John Brooks' 1997 SVT Mustang Cobra
There is some financial advice that starts off like this: "The easiest way to start making more money is to stop losing what you already have." It is a sound idea, and one that applies equally well in the field of automotive performance.
In his younger days, John Brooks raced Mercury Cougars on the stock car circuit. Times were simpler and so were suspensions, but one thing that hasn't changed - then or now - are the laws of physics. See, power is a great thing and cheap power is even better. But whether you're racing for six seconds or 60 minutes, you've got to get that power down to the ground for it to do any good.
All racing series have restrictions on what you can do, so any good owner or crew chief knows that they have to find new ways to go faster. John had done quite a bit of work on the Cougar's suspension and used the approach of 'balanced performance' to free up horsepower. When the engine, driveline, suspension and structure of the car were working in harmony, less engine output was being lost to the driver fighting the car. It was an idea that John enjoyed working with and had developed a good degree of expertise for. It should come as no surprise, then, that he eventually wanted to pursue it further.
To get started again, he picked up a used 1993 Mustang LX 5.0-liter and used it to see what some minor adjustments in the car's setup could accomplish. "After building the first Brooks Performance Mustang, the real potential of these cars became evident," John told us. That inspired him to push further. To do so, he'd need a new platform to work on, something more contemporary and with a better starting point. Eventually, his search led him to pick up a two-year old SVT Cobra, which is the car you see on these pages.
To John Brooks, the direction for the new car was clear from the start. "This Cobra was built with the goal of using all of its available horsepower by redesigning the suspension and braking systems, bringing them to a standard that performed well on the street and track." Even before suspension and braking modifications were lined up, the Cobra's unit body structure had to be reinforced. To help out with this, Kenny Brown's Extreme Matrix system was installed. This is an extreme version of subframe connectors that provide connection across a wide area of the underbody, rather than just across the width of the individual subframe rails themselves. Handily, they also provide jacking rails, so that the car can be lifted at virtually any point inside the wheelbase.
Two more structural additions were put in place. A G-load brace was added to the front end's K-member. This acts to brace the lower ends of the K-member and reduce deflection, or unwanted movement, of the front suspension's mounting points. Under the hood, a strut tower brace was installed. By triangulating the body metal, where the upper end of the front struts mount, to the metal of the firewall, this modification helps maintain the intended geometry of the front suspension under hard cornering. One of the more challenging upgrades was the Autopower 6-point roll cage, as John told us. "We wanted to keep the interior of the car looking stock, so we spent a lot of time installing the cage." While the cage is a safety feature for John's open track days, it also adds significantly to the torsional rigidity of the Cobra.