Frank H. Cicerale
May 1, 2008
Photos By: Kevin DiOssi

"Hot" and "cold"-two words that are on the oppo- site ends of the spectrum. Andy Speranza knows all about hot and cold. An air-conditioning contractor from Royal Palm Beach, Florida, he knows how to combat the torrid Florida summer heat with an overpowering blast of cold air from the vents of the A/C unit. Dealing with such a contrast in environments day in and day out, it was only natural he'd carry over the theme to his '96 Cobra convertible.

"I bought the Cobra in 1999 with the idea that one day I might heavily modify it," Andy says. Since its purchase, the convertible has seen a couple of different combinations. "I've never owned a Mustang without nitrous, so putting a nitrous kit on the car was my first modification," he says. "That lasted about two or three years until a friend sold his Cobra and offered me his Vortech S-Trim kit. I installed it, and it was fun for a while, until the main bearings gave up."

After a Boss Shinoda rear wing was bolted on, the Cobra was lathered up in a silver and red paint schematic. The two contrasting colors are broken up by a checkered grey stripe. Top up or down, this is one tough Mustang.Thanks to 630 rwhp, 10.8-second quarter-mile times and the scent of burning rubber follow Andy Speranza's '96 Cobra wherever it travels.

Needing a new powerplant, Andy had a major decision to make. With the car being his daily driver, he not only needed a motor, but a car. It was 2004, and the Terminator Cobra was the almighty king of the street and track when it came to high-performance Mustangs. Andy wanted one, but his '96 Cobra had that nagging sentimental value attached to it. The result was a combination of the two.

After putting out the word, Andy found a suitable supercharged Four-Valve motor and set about making his car hot and cold. The Cobra was dropped off at Thunder Autosports (Boynton Beach, Florida), where friends Steve Lee and Brett Robinson handled the transformation. The expired bullet was pulled, and in its place went the new 4.6L blower motor. The powerplant was left as Ford built it, though some advancements were made in terms of the induction, exhaust, and tune of the car. Steve handled uploading a custom tune, while 39-pound injectors squirt in the gasoline. A K&N filter and a mass air meter from an '03 Lightning conspire with the Eaton blower to meter, filter, and shove 14 pounds of boosted Sunshine State air into the mod mill. Kooks 15/8-inch long-tube headers shuffle out the exhaust remnants through a Dr. Gas x pipe system; SpinTech mufflers; and a 21/2-inch, mandrel-bent, stainless steel exhaust system. Andy gets some extra laughs in the form of a Nitrous Oxide Systems single-stage wet kit jetted for a 125hp shot of the happy stuff. After the car was dyno'd, the com-puter spit out a graph showing 630 rwhp and a stump-pulling 615 lb-ft of torque.

Once the engine was nestled in its new home, the transmission made its way from the Terminator to its older sibling. The T-56 six-speed transmission squashes a McLeod twin-disc clutch and flywheel within the bellhousing. Andy selects the gear he wants with an MGW shifter. Connecting the tranny to the 8.8-inch rear is an aluminum driveshaft. Since the rear was mentioned, it might be the right time to hint at the upgrades that were installed in it. The factory gears were swapped for a set of 3.55 cogs, which work in conjunction with a set of Ford Racing Performance Parts 31-spline axles and an accompanying Traction-Lock differential.

After the Cobra's previously modified Vortech-blown Four-Valve powerplant was sacrificed in name of the horsepower gods, Andy enlisted help from the crew at Thunder Autosports to install a blown 4.6L modular engine from an '04 Cobra. The Snake now packs a 600-plus-horsepower wallop thanks to the Eaton supercharger and Nitrous Oxide Systems' wet kit.

Wanting to give the drop-top Snake a mean stance, Andy had Steve and Brett put the SN-95 on a lift to make some improvements to the front and rear suspension. A pair of Tokico shocks and BBK springs replace the stockers up front, while out back, another pair of Tokico shocks and BBK springs get the rear to hunker down. The stock rear sway bar was tossed aside in favor of a Steeda piece, while double-adjustable upper and lower control arms of the same manufacturer were installed as well. Chassis Engineering subframe connectors help tighten up the frame. As for the stopping power, Andy felt the stock Cobra brakes were sufficient. Before the lift was lowered and the car hit the pavement, though, a set of BBS RK rims were bolted on. The 18x9 front wheels are graced with 265/35/18 shoes, while the rear meats consist of 305/35/18 Nitto drag radials wrapped around 18x10s.

Andy's Cobra originally came dressed in Laser Red paint, but that was about to change. Wanting to showcase the opposite spectrum theme, nothing short of a contrasting two-tone paint scheme would do. Paint By Ronnie (Boynton Beach, Florida) installed the Boss Shinoda rear wing before slathering 28 coats of PPG red and silver paint on the Mustang's sheetmetal. After an addition of a checkered grey stripe between the red and silver, the car was shot with numerous coats of clear to bring out a deep shine. Enhancing the exterior looks when the top is up is a convertible lid fashioned in a dark-red hue.

As for the interior, Andy figured that if a Terminator lurked under the hood, then the interior might as well be later-generation Cobra as well. The entire complement of grey-colored interior appointments was transferred over, from the dash to the console and door panels. The stock chairs were replaced with a pair of Sparco buckets mated to a pair of five-point harnesses from Crow Enterprises. Whenever Andy wants to tune out the throaty growl from the 4.6, he hits the power button on the Kenwood head unit, which broadcasts the tunes through a set of JL Audio speakers and a pair of subwoofers in the trunk. Giving the music a bit more volumetric kick is a JL Audio amplifier. Throw in a six-point chromoly rollcage, and this Snake is ready to rock both the dragstrip and the show-car arena.

With a best elapsed time of 10.82 seconds and a trap speed a tick above 130 mph, this car is cool to look at, yet hot to trot at the strip. "I would like to think that this car suits my personality," Andy says. While he might not have two sides to him, we can't say that about the car. Guess you can say the Cobra has varying degrees of temperature.