Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
August 21, 2012

There have been times in Mustang history when we thought the fun was over. Performance was not at the top of the list during these times. We're not even going to venture into the Mustang II argument, that one's too easy. However, we don't have to look back too far to see what was thought to be dark ages of Mustang performance.

In '86 the new-fangled EFI system had people so up in arms they swapped tried-and-true carburetors on the cars for a technological step backwards. A throttle body? What's that? We thought performance was dead--again. Eventually, EFI became widely accepted, and desired by both the aftermarket, and performance Mustang fans.

Just 10 years later, many felt Ford did it to us again with the introduction of the 4.6-liter modular engine. Our beloved pushrod 5.0 was gone, replaced by what we were told was a smoother, more efficient engine. And again, we were way skeptical. An engine without pushrods? You're kidding, right? That's like a pool without a diving board. Sure, the Cobra's Four-Valve monster made 305 hp, a pretty big number in 1996, but who knew how to work on one? As Mustang and performance enthusiasts, the apocalypse was surely upon us, or so we thought.

Turns out, we weren't totally wrong. The '96-'98 Two-Valve modular has pretty much been a bust. With a blower, they make nice street cars, but no one is scared of 'em in stock form. The '99-'04 Two-Valve engines received the Performance Improved heads, but in the context of Mustang performance, they still lag behind the '05-'10 Three-Valves.

Clearly, the class of the modular engine family is the Four-Valve, which has been available in Mustang Cobra models since 1996. It's no secret the engine makes power. With the '03-'04 Cobra, it reached legendary status when Ford equipped it with a built bottom end and a supercharger.

Truthfully, the '03-'04 Cobra was the first modular Mustang to make even the most hardened Fox fans to finally make the plunge. Take Largo, Florida's Steve Buscema for example. After owning six Fox Mustangs, starting from the age of 17, "I wanted to give the modular powerplants a try," Steve says.

Steve heard about the driving manners and big power capabilities of the Four-Valve engine, so that's what he set his sights on. However, at the same time, he was tired of buying a stock Mustang and spending thousands of dollars to make it fast, only to lose that money when it came time to look for another project. "I started searching the Internet for an '03-'04 Cobra with a bigger supercharger or turbo. Whatever it was, it had to have 600 rwhp to feel close to my Fox at the time," Steve says.

Even though it's not what he intended to own at the outset of his search, Steve jumped in the deep end when he located a twin-turbocharged '01 Cobra. The car had two things that really attracted Steve. First, the car was on consignment at a dealership in North Carolina that dealt exclusively in muscle cars. That meant he could trade his then-Fox for the Cobra. The second good bit of news regarding the car was that it was built at Fastlane Motorsports.

Steve booked a flight to look at the car in person. What he found upon arrival was a well-built, clean Cobra with no accidents. Steve and the dealer were able to come to an agreement so he left a deposit, flew back home, grabbed his Fox, threw it on the trailer, and headed back to North Carolina to make the deal.

That was just the beginning, though. Two weeks into ownership, Steve turned up the boost, did a burnout, and power-shifted Second gear. "It sounded like a shotgun blast," Steve says. "I snapped the driveshaft, broke the transmission's main shaft, cracked the tailshaft housing, and more." Steve basically wrecked everything between the engine and the 8.8. This happened while Steve was on a short trip to get baby food and milk for his daughter, Mia--and he had left his cell phone at home. He had to walk to an industrial park and ask to use a phone to call for a ride. A gentleman at the shop thought it was a gun shot, but Steve had to explain it was his transmission exploding into a million bits. "That powershift cost me $5,000," Steve says.

To get the car back on the road, Steve entrusted Ramsey's Performance in Lutz, Florida, to redo the transmission with a Pro Motion Performance gearset, a 26-spline input shaft, and a 31-spline output shaft. Once the transmission was done, Steve and his friend Bobby Caruana from Ultimate Auto Repair in Largo, Florida, installed a McLeod RXT clutch, the rebuilt T56, and a new PST aluminum driveshaft.

With the transmission fixed, he resists the urge for powershifting. He says the car makes so much power that speed-shifting works just fine. "This car is a pleasure to drive," Steve says. "It has A/C, power steering, 9-second capability, and stock-like driveability to make it a great street car."

It doesn't sound like he's regretted jumping into the modular pool, but Steve recently purchased a 10-second, carbureted, 408ci Windsor-powered '91 LX notch for drag racing.

Wait...what?!

Horse Sense: Besides owning this Cobra, Steve Buscema also owns Sunsation Pools and Spas in Largo, Florida, which means he keeps us Floridians cool in the summer by building us a place to swim.

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5.0 Tech Specs

'01 Cobra

Engine and Drivetrain
Block '03 Cobra iron
Crankshaft '03 Cobra
Rods Eagle H-beam forged
Pistons CP forged, Total Seal piston rings
Camshafts '03 Cobra
Cylinder Heads Fastlane Motorsports Stage 3 ported Four-Valve
Intake Manifold '01 Cobra w/ ported, stock ported throttle body, and an SCT mass air meter
Power Adder HP Performance twin-turbo kit w/ Twin 57mm Garrett turbochargers, an air-to-air intercooler, and 25 pounds of boost
Fuel System Aeromotive A1000 ful pump w/ Teflon-lined steel-braided lines, Fore Precision fuel rails, FRPP 80-lb/hr fuel injectors, and an Aeromotive regulator
Exhaust HP Performance turbo headers w/ HP Performance H-pipe, and Flowmaster after-cat exhaust
Transmission T56 six-speed w/ Pro Motion Performnce gearset, 26-spline input shaft, 31-spline output shaft, McLeod RXT clutch, Pro-5.0 shifter, and PST aluminum driveshaft
Rearend Solid-axle 8.8 w/ FRPP Traction-Lok differential, 3.55 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, and Moser C-clip eliminators

Electronics
Engine management Stock PCM w/ SCT X-Cal tune
Ignition Stock
Gauges Stock w/ AEM Tru-Boost gauge controller, AEM wideband, and Auto Meter Phantom oil pressure

Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-Member UPR Products tubular
A-Arms UPR Products tubular
Struts UPR Products
Springs UPR Products coilover
Brakes Stock
Wheels Weld Pro Stars 15x3-1/2-in
Tires 165R-15
Rear Suspension
Shocks Lakewood 50/50
Springs UPR Products
Control Arms Steeda Autosports
Brakes Stock
Wheels Weld Pro Star 15x10-in
Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Street radial 295/50-15