Jim Smart
November 1, 2001

Several years ago Simi Valley, California, received national recognition during the Rodney King trial and became rather infamous as a result. But for the most part, Simi Valley is a quiet, little community that more than 120,000 people of all races, religions, and personal life-styles call home. Nestled between the San Fernando Valley to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Simi has extraordinary climate, with easy access to the mountains, beaches, or just about anywhere else you'd like to go. Grab the Ronald Reagan Freeway (California's 118) to the mountains or 118/23 to the beaches-the choice is yours.

James Howard hangs his hat in Simi Valley. If you stand on Cochran Street or Los Angeles Avenue (both run the entire length of this bedroom community) long enough, you'll hear the roar of James' Atlantic Blue '98 Saleen Cobra, the only one of its kind ever built. This Mustang's color and overall optioning makes it unusual. Beneath the bonnet is Ford's all-aluminum 4.6L DOHC Cobra V-8-a high-revving screamer that produces its power at 6,500 rpm. At wide-open throttle, this powerplant helps Simi Valley live up to its name (Simi means windy). Grab the five-speed shifter and listen to this engine roar. Those 3.55:1 Traction-Lok gears are a big help out of the hole. And when it's time to upshift, the T45 five-speed enables James to accomplish the job in short order. Deep-breathing Borla mufflers bellow quite a melody whenever the butterflies are pinned.

Huge, 18-inch Saleen five-spoke wheels with BFGoodrich Comp T/As help with power management because they hold the line nicely. They hold the line because there's lots of contact patch between the pavement and the tire. For James, it means exercising the Mustang at speed; it also means driving responsibly.

Inside, James enjoys a world wrapped in leather and other nice appointments. Adjustable, fully reclining bucket seats make the drive comfortable. A twin-pod dashboard reminds us of what Ford was using in the '69-'70 Mustang. White-faced instruments look sharp and keep us informed.

James tells us his Saleen Cobra is a keeper-and no wonder. When it's the only unit of its kind anywhere in the world, it becomes impossible to consider anything else but you.