Don Roy
August 1, 2006
Photos By: Tracy Stocker

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.

Part of that plan is the paint job that this New Edge Cobra sports. The lower portion retains the car's original Mineral Grey hue, while the upper half is now done in Super Jet Black. A painted stripe separates the two shades, itself occupying the Toreador Red portion of the spectrum. The COBRA letters in the rear bumper are filled in this color, plus Prowler Orange and Super Jet Black, all fading beautifully from one into the other. The car that Shannon didn't even dare to dream about before was slowly becoming hers. Electrical work was completed and the front of the engine was torn apart and checked out. The interior needed some attention, including air bag replacement, but was pretty clean otherwise.

The entire rebuild process took about five months from start to finish. For all his years of restoring Mustangs and building street rods, there was no hesitation from Allan when we asked him which project he was proudest of. "This would be the one. Because my little girl helped out with it." That girl will start her senior year in Atlanta in the fall. For the last two years now, Shannon has been driving the Cobra and enjoying it immensely. "I love the fact that I'm a girl and I have a supercharged Mustang." When asked about any further modification plans, Shannon grows quite serious. "I know that others are going crazy with them, but I think this is a collectible car. This could be the next Shelby. For anything that I've changed, I've kept all the original parts also." Still, Shannon thinks that maybe there could be an exhaust system in the future.

Once the car was on the road, Shannon looked forward to hitting up a car show with her new Cobra... and not having to explain it to anyone. Allan was unable to go to that first show with her, so Shannon's Mom went along. The trick 2003 Cobra drew just as many admiring stares from guys as did her 1995 snake before it. This time, the comments went, "Nice Cobra. That your mom's?"

That's OK, because if you had this 2003 SVT Cobra for an investment of just $14,000, you'd be happy to explain to anyone that came along. Yep. That's the total investment to bring this snake back to life. Eight large of that total went to the insurance company and the rest for supplies, parts and a few subcontracted bits of work. When she hits up the shows now, she also brings along her photo album to help with the explanations. "It was exciting to know that my dad and I could rescue such an awesome car from the crusher," Shannon added. It seems that plenty of others agree, as she has brought several First in Class trophies home with her. That sounds like a good reason not to get too deeply into the modifications, after all bringing something back from the dead is a major deal by itself.

Sweat Equity?
How Would you like to be driving around in a 2003 SVT Cobra that sports a custom paint job? Now, how would you like to be doing that for only $14,000? Shannon's Cobra in its original "modified" form was purchased from the insurance company for $8,000. About another $6,000 was spent on replacement parts, paint, supplies and outside services. That makes up the total out-of-pocket expenses. Of course, the car didn't straighten itself out, nor did the new body panels magically jump on and paint themselves. Once Shannon's dad had finished the structural restoration, she was able to start helping out.

You can see that Shannon, a part-time fashion model, isn't afraid to dig into the dirty work. And dig she did. Body panel prep work isn't easy, particularly when your objective is to have the car look better than it came from the factory. That never slowed Shannon down, who kept at the job until her fingers bled. So there you have the blood and the sweat. What about the tears? Yeah, there were some, but there's no need to go there. There is also no doubt that this particular Cobra is going to occupy a special place in the Shepley household - forever.

What Made It So Right?There's Power, and then there's everything else. SVT endowed the 2003 Cobra with (an underestimated) 390 HP. "One-dimensional cars don't fit the SVT philosophy," said John Coletti, at the time, "and this is a very, very nicely balanced car. This car isn't just about straight-line performance. That's the key. You can go touring in this Cobra and it's very comfortable and easy going. It has the finesse to drive and handle well in the twists and turns, as well as on straight roads."

Shannon Shepley's 2003 Mustang Cobra

Ford 4.6 liter DOHC V8

Engine Modifications
Bassani catted H-pipe

Tremec T-56 6-speed transmission

Factory rated 390 HP, 390 TQ

Fully restored from accident

Fully restored from accident; custom two tone paint job, Super Jet Black over Mineral Grey with Toreador Red separation stripe

Original dark charcoal leather with suede inserts

Steeda Sport Springs; Bilstein struts and shock absorbers