Keepers: Mustang SVT Cobra—Shopping

By Christopher Smith

October 26, 2009

“The fix” are two words perpetually connected with the 1999 SVT Cobra. To make a somewhat confusing story very simple, it goes like this: Design flaws in the intake and exhaust caused the car to make less than the 320 horsepower advertised by Ford. Average losses were in the 30 horsepower range, but some folks claimed as many as 50 ponies were missing from their Cobra. The fallout caused Ford to stop Cobra production, issue a recall, and “fix” the cars already in circulation so they actually produced all 320 horsepower. All Cobra owners were notified of the problem and asked to deliver their cars to the nearest SVT dealer for service, which consisted of a new upper and lower intake manifold, new exhaust system, and a PCM reflash.

Of course, there’s no way to know if every car actually got the repair. A small green/blue dot on the driver’s side of the intake manifold should indicate that a dealer performed the recall, or any Ford dealer can look up the VIN to view the car’s service history. Ford’s old SVT hotline (1-800-FORD-SVT) still works as well, though these days they’re called the Ford Performance Group. They can access the repair history of any SVT vehicle, so long as the work was done by a Ford dealer. Ultimately, healthy 1999 Cobras should make between 270 and 280 rear-wheel horsepower, so if the intake dots are missing or the Ford guys can’t find a service date, a trip to the local dyno can settle the issue once and for all.


Or, you can just skip the 1999 Cobra and go for a 2001 model, which never had the power-loss problems of the 1999. Nor did it have the weaker T-45 transmission or the 28-spline axles, both of which have a reputation for breaking in the 1999 Cobra. You’ll also pay a bit more for 2001 Cobras—$13,000 to $14,000 on average versus $10,000 to $11,000 for the 1999 models. Be very wary of cheap Cobras, for while they’re a tempting purchase, most are either abused beyond belief, or worse yet, a 260-horsepower Mustang GT wearing Cobra cladding and an SVT badge. At least parts are relatively cheap to find, and being a Mustang, the performance aftermarket is a never-ending roller coaster of bolt-on items, from mild cold air kits to wild supercharger packages.

We’ll look at the stupendous SVT Cobra community—and offer some advice on navigating this overwhelming enthusiast arena—in the next Keepers diddy.