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2003 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Project - Cobra Crankup Part 1
Getting Back To Our Roots With An '03 Terminator
Do you remember the first time you saw an '03 Cobra in the living flesh? For us, it was practically a religious experience complete with the sunglow and organ music. Our hearts were jumping off the rev limiter when we plopped our slab-sided behinds into the sumptuous suede-accented leather seats for the very first time, as the mere thought of driving the baddest and most powerful Mustang to roll off the assembly line was just a flick of the throttle away.
The '03 and '04 SVT Cobras ended up being a fantasmic (as in fantastically orgasmic) finale to the Fox-4 Mustang's 11-year run with its torque-belching, 390hp engine and taut, Bilstein-equipped, fully independent suspension. SVT gave us a world-class ponycar that could hang with more lofty and-just about always-more exotic machinery in terms of acceleration, handling, and sheer American excess.
Fast forward a few years to 2007, and we see that history has a habit of repeating itself. Ford's latest Mustang supercar is now called the Shelby GT500, and, like the Terminator that preceded it, it features a factory-supercharged mod motor with a six speed and super-bad looks.
The difference is that it weighs over 4,000 pounds and costs quite a bit more, at roughly $42,330 for an '08 version (five years ago, the '03 model listed for $33,460). Granted, you get a lot more car for the money with improved technology, but we figure for about half that money, we can have a little fun and drive around in something that still gets stares everywhere it goes.
We're not putting down the new car-no, not at all. We simply can't compare the two because they are so dissimilar, and there are obvious differences here in both the cars and the people who drive them. Both share Ford DNA, though, and as a result, each are surrounded by Cobra enthusiasts. So what does a Ford fanatic do when his or her love for a supercharged snake needs to be quenched? Quite simply, you go shopping for a used one.
With our piggy banks broken and our Internet access open, we put ourselves in the hunt for a Terminator Cobra. We found several examples on Mustang-specific Internet forums, and even perused the newspaper listings, but sadly, most of the cars were too modified for our tastes and perhaps a bit overpriced in our minds. Desirable examples that were clean and had little to no modifications did surface every so often with prices lingering in the $22,000-$25,000 range. We figured this was a good reference point, but wanted to pay less. And then it happened. On a clear Wednesday afternoon (not on company time, of course) we were able to bid online on a Dark Shadow Gray Cobra with 69,000 miles on it. The description was relatively short, stating that the car had a cold-air induction kit, a handheld performance programmer, and a pair of aftermarket mufflers welded in place. A phone call to the owner made us feel better about the car's history, and shortly thereafter, a deal was struck. We paid less than $20,000 for the car, factoring in the cost of trucking it across the country ($1,000) because it was located in Southern California-about 2,800 miles from our New Jersey office. Within a few weeks of our call to a trucking company, our new pride and joy was at our front door.
Once in our possession, the original owner's description was indeed accurate. Some of the highlights included no previous accident damage, glossy paint, and an incredibly clean undercarriage because of its pampered and garaged life in SoCal. After a thorough wash and detail, we assessed the rest of the car and ran through the mechanicals with a fine-tooth comb. Like any used Mustang-or any used car for that matter-there were a few wear items that needed to be updated or replaced.