Today’s V8 Ford Mustang has no shortage of fans, and for good reason. As a simple day-to-day road car, it’s one of the most fun options for the dollar, whilst being a perfectly capable package for most occasions. But is there anything in the back-catalogue worth looking at?
Well how about the last time the Mustang was sold here by Ford Australia? Makes sense on paper, even if it was a little bit of a surprise offering at the time, given the decent V8-powered Falcons available in the Ford line-up, such as XR8 and Tickford T-Series.
Nevertheless, the 2001 Ford Mustang Cobra was a limited-production special, hand-converted by Tickford Vehicle Engineering and offered as both coupe and convertible. With a five-speed manual only, its 4.6-litre twin-cam V8 sent a meaty 240kW to the rear wheels only. Zero to 100km/h took 5.3sec, the quarter 13.5sec – not bad for the time.
Furthermore, Ford Australia was chosen to convert right-hook Mustangs for the world at the time so, in any country, any Mustang sold right-hand drive had passed through Aussie hands right here in Melbourne.
The Australian-spec Mustangs, all of which were Mustang Cobras, even boast some international collectible credentials if you get into the VIN numbers. Amongst American Ford SVT (Special Vehicle Team) circles, our 2002 and 2003 Mustangs are a bit of a myth and don’t officially exist on SVT production records. Although they are recorded as 2002 Cobras on Ford’s corporate sales data as a special export batch, after their manufacture year’s production had ended.
But wait, does that mean we got sold old stock? Well, unfortunately yes. Simplistically, the Mustang Cobra we got was a high-spec variant of the facelifted SN-95 Mustang which originally launched in the US in 1994. Tickford extensively modified local cars and it is remembered as a hugely fun drive with a great soundtrack, if albeit ageing and crude. Grey market examples had been accessible since new, which has kept used values between $20K-$30K for years, despite costing near $90,000 new. The 2002 batch took until the following year to be sold, discounted as heavily as $60K. Exact numbers sold are debated, but it’s generally accepted around 250 were delivered in two batches between 2001 and 2002.
2001 Ford Mustang Cobra: What to check
Body & Chassis
These Mustangs are a bit of an oddity, in that they’ve existed amongst niche enthusiasts mostly outside mainstream collectors virtually since new. Which means that most of the ones on the market are in very presentable condition, and seemingly in decent nick. Rust shouldn’t be an issue the way of older chrome bumper cars, but plastic bumpers and body panels will be the first to fade, indicating a life lived outdoors. If inspecting a convertible, check rain channels and gutters for corrosion where water has been trapped, and test the roof as the mechanism is known to be problematic. Check for fluid on mechanisms and oily odour during and after use.
Engine & Transmission
Routine maintenance makes for mostly trouble-free motoring. In the US these same engines saw plenty of use in emergency service vehicles; spinning up many hundreds of thousands of miles is commonplace. Look for service history and receipts. Engines have been known to use a lot of oil, although this is far more common in earlier ’93-’95 engines. Most Australian-delivered cars have led fairly pampered lives with most showing well under 100,000km. Check for clutch slip as replacing them is expensive.
Suspension & Brakes
The US Mustang Cobra had benefited from independent rear suspension since 1999, something that thankfully transferred over to our Australian-delivered examples. In design, it was very similar to the AU Falcon’s multi-link system of the same era. Look for the usual things like worn out bushings; noisy differential or tail shaft wear can afflict cars that have seen heavy use.
Check that the ABS works (if you can...) as it’s been known to fail. It is also worth noting that Tickford’s fettling went far beyond a simple cut-and-shut right-hook conversion. The entire driveline was moved back for better weight distribution, with modifications to the floorpan to create a larger passenger footwell; Australian cars also utilised 150 new bespoke components. Some of these components will not be in production anymore.
Interior & Electrics
Ensure all interior trim pieces are intact, in place and secure. Cars that have lived outside will be prone to materials fading given the harsh Australian sun. Even if they have lived a life indoors, listen for rattles, whilst also checking all electronic amenities are functioning as intended.
Given their scarcity in Australia plus their niche and mostly enthusiast ownership, most examples on the market have been spared significant aftermarket fettling. Of course, simple bolt-on mods are fairly commonplace with wheels and lowered suspension, going on to simple intakes and ECU flash-tunes.
If you are of a larger stature, consider seeking an aftermarket seat. The OEM seats are tiny, by Aussie standards let alone the Americans they were designed for. In the US where these cars are far more common and affordable, they are frequently candidates for grassroots motorsport builds so there is a well-supported aftermarket available if you look overseas.
2001 Ford Mustang Cobra Specs
Body 2-door, 2+2-seat coupe
Engine 4601cc V8, DOHC, 32v
Power 240kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 430Nm @ 4750rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Used Range $20,000-$45,000
Three others you should consider:
1. 2007 Audi S5 Coupe
Handsome, chiselled Germanic styling has aged well, while under the bonnet lives a high-revving 4.2-litre atmo V8 producing 260kW and 440Nm. Quattro AWD meant 100km/h was dispatched in 5.1sec. Had for as cheap as $25K; manual too.
2. 2001-2006 Holden Monaro
Easily one of the sexiest cars ever made in Oz, you can get yourself a tidy manual example of Holden’s clean-lined two-door for about $30K. We swoon most over the V2 Series III with the 245kW LS1, before Holden uglied it up with bonnet nostrils.
3. 1999 Jaguar XK8
With just 216kW from its 4.0-litre V8, Jaguar’s luxo coupe could hit 100km/h in an admittedly quite sluggish 7.2sec – but only more time to turn heads with those swoopy good looks. Auto only, $35K gets you a tidy one. Budget for roadside assistance...