Fun Stuff

AutoTrader Find of the Week: A Rare, Brand New 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R

Let me take you back to a world before 700-horsepower production V8s roamed the earth. In the year 1999, the future of the American performance car was bleak. If you wanted an obtainable, usable V8 American muscle car (meaning, not a Corvette or Viper) with more than 300 horsepower, you only had two options.

You could go for a GM F-body, either the Chevrolet Camaro SS or its sister car, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, both of which made 320 horsepower in their top trim levels. Of course, not many people opted for a GM F-Body despite their then-positive critical reception, which ultimately led to the platform’s cancellation in 2002.

Then there was the Ford Mustang Cobra. And yes, you had to go for the top trim Mustang if you wanted over 300 horsepower. The standard GT offered a pedestrian 260 hp, whereas the Cobra claimed 320 hp.

However, despite finally introducing independent rear suspension to the Mustang by successfully refreshing the dated platform it was built on and creating what was widely considered the best handling Mustang to that point, Ford SVT’s Cobra was fed its own teeth by the more powerful Camaro and Trans Am in performance tests.

The claimed 320 horsepower? That was an exaggeration. Actual output of the 1999 Cobra varied from engine to engine, but it was closer to 300 hp.

According to the book Iron Fist, Lead Foot: John Coletti and Ford's "Terminator", the team at Ford SVT was so frustrated and ashamed with the real-world performance of the 1999 Cobra that they recalled it and cancelled the standard 2000 Cobra model altogether.

So, the state of the American muscle car in 1999? One option was circling the drain due to poor sales, and the other just tucked its tail between its legs for making less horsepower than claimed. The outlook was not good.

Ford SVT, however, was not ready to call it quits. Instead, it went back to the drawing board to figure out a way to put some bite back into the snake and win its decades-long street fight with the Camaro.

But while the standard SVT Cobra was shelved, the team did forge ahead with a very special project – the Mustang Cobra R. A previous effort for 1999 was restricted to holders of race licenses. But the 2000 model would be open to the general public.

Only 300 units were ever made, all painted “Performance Red,” with only five destined for Canada – none of which were street-legal at the time. It featured a 5.4-litre DOHC V8 engine, which was exotic for the time despite being sourced from a truck. Its 385-horsepower output was a figure only the Dodge Viper could best.

Instead of going off-the-shelf, SVT used the best name-brand parts it could find. The short shifter is by B&M. The exhaust is a Bassani X-pipe with side exit Borla mufflers. Springs by Eibach. Shocks and struts by Bilstein. Brembo supplied four-piston front calipers and 13-inch brake rotors.

The car features a swath of Cobra R-specific aero, Recaro seats and a race-style fuel cell. Most of the sound deadening is gone. So are the rear seats. And the radio. And the air conditioning.

Truly (this is a criminally offensive cliche, but it really does apply here), this is as close to a race car for the street as you can get.

It embarrassed not just the Camaro but the Corvette as well.

MotorTrend’s acceleration tests “revealed steam catapult-like launches with 60 mph arriving in just 4.4 seconds and the quarter taking 12.9 seconds at 110.8 mph.” Which compared “favorably with the Corvette’s 4.8-second run to 60 and 13.3 at 108.6 through the quarter mile.”

That’s fast, even by today’s standards.

The 2000 Cobra R sounds like a bit of a fluke. Many of its major components were never incorporated into non-R Cobras. However, it is notably the first Mustang in history to feature a six-speed gearbox, and its engine’s basic infrastructure would go on to power the Ford GT and Shelby GT 500. Beefing up the ’99 Cobra’s first-ever independent rear suspension more than proved the concept’s validity in the Mustang.

What the Cobra R did was showcase what Ford SVT was capable of (perhaps to itself more than anyone), and the standard Cobra eventually came back swinging for 2003 with the release of the beloved “Terminator.” It was, in so many ways, the Hellcat of the 2000s and sparked the American horsepower war we are still experiencing today. The Cobra did not terminate the competition. It revived the competition. It terminated the American malaise era once and for all and got buyers excited for accessible American performance again.

The Cobra R was the genesis for revitalizing the American performance car. It’s important. And there is a damn near brand new example sitting at Winding Road Motor Cars in Langley, B.C., right now.

How new is “brand new?” 1,400 miles.

Originally sold in Michigan in 2008, this pristine Cobra R was imported to Canada and subsequently sold to a collector in B.C. According to Winding Road, the Cobra R looked great parked beside this collector’s 9-mile 2005 Ford GT and 6,000-km Ford Lightning.

Winding Road told AutoTrader it took possession of the car when the collector, who had originally purchased it to complete his collection of ’93 and ’95 R models, found a lower mileage 2000 Cobra R to replace this one.


However, Winding Road also pointed out that it’s not unusual for these Cobra Rs to have such low mileage. Many of them ended up with collectors off the hop due to their extremely limited production run. It makes sense. Just 300 units is an unbelievably small production run. For context, every year Ford has produced a Shelby GT 500 since 2007, it made somewhere around 5,000 units. Some years more, some years less. But the point is it’s not an exaggeration to say there are 100 GT 500s for every one Cobra R.

That’s rare.

But it does leave one with a very conflicted feeling. On one hand, it’s great this historically significant Mustang has been so well preserved.

On the other hand, how do you resist roasting the tires off this thing? The sound of that exhaust? The raw feel of a Tremec six-speed manual? No electronic nannies getting in your way? I don’t know. I’m not sure I could resist keeping my mint-condition action figure in the box.

If you’ve got a spare $180,000 burning a hole in your pocket, maybe you can feel the weight of that conundrum firsthand. At least, until you find a lower-mileage example, apparently.