Dr Jamie Meyer
October 1, 2003

Horse Sense:
Ford SVT was kind enough to provide Bassani Xhaust engineers with a preproduction version of the '03 SVT Cobra for design and testing of this system in the spring of 2002. That testing has led to the stainless steel work of art you see here. Of course, a quality system such as this doesn't come cheap, with the X-pipe going for around $500 and the after-cat for $650

If you're reading this story, you likely know the deal with this car. In a recent issue, we compared nine cold-air intake kits for the '03 Cobra ("Paths of Least Resistance," May '03, p. 170). The data was mind-boggling to say the least, with several of the kits offering more than 20 rwhp for only a $150 investment and a little wrenching. In this issue, we're back with even more '03 Cobra knowledge for the factory-blown fans out there.

Once the intake tract is opened up, the next logical place to turn is the exhaust system. Rumors from Ford SVT were that the stock '03 pipes were restrictive-a necessity for this amazing car to pass the drive-by noise requirements our government imposes on all new automobiles. In the process, SVT produced a quiet supercar that held a secret-tons of power waiting to be unlocked with an aftermarket exhaust system.

Enter Darryl Bassani, the exhaust system super-genius, and his band of perfectionist engineers. The Bassani X-pipe is already a mainstay of Mustang crafters the world over, so it was only a natural for Ford's latest supercar. For the after-cat system, Darryl had been working with several NMRA 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Real Street teams to develop a muffler that favored the pulses and power dynamics of a supercharged race engine. Guess what? That same muffler found its way to the production version of the '03 Cobra Bassani Xhaust setup.

The other twist that Mr. Bassani threw into this application (and something we think you will see much more of in the future) is the X-pipe has been manufactured to be completely "modular." That is, it can be configured with the high-flow catalytic converters or straight pipes-both of which come in the Bassani kit. This would allow the car owner to run an off-road X-pipe on the track, while still meeting emissions standards with the cats back in place for street driving and annual testing.

Also, when using the Bassani Mid-Length headers designed for this car (and not tested in this story), the owner will be able to retain the same X-pipe and just use the appropriate flange adapter-which ships with the headers. Again, the creative minds at Bassani need to be recognized for not only outstanding, high-quality equipment, but also for helping to save you money as you modify your Cobra. With the Bassani Xhaust, there is no need to sell the X-pipe and buy another just because you're swapping out the stock headers.

All Bassani exhaust pipes are 2 1/2 inches, with the exception of the monstrous 4-inch tailpipes. Interestingly, the Bassani engineering team found that 3-inch exhaust pipes hurt power with the '03 Cobra. Does this small-cubic-inch engine require some degree of backpressure to bring in the boost? We'd find out.

For installation and testing we headed off to see our friend Paul Faessler and the Paul's Automotive Engineering crew in Cincinnati, Ohio, located close to our top-secret Midwest safe house. Shop manager Tom Honsaker and head technician Mike Wilson are familiar names to our loyal readers, and they provided the experience we needed to put Mr. Bassani's work to the test. It took us longer to do the photography than it did for Tom and Mike to install the exhaust.

Filtercharged
One of the standouts of our '03 Cobra cold-air intake test was the K&N FIPK designed for the '01 naturally aspirated Cobra. We threw the system into the mix simply because there were so many '03 Cobra owners installing the '01 FIPK when nothing else was available. To everyone's surprise, the system made great power-19.8 rwhp/7.8 rwtq and 25.6 rwhp/10.7 rwtq on a stock and modified (pulley/chip/exhaust) '03 Cobra, respectively. So, when K&N's Shane Reichardt told us about the upcoming '03 system, we just had to have one! Shane shipped us some prototype parts to bring our '01 model up to '03 specs. As expected, it worked seamlessly with the other systems of the car and picked up power to the tune of 13.1 rwhp and 2.8 rwtq. We suspect the lower numbers are indicative of the loss of boost numbers from the free-flowing exhaust. And, when the blower gets spun a little harder, we expect some booming numbers from the FIPK. This newer version of K&N's FIPK should be available by the time you read this.

With a lift, and dozens of installs under their belts, they spent a leisurely 20 minutes on this project, between doughnut breaks on a Saturday morning. This also indicates that the Bassani Xhaust system fits perfectly-without the "massaging" or cursing we've seen with other systems. We also found all the bolts, clamps, and related hardware to be present and work perfectly during the installation. We should also comment that the 4-inch tailpipes look right at home on this car because the SVT designers left ample space in the rear valance for the big pipes.

As you can tell from our photos, we chose to install the catalytic converters as well as the tailpipe baffles.This configuration is the most restrictive in terms of horsepower and noise. We did this because the owner wanted the car to maximize the use of a high-performance exhaust system while still attracting the least amount of unwanted attention from the local authorities. With the first crack of the ignition key, we unlocked the buried treasure of horsepower gold.

We knew the stock exhaust was restrictive going into this deal, as our previous studies have shown. The horsepower gains (20.4) were great, but we did lose a bit of torque from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm. On the road, we estimated (by way of the stock boost gauge) that we lost 3 pounds of boost (from a max reading of 10 psi to 7-8 psi after the exhaust installation). This demonstrates how much freer flowing the exhaust is now, and also how dependent the engine is on backpressure to make boost. But, above 6,000 rpm, this thing is a freight train, and that is where you will see the power.

As long as we were testing things, Tom offered to sample the noise put out. Given that this wasn't the most scien-tific of experiments (someone held the decibel meter 30 feet behind the car during the dyno pulls), we still think it gives you an idea of the changes made to the stock system. Sound output went from 102 dB stock to 106 dB with the Bassani Xhaust.

Of course, a quality system such as this doesn't come cheap, with the X-pipe going for around $500 and the after-cat for $650. But, honestly, a $35,000 car shouldn't be downgraded with welded-in glasspacks and hacked-in turndowns. If you can't afford the Bassani stuff all at once, get the after-cat first. Independent testing has shown that the after-cat is the big restriction in the '03 stock exhaust system. And, you will get the high-performance sound this car deserves.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

It's important to point out that both the Bassani Xhaust system and the K&N FIPK are warranty-friendly modifications even if you have no connections at the local Ford dealership. Neither modification comes close to altering the basic design of the '03 SVT Cobra, and both are proven to not damage any part of that big, beautiful engine under the hood. Next time, we'll be back with some not-so-warranty-friendly mods to see what a smaller supercharger pulley (more boost) and a custom-tuned computer chip will do for America's favorite musclecar.

On the Dyno
BaselineBassaniBassani and K&N
RPMPowerTorquePowerTorquePowerTorque
2,250145.6339.9142.6332.8141.2329.7
2,500163.6343.7162.9342.1164.3345.2
2,750185.1353.6183.6350.6185.0353.3
3,000206.6361.6205.3359.4205.6360.0
3,250224.3362.4225.7364.7227.6367.9
3,500242.7364.3244.2366.4246.6370.0
3,750261.6366.4265.5371.8264.9371.0
4,000280.4368.2285.4374.7285.9375.4
4,250297.0367.1302.2373.4305.2377.2
4,500312.3364.5316.3369.2320.3373.9
4,750322.3356.4327.7362.3332.1367.2
5,000337.2354.2340.4357.6346.5363.9
5,250343.7343.9351.8352.0358.2358.3
5,500355.2339.2366.8350.3376.5359.6
5,750363.3331.8378.8346.0388.1354.5
6,000359.6314.8383.0335.2392.5343.5
6,250355.7298.9372.5313.1385.1323.6
6,500355.3287.1360.5291.3394.3318.6