Larry Wilmot's 1998 Mustang Cobra
By day, Larry Wilmot is an Automotive Safety Restraints Engineer - now, you're probably thinking that somebody in Larry's profession would probably drive around in some four-wheeled over-padded safety device, perhaps a cross between a Volvo and a minivan - a terrifying thought in itself. However, nothing could be further from the truth. See Larry lives in Oxford, MI, he's also a car guy from way back and tears around the streets in this 1998 Mustang Cobra. The Chrome Yellow SVT is the first car that Larry bought new, but he's been into automobiles and Mustangs specifically for a rather long time. "Cars run in my family. I grew up around them, Fords in particular and I remember when I was really small my dad had a 1969 Mustang convertible - we used to go to shows in it." In 1973, Larry's grandfather got into the whole Mustang game by purchasing a brand new one - the last of the 'big' Ponys and it was this car that would have a profound effect on the young Wilmot growing up. "I remember him buying this car brand new and sometimes we'd go for drives. He'd put me on his lap and let me steer it through town (no we're not getting into a Springsteen song - that was about a Buick anyway). About a year after he bought it, my grandpa more or less parked the car. It was still taken care of though and I used to wash and wax that thing - pity I wasn't old enough to drive it." When Larry turned 17 a dream was realized, when the car was given to him, however Wilmot's dad figured that a teen driver full of testosterone and a pristine '73 Mustang probably weren't the best combination, so he kept the keys. Today however, Larry is older, probably a little wiser and has that car tucked away "it has about 14,000 miles on it and it's a true survivor - still all-original." But let's get back to that Cobra - it's the subject of this feature after all.
"When these [SVT Cobras] came out I really wanted one. I had my heart set on a '97 in Rio Red." However, by the time Wilmot actually got around to buying one, the '97s had been replaced by '98s on the new car lots. "They dropped Rio and added Laser Red again for '98 - it wasn't really the same," says Larry. However, late in the model year, Ford announced they would be offering Chrome Yellow on the Cobra. While driving along Gratiot Avenue one day, Wilmot saw a dazzling yellow object up ahead, as he got closer it turned out to be a '98 Cobra - yes, one in Chrome Yellow with black leather interior. "It was my car, so I drove into the dealership and tried to strike a deal, however the sales manager wasn't budging. He told me I could have any other Cobra on the lot for my price except the yellow one." A little dejected, Wilmot left the forecourt, empty handed. He continued searching but mostly came up with dead ends. One day he got a call from his wife. 'Call your father quick, it's an emergency,' she said. A little concerned, Larry picked up the phone and rang his dad. "He seemed a little short of breath at first, but then asked me if I'd found my car yet - I told him I was still looking. He sounded relieved. We chatted a bit and then he told me something." And that something was...(drum roll please) "that he'd found a '98 Chrome Yellow Cobra with black leather at a good price and put down a deposit on it!" Don'tcha just love nice surprises? It turns out that Wilmot's dad had bagged '98 SVT 4167 out of a total of 5174 Cobras built that year. Now from the pictures you'd think that once the ink dried on the title and the car was Larry's to enjoy, he just tooled about South Eastern Michigan in a bone stock SVT. Well, not exactly.
Remember Larry's a car guy and a Mustang guy to boot, so naturally once he had his new car, he couldn't help but start playing with it. "You can probably blame my brother-in-law Anderson Lowrie - he was quite an influence on me turning this car into what it is today." The '98 soon morphed into a project and we're not just talking about a few bolt-ons either. Have a look at the front bumper, or more specifically what's behind it - that's right an intercooler. Have a look at those back tires - look a little wider than stock don't they? That's because Wilmot runs Nitto NT555 drag radials (315/35-17s) on 10.5-inch wide stock-looking '98 Cobra wheels. Peeking under the hood reveals a Ford strut brace (but it's not factory). "The '98s didn't actually come with them," says Wilmot, "but I ordered one up, painted it to match the exterior color and put it on - a lot of people think it's factory." As I'm sure they would. There are other things we should probably talk about, like the Moser 31-spline axles, T/A aluminum diff cover, Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, March Underdrive pulleys and suspension upgrades (which run to Megabite Jr. lower and Sr. upper control arms, LG Motorsports Subframe connectors, Eibach springs and Tokico five-way adjustable shocks, plus lots of D&D Motorsports stuff up front), but it is in fact, that stuff up front which clues you in that something a bit more than just a few bolt-ons can be found in the engine bay. See the front K-member is a D&D tubular piece, and the lower control arms follow a similar format.
There's also coilover shocks up front instead of modified Mac struts. You're probably wondering why somebody would go to all this trouble when the car is powered by a stock 4.6 liter Cobra motor? Well, it isn't exactly. Granted, it is the original engine in the car and a lot of the things inside are as they were put together at the Romeo plant, but those front suspension mods were done primarily to provide clearance for a custom fabricated turbo system - ah yes. Wilmot's '98 is a blown Cobra, but of the different kind. "We were working on my brother-in-law's Camaro. He was building a turbo system for it and I thought it would be neat to do one on my car. I'd done a bit of research and Anderson pushed me to start doing my own fabrication work." What resulted was a true street sleeper. A Garrett GT40 (courtesy of Precision Turbo), has been rigged up via home-fabricated ducting that Larry and Anderson did themselves. There's also a Tial 38mm wastegate. Mitsubishi blow-off valve and a 3-core air-to-air bar and plate intercooler to cool the intake charge to help make the quad cam revver put down a healthy dose of power.
And how much exactly? Well running on 93 octane pump fuel and set at just 9 psi boost, Wilmot has this thing cranking out 480 horsepower to the wheels and 465 lb/ft of torque - all on a 9.85:1 compression. Of course Lightning 42 lb/hr injectors and a Walbro 255 lph electric fuel pump help make it all possible, as does a ported stock Cobra intake manifold with shortened runners. Larry installed NGK TR6 sparkplugs, Ford Racing 9mm wires and fills the engine with Royal Purple 5W30 synthetic. Because performance and driveability were key ingredients with his project from the beginning, Wilmot decided to replace the stock T-45 gearbox with a T-56-six-speeder from the Walsh's at D&D Performance in nearby Wixom. With a Ford Racing heavy-duty clutch and Dyno Tech 4-inch aluminum driveshaft, Larry has a good strong driveline to get the power to the ground. With all this stuff you'd probably think this car is a bit of a monster on the street. "Not really" says, Wilmot. "I recently fabricated and put a full three-inch exhaust on the car - the whole way. It's bigger than stock, but I'm amazed how quiet it is. One day I pulled up to a stoplight. I was waiting and waiting. My mind went somewhere else for an instant. When I focused back onto the task of driving I thought the car had stalled. I then looked down at the tach and realized it was still running! I'm telling you, my wife's minivan is louder than this thing at idle!"
Although the big upgrades are mostly mechanical, Wilmot has added a few subtle touches here and there. "You might notice the blue cam covers," he notes. "I was at Roush during the [Ford GT] development process and noticed the blue cam covers they were making for it, so it got me thinking. I decided to have the ones on my Cobra powdercoated blue - I also got the Cobra emblem on my upper intake color matched as well." A nice subtle touch we say. But there's more. "I've got an Autometer Phantom air/fuel and boost gauge for the turbo, but I didn't want to attract attention, so I have them mounted low down." And before we sign off, have a close look at the steering wheel and the parking brake handle. "It was kind of another custom touch. I work with steering wheels and interior components a lot at my job - I thought the yellow stitching would set off the black well. It's subtle but it's just another little thing." As to asking him where he got the yellow stitching - "it's off the 1998 Chevy Corvette Indy Pace Car replica - the purple one with yellow wheels and interior bits." So interior stitching and the inspiration to build a blown Pony street sleeper. At least GM's good for something once in a while.
Special thanks to my dad for finding the car and storing it while I was overseas and Anderson Lowrie for the help and inspiration building my car. Also, a special thanks to Lidio Iacobelli of Alternative Auto and Greg Banish of Detroit Speedworks for the tuning and parts selection help.
Interior / Exterior
Larry Wilmot's 1998 Mustang Cobra
Ford Factory strut tower brace (not originally fitted to 1998 Cobras)
LG Motorsports subframe connectors
Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, Autometer Phantom boost gauge, Autometer Air/Fuel gauge; custom yellow stitching on steering wheel and parking brake handle
(Front) D&D Motorsports tubular K-member; D&D Motorsports tubular A-arms Tokico five-way adjustable front shocks; D&D Motorsports coilover conversion kit; D&D Motorsports adjustable caster/camber plates; (Rear) Megabite Jr. lower control arms; Megabite Sr, upper control arms; TCI Line Loc Tokico five-way adjustable shocks, Eibach springs
Wheels And Tires
Ford Racing Cobra wheels 17x9" (front); 17x10.5" (rear); Nitto NT555 radials 275/45-17 (front); 315/35-17 (rear)
Larry Wilmot's 1998 Mustang Cobra
Ford 4.6-liter DOHC V8
Stock Cobra intake; ported with shortened runners; Ford Lightning 42 lb/hr injectors; Walbro 255 lph fuel pump; Garrett (Precision Turbo) 67mm GT40 turbocharger; custom made 3 1/2" exhaust and 3" intercooler piping; Tial external wastegate, 3-core Air/Air bar intercooler; Mitsubishi blow-off valve; NGK TR6 sparkplugs, Ford Racing 9mm ignition wires
Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox built by D&D Performance, Ford Racing Heavy-Duty clutch, Moser 31-spline axles, Dyno Tech 4" aluminum driveshaft; Auburn differential; T/A Aluminum pre-loading differential cover
*At 9 psi of boost on pump gas
From 1993 until 2004, the SVT Cobra ruled supreme. From the very beginning, these cars were about true American performance with a little sophistication and subtlety. Drive a 1993 GT, then drive a Cobra and you'll see the difference. When the 4.6-liter DOHC engine was shoehorned into the engine bay for '96, the SN95 Cobra, now with 305 horsepower became a true street terror and one that could hold its own on the racetrack too, thanks to an engine that liked to rev. Outwardly it was still fairly mild mannered, unique rims, hood scoops and Cobra lettering on the rear bumper were about all that distinguished it from a GT, save the color palette. Today, the solid axle 1996-98 Cobras have a following and with a few bolt-ons you can have a reliable 12-second daily driver. And, as of right now, they are one of the best performance buys on the market.