These Cobra Rs are regarded as the best-handling Mustangs ever built. Only 300 were made, making this a rare opportunity to own an example of this street-legal race car.

But this car is special even among that limited group of 300. This car was ordered by the man responsible for dynoing the engines for the Cobra R project. His only request when he ordered his car? To hand-pick the motor and drivetrain with Jack Roush after the motors where dynoed on all 300 Cobra Rs. The result is that his car was fitted with the highest-horsepower motor and most efficient drivetrain in the entire run.


(Introductory description courtesy of Russo and Steele.)


SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R
Years Produced:2000
Number Produced:300
Original List Price:$54,995
SCM Valuation:$25k–$40k
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:N/A
Chassis Number Location:Top of dash, left-hand side, under windshield
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:Mustang Club of America
Alternatives:1995 Ford Mustang Cobra R, 2000 Saleen Mustang S281, 2000 Chevrolet Camaro Berger SS
Investment Grade:C

This Mustang Cobra R, Lot F551, sold for $34,100, including buyer’s premium, at Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 18, 2013.

What’s in a name?

Modern-day Ford enthusiasts hold a few name plates sacred. “Mustang” and “Cobra” immediately provoke boyhood giddiness in even the most reserved of us, but when you add the (sometimes inappropriately overused) “R” as a suffix to any name badge, visions of days spent at a track day dance through our heads like storybook sugar plums at Christmas. 

From a marketing perspective, this one letter can turn an otherwise mundane grocery getter into a track-ready brawler, at least according to the badge on the decklid, and that is where it gets over-used. Oftentimes the “R,” which would traditionally stand for “Race” or “Rally,” only seems to stand for “Really?” 

Building the Cobra R

In 1993, Ford decided to combine all of these nameplates into one limited-production-run model on the outgoing Fox-body platform. The model was worthy of the simple “R” moniker, as it was a race car through and through — you even had to have a racing license to get one. It was stripped to the bone — all weight-saving measures were taken to squeeze out precious tenths in lap times at the expense of comfort. A/C, power windows and power locks were not available, there was no back seat, and all sound deadening was yanked, too. A total of 107 cars were produced with the package, most of which went racing.

Ford offered another R in 1995, again only to racers. This time a 351 Windsor was crammed under the hood — an engine that hadn’t been offered on a Mustang since 1969. Rated at 300 hp, this was a big jump from the 215-hp base model figures. Again, all comforts were gone in the name of all-out performance. Ford built 250 units, and in typical Henry Ford fashion, these cars could be had in any color as long as it was white.

Both of these R models were late to the party when they were introduced, as aftermarket builders such as Saleen had already built higher-horse-tuned Mustangs with the track in mind. Saleen went racing in 1994 with a 351 in their Mustang, and by the time the second R came out, they were offering the general public a version with 371 hp. No racing license needed.

But to Ford guys, these earlier factory racers hold a lot of mystique, and they can be really hard to find today.

Third time’s a charm

For the 2000 model year, Ford and SVT head John Coletti tried the recipe again. The aged push-rod engine was now gone in favor of a reworked 5.4-liter truck engine that produced 385 horsepower. It featured billet steel rods, steel crank, aluminum pistons and all-new heads designed specifically for this car. Those heads worked so well that five years later they were only slightly modified for use on the Ford GT, which boasted 550 horsepower in blower trim.

For the first time, Ford had its own market cornered, as Saleen had only the 4.6-liter single-cam engine in their lineup. Even with the optional supercharger, that setup only produced 350 hp.

But with this factory R, the formula was a little different. The R was still a stripped all-out performance machine, with a quarter-mile time of 13.2 seconds, 1.02 g of grip on the skidpad, and excellent brakes. But there was more flash to go along with it, including a massive wing and removable front splitter. Buyers also got dual airbags and a tilt wheel, as well as power windows, mirrors, locks, and a trunk release. And, most importantly, you didn’t need a competition license to get your hands on this R model, so collectors snatched them up and put them away.

The curse of the instant collectible

Ford didn’t race these cars, at least not on a notable scale that would have given the car credibility with collectors later on or generated a buzz in dealerships. But they didn’t need to, as all were sold before the first one was delivered. 

Overall, this generation of cars from 1994 to 2004 just didn’t tug the heartstrings of modern Mustang enthusiasts. Sure, there were plenty sold and they weren’t all that bad looking, but they weren’t iconic like the 5.0 was, and the car’s design didn’t reach back in time to the classic Mustang like the post-2005 cars did and still do. I think those cars in limited production variants will have much more desirability with collectors later on than examples from this generation, including the Cobra R.

At $34,100, depreciation looms large here. After all, only 300 were made, and each originally stickered at $54,995 (or more, since there were likely dealer markups). But look at the Corvette C4 ZR-1 market — most of them were pickled as instant collectibles, too, and that has kept prices from moving up. There are just too many minty ones available. It’s the same story here. More of the earlier cars saw track duty, which makes really good ones more of a rarity, and that translates to more buyer interest, if not value.

Still, these are great cars, and while we don’t have the exact mileage figure, this car did present well and appeared to have been generally well cared for, as most were. If you were in the market for a Cobra R, there was nothing to turn you off about this one.

Race it or store it?

If more of these had been raced and used up like the 1995 model, I would say to keep this one under wraps. But it’s a tough call. Using up a few of these cars won’t drive prices of remaining cars through the roof either — I’m not sure if anyone would even notice.

For half of its MSRP, this looks well bought, considering all its previous owners only incurred expense and little enjoyment so far. Call it a market price. On the flip side, I don’t see much of a near-term run-up either, and if you can stand stagnant prices and slow market turn, I think the best return would be to fuel it up, install some fresh sticky rubber and head to your nearest track day. After all, if you’re a Ford guy like me, there’s a lot of value in living that dream.&nbsp

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