1965-2004 Ford Mustang Cobra History: Shelby, SVT, and Cobra II
The Cobra logo appeared for the first time ever on the 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby G.T 350, right in the middle of the steering wheel. Carroll Shelby, who designed the G.T 350, gained automotive popularity thanks in part to his Ford-Powered AC Shelby Cobras; it made sense when he put a hint of those AC Cobras on his newly designed performance Mustangs. The first time the Cobra name appeared on the exterior was on the 1968 G.T. 350 and G.T 500, where the snake and cobra name were on the front fenders, in front of the door. The rear emblem bore the name "Shelby Cobra". The early Cobras were all 'Shelby Mustangs', but they put "Cobra" on the high performance map with an exclamation point.
Over the next few years, the Shelby models would be slightly
overshadowed by other models such as the Mach1 and Boss Mustangs, and
eventually phased out by 1970
By the time that the 1976 Mustang Cobra II came about, even though it had hints of Shelby styling, these were a far cry from the Original Cobras mostly due to the new strict emissions policies. These relatively low performance Cobras may have seemed powerful for the time, but boasting only 120 horsepower at times they were little more than a marketing scheme, and by 1982, the Cobra was gone again. The Cobra would remain absent from the lineup until Ford's new performance division, named SVT (special vehicle team) introduced their 1993 SVT Cobra.
While the first Cobra from SVT only had 10 more horsepower than the GT, the Cobra had accompanying modifications to allow the car to handle far better than the GT, and with the late in 1993 release of the Cobra R, 107 lucky Mustang enthusiasts got themselves a street legal racecar. 1994 brought about a 240 horsepower Cobra in the new SN95 body style, and another Cobra R was released in 1995, this time with 300 horsepower. 1996, 1997, and 1998 offered 305 horsepower Cobras. 1999 brought about a redesign to the Mustang, and the Cobra got an advertised jump to 320 horsepower, but it was proven that they only produced 305, and after a lot of controversy, the Cobras were all recalled for upgrades to make the proper power. In 2000, the third installation of the SVT Cobra R was released, and the 385 horsepower monsters were limited to 300 units, and again were intended for use as race cars.
The Cobra returned for 2001 with the proper 320hp, and while there were some 2002 Cobras sold in Australia, none were sold in the US. The 2003 and 2004 Cobras, unlike the 1999 Cobras, actually were proven to make more than the advertised 390 horsepower, and these new Cobras quickly made a reputation for themselves for being among the baddest cars on the road, returning the Cobra name to the top of the performance car market at long last.