If I asked you to name a track-oriented Ford, you’d probably say the GT350R, the 526 horsepower, 8200 rpm shouter, or the $450,000 GT, the car that returned to Le Mans after disappearing for 50 years and whooped everyone there. Heck, even the Focus RS or ST. But what if I told you that there was a Ford that came before all of them, the car that started to give a bright red (and white) middle finger to the stereotype “American cars can’t turn”? Well, there was a car that did just that: The Cobra R. Even though it was the GT350R before the GT350R even existed, it was one of only two real, street ready Mustangs (the other being the GT350 from the 60s) to rightfully challenge the world on both a drag strip and a race track.
First Gen (1993)
The R was introduced for the Ford Mustang Cobra in 1993. It was the typical “less weight to go fast” strategy. So, here is what SVT (Special Vehicle Team) did to make the first R
-Removal the radio, speaker, antennae, etc.
-All adjustments are now manual (roll up windows, manual mirrors, doorlocks, things of that nature)
-Took out the rear seat
-Beefed up the front and rear suspension
-Gave it new, 6 spoke alloy wheels
Funny enough, the car still had power steering, but all in, it saved 450 pounds compared to the standard Cobra. It weighs 3,125 pounds
Power was deliviered by a 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 making 235 HP routed through a 5 speed manual going to the rear wheels (which was a live axle, coil rather than leaf). All in, it did 0-60 in 5.7 seconds and topped out at 140 mph, which is pretty respectable for the time (a 1993 LT-1 Corvette did 0-60 in 5.2 seconds and topped out at 151, which made 330 HP from it’s 5.7L V8).
Only 107 units were built and all were finished in red as seen above
Second Gen: 1995
When the original R went out of production, sales were so good, SVT made another one. Based upon the SN-95 chassis, the R, like it’s predecessor, shed a lot of weight to make up for the fact it was bigger and heavier than the last generation. The 5.0L unit was replaced by a bigger 5.8L V8 making 300 HP and 365 LB-FT. Of course, more power and less weight equals to faster acceleration. The 1995 Cobra R did 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, and tops out at 151 mph. The ‘95 Cobra R had such a high demand, that all 250 cars were sold 5 days after SVT had released it. But you couldn’t just go out and buy one. In fact, you had to have a racing license and had to tell SVT “This won’t end up a garage queen, I’ll use it for it’s intended purpose.” Then, if you just about convince SVT your plans for the R, you then had to cough up the $35,000 ($56,000 in today’s money).
Fun fact: This is the only Cobra R not to come in red, instead, all 250 cars were white
Third Gen: 2000
The last car to wear the infamous red “R” badge, the 2000 Cobra R was the fastest, best handling, biggest winged Mustang ever (Even the GT350R can’t compete). The 2000 Cobra R is easily the most sought after modern Mustangs of all time. With only 300 ever built, all in red like the picture above. The 2000 R is the most powerful Cobra R ever built too, with 385 side pipe exiting horsepower coming from it’s naturally aspirated, 5.4L V8. This is the first Cobra to also have a 6 speed manual. This was America’s GT3RS before the GT3RS was really even a thing. You see the impossible to miss spoiler, and the splitter that would amputate people right at their ankles? It’s all functional (even though it’s non-adjustable.) Like it’s grandparents, the 2000 R also shaved weight too. At one point, the car wasn’t even going to have windscreen wipers! WINDSCREEN WIPERS! That’s how desperate they were to save weight. With this latest hurrah of more power and less weight, it pays off. The R does 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and hits a top speed of 175 mph. The R was priced at $54,995 ($78,892 in today’s money)
Fun fact: The 2000 Cobra R had independent rear suspension, and (I’m not sure) it appeared to have control arms (or double wishbone) at the rear, while MacPherson Struts hold up the front. Go and read this Motor Trend article and tell me what you think.
That’ll wrap things up for this brief look at America’s forgotten track star. If you liked it, let me know down below and if you have any suggestions for future blogposts, let me know, I would love to hear them. Until next time, I will see you later. Have a good one!