1995 Ford Cobra Mustang - Early Adopter
From the December, 2012 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Michael Johnson
Photography by Michael Johnson
Mustangs are often treated like family--or better. Many live a life only to be driven on nice days, and covered in a comfortable garage when not being exercised. Back in the day, we drove the wheels off Fox Mustangs, but nowadays they're getting treated better than the family pet. However, one model still getting little respect is the SN-95 Mustang. Why do you think the '94-'95s are called the red-headed stepchild of late-model Mustangs? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Dan McConnell knows the intricacies of the SN-95 Mustang and has left no bolt unturned on his '95 Cobra.
In this author's eyes, the...
In this author's eyes, the SN-95 bodystyle is hard to match when properly suspended. Dan's Cobra sits in the weeds, which accentuates the car's curves, but the car features a ton of body mods. Those include a Cervini's Auto Designs '00 Cobra R hood, a carbon-fiber windshield cowl, Xenon HID headlights, export taillights, clear side-marker lights, an SVO side exhaust, painted side mirrors, a '96-'98 Cobra rear bumper cover, and the pièce de résistance, HRE 542R wheels. The wheels tie everything into one perfect package. The tasteful '94-'95 Cobra rear wing remains. Of course, all these add-ons accent the factory Rio Red, applied in a three-stage paint process, and enable the car to win countless car show awards, ranging from the Carlisle All Ford Nationals to the 2011 NMRA Columbus Nationals.
"While growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia, I always helped my dad work on cars," Dan says. Dan's father instilled a sense of pride and appreciation for going down the road in something fixed or built with your own hands. Dan's dad also took him to car shows, which also helped fuel his obsession with cars. According to his parents, Dan was even drawing cars by age 3. That skill led him to his current profession as an industrial engineer. Like the rest of us, Dan modified everything he could get his hands on as a child. None of his toys escaped modification, his dirt bike, R/C cars, Hot Wheels cars, and the like. "I even hot-rodded my parents' BBQ grill with a flat-black paint scheme and flames," Dan says. Because of his automotive obsession, Dan originally wanted to work in automotive design, but these days he feels it's sometimes best to leave your hobby separate from your profession.
When Dan reached driving age he wasn't at the wheel of a Mustang, but that didn't stop him from modifying the car. He contemplated a V-8 swap, but decided it was a good idea to start with a V8 car to make things a little easier. He started looking for his next project while in college, and actually had his sights set on a Fox Mustang, specifically a '93 Cobra in Performance red. Of course, he found it hard to find a clean example he could afford on a student's salary. Instead he turned his focus to the original red-headed stepchild, a '94-'95 Mustang. "I didn't realize this unspoken lack of aftermarket support until I got around to adding more power to the car," Dan says. He would have to learn the hard way.
"I bought this '95 Cobra in July 2003 in Ohio after seeing it on AutoTrader," Dan says. It was one of the ads without a picture, but something told Dan he needed to check it out--further proof that sometimes we don't find a car, a car finds us. "One test drive and I couldn't live without it," he adds. Cash changed hands, and the car was his. Getting the car home, Dan set out fixing all the car's shortcomings such as a rusted underbody (the Cobra started life as a Michigan car), miscellaneous dents and dings all around the car, and a general state of neglect the car had been subjected to by its previous owner. Your author definitely knows what Dan is saying. All SN-95s must be in a neglected state at one point or another until an admirer comes along.
Online Dan met guys like Paul Riva, Tom Clark, and Rich Graswald, all 5.0&SF feature-car alums. The '94-'95 Mustang community is like a fraternity, and guys are always willing to help out a fellow '94-'95 owner with whatever problem they may be having. "Their knowledge, opinions, and enthusiasm have helped me more than you can imagine," Dan says. "I have learned more about these cars than I ever thought possible." Still in college at the time, Dan's list of modifications was not long to start out. A set of '95 Cobra R wheels, an SVO/Borla side exhaust, Eibach Pro-Kit springs, an MGW shifter, 3.55 gears, and an Eaton differential was about all his student salary could handle. "I was extremely happy to even own a Mustang at all," Dan says.
Once his college career was over and he had a paying job, further mods were invited to the party like a Cervini's Auto Designs '00 Cobra R hood, a cold-air intake, a smoothed and painted Cobra intake, a Crane 2031 cam, some underhood bling, and '00 Cobra R wheels. Since his spare time wasn't taken up with studying, he took the opportunity to detail and repaint nearly everything that could be unbolted from the car. He also revamped the car's exhaust with a Rodeheaver's Hot Rods custom X-shape crossover pipe and Borla Stinger mufflers to change the car's sound to a "suitably obnoxious tone," as Dan puts it.
In 2007, Dan landed a design job in Pittsburgh, which evidently paid more money, paving the way for further mods. Corbeau TRS seats found their way into the Cobra's interior, and after a trip to the local Flashlight Drags, the speed bug bit Dan in a big way. He added a pair of Holley SysteMax heads, 30-lb/hr injectors, Mac long-tube headers, and a Ram HD clutch to the Cobra. Shortly after this round of modifications, Dan and the Cobra had an unfortunate meeting with a guardrail (As if any guardrail meeting is fortunate). Dan blames loose gravel in a turn for rearranging the Cobra's front end, badly damaging the hood, front bumper, both fenders, and headlights, and deploying both airbags.
"After a few sleepless nights, I got the call that my insurance company would be fixing the car," Dan says. "I breathed a sigh of relief." While the car was being nursed back to health, Dan had the shop also install a '96-'98 Cobra rear bumper with the Cobra script instead of it saying Mustang. He also added chrome '00 Cobra R wheels to the mix at this time, as well. To perhaps help with any gravel traps Dan added Team Z coilovers and control arms, a UPR Products bumpsteer kit, and Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates to the car. Since adding the cam, heads, and other engine mods, he hadn't yet had the car tuned, and if you've owned a '94-'95 car, you know the computers are finicky on modded SN-95s. He finally bit the bullet and had Don LaSota tune the car to make it more fun to drive. However, the dyno tune also uncovered a tired engine that was oil-thirsty, and underpowered.
As with the rest of the car,...
As with the rest of the car, Dan put his ideas to work inside as well. A pair of Corbeau TRS seats with five-point harnesses and harness bars headlines the show, but a plethora of Auto Meter C2 gauges, along with Sinis cluster rings, dress up the gauge presence. A Redline Goods Alcantra shift boot, Bullitt pedals, and carbon-fiber door cups, door handle trim, and console lid finish out the cockpit.
A FordStrokers 347 sits under...
A FordStrokers 347 sits under the Cobra R hood these days, making 342 hp and over 400 lb-ft of torque to the wheels, but Dan has added a supercharger to the mix since this shot was taken. As you can see, the engine compartment is detailed to the max, but one of the custom touches we like is the smoothed and powdercoated Holley SysteMax II intake and Billet Badges-built custom plaque. We also dig the modified Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe. All '94-'95 Mustang engine compartments should be this nice.