Dale Amy
July 1, 2003

The '03 SVT Cobra is arguably the best performance Mustang ever built. By now you've memorized the statistics, and you know that, among other things, it's the first factory supercharged Mustang. The engine has been completely reinforced with forged internals for severe duty, and it packs 390 hp and 390 ft-lb of torque. The drivetrain has also been updated with a blow-proof six-speed Tremec transmission and a completely revamped independent rear suspension (IRS).

What you may not know is that the '03 SVT Cobra is grossly underrated, and that SVT left a ton of potential on the table for the taking. As we'll show you, it takes only a small amount of money and time to turn this car into a ZO6-eating street freak that will scare you stiff if you aren't ready for it.

In stock form, Ford's latest Cobra runs 12.60-12.80s at over 110 mph right off the showroom floor without tweaking a single thing or even adding slicks. If you haven't reached this performance level, keep practicing until you can get 1.80- to 1.90-second short times. If you can't do that, let your buddy who can reach these times drive it. Or find yourself a new track, because what we are going to show you will only make this car that much tougher to drive off the line and down the track.

Mark and Joe Mainiero of Unlimited Performance have been on the Mustang scene since the first one rolled off the assembly line. "I've driven them all," Mark (Joe's father) tells us. "I used to race NHRA Stock Eliminator with the Cobra Jets. And I've street-raced all the Fords from the golden age of the musclecar. Trust me, there has never been a car like this Cobra."

To say that Joe was impressed with their company's newest test car would be a huge understatement. Their bright yellow coupe hit 140 mph on the way home from the dealership. Not 24 hours after that, Joe and Mark had the thing strapped down to their in-house chassis dyno, looking for ways to extract even more power. It didn't take long for these experienced Ford experts to find a few simple pieces to change that add into a huge difference in performance.

The first thing Mark and Joe observed about the new Cobra was that it was severely restricted on the intake side as well as the exhaust. Typically, new cars don't have what you would classify as a performance intake or exhaust, but in the case of the '03 Cobra, it was painfully obvious that some engineer had redesigned things to keep this car a secret. It's quiet, and you can almost feel that big, beautiful engine straining to get fresh air in and hot exhaust out.

UPR had swapped many pulleys (which spin the supercharger harder) on the front of Eaton blowers on Ford's Lightning F-150, making for more boost. So, UPR started testing different blower pulley configurations. Once these pieces were added, Joe sat down at the computer, fine-tuned the on-board '03 Cobra computer using Mike Wesley's Autologic software, and came up with an add-on computer chip that put the engine's air/fuel ratio right were Joe wanted it. With these simple additions, Joe's car had literally transformed right before their eyes.