1994 Cobra Mustang - The Ex-Terminator Cobra
David Smith's '94 Cobra Is Not What It Seems-It's Much More
From the September, 2009 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Michael Johnson
Photography by Michael Johnson
Some things aren't what they seem. Society proves that every night when you turn on the news. We all know about the "quiet" gentleman that kept to himself or the couple that seemed inseparable. It's these seemingly familiar but ultimately shocking instances that always grab our attention.
Although you'll find David Smith's '94 Cobra is not what it seems, it will have you staring for a good reason.
David actually has his better half, Jen, to thank for getting him into Mustangs. Jen bought a '66 Mustang coupe prior to them getting married, and David used that car on a daily basis after his stint as a jet engine mechanic in the Navy. Helping cement his mechanical genius, David tested F/A-18 Hornet engines. Of course, the six-cylinder coupe couldn't compare to those engines, so David had grand designs of a V-8 swap. The car came apart for a rebuild, but it sits in that same condition today.
During this time, David fell in love with Fox Mustangs, and he bought an '85 GT with Pony wheels, a small cowl hood, and '87-'93 Mustang quarter-windows. Dusting off his wrenches and ratchets, David added P-heads, a Ford Racing Performance Parts E-cam, a Holley carburetor, headers, gears, and so on.
A run-in with a concrete pole ended that GT, but David started anew with a '93 LX. It featured the desirable Titanium exterior with black guts, but with the less desirable AOD. Reaching into his toolbox once again, David added a Tremec TKO transmission, a five-lug conversion, Cobra R wheels, lowering springs, Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, and more.
David wanted to stay true...
David wanted to stay true to the '94 Cobra look, hence, the stock Cobra rear wing, rear bumper cover, taillights, and the lack of an SVT badge on the trunk lid (something the '94s didn't wear from the factory). The only concession David had to make was the hood. The stock '94 Cobra hood wouldn't clear the engine, so he had to opt for a '96-'98 Cobra hood instead. "It is amazing how many people think the car is a '96-'98 Cobra," David says. To help get David's Cobra ready for our cameras, Aaron Sahlhoff and the guys at Reisinger Custom Rebuilding (Evansville, Indiana) made sure it was straight before applying new paint to its panels.
Like all of us, though, David yearned for something better. "I had always loved the look of the '95 Cobra R," David says. He decided to go for it. David sold the LX and went on a search for a white-over-black '94-'95 Cobra. Yes, we know-and David probably did as well-that the Cobra R of 1995 featured a tan cloth interior. Nonetheless, David preferred black guts with his white Cobra, and we don't blame him. Luckily, David was able to find this particular Cobra on eBay. He didn't find out till after his purchase that the black cloth interior was pretty rare (1 of 250 in 1994). Maybe for that reason, the car was bone-stock. That would change under David's watch.
It only took a couple months and David had already swapped in a Tremec TKO transmission, a Vortech S-Trim supercharger, 42-lb/hr injectors, a larger mass air meter, and a Tweecer RT to help tune it all. David drove the Cobra in this manner daily for over a year, even in the snowy Indiana winter. "It was not abnormal for me to drive the car on 2- to 3-hour-long trips during the work week," David says.
As expected, David wanted more power, and a single turbocharger system seemed the answer. David acquired the hot side plumbing and a new long-block. "After more thought, I decided a stock block with a single turbo wouldn't last," David says. Heading in a different direction, David planned out a nasty 408ci Windsor. He bought a short-block, added a cam, Canfield heads, a Victor Spyder intake, and a 90mm throttle body. "It was going to be fun," David says. He had everything right there to make it happen, but then everything stopped.
"I really wanted to do something different and unique," David says, "and I loved the '03-'04 Cobra motors." Obviously, you know where this went, but don't get too far ahead of us. "I felt the '03-'04 motors could handle just about anything without pulling a cam cover," David says. He is right when he says Ford did it right with the supercharged Four-Valve, but he didn't want a car payment. Besides, he already owned a clean '94 Cobra with a desirable interior. "That is when I decided to convert my '94 Cobra to '03-'04 Cobra components," David says. After all, he doesn't call it the Ex-Terminator for nothing.
Since David found out his...
Since David found out his '94 Cobra is 1 of 250 white coupes with black cloth interior, he decided not to change much of what can be seen with the naked eye. However, from the '04 Cobra donor car he used the dash shell and cluster, brake pedals, airbag system, steering column, stereo, and door locks. The heater box and A/C controls from the Terminator also found their way in the '94. The interior really doesn't give away too many clues of what lies under the hood-just a couple extra gauges, a feature of nearly every other Mustang on the road. Our favorite gauge is the Aeroforce ScanGauge. Since David converted the car to OBD-II during the transformation, he was able to hook up the gauge to be a diagnostic tool. The gauge has already paid for itself.
"As fate would have it, I came across a guy that had basically everything from a wrecked '04 Cobra," David says. He had already gathered many pieces, but he put the wife and two daughters (Courtney, who tells everyone the Cobra is hers, and Brooke) into the family truckster for a weekend trip to Atlanta. "I put everything, and I mean everything, in the back of my F150," David says. "Everything" included the '04 Cobra's drivetrain (minus the IRS), the complete wiring harness from headlights to taillights, the computer, evaporator box, A/C controls, radiator, condenser, brake lines, fuel lines, fuel tank, filler neck, Hydraboost system, front brakes, steering rack, column, heat exchanger, pedals, dash frame, gauge cluster, door locks, Mach 460 stereo system, wiper motor, washer fluid bottle, cruise control, all electronics, airbag system (minus the airbags), and horns-can't forget the horns.
The best part was that anyone with Internet access could see the build play out on the Corral (www.corral.net). Though David started the project around September 2007, he brought the rest of us up to speed February 26, 2008, with his first post in the '94-'95 Tech section of the Corral forums. That's when the first pictures of the swap surfaced. David stripped the car to prep it for the Cobra drivetrain. David first ripped out the '94's wiring harness...all of it. In its place went the '04 Cobra's wiring harness. The process is way over-simplified here, but imagine ripping out the wiring harness from headlight to taillight. That's what David did. He wanted everything to work like a factory-fresh '03-'04 Cobra, and when that's what you want, everything must be changed over.
With the wiring harness in place, David added the PA Racing tubular K-member, Steeda Autosports' X2 ball joints, and the donor Cobra's front lower control arms, sway bar, and brakes. David had plenty of work to do before he dropped in the engine, so he moved to the dash by removing the factory '94 Cobra dash. As with the exterior, David wanted to keep the look of the '94's interior but with the guts of a Terminator Cobra. "I swapped my dash pad and heating ducts over to the '04's metal dash frame," David says. He also used the '04 Cobra's gauge cluster.
Swapping the dash wasn't without its issues. David had to change the passenger-side airbag connector from brown to black, and he also had to splice the defroster harness to work with the stock '94 Cobra defroster switch. Worst of all, David broke the car's windshield when the ratchet slipped tightening the top three dash bolts.
Besides the initial mechanical setbacks, David had plenty of wiring issues mating the '04 Cobra's harness with the '94's Mach 460 amps. The foglight switch orientations and seat-belt switch differences were tricky as well. It wasn't just the wiring that gave him fits. In order to use the Terminator heater box, the heater tube provision in the firewall required modification. The '04 Cobra's airbag module was different than the '94's. The firewall brake booster provision had to be opened up for the Hydraboost system before he could bolt the '04 Cobra's pedals in place.
With all this work in motion, David was closer to getting the car down the road when he received the donor engine's Eaton supercharger back from Stiegemeier after a Stage 5 port, a front-drive rebuild, a BilletFlow 2.76-inch pulley, and an Accufab throttle body port match. Then came the Fore Precision Works fuel hat from Lethal Performance, and a new fuel level sending unit and Ford GT fuel pumps from Tousley Ford.
If you see David's Cobra at...
If you see David's Cobra at a Mustang show, you might walk right by it. If you only notice the engine, you'll just think it's a mildly modified '03-'04 Cobra. If you only notice the exterior, you'll think it's a nicely painted SN-95 Cobra. Add it all up, and you'll know the pieces don't belong together. Under the '96-'98 Cobra hood lies an Eaton-supercharged '04 Cobra engine, but the blower's been given the Stiegemeier Stage 5-plus porting treatment along with pulley changes to arrive at 15-17 pounds of boost. RWTD tuned the car using SCT software, and at last count on a Superflow chassis dyno, David's Cobra made 507 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque
David turned his attention to the engine bay with fresh paint before dropping in the Cobra's new tenant. With all the wiring and corresponding '03-'04 Cobra pieces in place, installing the engine and transmission was not as labor-intensive as getting the car ready for the engine installation. Once the engine and transmission were bolted together, and everything was plugged in, the engine started on the first hit, and according to David, "It idled great." Though he's still tinkering with minor issues, David "finished" the car in May of 2008.
With the Cobra on the road, David loves to take it to cruise-ins and shows and watch people walk by the car. "At first," he says, "you see people think it's another '94-'95 Cobra. As they pass by the engine bay, they stop and stare."
5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock '04 Cobra iron
Displacement 281 ci
Rotating Assembly Stock Cobra crankshaft, rods, and pistons
Camshafts Stock '04 Cobra
Heads Stock '04 Cobra
Intake Stock '04 Cobra, ported lower
Power Adder '04 Cobra Eaton supercharger, Stiegemeier Stage 5-plus ported, BilletFlow 2.76-inch upper pulley, 4-pound lower pulley ring, 15-17 pounds of boost, Afco heat exchanger
Throttle Body Accufab
Mass Air Meter SCT 2800, JLT Performance cold-air
Fuel System '04 Cobra fuel tank, Fore Precision Works fuel hat, twin Ford GT fuel pumps, '04 Cobra fuel lines and rails, 60-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust MAC long-tube headers, UPR Products X-style crossover pipe, MAC after-cat with Flowpath mufflers and stainless tailpipes
Transmission '04 Cobra T56, SPEC Stage 3-plus clutch with aluminum flywheel, '04 Cobra aluminum driveshaft
8.8, 3.55 gears, Strange Engineering 31-spline axles, 31-spline Traction-Lok with '04 Cobra clutches, '04 Cobra pinion flange
Engine Management Stock '04 Cobra computer, with SCT tune by RWTD
Ignition Stock '04 Cobra, NGK TR7 spark plugs
Gauges '04 Cobra gauge cluster, Aeroforce Scan gauge,
Chassis and Suspension
K-member PA Racing tubular
Control arms '04 Cobra
Struts '04 Cobra Bilstein
Caster/Camber Maximum Motorsports
Brakes '04 Cobra, Hydraboost
Wheels Saleen 18x9-inch
Tires BFGoodrich g-Force 265/35-18
Shocks Stock '94 Cobra
Control arms Factory Five Racing uppers and lowers
Brakes '94 Cobra
Wheels Saleen 18x10-inch
Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Street radial 315/30-18