Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
December 1, 2007
Photos By: Greg Clark

This Issue marks the 12th installment of project Stolen Goods and the conclusion of the buildup portion of our '93 Cobra. It has been a long road, but the snake is finally running, hissing, spitting, and biting at whatever's in striking range.

More than two years ago, your humble author was approached by a good friend, George Xenos, about the sale of his 1,331-mile, '93 Teal Metallic Cobra Mustang. While it was completely void of its original drivetrain and suspension components, Xenos' religious upkeeping-including, of all things, an inflatable bubble-kept the Cobra's shell and interior in pristine condition, new-car scent and all. My friend needed out, so an asking price was set, then agreed upon, and a little while later, money and Mustang changed hands. While I've owned many fast Fords, I always wanted a '93 Cobra, and now I had one in my possession.

Stolen Goods sat dormant for another six months before work actually commenced on the project, but proper planning laid out an effective strategy on how to return this snake to the pinnacle of Ford performance.

Yes, we at Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords had hoped to outperform not only the stock Cobra numbers of the '93, but those of the '95 and '00 Cobra R models as well. We're here to tell you that Stolen Goods made good in the horsepower and torque numbers, as well as the quarter-mile times. It's only a matter of time before we get SG back to the track to knock off the rest of the performance goals.

Remember when this was all we had? No motor, no trans, and a bunch of four-cylinder suspension parts.

Motivation
Having worked on numerous project cars during my tenure at MM&FF, I've learned a few things about owning, driving, working on, and caring for a late-model hot rod, and the main goal for this project was for it to be virtually maintenance-free. Get in, turn the key, and go.

When it came time to decide how to build the engine, we went normally aspirated. Cubic inches would play a vital role, as would the induction components, which were selected to provide abundant torque and horsepower, with stock-like driveability. Awesome throttle response and the ability to have this Pony rip off a corner was as important as quarter-mile times, since most of the miles would be clocked on the street.

Jesse Kershaw and the rest of the Ford Racing Performance Parts group had signed on for the project, and in addition to the numerous components that they would later supply, the big-ticket item was the foundation of our Cobra's powerplant-a new FRPP Boss 302 block. This all-new piece was more than adequate for the road-racing and dragstrip terrorizing that we planned. Filling said Boss block is a D.S.S. Racing rotating assembly that consists of a forged steel crank, forged H-beam connecting rods, and D.S.S. forged Pro-Lite pistons. While the cubic-inch count comes to 347, we attained it using a better rod ratio thanks to the large cylinder bores the Boss offers. This, in the long run, will allow our engine to make tons of power for years to come.

Obviously, we knew we'd have to sacrifice some power to make the car user-friendly, but enjoying the car as much as possible and not being under the hood time and again were the main priorities. To that end, we contacted induction guru Rick Anderson at Anderson Ford Motorsports (AFM) and talked with him at length about our requirements. What we decided on was a trick set of AFM-ported Twisted Wedge cylinder heads from Trick Flow Specialties, Trick Flow's Street heat intake manifold, and an AFM B-41HR camshaft. Anderson also recommended Meziere's electric water pump as well as a Velocity mass airflow meter from Professional Mass Air Systems. Combined with an AFM Power Pipe, we were assured that our 347 would be breathing soundly.

On the opposite side of the combustion process, we went with DynoMax and Cyclone products for the exhaust system. When it came time to choose the exhaust components, we put our vast time at the dragstrip to good use and focused on sound in particular. The DynoMax Ultra Flo welded muffler got the nod for its incredible exhaust note without the drone commonly associated with welded-case mufflers.

We'd rather be driving Stolen Goods than cleaning it, so you won't find much fancy stuff under the hood. We opted for the black Trick Flow and Ford Racing Performance Parts powdercoated products for a stealthy, factory look that was low-maintenance as well.

We originally planned to use shorty headers for ease of installation and maintenance, but we needed to maximize our NA engine combination, so we opted for Cyclone's ceramic-coated 1 5/8-inch long-tube headers. It took a little finagling to install the tubes, but time-wise it was on par with an equal-length shorty-header install. The Cyclone header's ceramic coating holds the heat in and keeps it out of the cabin, which were pluses.

Part of the sound that we were looking to achieve would come by way of an x style midpipe setup. We found out later that DynoMax didn't offer one for use with its Cyclone long-tube headers, though. The H-pipe we ended up using sounds great; for those who like a deep, muscular sound, it's perfect. Eventually, we plan to fabricate our own x setup using the x crossover kit that DynoMax sells so we can extract the higher-pitched exhaust note from the snake.

This And That
The key components that Stolen Goods needed to run came from a variety of great companies that you'll usually find advertising in MM&FF. The folks at Federal-Mogul opened up their Fel-Pro gasket catalog and provided us with everything we needed to stick this part to that one. ARP Fasteners gave us most of the hardware, such as head studs, intake manifold bolts, and such, while Brothers Performance supplied us with all of our fuel-system needs, from the 38-pound injectors, to the 255-lph fuel pump, and the adjustable regulator and fuel-pressure gauge.

Performance Distributors hooked us up with its 5.0L ignition system, which included a Screamin' Demon coil, Livewires, a Dyna module, and an all-new PD distributor. We also popped for one of PD's 130-amp alternators to keep everything juiced up.

Wheel selection was an agonizing ordeal, as my head was always imagining this or that shoe. Here you can see some of my initial Photoshop handiwork that allowed me to get an idea of how things would look. This look certainly had potential.

Texas Mustang Parts came through for us with an FRPP aluminum driveshaft, and MPS Auto Salvage saved us from some tedium by supplying numerous factory fasteners and wiring harnesses. Without its assistance, we could have easily added another couple of weeks to the project just trying to fit things together and wire stuff up. When you have a project where you're missing most of the factory items, a place like MPS Auto Salvage is a godsend.

Mustangs Unlimited provided Stolen Goods with a number of small items, including engine and transmission mounts, a harmonic balancer, and virtually every sensor the engine required. Going through a company like Mustangs Unlimited that has a specific clientele is much easier and more accurate than going to your local parts house and having them ask you, "Does that have air conditioning?"

Since I planned on doing a bit of road racing and autocrossing with Stolen Goods, keeping the Cobra cool was paramount, so I called upon two cooling experts in the Mustang aftermarket. Meziere sent one of its billet electric water pumps-an item that came highly recommended by AFM's Rick Anderson, who stated that he "wouldn't build another car without one." The pump's operation is seamless, and the car has stayed cool even in scorching Florida summer traffic jam conditions.

The other part of the cooling system is the trick unit from Flex-a-lite. The radiator/electric fan combination fit like Ford engineered it and has also done its part to keep the Cobra operating at a constant 185 degrees. At the dragstrip, we could leave the key in the "On" position in the lanes and cool down the car considerably, despite the sweltering summer heat.

Slithering And Stopping
With driveability being first and foremost, we didn't want to go hog wild with the suspension modifications; we just needed something that would give us spirited support on the track and good manners on the interstate. To that end, Maximum Motorsports hooked us up with its Road and Track box. Conventional performance coil springs from MM, combined with Bilstein struts and shocks, offer the ride quality we were looking for, but one that doesn't sacrifice stability when pushed hard. Some of that also comes from the MM Panhard bar we installed, and we have yet to mount up the MM torque arm, which should be remedied by the time you read this.

We didn't get enough dragstrip time to properly evaluate Stolen Goods, but we'll be back for more. Our best e.t. to date is a 12.58 at 110 mph. There's definitely a 12-teen or 12.0 in that 110-mph trap speed.

Adding to the grip situation are the Falken Azenis RT-615 tires at all four corners. We chose them because they're designed for autocrosses as well as interstates, and so far they have proved to offer exceptional grip on the street both in the dry and in the monsoon Florida rain. We'll follow up in a future issue with Stolen Goods' first autocross excursion and get back to you with an at-the-limit tire assessment.

Of course, wheels make any car, and we mulled over the options for several weeks. We even experimented with Adobe Photoshop, trying on different rims for the Cobra. The braking system we utilized required an 18-inch wheel and, when combined with the Fox-body's stock track width, we were left with just a few choices.

After some Internet investigation, we decided on a quartet of black FR500-style wheels from American Muscle. The black would give the Cobra an R-model appeal, and it seemed to work well with the Teal Metallic paint. We made the call, and American Muscle sent us 18x9s for the front and a set of beefy 18x10s for the rear. We're happy with the way the car looks, and as it turns out, most people who say they don't like black wheels have given us the thumbs-up, too.

Most people find the SN-95 Cobra brakes to be extremely good when used on the lighter Fox-body Mustangs. Ford thought so too, seeing as how these were standard equipment on the '93 R-model Cobra. We hoped to exceed the '93 R's performance numbers, and thus needed some-thing beyond the SN-95 Cobra fare.

Baer Brakes subsequently sent us its Extreme Plus setup, with 14-inch rotors and Baer's six-piston, Mono-block calipers up front, and its Track kit for the rear, which utilizes 13-inch rotors and single-piston calipers. The main reason we went with Baer brakes is that everything bolts right up without an issue. Everything you need is included, and the end result is an OEM-like finished product.

The Baer brakes have proven to be tremendous and tells onlookers that this Pony is one serious player.

Shifting And Twisting
We've covered the suspension, brakes, and engine, but the car still wasn't going anywhere without a transmission and rear axle. Having just installed a six-speed in the ProCharged Pony, MM&FF's supercharged Fox GT, we had a spare T5 handy and thus called Tony Sarvis at Astro Performance Warehouse. A trip to APW's home in Tavares, Florida, ensued, and a few hours later I was headed home with a virtually bulletproof A-5 transmission. In addition to the beefy internals, I opted for the road-race-spec Fifth gear, which features an 0.79:1 Overdrive ratio.

Mating the trans to the engine is Centerforce's light metal clutch and pressure plate, as well as its aluminum flywheel. The clutch's lightweight con-struction drops significant weight from the overall rotating mass, and it offers plenty of clamping force with an easy pedal effort. Remember, this Mustang needs to be driver-friendly, and we didn't want to be gear-jamming, Peterbilt-style. Centerforce had just what we were looking for.

After spending a few hundred miles behind the wheel, I must say that I dig the close-ratio Fifth gear, but truthfully, cruise rpm is a little too high for my taste, even with the mild 3.55 rear-gear ratio. At 70 mph, the tachometer is hanging at around 2,800 rpm, and since Florida's 70-mph I-75 corridor is my main access to most racing venues, not to mention my place of employment, there may just be a T-56 swap in Stolen Goods' future. The good thing is Astro Performance can hook you up with one of those, too, if you find yourself in a similar situation. If you're limited to the normal 55-mph interstate system or restrict your civilian driving to around town, you'll have no problem with the A-5 unit.

The smallest 18-inch drag radial that Mickey Thompson offers is a 305/35/18, which wouldn't fit under the Fox-body fender, so we went with a 17-inch version. We'll use a pair of 17x9 Cobra wheels to get a decent tread width in addition to proper brake clearance.

Behind the A-5 five-speed gearbox is a typical 8.8 rear axle. Since the main caps were missing from the original housing, we procured a used one from Rusty Acres Automotive. Rusty Acres is a Ford auto salvage business located in Jacksonville, Florida, and it dropped the 8.8 assembly off at nearby HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, for a rebuild. Reider Racing came through with a complete rebuild kit, including new axles, bearings, seals, and shims, in addition to the 3.55 ring-and-pinion gearset. After consulting with Maximum Motorsports' Chuck Schwynoch regarding differential choices, we opted for the Torsen T-2R, a torque-biasing unit that is preferred for road racing.

Crank It Up
The first time Stolen Goods fired up, it crackled with vigor and settled into a perfect idle. The lightweight rotating assembly revved effort-lessly, and all of the Boss 347 engine's vitals looked great. Things were certainly looking good.

To maximize power output, we took the car back to HP Performance to have a custom chip burned. Using SCT's software and plug-in chip to tweak the processor, HP's Tony Gonyon did an excellent job making sure Stolen Goods fired up without issue every time. He also made numerous changes to optimize cruise and full-throttle conditions.

Our original plan for Stolen Goods called for great driveability and lots of torque to take advantage of the 3.55 gear ratio and give us extra grunt for getting the Cobra off of the corners. With that in mind, we didn't expect the 347 to make balls-out power figures. Rear-wheel horsepower came in at 358; it also twisted the dyno drums with 376 lb-ft of torque. Going with a 12-percent drivetrain-loss estimate, that puts us a tick over 400 hp and 421 ft-lb of torque at the flywheel. I can report that Stolen Goods has plenty of bite all the way through the powerband.

Making sure things work together was important on this project. Wheel and tire fitment is spot on, and the DynoMax exhaust worked perfectly with the Maximum Motorsports suspension.

A week after the tuning, which included several dyno pulls, Stolen Goods was at the alignment shop where it promptly broke a rocker-arm stud during the test drive. A call to Summit Racing had another rocker stud in the mail so that we could venture to Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, for some dragstrip drama. For two hours we drove through a downpour before the track event was finally can-celled, and on the way home, we suffered another broken rocker arm in addition to toasting the mass air meter because of the excessive amount of water that had gotten into the inner fender area.

Great minds were organized, and the consensus was that the rocker-arm issue was a result of the pushrods being too long. A difference of 0.15 inch is seemingly all it took to turn our project car around and make it the hissing serpent we expected it to be. While we took the time to carefully place the rocker-arm roller tip on the valve stem during the engine's assembly, we hadn't been careful enough.

After swapping out our 6.85-inch-long Comp Cams Hi-Tech pushrods for a set of 6.700-inch pieces and having Chris Skotnicki at Professional Mass Air Systems send us another meter, we now have several hundred miles on the odometer and a couple of full-throttle, quarter-mile passes under our belt without a hint of trouble from our 347ci powerplant. Speaking of which, we were able to get in just two quarter-mile passes before this story's deadline, and here are the details.

There was no need for mods here.

To make sure we had plenty of traction, we called up Mickey Thompson and ordered a set of 275/40/17 ET Drag radials. We had a pair of 17x8 '99 Cobra wheels laying around, but the M/Ts called for a 9- to 11-inch-wide wheel, so we called up Ford Racing Performance Parts and ordered a pair of '95 R wheels and '03 Cobra wheels. Both measure 9 inches in width, but the '03 wheel has slightly more backspacing, and we weren't sure about the wheel-to-inner-fender clearance, so we got both to test.

Unfortunately, the wheels didn't make it in time for the drag test, so the Mickeys got mounted on the 8-inch Cobra rims. As you can see from the photo, the contact patch isn't optimal, but the tires did offer plenty of traction at the strip nonetheless.

The Runday Sunday test and tune event at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida, was packed with cars and unfortunately plagued with oil-downs and crashes, so we got only two runs in before calling it a day. The first pass was a get-acquainted, easy effort. A lazy 2.03 60-foot time and 5,500-rpm shifts netted a 12.81 at 109 mph, which was pretty good given the 96-degree temps and excessive Florida humidity. The Flex-a-lite and Meziere cooling components worked their magic in the lanes, though, as engine temps were a relatively cool 130-140 degrees.

Pass number two started off somewhat better, with the 60-foot time dropping to 1.93 seconds. Shift rpm was raised to 6,500 on the stock tach, which equated to an actual rpm of 6,100. Elapsed time dropped to a 12.58 at 110 mph. Not bad, but certainly not indicative of the 110 mph's capability. Still, Stolen Goods managed to eclipse all of the factory Cobra numbers as well as those of the '93 and '95 R-models.

After checking our records, the 12.58 at 110 ties MM&FF's test of the '00 Cobra R, but given a few more passes, low-12s, if not high-11s on drag radials aren't out of the question. We'll be sure to get back with you once we've had the Cobra back at the track, if you don't catch us at one near you beforehand. Stolen Goods will be hitting a couple of Southern events this year, and you can bet it'll be out and about in the spring as well.

After the rainstorm cooked our mass air meter, we had Professional Mass Air Systems send us another one in short order so we could get to the track. We didn't have time to make the three-hour trek to HP Performance to verify the tune-up, so HP's Tony Gonyon recommended we double-check it with a wideband air-fuel unit like this one from Innovate Motorsports. George Xenos had Innovate's LM-1 and XD-16 components up and running in no time, and we were able to verify that the tune was good to go.

Credit Where Credit's Due
One thing that struck a chord with readers and fans is that we built Stolen Goods on our backs and in a garage, just like most of you. And while I would like to take credit for how well the project turned out, I mostly just orchestrated things and took photos. There have been a lot of people involved who did far more than myself.

Without the help of the manufacturers, things certainly wouldn't have gone as well as they did. When we broke parts or needed things shipped overnight, these companies stepped up to make our deadlines happen. Those of you who have been reading MM&FF for some time may notice that many of the companies we used during this buildup have been in the magazine for years, and it's their tried-and-true aftermarket parts that made this project relatively simple to put together.

I frequently made calls to d.s.s. Racing's Tom Naegele, AFM's Rick Anderson, and Maxi-mum Motorsports' Chuck Schwynoch, as well as many other authorities. When I had questions, they had answers. These are the sort of people you hope to deal with when building a project, and they are highly recommended.

While I spent my share of time underneath the car, it was my friends and family who really stepped in to make this happen. Obviously, George Xenos provided me with the perfect platform-a deal that I couldn't pass up and a project he didn't want to part with. The good thing is, though, he had a hand in returning the Cobra to greatness, almost pretty much like he had originally planned.

I may have helped Xenos install the motor and transmission, but he was largely responsible for all of the wiring, assembling the front engine dress, installing the exhaust, and bleeding the brakes, while I snapped the photos. His attention to detail and meticulous workmanship has made the Cobra-despite its aftermarket parade of parts-look and operate like stock.

Ray Clark and Brian Bohnsack turned the wrenches when it came time to install the Maxi-mum Motorsports suspension, and Mark Johnson wielded the welder when it was required. He also supplied his dually, and Rob Baldwin offered his car trailer to transport the Cobra to its new home.

Time to tear it up. Be sure to check out www.muclemustangfastfords.com for a couple of videos we took, along with most of the editorial articles on the buildup.

My brothers Brian, Tom, and Anthony, along with Dennis Fahey pitched in, loaning an axle and wheels to get the car movable and helping out whenever an extra hand was needed. I also need to thank my sister-in-law Kim Lewis, who allowed me to tie up her extra garage with my projects. Yes, that's projects in the plural, as I still have two more cars there. All in due time.

Then there's my wife, Erica, who has put up with my many late nights spent watching all of my compadres assemble Stolen Goods, and our illustrious Editor Evan Smith, who gave the go-ahead for the project in the first place.

I have to admit, it's been both fun and painful at times. However, it's done, and it's time to enjoy it. Like many project cars before it-Superfly DOHC, Stocker, The Fridge, and other nameless Fords-Stolen Goods slithers off into project-car semiretirement only to return for this story or that. We plan to use it to test out the latest perfor-mance tires and anything else we can think of. What's that? Do I smell nitrous?

Thanks for reading.