It's hard to believe we've seen more than a full decade of SN-95 Mustang production pass us by. The '04s are the 11th-and final-model year, with the all-new '05 Mustang debuting later this year. In those 11 years of production, a number of unique Mustangs were produced that stand out from the rest of the herd. Examples include the '95 and '00 Cobra R-Models, the Mach 1s and Bullitts, and those '94-'95 5.0s that combined the new body style with now-classic 5.0L pushrod power.
Another specific car made for just two years belongs on this list, and it's well represented here by Dave Webster's handsome square-edge '01 Cobra, which, like the '99 Cobra, combined all-aluminum, naturally aspirated 4.6 four-valve power with independent rear suspension (IRS). The fact that '94-'98 Cobras had a solid rear axle and the '03-'04 cars have the burly (but heavy iron block) supercharged 4.6 makes these mid-year '99 and '01 models unique. While there was an '00 Cobra, it was an R-Model, so that puts it in an even more unusual stratum. And since only 300 were made, we're focusing on the eminently more obtainable '99 and '01 models.
While all '99 Mustangs were exciting with their extensively restyled skin, the real buzz in Cobra news was the all-new IRS-the first time this type of rear suspension ever appeared in a production Mustang. Designed by Ford Engineer Eric Zinkosky, it used existing shock and spring mounting points for the IRS components. Also part of the package was a Lincoln Mark VIII aluminum differential (an 8.8-inch carrier with 3.27:1 gears), new short (upper) and long (lower) suspension arms, uprights, and an antisway bar along with various bearings and links. The only other carry-over parts were the Lincoln Mark VIII wheel bearings; no MN-12 Thunderbird ('89-'97) parts were used in the Cobra IRS. The whole setup was bolted to a tubular steel subframe, which in turn mounted to the car's unibody using existing suspension attachment points and two bolt holes and weld nuts near the Quad Shock mounting holes. The subframe was also mounted on isolating cushions and featured camber and toe adjustments. Although the IRS was 125 pounds heavier than a solid 8.8-inch rearend, the added sophistication provided by the IRS made these Cobras a welcome variation on the modern Mustang theme for both the street or open highway.
Dave's daily driver is one of 7,251 Cobras made in 2001 (8,095 were produced in 1999). When we caught the car with our cameras at the '03 Mustang Roundup in Bellevue, Washington, Dave was still enjoying the car in mostly stock form, having cruised it up the highway from Newburg, Oregon. Currently, its look is more appealing with a set of Eibach springs that trim the ride height by 111/42 inches and a set of 17x9.5-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels that are home to Goodyear Eagle F1 skins. The car's already hardy handling is helped by those tires that are significantly fatter than stock at 275/40ZR17 up front and 315/35ZR17 out back.
It all adds up to a special sort of Mustang we'd be proud to drive anywhere and anytime.