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.
A past King of the Street competitor, Jake's Cobra is a mechanical marvel. Jake runs a dual fuel system on his twin-turbocharged car, switching from 87-octane to E85 under boost. Knowing E85 was available back home in Dallas gave Kevin the idea to make the switch to corn. At that time, E85 was new to the Dallas market, no one in the area had any expertise with corn. Luckily, Kevin does his own tuning, so he decided to give it a shot and see what happened.
Unlike many other cars, Mustangs...
Unlike many other cars, Mustangs included, ’03-’04 Cobras are ready to make a ton of power right out of the box. With an iron-block and a forged bottom end, there’s no magic to adding power—with larger superchargers, single or twin turbochargers, compound boost, whatever you want. A Cobra engine will support a ton of power—it all depends on the support equipment with which you surround the engine. Since Kevin’s Whipple supercharged Cobra runs on corn, the support equipment, particularly the fuel system, is critical.
E85 requires upgraded fuel system components. Although Kevin had already made fuel system improvements, it takes more E85 volume compared to gas. Therefore, he swapped the existing 60-lb/hr injectors for FRPP 80-lb/hr units and hit the street. "I ran out of fuel at 6,000 rpm while datalogging, so I decided to add a Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump," Kevin says. He bumped up base fuel pressure to 50 psi and made another run around the block. With the larger injectors, Boost-a-Pump, and increased fuel pressure, Kevin was able to run it up to 6,600 rpm with room to spare.
With the E85 conversion sorted out, Kevin has been able to help others with their own conversions. E85 conversions have become so popular, website SVTPerformance.com started a new section catering to the E85 crowdùThe Distillery, for alternative fuels. "I was quickly nominated to become Moderator, which I accepted and continue to help people to this day," Kevin says. He has also written several how-to threads, but strangely enough, his most popular has been How to Polish Your Exhaust. We suppose everyone has a different version of "simple."
Anyway, Kevin's goal for his Cobra is to keep it simple. "Clean, tasteful mods with lots of torque and power, and stock driveability. That's exactly what the car is."
Engine And Drivetrain
Mass Air Stock, DiabloSport MAFia, Metco Motorsports carbon-fiber heat shield
Power Adder Whipple 2.3-liter Gen 2 supercharger w/Reichard Racing 2.6-in pulley, 22 pounds of boost, LFP heat exchanger, LDC Chicago stainless steel heat-exchanger guard, Metco Motorsports Solution double-bearing idlers, and Metco tensioner brace
Fuel System Fore Precision Works fuel hat w/twin Ford GT fuel pumps, dual FPDMs, Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump, Ford Racing Performance Parts 80-lb/hr injectors, and Eaton Aeroquip FC-350 -8 fuel lines
Exhaust Stock Manifolds w/Magnaflow X-shape crossover pipe, and Borla Cat-Back
Transmission T-56 six-speed w/D&D Performance 26-spline input shaft, Lethal Performance throw-out bearing retainer and sleeve, McLeod RXT clutch, MGW shifter, Fiore firewall adjuster and quadrant
Rearend Stock IRS w/3.55 gears, BilletFlow IRS brace, and differential brace
Stock computer, owner-tuned using SCT Pro Racer Package X-Cal II Programmer with an Innovate Motorsports LC-1 wideband
Gauges Stock w/Speed of Sound pillar pod, Speed Hut boost/vacuum and wideband, and Hilton High-Boost gauge overlay
Chassis And Suspension
Caster/Camber Maximum Motorsports
Wheels True Forged Victory 18x9-in, three-piece, fully polished
Tires Goodyear GS-D3 265/35-18
Wheels True Forged Victory 18x10-1/2-in, three-piece, fully-polished
Tires Goodyear GS-D3 295/35-18
Chassis Stiffening Maximum Motorsports full-length subframe connectors
Up to that point, the ’03-’04...
Up to that point, the ’03-’04 Cobra had one of the nicest interiors to grace a Mustang. Therefore, Kevin’s Cobra remains largely stock inside, except for a Speed of Sound pillar pod filled with Speed Hut gauges. Kevin’s Cobra also features a Hilton High-Boost gauge overlay for the factory boost gauge. The overlay goes over the stock boost gauge, which isn’t designed for high-boost applications, allowing Kevin to see 22 pounds of boost on the factory gauge.
Since even into the 2000s,...
Since even into the 2000s, Ford paint colors didn’t match too well from panel to panel, Kevin corrected any factory deviations and painted the underside of the hood, too. Holding up said hood is the job of Redline Tuning’s Elite stainless steel hood lifts. Besides the True Forged wheels, the hood also boasts hood vents from the company. Like our own Editor Turner, Kevin is somewhat of a True Forged junkie, having had several different TF wheel combos, but we can see why on both accounts.