Rob Reaser
September 1, 2000

When factory-fresh Mustangs are purchased, most owners hang with the OEM configuration for a while before embarking on aftermarket modifications. When limited- or special-edition Ponies are the subject, the modification route is often delayed even longer-if the work is done at all. That's part of the reason why Richard Shene's '96 Cobra is so interesting. Two weeks didn't go by between the time Richard signed on for the monthly payments and the first modifications began.

Interestingly enough, the Cobra wasn't at the top of Richard's new-car list when he purchased the car in 1996. In fact, he had his eyes on a Dodge Viper, but as a former '94 Mustang owner, Richard always kept one foot in the stable. When he began to read numerous reports of the Mystic clearcoat paint available on the SVT Cobras, Richard figured he'd better take a look before leaping into the Chrysler arena. A call to SVT headquarters revealed the nearest SVT dealership to be Mantilia Ford in New Haven, Connecticut.

"My friend, Rob Johnson, and I took a 50-mile road trip to see this incredible paint," Richard said. "Once I saw the paint, I knew I had to have this car."

Something else Richard had to have was equipment upgrades-and fast. Right off the bat, the stock coils were replaced with Eibach springs.

"When I decided to do major modifications," Richard explained, "I took my car to the shop and had a Vortech S-Trim and Saleen gauges installed, along with an SVO aluminum driveshaft, 3.73 gears, a Lakewood safety loop, a B&M Ripper Shifter, a Pro-M 77 mass air meter, a Borla XR-1 Cat-Back exhaust system, a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, and an SVO pressure plate.

"Well, you know how the saying goes, 'Once you start, you just can't stop,' and a couple months later, I decided to [install] Koni yellow struts and shocks, a chrome fire extinguisher (which happens to be attached to a Saleen rollbar), a 190-lph fuel pump, and chromed Cobra R rims."

With the above modifications in place, Richard hit the track to see just what all this trouble was really worth. Running on street tires, the tweaked Cobra pulled down a 12.63 e.t. at 113 mph on street tires. Satisfied with the performance, Richard shifted his attention to show field competition, where the Mystic Cobra did equally well.

It was after a few successful show field outings and leafing through some car stereo magazines that Richard discovered the source for his next round of upgrades.

"I was looking through one of those many car stereo magazines and came across an ad for a Clarion pop-out head unit with a TV," he said. "I kept looking, and they also had a video player. Then a light bulb came on, and I was back to the modification process again. I added the Clarion head unit, a CD changer, a VCR, amps, three-way front speakers, Solobaric subs, and a PPI D-equalizer. Also at the same time, I had an Auto Meter shift light, a BBK H-pipe with Jet-Hot coating, and a Cyberdyne air, fuel, and volt meter, along with Schroth safety harnesses, installed."

Since then, Richard has continued to improve the car here and there. The suspension performance has been further enhanced by the addition of Mustangs Unlimited's subframe connectors. Other upgrades include aluminum Steeda pedals, a Clarion voice-activated navigation unit, and a 5.0 Shot nitrous oxide system from NOS that was installed by Lidio Iocabelli at Alternative Auto Performance in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Richard now resides in nearby Grosse Point Woods. At the recommendation of Jason Grace, who was with AAP at the time, the NOS purge exits menacingly through the hoodscoops.

While most project cars take a good bit of time and consideration before undergoing radical upgrades, some, such as Richard Shene's '96 Mystic Cobra, see the modification fast track as the ticket to greater fame and glory. After all, why mess around in the guppy pool when you can swim with the sharks?