The 1994 to 2004 Ford Mustang gets overshadowed by the Fox Body and the 2005 to 2014 cars. Yet it offered a giant leap forward in performance over the Fox Body and provides a much more affordable option to the newer Mustangs. The best cars of the bunch are the 2003 to 2004 Cobras equipped with a supercharged 4.6-liter V8 engine.
Recently, Late Model Restorations featured this Competition Orange Ford Mustang Cobra on their YouTube channel. It’s bone stock except for the Nitto NT555 D2 tires and Ford Racing differential cover. Owned by Tony Messina, it’s traveled only 23K miles since it left the factory and still looks brand new.
It also runs as good as it looks, with a throaty but subtle rumble from the exhaust. Rated at 390 horsepower, the free-revving engine breathes through a 32-valve DOHC cylinder head and redlines at 6,100 RPM. There’s torque everywhere, peaking at 390 pound-feet, providing a nice, flat powerband.
Nicknamed the “Terminator” by the SVT engineers, the 2003 to 2004 Cobras are rumored to make more horsepower than advertised. It’s possible Ford downplayed the power numbers after the fiasco with the 1999 Cobra, which made only 285 horsepower instead of the claimed 320. But in any case, the 2004 Cobra rips off a pair of 394 horsepower dyno runs. Torque is a healthy 377 pound-feet at 3,100 RPM. Both numbers are impressive for an almost 20-year-old car and better than a similar 2003 Mustang Cobra with only 2,500 miles on the odometer.
Equally impressive is the Mustang Cobra’s hardware. In addition to the 32-valve DOHC V8, Ford added an Eaton M-112 roots-type supercharger. A Tremec T-56 6-speed manual transmission puts the power down to an independent rear suspension and differential with a 3.55:1 final-drive ratio.
The 2004 Mustang Cobra is arguably not as refined as a modern Ford Mustang, but its performance is not far off. It would be cool to see a drag race with Mustangs from different eras, like a modern GT and a 1970 Boss 302, or even up against a Mustang Mach-E like this race last summer.