Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
November 1, 2012

Mustangs are often treated like family--or better. Many live a life only to be driven on nice days, and covered in a comfortable garage when not being exercised. Back in the day, we drove the wheels off Fox Mustangs, but nowadays they're getting treated better than the family pet. However, one model still getting little respect is the SN-95 Mustang. Why do you think the '94-'95s are called the red-headed stepchild of late-model Mustangs? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Dan McConnell knows the intricacies of the SN-95 Mustang and has left no bolt unturned on his '95 Cobra.

"While growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia, I always helped my dad work on cars," Dan says. Dan's father instilled a sense of pride and appreciation for going down the road in something fixed or built with your own hands. Dan's dad also took him to car shows, which also helped fuel his obsession with cars. According to his parents, Dan was even drawing cars by age 3. That skill led him to his current profession as an industrial engineer. Like the rest of us, Dan modified everything he could get his hands on as a child. None of his toys escaped modification, his dirt bike, R/C cars, Hot Wheels cars, and the like. "I even hot-rodded my parents' BBQ grill with a flat-black paint scheme and flames," Dan says. Because of his automotive obsession, Dan originally wanted to work in automotive design, but these days he feels it's sometimes best to leave your hobby separate from your profession.

When Dan reached driving age he wasn't at the wheel of a Mustang, but that didn't stop him from modifying the car. He contemplated a V-8 swap, but decided it was a good idea to start with a V8 car to make things a little easier. He started looking for his next project while in college, and actually had his sights set on a Fox Mustang, specifically a '93 Cobra in Performance red. Of course, he found it hard to find a clean example he could afford on a student's salary. Instead he turned his focus to the original red-headed stepchild, a '94-'95 Mustang. "I didn't realize this unspoken lack of aftermarket support until I got around to adding more power to the car," Dan says. He would have to learn the hard way.

"I bought this '95 Cobra in July 2003 in Ohio after seeing it on AutoTrader," Dan says. It was one of the ads without a picture, but something told Dan he needed to check it out--further proof that sometimes we don't find a car, a car finds us. "One test drive and I couldn't live without it," he adds. Cash changed hands, and the car was his. Getting the car home, Dan set out fixing all the car's shortcomings such as a rusted underbody (the Cobra started life as a Michigan car), miscellaneous dents and dings all around the car, and a general state of neglect the car had been subjected to by its previous owner. Your author definitely knows what Dan is saying. All SN-95s must be in a neglected state at one point or another until an admirer comes along.

Online Dan met guys like Paul Riva, Tom Clark, and Rich Graswald, all 5.0&SF feature-car alums. The '94-'95 Mustang community is like a fraternity, and guys are always willing to help out a fellow '94-'95 owner with whatever problem they may be having. "Their knowledge, opinions, and enthusiasm have helped me more than you can imagine," Dan says. "I have learned more about these cars than I ever thought possible." Still in college at the time, Dan's list of modifications was not long to start out. A set of '95 Cobra R wheels, an SVO/Borla side exhaust, Eibach Pro-Kit springs, an MGW shifter, 3.55 gears, and an Eaton differential was about all his student salary could handle. "I was extremely happy to even own a Mustang at all," Dan says.

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Once his college career was over and he had a paying job, further mods were invited to the party like a Cervini's Auto Designs '00 Cobra R hood, a cold-air intake, a smoothed and painted Cobra intake, a Crane 2031 cam, some underhood bling, and '00 Cobra R wheels. Since his spare time wasn't taken up with studying, he took the opportunity to detail and repaint nearly everything that could be unbolted from the car. He also revamped the car's exhaust with a Rodeheaver's Hot Rods custom X-shape crossover pipe and Borla Stinger mufflers to change the car's sound to a "suitably obnoxious tone," as Dan puts it.

In 2007, Dan landed a design job in Pittsburgh, which evidently paid more money, paving the way for further mods. Corbeau TRS seats found their way into the Cobra's interior, and after a trip to the local Flashlight Drags, the speed bug bit Dan in a big way. He added a pair of Holley SysteMax heads, 30-lb/hr injectors, Mac long-tube headers, and a Ram HD clutch to the Cobra. Shortly after this round of modifications, Dan and the Cobra had an unfortunate meeting with a guardrail (As if any guardrail meeting is fortunate). Dan blames loose gravel in a turn for rearranging the Cobra's front end, badly damaging the hood, front bumper, both fenders, and headlights, and deploying both airbags.

"After a few sleepless nights, I got the call that my insurance company would be fixing the car," Dan says. "I breathed a sigh of relief." While the car was being nursed back to health, Dan had the shop also install a '96-'98 Cobra rear bumper with the Cobra script instead of it saying Mustang. He also added chrome '00 Cobra R wheels to the mix at this time, as well. To perhaps help with any gravel traps Dan added Team Z coilovers and control arms, a UPR Products bumpsteer kit, and Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates to the car. Since adding the cam, heads, and other engine mods, he hadn't yet had the car tuned, and if you've owned a '94-'95 car, you know the computers are finicky on modded SN-95s. He finally bit the bullet and had Don LaSota tune the car to make it more fun to drive. However, the dyno tune also uncovered a tired engine that was oil-thirsty, and underpowered.

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This lead to the Cobra's current combination of a FordStrokers 347 Liberator short-block, to which he added his existing Holley SysteMax heads, this time with a matching Holley SysteMax II intake, an Anderson Ford Motorsport N61 cam and Power Pipe, and an SCT BA-2600 mass air meter. The car laid down a satisfying 342 hp and 408 lb-ft of torque on a Mustang Dyno thanks again to Don LaSota's tuning prowess. To clean up the engine compartment, Dan added sheetmetal valve covers, billet pulleys, a polished alternator, and battery relocation kit. He also performed a Fox throttle-body conversion to straighten the air intake path.

Of course, with Dan, what would a round of modifications be without another wheel swap? Yep, the chrome '00 Cobra R wheels were pitched in favor of a set of HRE 542R wheels. Truthfully, the HRE wheels are what got the wheels rolling for this feature. When we first rolled into Columbus, Ohio's National Trail Raceway for the 2011 NMRA race, Dan's Cobra was sitting in the car show field, largely by itself. The car had a wickedly imposing stance, calling out to us for a closer look.

We could tell right away this Cobra had been treated like a member of the family.

Horse Sense: Dan thanks his supportive fiance, Andrea; Tim Rodeheaver of Rodeheaver's Hot Rods; his local buddies; and his parents for helping to make his Mustang dreams come true.

5.0 Tech Specs

'95 Cobra Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock
Crankshaft Scat 9000
Rods Scat 4340 forged I-beam
Pistons Probe SRS 2618 forged
Camshaft Anderson Ford Motorsport N61 w/ Comp Cams lifters
Cylinder Heads Holley SystMax w/ 1.90/1.60 valves, converted to Scorpion 1.6 stud-mount roller rockers, Anderson Ford Motorsport Hi-Rev valvesprings
Intake Manifold Holley SyseMax, Fox Mustang throttle-body conversion, Accufab 75mm throttle body, SCT BA-2600 meter, Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe
Fuel System Walbro 255-lph fuel pump, Russell lines, stock rails, FRPP 30-lb/hr fuel injectors
Exhaust MAC 1-5/8-in long-tube headers, custom X-shape crossover pipe, Borla Stinger mufflers, custom side exhaust using Borla tips
Transmission Stock T5, Ram HD clutch, MGW shifter
Rearend 8.8 w/ Eaton Posi differential and 3.55 gears

Electronics
Engine Management Stock J4J1 computer w/ SCT four-bank Eliminator chip tuned by Don Lasota
Ignition Performance Distributors Screamin’ Demon coil w/ Taylor spark plug wires and Autolite plugs
Gauges Auto Meter C2 w/ SINIS cluster rings

Suspension and Chassis
Front Suspension
K-member Stock
A-Arms Team Z w/ UPR Products bumpsteer kit and Energy Suspension swaybar end-links
Struts Tokico D-Spec w/ Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates
Springs Ground Pounder Team Z coilovers
Brakes 10th Anniversary Cobra w/ Baer rotors and Hawk ceramic brake pads
Wheels HRE 542R 19x9-in
Tires Toyo Proxes 4 265/30-19
Rear Suspension
Shocks Tokico D-Spec
Springs Eibach Pro-Kit
Control Arms SVE Weight Jacker lowers w/ UPR Products adjustable uppers and Eibach sway bar
Brakes Stock, Bear rotors, Hawk ceramic pads
Wheels HRE 542R 19x11-in
Tires Toyo Proxes 4 295/30-19