The Ford Mustang Cobra Rs were some of the rarest and most purposely-built Mustangs ever made by Ford.
They were built for only three model years, with the final ones being the only Cobras built in that model year. They were built to race and many of the standard, creature comforts found in other high-performance Mustangs of the day were deleted to save weight. This year at Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we had the opportunity to see all three models of these slippery serpents of Mustang’s racing pedigree.
First, was the 1993 Cobra R. Only 107 were produced and all were painted in Vibrant Red Clearcoat. 1993 was the last year of the Fox-Body Mustang and Ford wanted it to be the best and go out in grand style. It was a bare-bones Mustang designed for the track. It came with roll-up windows, no speakers or radio, no air conditioning, or any power options other than power steering. The seats were the light-weight, non-power seats from the basic Mustang LX model. After all, they would be replaced with a racing seat when raced on the track. The body was stiffened with a strut tower brace and a pair of V-braces normally found only on the convertible to tie the sub frames together for tighter handling.
One area that Ford and SVT went all out was the brakes. At a time when Fox Body Mustangs still had rear drum brakes, the Cobra R came with huge 13-inch Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes in the front and 10.5-inch discs on the back. They were the most expensive brakes ever fitted to a production Mustang at the time. The wheels were the first 17-inch wheels on a production Mustang and nod to the future as they would be optional on the 1994 Mustang GT.
While the 1993 Cobra R had the suspension and brakes to make it handle better on the track, it retained the same 5.0L V-8 engine used in the regular production 1993 Mustang Cobra of that year – rated at 235 hp. Magazine road tests from the time period show the Cobra R was capable of 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds. The quarter mile times were recorded in 14.3 seconds at 99 mph, and it was capable of reaching a top speed of 140 mph.
1995 Cobra R Mustang
Two years later, in part to the unexpected success of the 1993 Cobra R, SVT engineers developed another Cobra R. It was based on the 1995 Cobra. Whereas the normal production Cobras were powered by a 5.0 Liter V-8 producing 240 horsepower, the Cobra R was given the 5.8 Winsor V-8 producing 300 horsepower and a larger 22- gallon fuel tank. The bigger motor and more horsepower called for a heavier-duty 5-speed transmission and the Tremec 3550 5-speed was installed. Once more, this was to be a purpose-built race car and the standard factory power items like air conditioning, power windows, radio and back seat were deleted in the interest of saving weight for the track. Heavy duty progressive-rate springs, larger sway bars, and a front tower strut brace were added to improve its abilities on the racetrack.
The 1995 Cobra Rs were limited to 250 vehicles and again, a single color was chosen. This time they were all Crystal White. During the 1993 Cobra R model run, Ford discovered most of the cars ended up in the hands of collectors and few actually were raced. Not wanting that to happen again, Ford added the provision that a 1995 Cobra R could only be purchased by an individual who held a valid competition license or owned a race team.
Magazine road tests for the 1995 Cobra R showed it was capable of a 0-60 sprint in 5.2 seconds while on its way to a 13.8 second at 102 mph quarter mile. Top speed was listed as 151 mph.
The One And Only 2000 Cobra R Mustang
The final year for the SVT Cobra R was to be 2000 as it returned for another limit run of 300 units. This was to be the only Ford Mustang Cobra produced that year, as the regular production Cobras were canceled due to issues with the 1999 models not producing their rated horsepower. Once more, a single color was used and Performance Red was the chosen exterior color. As in the Cobra R’s previous models, Ford intended this to be a race-ready package and continued with the deletion of rear seat, audio equipment, air conditioning, etc.
Externally, the 2000 Cobra R was distinguished by its tall and wide rear spoiler which provided much needed down force as speeds were capable of being well into the upper three-digit region. It also featured a taller “Power Dome” hood that could be cut out to help reduce engine compartment temperatures. This Cobra R used special Eibach springs which lowered the car 1.5-inches in the front and 1-inch in the back. Underneath were Bilstein shocks and struts to go with 4-piston Brembo brakes.
Once more, SVT went with a bigger engine, this time selecting the 5.4 Liter DOHC 32-Valve V-8 found in the 1999 Lincoln Navigator, but with modified heads to be similar to the later Ford GT models. The 5.4’s were hand-built by SVT employees and featured a new intake manifold, more aggressive camshafts, short-tube headers and a Bassani X-pipe. The engine was rated for 385 horsepower with a 6,500 rpm redline. However, most produced those and slightly higher rear-wheel numbers when measured on a dyno later on.
The Tremec 6-speed manual transmission with 3.55 gears proved to be capable of 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds while finishing the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at nearly 111 mph. The 2000 Cobra R was good for 177 mph as it came from the factory.
With the demise of the SVT Cobra in 2004, the re-introduction of Shelby GT500’s in 2007 and later 2015 Shelby GT-350’s and then the re-emergence of the 2020 GT500 again, you have to wonder if we will see ever see another Cobra R produced by Ford?