Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
1997 Mustang Cobra - Top End Charge
This Turbocharged Cobra Pulls Hard On The Big End and Looks Good Doing It.
Turbochargers are known to make insane horsepower and provide equally awesome track times, so the number of force-fed Mustangs continues to grow.
However, turbos can get a little pricey, depending on your chosen route of installation. For Jason Harvey, he didn't have to worry about outsourcing the work, as he co-owns a small shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, called Top End Fabrication.
Jason partnered up with Shane Brown several years ago and began building everything from rollcages and subframe connectors to exhaust systems and full-on turbo buildups. Jason and Shane quickly built a great reputation for their shop and stayed busy with all sorts of cool projects, including the one on these pages. Rarely getting the chance to work on his own cars, it's taken four years to take this '97 Cobra from a perfectly good stocker to this incredible machine.
Jason bought the car in 2005 and drove it around for a week or so, only putting around 100 miles on it before dismantling it to a bare hull. From there, it was a slow process, but Jason picked away at the Cobra when he had the time. It's clean and powerful, and now that it's out of the shop, Jason can slowly unleash its full potential.
When Jason set out to build the Cobra, he planned on keeping the car street-friendly, but with all of the appropriate safety gear for serious track use. Shane Brown designed the subframe connectors to include the mounting points for the rollcage, so all of the additional tubing is tied together from front to back. The 10-point cage is easy to navigate.
To reduce weight significantly, Jason's Cobra is equipped with a tubular K-member and tubular control arms up front. The coilovers are from MMR, and feature QA-1 shocks and 14-inch springs with a 175-pound spring rate. Braking consists of Aerospace Components all around, with billet-aluminum calipers to shed a few more pounds.
Out back, the suspension is from Team Z, and features adjustable upper and lower control arms and an antiroll bar to keep the car level off the line. The rear end is a full-tilt 8.8 that's been braced and fitted with a Strange Spool and matching axles. The 3.55 gear set is versatile for Jason, as he plans to run the car on both eighth and quarter-mile tracks, while the rear coilovers help plant the tires with a 150-pound spring rate. Jason's Cobra is shod with Mickey Thompson rubber, consisting of ET Front Runners and 275/60R15 ET Street Radials—the Bogart D-10 wheels are a nice finishing touch. The rear wheels are 10-inches wide and feature bead locks.
Under the 5-1/2-inch Cobra R hood, there's no shortage of horsepower, as Jason called upon help from one of premier engine shops in the Southeast. Proline Racing took on the project and started by machining the block and installing a stroker crankshaft to bring the displacement up to 302 ci. Then, it was time to poke the Manley forged pistons and H-beam rods into the cylinders before placing the cylinder heads atop the block.
The "B" heads were upgraded with a set of stock-sized (37mm/30mm) Manley valves, but the stock camshafts and intake manifold are still in use. However, Jason upgraded the fuel system with an Aeromotive pump and 96-lb/hr injectors in preparation for boost from the Precision GTS 76mm turbo.
Jason and Shane built the turbo system from scratch and it seems to work very well with the stroked mod motor. On the chassis dyno, the car put down just over 700 rwhp with 21 pounds of boost, but everyone involved agreed that the torque converter was robbing serious power. That point was proven when Jason cranked the boost up to 28 pounds and didn't see a noticeable gain, so it's safe to say horsepower is close to the four-digit mark.
Jason operates a Dynamic Racing C4 transmission with a Hurst Pistol Grip shifter, but he has plans to change to a two-speed and a different torque converter. At the track, the car has run a best of 6.004 in the eighth-mile at 118 mph, tuned at 15 pounds of peak boost. Plans are to keep turning it up slowly and see how quick it runs in all-out mode, which should be around 28 pounds of boost. The goal is to dip into the 5-second zone, which shouldn't be difficult considering the soft launches, which resulted in 60-foot times in the 1.50 range.
As for aesthetics, the '97 Cobra is as clean as they come, with minimal body modifications aside from the Skinny Kid Race Cars sheetmetal wing. Excluding the hood, the body is all stock with no fiberglass panels, so it's not surprising to hear that this car tips the scales at 3,400 pounds, especially when you consider the full interior. Jason did replace the original seats with Kirkey racing buckets to reduce weight, and he added a set of RCI five-point harnesses to keep him secure behind the wheel. He also installed a variety of Auto Meter gauges and mounted the MSD DIS-4 box and FAST box inside, away from heat and moisture. The tan interior is complete with a rear seat, original carpeting, and a full dash, so this certainly isn't a gutted-out racecar. Jason built it for fun, whether going to the track or hitting the highway.
Although Jason has yet to run the Cobra through the quarter-mile, his current times would safely position him in the low 10-second range, but 9s are a possibility with tuning and boost. Happy to at least have it off the jack stands and at the track, Jason isn't going to rush the learning curve in terms of tuning and driving the car.
Jason notes the buildup wouldn't have been possible without Shane Brown, the entire crew at Proline Racing Engines, and his family for putting up with the late nights in the shop. It's a beautiful car and has a lot left in it, so the four-year buildup was certainly worth the effort.
It's clean and powerful, and now that it's out of the shop, Jason can slowly unleash its full potential.