1998 Ford Mustang Cobra - 190 & Counting
Is This The World's Fastest Mustang Cobra Street Car?
We all know about the grassroots-level drag and road racing that occurs all over the country. Lesser known types of motorsport-favorites of Tim Jones and his remarkable '98 Mustang Cobra-are the open-road-racing/rally events that take place several times a year in rural Nevada. Detailed in our Sept. '03 issue, these events are the places to be if going fast, seriously fast, in a straight line for more than 100 miles is your cup of tea.
It's Tim's cup of tea, all right. And, after reading about what makes his Laser Red Cobra so noteworthy, you'll know why it's our cup of tea, too.
We'll begin with what Tim's car lacks: aerodynamic aids. It looks like a street car because, in essence, it is. Obviously, the only air-cheating device on the car is the Saleen SR rear wing, where it's totally functional, especially when speeds surpass the buck-fifty threshold.
While there are only one or two Mustangs that have cracked 200 in open-road events, most have done so with enough aero bits to make the car look more like an airplane. In contrast, Tim's SN-95 is deceptively tame-looking.
Tim's car doesn't have much exotica in the drivetrain, either. Since it isn't a drag car, a freshened stock T45 five-speed with a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, McLeod dual-friction clutch, and an 8.8-inch axle with 3.55 gears do the job just fine. Mods to the rearend include 31-spline axles, a Powertrax locker differential, and a Ford Racing rearend cover. A Griggs Racing aluminum driveshaft connects the trans and 8.8. While the trans and rearend are basic stuff, the longevity of these components is ensured at high speeds by a custom-designed cooling system, with pumps mounted in the spare-tire well and trunk, which circulates the rearend and transmission fluids.
The car even has stock Cobra brakes all around, which means 13-inch rotors up front, and those trusty PBR calipers, equipped with Performance Friction NASCAR-spec brake pads. Cobra Rs are the wheels of choice for both street or open road course, with BFGoodrich KD tires for the street. Michelin Club Sport slicks are used for high speeds. Tire sizes are 275/40ZR17s front and rear.
The complete Griggs GR-40 suspension includes a tubular K-member, 475/275-pound front/rear springs, caster/camber plates, Koni yellow coilover front and rear shocks, a rear torque arm, and a Panhard rod. Firming up the car are Griggs rectangular-steel subframe connectors, a Steeda strut tower brace, and a Kenny Brown tower-to-tower brace mounted in the trunk.
In a car built for super-high speeds, safety is paramount, meaning a complete onboard halon fire system and an Autopower eight-point rollcage that surrounds Cobra cloth seats and Crow five-point seatbelt harnesses for driver and navigator.
Finally, there's the engine-the part of the car that pushes 3,800 pounds of Mustang through the air at near the double-century mark. The trick here isn't unobtainable exotic parts, but rather expert engine building and precise electronic tuning, ably handled by Joe Testa at the Mustang Ranch in Santa Clara, California, and Byron Reynolds of Race Systems, respectively. Already impressive in stock configuration, a stock Cobra four-valve block and Cobra crank make up part of the short-block. To strengthen the connecting-rod area, Manley Pro Billet steel rods are the choice, along with CP forged pistons dished to provide an 8.5:1 compression ratio, about a full point lower than stock. Stock Cobra cams are used, along with the stock heads that have been treated to a generous port and polish job and fitted with Ferrea stainless forged, stock-size valves. Ford Racing shorty headers are bolted to the heads, followed by a Bassani X-pipe with cats and Spin Tech mufflers for the street.
The stock intake, modified by Paul's High Performance, takes air from a Ford Racing throttle body and a Pro-M mass-air meter. There's also an MSD DIS-4 ignition box, along with an MSD crank trigger. The fuel system includes 50 lb/hr injectors, Steeda fuel rails, an Aeromotive fuel pump, and a 22-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell with a custom pickup that keeps the engine happy with a steady diet of 100-octane Unocal pump gas.
Getting just 4.6 liters of displacement to make more than 2 hp per cubic inch takes some serious boost, ably accomplished by a Vortech T-trim supercharger with a Sean Hyland air-to-air intercooler. Also in place is an AFM Power Pipe and a Sean Hyland eight-rib pulley system for the blower and front engine dress. In the car's current tune, the blower's peak boost is 16 psi, a point where the 4.6 is making well above 600 hp at the flywheel. Tuned by Race Systems using an Autologic chip, the car makes impressive power on a Dynojet: 575 hp at 6,800 rpm and 455 lb-ft of torque at 5,600 rpm at the wheels running an off-road X-pipe. At speed going down course, tuner Byron Reynolds surmises the intercooler adds another 30 hp.
So, what's it all worth? At the September 2003 Silver State Classic, Tim was on a 177-mph average at about the 60-mile mark on a 90-mile course when a tire failure sidelined the car. At other events, radar has measured a solid 190-mph high trap speed. Tim says, "I want to have the first stock-bodied Mustang street car go 200 mph. Open road racing is the most fun I've ever had with this car and, if tire technology allows, I might someday see 200."
For now, 190 is certainly fast enough for us.