In 1993, Ford’s Special Vehicles Team (SVT) debuted the SVT Mustang Cobra. Right alongside it was the SVT Cobra R. Though the Cobra became a regular feature in the Mustang lineup, the Cobra R was only offered for three years: 1993, 1995, and 2000.
All three Mustang Cobra R years are different, and represent different generations. 1993 was the tail end of the Fox Body generation. In 1995, the Cobra R was an SN95 Mustang. The final Cobra R, released in 2000, represented the New Edge generation. Exceptionally limited in quantity, Cobra Rs are extremely difficult to find.
What Is a Cobra R?
The “R” in Cobra R stands for race-ready, though they’re also street legal. All SVT Cobra Mustangs are equipped for high-performance, but the SVT Cobra Rs were designed to represent the pinnacle of performance.
The Cobra R is a dedicated track car, and as such it lacks many of the amenities you’d find in a GT or Cobra. For example, the R didn’t come with a radio, speakers, an air conditioner, foglights, or even a rear seat. Everything that could be cut to reduce the R’s weight, was.
The equipment varied by year, but generally was the best that Ford had to offer.
In 1993, several Cobra Rs were purchased by collectors and never driven. To combat that, in 1995 and 2000, you needed a valid racing license to buy a Cobra R.
The reason why there were such long stretches between production is the same reason the Cobra R is still valued today. When asked how he knew it was time to develop a new Cobra R, John Coletti, head of SVT, responded, “When there’s a need, and when the new one will be able to outshine the old one by far.”
1993 SVT Cobra R
The 1993 SVT Cobra R was the first ever produced. The SVT team was created in 1991, but 1993 was when their first round of vehicles debuted: The SVT Cobra, the SVT Lightning, and the SVT Cobra R.
The ‘93 Cobra R was designed to take the Fox Body generation out in style. Unfortunately, of the 107 produced, many were purchased by collectors. That left only a few to compete in the International Motor Sports Association and the Sports Car Club of America Series.
While the SVT Cobra came in Black, Vibrant Red, and Teal, the Cobra R was only available in Vibrant Red. It also came with the same plain gray cloth interior that the LX trim came with. Right down to the manual-only seat options. Considering the Cobra R was the most expensive Mustang available at $25,692, it came with no amenities.
What it did come with was an impressive list of additional equipment:
- A strut tower brace
- Subframe connectors
- Stiff Eibach springs
- Koni adjustable shocks and struts
- 13” vented front rotors and 10.5” vented rear rotors
- A unique radiator
- A purge tank
- Power steering cooler
- An engine oil cooler
SVT also borrowed some equipment from the yet-to-be-released SN95 Mustang. 17” 5-lug wheels and the 1994 Mustang’s lower control arms improved the handling of the SVT Cobra R.
1995 SVT Cobra R
You needed a valid competition license to buy a 1995 Cobra R, a provision added to make sure these Mustangs were driven, and driven hard. SVT made this a requirement in response to collectors buying up the 1993 Cobra R.
SVT also had a response prepared for people who wanted to drive a Cobra R. They more than doubled the production number of the ‘93. Upping production from 107 to 250 and restricting the purchasing of those 250 meant more actually got to see the track.
Drivers had also been unhappy that the 1993 Cobra R used the same engine as the Cobra. They argued that for the premium price, they should get a premium engine. The SVT team was happy to oblige. While the Cobra came with a perfectly respectable 5.0L engine, the Cobra R came with an impressive 5.8L. To help feed this beast of an engine, SVT also included a larger fuel supply.
Like the 1993 Cobra R, the ‘95 also came with reduced amenities. You could only purchase the Cobra R in Crystal White (while the non-race-spec Cobra also came in Rio Red and Black). It came without a backseat, without power options, and even without a radio. The added equipment more than made up for this loss, and was significantly different from 1993s.
Additional Equipment Included:
- A Tremec 3550 trans (instead of the T-5)
- A 5.8L V8 engine
- 22-Gallon fuel tank
- Heavy-duty progressive springs
- Front strut tower brace
- Heavy-duty stabilizer bars
2000 SVT Cobra R
2000 would be the last year that the SVT team would make a Cobra R, and they didn’t hold back. Once again, they limited purchases to those with a valid competition licence and increased production to 300.
John Coletti canceled the 2000 Cobra due to subpar performance. This speaks to the integrity and values of the SVT team, but also leaves us without a non-race spec Cobra to compare to for this year.
Like previous Cobra Rs, the 2000 came without any comfort features, in one color (Performance Red), and with a devastatingly good list of additional equipment.
The 2000 Cobra R came with:
- A 5.4L DOHC V8 engine
- Tremec’s T-56 transmission
- 13” front Brembo vented disc brakes
- Heavy-duty Eibach shocks and springs
- Hydro-mechanical limited-slip differential
- Special hood (domed to clear the engine)
- Borla side exhaust
- Unique rear wing
- 18” five-spoke wheels
- Front splitter (removable)
- Blacked-out headlights
- B&M Ripper shifter
- McLeod aluminum flywheel
This Cobra R had a lot of exterior modifications that previous Cobra Rs did not, and has received a lot of both positive and negative attention for this.
Which Cobra R Is the Best?
With only 3 years of production stretched across 3 Mustang generations, it’s tough to say which Cobra R is best.
In terms of rarity, the 1993 Cobra R is by far the rarest. It’s also the lightest.
The ‘95 Cobra R has the largest engine, and the 2000 Cobra R was the most unique.
Here’s how the rest of their specs compare:
SVT Cobra R Specs
|Spec||1993 Cobra R||1995 Cobra R||2000 Cobra R
||4.9L OHV V8
||5.8L OHV V8
||5.4L DOHC V8
||235 hp @ 4,600 RPM
||300 hp @ 4,800 RPM
||385 hp @ 6,250 RPM
||280 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
||365 lb-ft @ 3,750 RPM
||385 lb-ft @ 4,250 RPM
|Price Adjusted for Inflation
Deciding on the best Cobra R ultimately depends on what your metric is. You can be certain that all three SVT Cobra Rs were incredible performance vehicles for their time.
Image Credit: Creative Commons
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