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2003 SVT Cobra - The Gift Of Life
What Greater Gift Can You Give Than...
It's A Powerful Mixture.Blood. Sweat. Tears.
Shannon Shepley's 2003 Mustang Cobra
When your father has been in the performance car business all your life, you just might pick up on some of it. Indeed, that's what happened to Shannon Shepley from Byron, Georgia. Now, it didn't happen to her two siblings, who each have their own individual strengths and personalities. Still, Shannon is the one that her dad calls a 'car freak'. Such is high praise from someone that got his first taste of Mustangs a little before the '80s had arrived, having bought and drag raced a 1971 BOSS 351 for three years. Later, Allan Shepley became a street rod builder and subsequently a Mustang restoration expert.
Like any good dad, he wants his kids to have their freedom, so each got their first car - a Mustang, of course - as a gift from him. For Shannon's 16th birthday, that car was a 1995 Mustang GT, which he'd cosmetically converted into an SVT Cobra of the same year. (For her 17th birthday, she got to choose either a new T5 or a paint job.) So, what would a car freak do with a newly minted Mustang? Well, Shannon has been known to visit a quarter mile facility in her area, as well as engaging in the occasional smoke show. Perhaps this training came at the hands of her father, perhaps not.
Problem was, when Shannon went off to school, the boys would admire the car and then ask, "Is that a real Cobra?" Shannon would have to explain that it was not, but she loved the car because her dad built it for her. As much as she was attached to it, her longing not to have to explain grew. At one point, she and Allan decided they would look around for a real 1995 Cobra and then sell off the GT. Shannon told us that she really wanted that year of Cobra, since it was the last of the 5-liter engines. She'd not really thought about anything more recent, either.
That was about four years ago. Around the same time, a friend of Allan's took delivery of the first 2003 SVT Cobra in the area. It was a beautiful Mineral Grey example of the breed and, of course, very fast. Point is... on one rainy day, the car proved overly fast for the friend who punched it a bit too hard coming out of a parking lot. The car ended up across the road, into a good sized ditch and with the nose straight into a concrete culvert. The insurance company wrote off the Cobra. A few phone calls ensued, then some fast thinking and action saw the Cobra being bought up under a salvage title by Allan.
Allan's business, Mustang Central, specializes in Pony car restoration and there's nothing that says these have to be classics. The process of bringing this Cobra back to life started with removal of the damaged front end and rebuilding the structure. Allan provided most of that work, with some help from his shop foreman, Brian Self, for drivetrain repairs. Because the damage had been enough to write off the car originally, virtually all of the front end structure needed rebuilding. New radiator and bumper supports were welded in after the subframe rails were straightened. Having handy access to the needed tools of the trade helped a lot. Allan's shop is fully equipped with a downdraft paint setup, paint booths and the other necessities of a thriving restoration business.
At the time, a friend from a local dealership helped out with straightening the subframe rails. Through the entire process, Shannon was watching with an enormous interest, but she couldn't really help out a lot. Once the driveline was back in place and body metal was going on, she pitched in with the prep work, sanding and priming. "She sanded and sanded until her fingers bled," Allan told us. As the car had been taking shape, Shannon and her dad talked about their plans for the car. Wild modifications were not part of that vision, but the addition of a set of Steeda lowering springs and a Bassani H-pipe were. They wanted to rebuild the car so that it looked like it just came from Dearborn Assembly Plant, perhaps as a special edition.