At some point in every Mustang owner's life, you will want an '03-'04 Cobra. Mark it down, chalk it up, whatever you gotta do, but trust me--one day you will want one. It may not be today, it may not have been the other day, but before your Mustang owning days are over, you will want an '03-'04 Cobra. For those just getting in the game, let's take a look back. In the late '90s/early '00s, we were dealing with the underpowered '99 Cobra debacle, and even though the '01 Cobra made the number, it still didn't have what many Mustang enthusiasts wanted--a supercharger. Sure, the '00 Cobra R had a 385-horse 5.4, but Ford only made 300 of 'em, and it didn't have a supercharger, either.
Besides a supercharger, we also wanted a six-speed transmission. The majority of us didn't really want an independent rear suspension. That was more the desire of a small percentage of enthusiasts (and the cup-holder magazines that thought the Mustang's live-axle suspension was archaic). However, the Cobra received that as part of the '99 Cobra package, so it was already part of the deal.
For '03-'04, our supercharged and six-speed dreams finally came true. The Cobra boosted itself right into legendary status right out of the chute with a factory Eaton supercharger, a Tremec T56 six-speed, and 390 hp with 390 lb-ft of torque. The Terminator, as it was code-named, brought with it a bulletproof iron-block, a steel crank, Manley H-beam connecting rods, and forged pistons. It was bad to the bone and ready for bolt-on heroics.
We couldn't believe it. Were we dreaming? As Mustang fans, we were riding high, and it certainly was no dream. Not only did we have a supercharger capable of spitting out 8 pounds of boost from the factory, we had a six-speed to row. Plus, the engine was built to handle much more power than what it had from the factory, which has been proven time and time again.
Instantly, everyone wanted an '03-'04 Cobra. The car was the pinnacle of Mustang performance up to that time. It didn't matter what kind of Mustang you had, you wanted to trade it for a Cobra. At Cecil County Dragway, your grandma could run 12.40s with a mildly modified Termi. The car was an instant legend, one we remain enamored of to this day.
Kevin Dunn is a man that made that desire a reality. Like the rest of us, he was a Fox Mustang guy. He was about to rebuild his '89 Fox coupe when he decided he couldn't take it anymore. The Fox was sold and in the driveway pulled this '04 Cobra. "It already had a built engine, a blower, a six-speed, better brakes, and IRS, and nicer interior," Kevin says. Is there an echo in here?
Kevin wanted all these features in his Fox, but that wasn't happening. He did quick work to the suspension to plant the power to the ground, then went after the horsepower with a pulley, exhaust, and a tune. Showing how good these cars respond to mods, Kevin's Cobra made 469 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.
Like every other Mustang fiend, if some is enough, more is better. Off came the factory Eaton M112 supercharger, and in its place went a Whipple 2.3-liter unit. On 17 pounds of boost and with a safe tune, the Cobra was now churning out 561 hp and 544 lb-ft of torque. "I could have run a little more timing and made a little more power," Kevin says, "but I opted for the side of safety."
We've known Kevin since the days when he lived in South Florida. He now lives in Texas, but on one of many vacations back to the Sunshine State, Kevin decided to take in a test and tune night, where he witnessed Power by the Hour's Jake Long and his '97 Cobra run 10.1s at 151 mph on Nitto drag radials.