Pete Epple Technical Editor
December 1, 2009

Owning a piece of Mustang history is something most of us dream about. Over the Pony car's 45-year lifespan, there have been many rare and wild factory Mustangs that any Ford fanatic would love to have in his or her garage. Lately, the rarer Mustangs show off innovation, changes, and improvements that have altered the way we look at the hobby. One of the most significant transformations in recent years has been the introduction of the modular engine platform.

The '96 Mustang paved the way for a new era in Ford performance with an all-new engine design that changed the Mustang forever. Though the '95 Mustang was the last production Pony equipped with a 5.0L pushrod powerplant, we found a '95 Cobra that had us scratching our heads.

Imagine owning a car right from Ford that never existed-at least in production form. For Mark Young of Weddington, North Carolina, this is just the case. Mark's SN-95 may look like your run-of-the-mill '95 Cobra, but when you dig a little deeper, you see this Snake is far from ordinary. His Cobra may initially fool you into thinking its an R model, but you would only be half right. It's what's under the hood that makes this Snake truly special. Inside lies a '96 four-valve drivetrain, which Ford installed.

Mark Young has been an avid Mustang enthusiast his entire life. Growing up around cars has forged a love that most of us easily understand. With a slew of Mustangs in his stable, including a few SN-95s, Mark set out to find a '95 Cobra R as his next toy. While searching the Internet, he came across an ad for an unusual Cobra, which grabbed his interest. "It read '1995/1996 Cobra Prototype for sale,' and continued to give various details about the car," Mark tells us. "The most unique detail was the engine. It had the 4.6L Four-Valve modular motor as installed by Ford, not the old 5.0L."

After some investigating, Mark came to the conclusion that this has a D-code VIN, verifying it is in fact a '95 Cobra. The car was built as a prototype on the assembly line in the development phases of the '96 Cobra, and the documentation was there to prove it. The 1PP (or 1st Production Prove-out) run utilizes as many production parts as possible, but still contains some parts in development that are "not sellable." So technically, a 1PP car, or its parts, cannot be for sale, and in most cases are destroyed by Ford.

As Mark's research continued, some interesting information about his Cobra's past came to light. Not only was this Snake a prototype for the '96 Cobra program, its life started as an engineering car for the '95 R-model Cobra the year before.

"Mark's Cobra has a very unique history with Ford," explains John Clor, formerly of SVT Communications, who remembers the Cobra. "It's very interesting to see a car that has gone through multiple engineering programs. It started life as an engineering car with one of Ford's suppliers for the Cobra R program. These cars had a very hard life, including a lot of R&D work and track testing.

"Engineering cars serve a very specific purpose, and when the engineering team is finished with a car, it may serve as a press vehicle for a media launch, but it usually isn't designated for resale. They are usually destroyed, but in this case, the car was used in another program. The amazing part is that it slipped out the doors."

Once the car's duties at Ford were complete and it was being stripped for the crusher, one of the engineers on the project saw the opportunity to get a new racecar. After some paperwork, the car was loaded on a flatbed headed for its new home in Colorado.

After the drivetrain was reunited with the body, it adapted well to its new race duties. We're told it even won the SCCA E-Street Prepared national championship in 1999.

Although this Cobra has a racing heritage, it also served as a test vehicle for Tokico and Torsen. The popular Tokico Allumina shocks and struts, along with Torsen's T2-R differential, were designed and tested on this Cobra.

Once round three of Mark's 1PP Cobra's engineering life was complete, the car changed hands a few times before ending up in North Carolina. Today this Cobra draws a lot of attention at car shows and still gets to stretch its legs on a road course every now and then. "I've run some track event to put the car to the test," Mark adds. "It runs neck and neck with modified Corvettes. Not bad for an old war horse!"

Mark's Cobra remains in the same condition it was when it left Ford to be destroyed. The '96 drivetrain remains unchanged, with the Four-Valve 4.6L modular engine and T-45 five-speed transmission resting comfortably underneath the hood. The exterior still has characteristics from both the '95 Cobra R and the '96 Cobra. Cobra R wheels sit in all four corners, and the Cobra R hood gives the car that super-aggressive look. The rear bumper cover and taillights were swapped to '96 units, giving it a unique blend of body parts from 1995 and 1996. The Saddle interior is still in great shape. The Cobra R interior was updated by Ford with all of the options available for the '96 model year, offering a few more creature comforts to Mark and whoever is lucky enough to be a passenger.

"I bought a neat but worn '95 Cobra with an interesting past, involving a unique race history and an unusual documented prototype pedigree," Mark adds. Rare finds aren't limited only to the classics, and with this much history sitting on four wheels, it's hard not to fall in love with Mark's Cobra.

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