Miles Cook
September 1, 2005
Photos By: Jim Smart

When the first four-valve-per-cylinder DOHC Mustang Cobra made its debut in 1996, it was an important step forward in the area of high-tech automotive engines. An even bigger deal in Mustang circles, four-valve Cobras carried the mantle as the most sophisticated SN-95 Mustangs of all from 1996 to 2004.

While '96-'98 Cobras are and always will be great cars to own, the '99 models came on the scene with an independent rear suspension-a first for production Mustangs. However, production of this car went away for 2000 (the exotic and limited-edition '00 Cobra R notwithstanding) and returned in 2001, making '99 and '01 SVT Cobras unusual in the world of late-model Mustangs. What makes '99 and '01 Cobras unique? They're the only two years the cars combined naturally aspirated four-valve 4.6L engines with IRS, since the '03-'04 models got the supercharged engine (and considerably more weight to go along with it), and the '03-'04 four-valve Mach 1s don't have IRS.

Las Vegas resident Charlie McCleese realizes the uniqueness of these cars that combine less weight over the front wheels with the advantages of IRS. He built his eye-catching '01 Cobra convertible into a canyon carver that takes full advantage of what these cars offered to begin with.

For Charlie, this car was the exact model and color combo he was looking for. The rather scarce combination of color and body style make it one of only 297 Laser Red '01 Cobra convertibles produced with a Medium Parchment interior.

Charlie has added a few bolt-on engine mods, including Steeda underdrive pulleys, a BBK cold-air induction system, a ported and gasket-matched lower intake, JBA headers, and a MagnaFlow exhaust system. A Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft resides between the car's Pro 5.0-shifter-equipped TR3650 five-speed trans and 8.8-inch, 3.27-geared differential.

With the engine upgrades likely making a solid 25-30hp improvement, Charlie turned to the suspension to make the best of the car's factory IRS. Mods include Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates up front and a set of Kenny Brown Club Sport springs all around that give the car its just-right stance. Other suspension updates include Max Motorsports IRS bushings and Bilstein shocks. Finally, the car causes a double take for those who know late-model Mustang wheels because the AFS '03 Cobra-style wheels look the part of a factory wheel, but their 18-inch diameter is most certainly an upgrade. They are 18x9s all around, shod with Bridgestone Potenza S-03 tires in a 275/35ZR18 size.

Besides the low, road-racy ride height and trick wheels, the final appearance item is an ABC Exclusive two-piece tonneau cover with chrome hoops behind the driver and passenger. Charlie also added Ford Racing gauges that measure water temperature, oil pressure, and vacuum/boost (a blower in the future, maybe?).

"The mods I've done to the car, combined with the IRS, make for a very nice-handling car that I try to enjoy on a daily basis," Charlie told us. We're also impressed with its thoroughly respectable 13.21-second quarter-mile-all the more impressive when you consider the car's stock 3.27 gears.

Charlie's Cobra has the best of all worlds-good handling and good acceleration from a car with the best of both in terms of IRS and high-revving 4.6-four-valve power.