Don Roy
October 1, 2006
Photos By: Francis Butler

Karen Kennedy's 1998 SVT Cobra Convertible Despite what your kids or younger siblings may think, there is more going on in Orlando, FL, than Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Bounding rapidly towards a population of two million, the central Florida hot spot is a fully developed, metropolitan city in its own right. It might be difficult to imagine a more suitable home base for a group of Mustang enthusiasts than this part of Florida. Aside from the occasional weather disruption and a constant stream of tourists, the area boasts fine weather, amazing scenery and long runs of smooth interstate.

For the Kennedy family, the first "horse bite" came in 1980, when father John took in a 1970 Mach I 351 classic. The fondly remembered "fun times" eventually gave way to family pursuits and attendant responsibilities. That period allowed a return to the Mustang scene in 1996, when John picked up a new Mustang GT convertible. The "modified" bug stormed to the forefront over the next few years and a great deal of work was done to the GT. Because it was the first year for the 4.6 liter engine, a lot of attention was paid there, including installing a Vortech supercharger and chroming just about everything in sight.

In the fullness of its glory, that car brightened the pages of a number of other enthusiast magazines. Problem was, the GT was supposed to be for Mrs. Kennedy's use. With the ongoing calls for photo shoots and time spent in the shop installing the latest bits, Karen wasn't seeing much of the car at all. In 2000, the Kennedys attended the Daytona Beach Turkey Rod Run... you know, that "little" show on the beach that drew just over 5,000 registered cars last year. There, they sold the tricked out GT and picked up their 1998 Cobra from a gentleman that brought it down from Ohio. Obviously, that fellow wasn't doing a whole lot with the Cobra, as it had only 4,000 miles on the clock.

And so, it began again. John called up a number of the companies that had been sponsors for the previous car. These included Hotchkiss Suspensions, Tokico Performance Shocks, Power Slot Rotors, Superchips and BF Goodrich. Helping out this time are both of the Kennedy offspring, Joshua, 26, and John, 21. No strangers to the Mustang art, John drives a 1992 Fox, complete with 650 RWHP, while Joshua cruises the locale in his black 2005 Pony. While the pace has been less frantic than with the previous car, this snake has been shown and raced - both on the quarter mile and the twisty tracks.

In fact, one of the things that John loves about the car is that it held its own on the road course at Sebring, FL, facing off against big-dollar Porsches and Vipers. In part, that kind of performance comes from Tokico springs, the 5-way Tokico Illumina shocks and struts, along with Hotchkiss upper and lower control arms. Complete Custom Wheels (CCW) did up a set of 3-piece rims for this snake. The front 17"x9.5" rims support BF Goodrich's g-Force T/A KD 275/40R17 tires, while out back the story is all about 17"x11.5" rollers inside 315/35R17 KD's. All of this works well together to keep the car planted in the twisties.

When this Cobra visited the straight and narrow at Orlando Speed World, a bottle of nitrous helped achieve a 12.80 second ET, with 118 mph trap speed. That nitrous setup is a Nitrous Oxide System's single stage, dry kit, jetted for a 150 HP boost. The car also sports the now-classic arrangement of having its nitrous purge nozzles vent through the hood scoops, supporting the car's pet name 'Venomous'. Giggle gas isn't the only thing going on under the hood, though. A BBK cold air kit and twin 62mm throttle body help the 4-valve engine breathe in... something that these engines respond well to. On the exit side, you'll find a set of BBK's long tube headers feeding through a Bassani 2.5-inch X-pipe and into a set of Flowmaster's 40-series hush cans.

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Pipeline chores are handled by an SVT Focus 255 lph pump fuel pump and a Kirban adjustable fuel pressure regulator. Responsibility for lighting the fire falls to the combination of an Accel dual ignition coil, Taylor 10.4mm race wires and NGK spark plugs. Getting most of the pieces in place and playing nice together has been orchestrated by Jake LaMotta, of LaMotta Performance in Longwood, FL. Electronic aids to help out with this chore include a Superchips custom chip, MSD rev limiter and a window switch to tame the nitrous bottle.

Some people prefer a stealthy look, but that's a pretty big challenge to take on when you're Chrome Yellow. Rather than hide it, the Kennedy's prefer to celebrate it. On the outside, the car is changed only slightly by a set of side scoops and a Steeda race wing at the rear. The hood's aggressive contours are highlighted by a set of custom vinyl appliques from Bob White Decals in West Palm Beach, FL. Meanwhile, there's a good helping of new stuff going on inside the car.

The Cobra's headrests have been embroidered and a custom dash mat leaves no doubt as to whose 'vert this actually is. An APC carbon fiber trim kit adds further distinction inside, coordinating with the carbon fiber shift knob. Auto Meter fuel pressure and air/fuel ratio gauges, nestled on the A-pillar, supply critical information when the driver kicks in the NOS system. Maintaining a cruiser look is consistent with Florida's amenable weather and that responsibility falls to a Saleen light bar and a set of two-piece tonneau covers from Classic Design Concepts.

Now that her car isn't a regular celebrity, except in these pages, Karen has more opportunity to use it and accumulate mileage. That particular fact has her husband planning for the future. Once sufficient miles have been piled on the Cobra, John thinks that a built shortblock will be a worthwhile investment... particularly if the blower he's thinking about comes to fruition. Certainly, if John put it to a family vote, there's no doubt of a majority result.

In the meantime, he and the boys have plenty of other Mustang matters to attend to.

There's no Mickey Mouse work going on here, because anytime your driveway looks as good as the local cruise-in, it's a family affair. Let's see Disney top that experience!

1998:Last Year For The 'Aero' Cars
In The 1998 Model Year, the Cobra appeared rather similar to the GT and V6 models. Features that did distinguish the Cobra included a distinct front bumper, round fog lights, snake fender emblems and a raised hood to make room for the intake. Larger 13-inch front brakes and 11-inch rears gave the Cobra braking capacity equal to its launching prowess. The 1998 Cobras also received new wheels to help stand out from the other models. With ratings of 305 HP @ 5800 rpm and 300 lb-ft of torque @ 4800 rpm, the Cobra was factory-capable of 13.99 second quarter mile trips, with a trap speed of 101.6 mph. Despite weighing in at 3581 pounds, the car was also rated at a respectable 26 mpg highway fuel consumption. The following year would see the Cobra evolve dramatically into the 'New Edge' exterior styling and delivering improved road manners with its new independent rear suspension.

SVT was publicly launched in February of 1992 with an overall goal of reaching automobile enthusiasts while simultaneously 'polishing the Ford oval.' To do this, Ford brought together a small group of engineers, product planners and marketing professionals to create low-volume, factory-built performance vehicles. Since the debut, in 1993, of the SVT Mustang Cobra, the performance group has delivered several distinct versions of the Cobra, Cobra R and other Ford vehicles.

Specifications
Karen Kennedy's 1998 SVT Mustang Cobra Convertible

Engine
Ford 4.6 liter DOHC V8

Engine Modifications
BBK cold air intake, twin 62mm throttle body, 2.5-inch long tube headers; K&N air filter; Steeda underdrive pulleys; SVT 255 l/hr fuel pump; Kirban adjustable fuel pressure regulator; Superchips custom chip; Taylor ignition wires; Excel ignition coils; NOS single stage, dry 150 HP nitrous oxide kit; MSD Ignition window switch, rev limiter

Driveline
Steeda Tri-Ax shifter; Saleen rear axle girdle; Ford Motorsport 3.73 ratio rear axle gears

Interior / Exterior
Karen Kennedy's 1998 SVT Cobra Convertible

Chassis
Ford Motorsport subframe connectors; Power Slot brake rotors, 13" front and 11" rear; Steeda stainless steel braided brake lines; Bassani 2.5" H-pipe; Flowmaster 40-series, 2.5" mufflers; BBK chromed strut tower brace

Exterior
Classic Design Concepts 2-piece Speedster tonneau; Steeda race wing; Clear side markers

Interior
Saleen light bar, pedal covers; Auto Meter dual gauge pod with air/fuel ratio and fuel pressure guages; Custom embroidered Cobra head rests; Custom dash mat; Carbon fiber dash kit, shift handle

Suspension
Tokico Illumina 5-way adjustable struts and shock absorbers, lowering springs; Hotchkis upper and lower rear control arms, caster/camber plates; Energy Suspension full poly bushing kit

Wheels And Tires
CCW one-off custom wheels, 17" x 9.5" front, 17" x 11.75" rear; BF Goodrich gForce T/A KD tires, 275/40R17 in front, 315/35R17 at rear

Numbers
445 RWHP, 400 RWTQ w/150 shot N2OBest ET to date: 12.80 @ 118 mph, Orlando Speed World