Pete Epple Technical Editor
August 19, 2011
Photos By: Cesar Andre

"My story starts when I was in high school," explains Jose Chavez of Whittier, California.

"I would see the 5.0-liter Mustangs around school-they were loud and had good power to go with the looks. What really caught my eye was seeing a '96 Cobra for the first time. At first I didn't know what it was, but soon found out it was a special model from Ford, and told myself one day I would own one.

"When I turned 18, it was time for me to get my own car, and I had two options-a Pontiac Firebird or a Ford Mustang. I asked my mom what she thought, and her response made perfect sense-'Girls won't know what a Firebird is, but everyone knows what a Mustang is.'"

After test-driving some V-6 Ponies, Jose set his sights on a new, black five-speed-equipped '96 six-shooter. When he arrived at South Bay Ford (Hawthorn, California) to take delivery, he was greeted by a dark blue Pony instead of the black Stallion he wanted, which the dealership sold earlier that week. In typical hot-rodder fashion, it didn't take long for Jose to want a more power. Soon he would make a friend that would change everything. Fernando Perez was a Ford Senior Master Technician at South Bay Ford and owned a ProCharged '94 Cobra. He began sharing his expertise with Jose, and soon a P1-SC ProCharger was breathing extra life into his V-6.

"Fernando taught me that if you want to play with the big boys, it's going to cost you," Jose tells us. "This helped me keep up with stock GTs running around Southern California, but after a few years, the stock V-6 came apart."

Knowing he needed a new powerplant, Jose began researching Cobra engine swaps. He came across a Four-Valve mill from an '01 Cobra, while searching eBay Motors, and couldn't pass it up.

"The engine came out of a wrecked '01 Cobra, and only had 10,000 miles on it," Jose added. "The problem was the seller wanted local pick-up in Washington, D.C., and I live in Los Angeles." Luckily for Jose, the seller worked at a Ford dealership and was able to ship the engine from one dealership to another.

A few months later, he purchased a T56 six-speed out of a wrecked '03 Cobra from the same seller. He also bought a wiring harness and ECU from a '96 Cobra, which brought him very close to having all the parts to complete the swap.

While surfing the Internet, he came across an ad for a white '99 Cobra. It had tan interior and 80,000 miles on the clock. The deal was negotiated, and Jose drove home in his dream car. "I drove away with the biggest smile on my face!" exclaimed Jose. "I even called Fernando and asked if this was only 320 hp, because it felt nothing like my V-6."

As soon as the car was back in Jose's garage, the IRS was replaced with a solid rear from a local salvage yard. At this point, Jose was faced with a tough decision-continue the Cobra swap into the V-6 or start fresh with his new Cobra. After weighing the options, the choice was made to restore the SN-95 six-banger to stock condition and sell it to fund the new project.

"My heart was broken when I sold my first Mustang," Jose says, "But I had bigger goals!" His '01 Cobra engine was then dropped off at Ford Performance Solutions in Anaheim, California, where it was disassembled and rebuilt with better-than-stock parts. The stock Cobra crankshaft was reinstalled, and sets into motion an octet of Manley rods and Ross pistons inside the stock-size cylinders. The upgraded rotating assembly produces a boost-friendly 8.5:1 compression under the stock cylinder heads.

As the build began to take shape, Jose found a take-off Eaton supercharger kit from an '03 Cobra. Prior to completing the powerplant, the decision was made to swap the Eaton supercharger for a 2.3L Whipple. The larger blower gave Jose's engine the ability to efficiently make power, while leaving some room to make more power as he became comfortable in the car.

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Knowing that big power means nothing without the ability to get it to the pavement, Jose set his sights on fortifying the suspension. He started with full-length subframe connectors from Maximum Motorsports. He quickly added Maximum's Heavy Duty torque arm and Panhard bar assembly, as well as its lower control arms. Coilover shocks and struts sit fore and aft, and the factory K-member has given way to a QA1 replacement. Out back, the rearend was upgraded with 31-spline Moser axles, 3.73 gears, an Eaton posi, and an LPW differential cover.

Prior to dropping in the engine, Jose turned to his uncle, Julio Alvarado, to paint the engine bay. After some prep, the underhood was coated with a few coats of PPG Sonic Blue. By this time, Fernando had left his position at the Ford dealer and opened his own shop-Fast Fern's Performance, which handled the rest of the build.

Once the powertrain and suspension were complete, Jose turned his attention to the rolling stock. A one-off set of True Forged wheels wrapped in Nitto NT05 rubber sit in all four corners. The staggered 17- and 18-inch wheels give this Cobra a super-aggressive stance. With the project nearing completion, the rest of the car was treated to four coats of PPG Sonic Blue with an equal amount of clearcoat.

When it came time to tackle the calibration, Jose turned to Adam Montague at ST Motorsports in San Bernardino, California. When the tuning was completed, Jose's Four-Valve laid down 580 rwhp and 540 lb-ft of torque. These power numbers equated to some serious quarter-miles times. Jose's first trip to the track netted him a 10.98- second pass, coasting across the stripe at only 119 mph.

By the time this hits newsstands, Jose's '99 Cobra will be well on its way to the next chapter in its high-performance life. Jose tells us the car now has a 10-point cage, no-frills race interior, and a new Kenne Bell supercharger, which will make this Cobra capable of low 9-second quarter-mile numbers.

Even though its street use may have come to an end for now, Jose's '99 Cobra is a dream come true!

My heart was broken when I sold my first Mustang.

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