." Looking to step up, Matt tore down the hard-working 5.0 to discover the block was cracked. So he dropped in a turbo'd small-block "but it had issues and ate itself." Not a little disgusted, Matt went looking for something with more durability

What he found was a whole lot of motor, and not too far away. Matt operates out of Colorado Springs, which is just about literally in the shadow of Pikes Peak. And if you're anywhere near Pikes Peak and Fords, Leonard Vasholtz is sure to be nearby. Leonard, a serious racer from the built-it-yourself school, has made an impressive career blasting up the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in any number of his own creations that started life as Fords. Now retired from driving save for the occasional exhibition run, Leonard stays more than busy in his shop, helping his son Clint make a stab at NASCAR roundy-round racing and building customer engines.

What Leonard sold Matt was an ex-Ernie Elliott Winston West truck engine. These 357ci monsters were designed around a 9:1-compression-ratio rule several years ago, but otherwise are as full-house as 9,000-rpm NASCAR cup engines come. The foundation is a Ford Racing G block fitted with CNC-ported Robert Yates C3 canted-valve heads. These have a larger combustion chamber to make the 9:1 compression, which worked perfectly for the supercharging Matt was planning.

Built with 500-lap durability in mind, the engine featrues every exotic gadget in the pro-racer's playbook-sleeved lifter bores to the cam tunnel; Del West titanium valves, fully counterweighted; an internally balanced steel crank; and Ernie Elliott CNC machining throughout. There's no penny pinching here.

Nominally a 9.2-inch-deck-height Windsor, Leonard explained all the Elliott NASCAR engines are milled to 9.130-inch. That's still tall, allowing a generous 6.200-inch-long Lance connecting rod for lowered piston-to-cylinder-wall stress with the 3.440-inch stroke. These dimensions, especially when combined with the premium racing parts, should give good durability, especially when used in the 7,000-rpm neighborhood that works so well with blowers.

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Tuning the naturally aspirated, carbureted NASCAR engine to Matt's Big Stuff 3 EFI and supercharged Mustang meant a cam change by Leonard. Using a custom grind, he "widened the lobe centers and toned the lift" to maximize in the high 6,000-rpm range. This combo is fronted by a ProCharger F-2, which is nominally pullied to 15 pounds of boost, but up to 20 psi was used on Rocky Mountain Competitive Research's Dynojet. As little as 5-7 psi may be on tap when short-shifting.

If 5 pounds of boost sounds entry-level, consider that big deep-breathing engines with canted-valve heads don't need much more than office-fan blower action to produce windshield-cracking power. We can personally assure you that an emissions-legal Saleen S7 street engine, which is 427 ci underneath canted-valve C3 heads (more or less), makes 750 hp on 4.5 pounds of non-intercooled turbo boost and 1,012 hp at 8 psi. That is with more cubes but considerably less camming than Matt's engine, but you get the idea. Matt's engine was a riot without the blower-pumping boost on top of it is just asking to get hit with both barrels. That's the whole idea here, of course.

To help keep everything in one piece, Matt kitted his engine with his own Snow Performance Stage 3 water/methanol injection. This is the standard reservoir, pump, lines, and nozzles, along with an electronic boost controller and Safe Injection. The controller allows for on-the-fly tuning adjustments and its display tells you what's going on. Safe Injection sets the engine to Safe should the reservoir run dry.

It's amazing what the water-methanol injection does for a supercharged engine. The main point is the mixture is sprayed into the intake manifold, cooling in the intake charge and providing an extremely effective guard against detonation. The water-meth is injected only when the engine is under boost-Matt has the system set to begin spraying at 6 pounds of boost-and with the electronic controller, the injection is ramped up along with the boost.

With Boost Cooler engaged, aggressive boost and ignition timing are possible, along with more rational air/fuel ratios. Excessively rich air/fuel ratios for detonation protection are not needed-the water-meth takes on that job-with the final result being more power. Just how effective the Boost Cooler is can be judged by Matt's combination, which put 907 hp to the Cobra's rear tires-on 91-octane pump gas!

Matt enlisted the House of Boost in Lenexa, Kansas, to make the engine and driveline installation, and add its talented touch on the cosmetics and overall detailing throughout the car. There was a false start along the way when Matt specified a Jerico racing transmission. The ultra-slick-shifting Jerico was no problem, but the grabby four-disc metal clutch that came with it proved impossible on the street. The cure turned out to be a T-56 six-speed and associated short-throw shifter. The stock 8.8-inch rear axle remains.

Matt says he gave the Cobra to House of Boost with "a few blemishes in the front" and they returned the car in its glory as you see it. That meant fitting and painting a Cobra R hood and front bumper, plus cutting the original paint back to a high gloss, along with extra work on those front-end blemishes. Obviously House of Boost put in the hours filling holes in the engine compartment, re-routing hoses and lines, and generally creating a sanitary underhood presentation.

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Because Matt was building a fun car for quick thrills on occasion, the chassis received modest-compared to the power-upgrading. House of Boost installed most of what Maximum Motorsports offers for the Fox Mustang, including a K-member, control arms, coilovers, bumpsteer kit, and so on. Braking, on the other hand, is still essentially stock, but augmented by a home-grown water cooling system Matt custom built from his water injection parts. It uses the usual Snow Performance reservoir and pump, but instead of misting water into the intake manifold, the nozzles shoot at the inside of the front brake discs. The system is energized via the brake-light switch circuit.

In the cockpit, House of Boost did a nice job of integrating the water-methanol injection system in custom enclosures, including the electronic controller, which gets its own showy, backlit Snow logo on the center console.

Matt enthusiastically put us behind the wheel of his new beast at the also new and entertaining High Plains road course east of Denver, Colorado. This was the car's shakedown session, and as expected, there were the usual teething issues, but in our short time behind the wheel-wow! There's nothing like nuclear power for a good time. Even better, this car makes power in a racy way, with quick-revving grunt down low and a, shall we say, "crisp" top end. It's the sort of thrust that makes bending around turns just anticipation of the real thrill-pulling the trigger on the straights.

Accentuating the stellar power is the vintage Fox Mustang chassis feel. Since the first Fox, the power steering is over-boosted, plus the center of gravity feels high, with sailing-ship bodyroll for a car of this performance potential. Nose dive was decently tamed for a Fox (and we weren't tempting fate on corner entry anyway), but there was plenty enough body movement to really squat the car on the outside rear tire during corner exit for maximum traction.

Really helping were the excellent NT01 Nitto tires. They offered great traction-when the engine would allow it!

Trail-braking into the turns made the rear end a little over-active; later with Matt, we noted more brake dust on the rear wheels than the fronts, so checking the brake bias was also scribbled on Matt's post-shakedown to-do list. Speaking of brakes, in our short, easy-on-the-brakes driving we didn't feel a hint of fade, and the water level in the brake cooler went down some, so we'll call the water cooling a success.

Ultimately, however, we were quite thankful all that power was easy to dial in and out. Simply matting the throttle would smoke the tires out of any turn, of course, but thanks to the big camming and ramping-up boost, we had a great time dialing in more and more throttle coming onto the straights. It was addictive!And so, with the shakedown complete and photos taken, we were off to the airport and Matt headed back to his shop. And yeah, it was fun-just like it was built to be.

5.0 Tech Specs
'93 Cobra

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Block Ford Racing 9.200-in "G" NASCAR, cast-iron
  • Bore 4.065-in
  • Stroke 3.440-in
  • Displacement 357 ci
  • Heads Ford Racing C3, canted valve NASCAR
  • Intake Edelbrock Victor
  • Fuel System Aeromotive
  • Power Adder ProCharger with Snow Performance Stage 3 Boost Cooler
  • Headers Kooks long-tubes
  • Transmission T-56
  • Rearend 8.8-inch

Electronics

  • Engine Management Big Stuff 3
  • Gauges Auto Meter

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension
Maximum Motorsports

  • Shocks Bilstein
  • Springs Eibach
  • Brakes Stock Mustang Cobra
  • Wheels Mustang Cobra, widened 1 in
  • Tires Nitto NT01, 255/40-R17

Rear Suspension

  • Shocks Bilstein
  • Springs Eibach
  • Brakes Stock Mustang Cobra
  • Wheels Mustang Cobra, widened 1 in
  • Tires Nitto NT01, 315/35R-17