Jim Smart
April 1, 2010

Ron Bramlett's passion has always been his profession-high-performance automobiles. Before his family founded Mustangs Plus in 1981, the Bramletts were in the used car business-primarily buying and selling Corvettes. But toward the end of the 1970s, Ron's love of Corvettes spread like a California wildfire into classic Mustangs, which were plentiful and cheap. And as he had been doing with Corvettes, Ron started buying and selling classic Mustangs as well as parts and accessories.

"Having been around Mustangs for more than 30 years, I've had the opportunity to own hundreds of collectible Mustangs," Ron comments. "I've had quite a few with great histories, including an original, unrestored '66 Hi-Po hardtop." Ron will also tell you he's had ample opportunity to own some of the rarer ones, like Shelbys, selling some for $3,000 back when these cars were cheap. However, for Ron, it wasn't the money; it was the history that made a car worth buying. That's why he has such a fascination for Ford's SVT Cobra Rs, which were offered in limited quantities in 1993, 1995, and 2000. Ron owns at least one of each.

For Ron, the Cobra Rs were like the 1960s all over again. Ford had to build a specific number to satisfy homologation requirements, just like Carroll Shelby had done 30 years earlier with GT350s in SCCA competition. When Ford introduced the SVT Cobra in 1993, it would be on the order of what Shelby was building in the 1960s-the ultimate performance Mustang right off the assembly line.

'93 Cobra R
Ford assembled '93 Cobra Rs as incomplete Vibrant Red-only Cobras converted to R-model specifications. Of the 5,100 '93 Cobras produced, only 107 were converted to R status. Some were purchased to race. Others were put away as collector cars.

Ron's son, Ron, Jr., turned him onto an online AutoWeek ad for this '93 Cobra R with only 2,850 miles-#91 of the 107 units produced in the spring of 1993. It had been stored since new in a climate-controlled garage in the Midwest. The down-side to this story is Ron's difficulties with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Because the car is low-mileage and considered "new" with an out-of-state title, he hasn't been able to tag it in California, which makes it a car he keeps stored and never drives. And despite several failed attempts to explain the car's history to the DMV, Ron has never been able to get it licensed. Anyone who can help Ron with this dilemma is invited to contact him at Mustangs Plus.

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Snapshot

  • 107 produced out of 5,100 '93 Cobras
  • 5.0L GT-40 Cobra V-8
  • 235hp @ 4,600 rpm
  • 280 ft. lb. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • Redline: 6,000 rpm
  • High capacity cooling system
  • Engine oil cooler
  • Rear seat deleted
  • Sound system deleted
  • Climate control deleted
  • Larger four-wheel disc brakes
  • Stiffer coil springs
  • Koni shocks and struts
  • Larger sway bars
  • Strut tower brace
  • Five-lug wheels in glossy black
  • Manual windows
  • Top speed: 140 mph
  • Quarter-mile: 14.3 seconds @ 98 mph
  • Weight: 3,255 pounds

'95 Cobra R
When Ford redesigned the Mustang for 1994, it was a more advanced car with solid footing and a stiffer platform. What's more, it looked more like the original from 1964. However, it had also taken on more weight, tipping the scales closer to 4,000 pounds thanks to additional body structure and more safety features. The Cobra R took a year off in 1994, returning for 1995 with 5.8L (351ci) displacement for more power.

Ron and Cindy own not just one 1995 Cobra R, but three. This one, #180 out of 250, is their time-capsule Cobra R with just nine miles. The other two are race cars with history, which is what inspired the purchase of this unmolested Cobra R.

"How often do you get to own a factory race car with nine original miles?" Ron asks. "The eBay seller had a 'Buy It Now' price and there were two bidders bumping the bids in $100 increments," Ron comments. "Every day I checked on it, wondering if it would still be there or if one of the bidders would finally hit the 'Buy It Now' button. With less than an hour to go on the auction, the bids were within a thousand dollars of the 'Buy It Now' price and the reserve price still had not been met. I finally thought, How stupid is it to worry about a few hundred dollars on a car like this? I called Cindy and asked her if she thought we should buy the car. She agreed, so I hit the 'Buy It Now' button."

You can bet there were a couple of unhappy bidders out there, but all's fair in love, war, and eBay.

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Ron and Cindy's '95 Cobra R won an MCA Gold in 2006-which is the only show it has ever attended. "The club hosting the show thought I was crazy for wanting to drive into the show field with my trailer and unload the car where I could just push it into its spot without driving," Ron told us. "After all, it wouldn't be the same with 10 miles on it, now would it?"

Snapshot

  • 250 produced out of a total of 5,258 units
  • 5.8L Cobra V-8 (351W) with GT-40 heads/induction
  • 300 horsepower
  • 385 ft. lb. of torque
  • Kevlar high-capacity fuel tank
  • Tremec 3550 five-speed manual transmission
  • 3.27:1 Traction-Lok
  • Eibach coil springs
  • Koni adjustable struts and shocks
  • Sound system delete
  • Climate control system delete
  • Rear seat delete
  • Manual windows
  • Brake cooling ducts
  • 13-inch front disc brakes
  • 11.65-inch rear disc brakes
  • 30mm sway front bar, 27mm rear bar
  • 17 x 9-inch five-spoke wheels
  • BFGoodrich Comp T/A Radials - 255/45ZR17
  • Strut tower brace
  • Cowl induction hood
  • Weight: 3,326 lbs
  • Quarter-mile: 13.80 seconds

'00 Cobra R
This Performance Red 2000 was the first Cobra R for Ron and Cindy. A friend on the East Coast called to tell Ron there was an '00 Cobra R on eBay and wanted to know how far they lived from San Jose. Ron was happy to check out this car for his friend. When they arrived 90 minutes later, they learned that the car was on consignment at a dealer. Upon the auction's completion, Ron's friend was the highest bidder. And when his friend told him the bid, Ron was skeptical. "You'll never buy that car for that kind of money." Ron wasn't stunned at a high bid; instead, he was shocked by his friend's low bid. When Ron congratulated him, that's when Ron heard the question, "Would you be interested in buying the car from me for what I have in it?" Turns out, shipping the car was going to cost more than expected. Ron and Cindy jumped at the opportunity and took this collector car off his hands.

The Cobra Rs got better with each subsequent effort between 1993 and 2000. The '00 version was the fastest, most powerful Cobra R ever, packed with a 5.4L DOHC V-8? Ron admits that there are two challenges of owning a car like this- not driving it and avoiding speeding tickets when you do. The long arm of the 5.4L engine's stroke yields a snappy 385 ft. lbs. of torque at wide-open throttle, which means instant acceleration.

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Ford rated the horsepower and torque numbers around 385 each. However, it is believed these engines made even more thanks to independent dyno tests. Although the '00 Cobra R is labeled as a factory race car, it is also street legal, making it one of the fastest ever right off the assembly line. You've got to love the GT350-ish side exit exhausts. The Cobra R's rear deck spoiler makes these pocket rockets easy to distinguish from any angle. From behind, you can see the racing fuel cell as Ron roars off.

Snapshot

  • The only Cobra-type produced in 2000 at 300 total units
  • 5.4L DOHC V-8
  • 385 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
  • 385 ft. lb. of torque @ 4,500 rpm
  • Tremec T-56 six-speed transmission
  • 8.8-inch Traction-Lok differential with 3.55:1 gears
  • BFGoodrich g-Force 265/45ZR18 tires
  • 18 x 9-inch five-spoke wheels
  • Brembo four-wheel 13-inch disc brakes
  • Eibach springs with stiffer rates
  • Independent rear suspension with Bilstein shocks
  • Ride height lowered 1.5 to -inches
  • Tall rear spoiler and ground effects
  • Sticker priced at $54,995 though most sold for considerably more
  • Recaro bucket seats
  • Weight: 3,589 lbs