The Missing Link : From land down under

Cobra, a name synonymous with power, performance and stunning looks.
But whats in a name? For that we have to go back to 1946, long before Carroll Shelby had even sat in the seat of his first racecar. Crosley Motors, an automotive manufacture based out of Ohio, primarily making sub-compact cars. If you are wondering where you have heard the name Crosely before its likely from the Corsley Broadcasting Company, also owning the Cincinnati Reds in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Anyways, Crosley Motors developed a engine in which its block was made from brazed copper rather than traditional iron casting. this is how they came up with the name COpper BRAzed, forming the word COBRA. Being made from copper made these engines very light and therefore they found their way into some racecars. Many of which would have surely been on field when Carroll Shelby was beginning his racing career.
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Fast forward to 1963 when Carroll had just made the deal with AC cars and Ford to supply engines for his new car, all he needed was a name. The story Carroll told was he had a dream one night and saw the word COBRA on the front of a car, woke up, wrote it on a note pad, went back to sleep, and when he woke up he saw the word cobra on the pad and knew thats what he needed to name it. Many see this as a snakeoil story, while it was more likely he had seen the name years before when racing with CoBra powered cars, we may never know the truth.
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Obviously the name stuck and became a legend, and in 1965 Shelby sold the name COBRA to Ford Motor Company, which is also why the official name of Shelby Roadsters are CSX-XXXX depending on what series they were built in, although they will have a tough time getting everyone to call these iconic cars either AC Cobras, or Shelby Cobras. This is also why Ford called their 428 ci engines the Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet.

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As everyone knows the 70s in america were dim as far as cars go, and ford attempted to revive the name COBRA in a effort to fluff some sale. It didn’t make power, didn’t have much performance, and didn’t have stunning looks, but it wore the name none the less, the COBRA II was nothing more than some badging and bolt on body modifications. Even still in 1978 Ford wasn’t done shaking the COBRA name down for all its worth, they created the Mustang II King Cobra. A package only available on the v8 equipped Mustang IIs, it featured things like a snake on the hood, a 5.0 engine, adjustable shocks and disc brakes. Still a far cry from the Cobras of a decade before.
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It wasn’t until 1993 that Ford again went into the treasure chest to find the COBRA name, only this time it was a worthy venture. Ford started the SVT(special vehicle team) in a response to Chevrolet producing cars like the ZR1 corvette, and 454SS truck. The first products made by SVT were the 1993 Cobra and 1993 Lightning, both classics today.
The 93 Cobra had a full GT40 engine upgrade, .480 lift cam, roller rockers, tuned exhaust, shocks and struts made by Tokico, and lastly and finally a running pony on the front. The Cobra was back. It was a success, Ford new it and also released a special edition the car called the Cobra R. The R was amped up, stripped down and rigid, setup to tack on the worlds best sports cars the car was the final and best incarnation of the 14 year long run of the foxbody mustang. It was so serious Ford required that the original buyer have a valid racing license.
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In 1994 Ford had its first major restyle on the Mustang since 1979, the chassis was still very much the same but the body chassis update would be known as SN-95. The SN-95 ran from 1994 to 2004 with updates in 1996 and 1999(New Edge styling).
1994 didn’t only bring a new Mustang but also a new Cobra. The 94 cobra used the same powerplant as the 93 cobra, but was offered in a convertible and had many cobra unique interior upgrades. the 95 cobra was essential the same as the 94, but in 95 they offered a Cobra R again. the 95 R still had a small block ford but it used a 351 marine based shortblock fitted with GT40 heads and roller rockers, it was completely stripped down. no ac, power locks, power windows, foglights, electric mirrors, or power seats. It also used a much more robust Tremec 3550 transmission and a 22 gallon fuel tank.  This was Ford at its best but there was more to come!

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1996 brought many changes, while Chevrolet was and still is using pushrod engines for its cars, ford began developing performance DOHC rear wheel drive power plants in the early 90s and some Lincolns used them as early as 1993. It was only a matter of time before the Mustangs would get them and in 1996 they did. Both the GT and the Cobras received Ford Modular engines, The GT getting a single overhead cam 4.6 and the cobra equipped with a 305HP hand built dual overhead cam aluminum 4.6l V8. Ford finally had what it needed to compete with Chevrolet’s LT1, but was it too late? in 1997 Chevy released its LS1 making 345hp. Ford needed a revision if it wanted to stay in the fight.
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In 1999 Ford brought a new style to the Mustang and even more upgrades to the Cobra, at least they said they did. The 1999 Cobra engine was still hand built like the 96 to 98, but this time it used a single intake port head design known as the “C” head. The New Edge Cobra also featured coil on plug ignition, returnless fuel systems and independent rear suspension. All of these upgrades should have yielded huge power upgrades over the old SN95 engine, Ford had rated the engine at 320hp, some 15 hp more than the previous engine. As consumers got their hands on these 99 Cobras the reality of the new engine not making the claimed power set in and owners were seriously upset. A class action lawsuit was on Ford’s desk and they had to come up with a solution quick. The solution? Put a stop sale on all unsold 99 Cobras on dealership lots, and issue a recall to replace the intake manifold, engine control computer, and cat back exhaust with revised parts that would bring the car to a true 320hp at the crank shaft. Had this damaged the Cobra name too much? Would Ford make a 2000 Cobra? Could they rescue the once great name from the ashes of a PR nightmare? They could try, but they would need something incredible.
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As you know modern car companies release a car model year in the year before. So in 1999, 2000 model cars were being allocated and literature as well as advertisements were being sent to dealers. For Ford this wasn’t always the best thing, as in 1999 dealers were taking orders for the upcoming 2000 Cobra, which the marketing department at Ford had made before the 1999 stop sale was issued. Ford had to make a last minute decision and opted to drop the Cobra from the 2000 model lineup because of the bad PR and not enough time to iron out all the fixes needed to make another model year. But the name wasn’t going to die out like that, there was another project that had been in the making for years. The 2000 Cobra R.
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The 2000 Cobra R was the saving grace of Ford, it was the insane build that Ford needed to save the Cobra name and its image after being portrayed as lying about its top shelf car’s performance. The 2000 R was built as its own thing, with a enthusiast dedicated team who bought only the parts they needed for the project without clouding any compromise for the sake of a better bottom line for Ford as a whole. They would contract Recaro, Brembo, McLeod, Eibach, BF Goodrich, Tremec, Borla, Dana, Federal Mogul, K&N as well as many others to make this the best mustang yet. The engine was started as a 5.4L block pulled from the trition truck line, mated with heads made for the Cobra R specifically, later used on the 05-06 Ford GT. Inside the block were forged piston, rods, and crank shaft. it used a baffled large capacity oil pan, Air was taken in through the 8 stack, trumpet style intake, and exhaust was dispensed through shorty headers, a Bassani X pipe, and side exit Borla exhaust. On the trunk was a fixed wing, on the front bumper was a removable splitter, and in the cockpit was nothing but a couple of Recaro seats, a steering wheel and a shifter. The brakes were Brembo, the rear end was a hydro locking differential. It was hardcore. With the 2000 R making a better impression than the year before, Ford had enough time to dial in the standard Cobra model and was ready to give it another go in 2001.
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In 2001 the changes made to the Cobra were mostly cosmetic but refined the car to compete in the 21st century. The engine block was changed to a North American made unit from the Italian forged piece found in the DOHC cars from 93 to 99. The transmission was also updated to the stronger Tremec made 3560. As far as the cosmetics went, they included a rear bumper that said COBRA, seats finished in suede and a snake insignia embroidered in the back piece, a dual din radio, and a nicer steering wheel.
While all these pieces of the puzzle made for a better picture they werent enough to compete with the much more powerful Z28 or SS Camaro, much less the Corvette. Ford needed to pick up the pieces. The Cobra needed something like the 2000 R to bring to the masses not just a niche market.
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Which brings us to the whole writing of this blog. The 2002 Cobra, with only 100 units produced its not surprising when I see or hear young and old mustang enthusiasts saying it doesn’t exist or that it wasn’t actually a Cobra. I was inspired to write today’s blog because of a customer who contacted me wanting to buy a set of wheels for his 2002 Cobra, last year. I like most of the mustang world had and still have limited knowledge of these cars but have learned enough that I feel confident in sharing info here. In the beginning, prior to this customer contacting me I thought all the 02 Cobras were yellow coupes, made in the states and shipped to OZ. Ive since learned that there are plenty of colors, Ford true blue, yellow, red, silver, black and even green. I also have learned they came in coupe as well as convertible form. The cars were shipped from America to a company in Australia called Tickford, Similar to the function of Roush in America. The cars left the states largely unfinished, with no holes in the firewall, or dash at all in the car, Tickford would make 250 different modifications, spending more than 4 million USD, to convert the 250 cars. A few of the known modifications were moving the steering wheel to the right hand side of the car, modifying the engine mounts to make way for steering shafts, plumbing heater hoses to the other side, and lastly placing the mid level running lights in the bumper. All of these modifications led to a very expensive price tag. with the coupe models selling for a STEEP $85k AUS, or ~ $66k USD, it made for a tough sale and at the time most Australians saw it as a lesser car than the reigning Holden Monaro. While the info on the car is limited the motive for making it isn’t, it didn’t cost Ford of America anything to send some half finished cars from the year before to a company wanting to invest millions into a project, all so that Ford Australia could compete with the predecessor to the Pontiac GTO.
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With a solid year for Ford to make way for the 2003 Cobra, the public was expecting great things, as Chevy had dropped its Camaro in 2002, and the corvette still fetching a premium most buyers didn’t want to pay or simply wanted the room pony cars were know to offer. All these factors plus the insane power and handling offered from the 2003 Cobra solidified its namestake as a COBRA and earned it the well known nickname Terminator.
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Today, Cobra is just as relevant as ever, with Ford’s retro styling of the mid 2000s came the retro naming, using the snake and the name every chance they get be it on the 2007-2014 GT500 or the 2016 to current GT350, the cobra name isn’t going any where.
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Mustang Homecoming Shelby Style

Im not sure how active your local Mustang Club is, but here in Oklahoma City and the surrounding metro its big, really big. Over the years of being into Mustangs and meeting people in other regions, I’ve learned that municipalities no matter the size are rarely supportive of any club that has to do with motoring. While this is the case with most cities, Mustang, Oklahoma is a different case, with most the town and residents in the town having a total love addiction to Ford Mustangs. Clearly because of the name of the city. Anyways, today was Mustang High Schools Homecoming, located about 15-20 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City, and they asked the Oklahoma Mustang Club to bring a few Mustang convertibles out to the Homecoming for the Homecoming Court to pose with. We Happily Obliged!

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What does a LeMans Legend and a Orange Mustang have in common?

Yesterday I told you about the late great Hugh Hefner and the Playmate Pink cars.
Today I’m going to tell you about one of America’s greatest racing drivers and his orange cars. trust me you’ll like this one.
IMG_187399-01 Mustang GT prepared for Bondurant Racing School^

The Legend is Bob Bondurant, but ill be talking about many famous people today. Paul Newman, Carroll Shelby, Robert Wagner, James Garner, Dan Gurney, and lastly Bob Bondurant. A quick bio on Bondurant to bring you up to speed, he was born in 1933, and is still alive. Like most of the male generation then speed and searching for speed was at its peak after WW2 in America with huge names like Vic Edelbrock setting up shop and teens and 20 somethings everywhere, Bondurant included, searching for ways to push the boundaries of fast. In 1951, Bob Bondurant found himself racing Indian motorcycles around dirt oval tracks in Los Angeles, at the age of 18. From there his interests fell on 4 wheels and by 1959 he had won the West Coast “B” Production Championship and the Corvette Driver of the Year Award. Before I can go on I have to tell you about another American pushing the envelope of speed but coming from a very different background.
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Bondurant’s early years on his indian and in is C1 Corvette^

Carroll Shelby, a now household name, but most people cant say why. Shelby born in 1923, in Leesburg, Texas… Google it. Google “Leesburg, Texas” the information is SERIOUSLY limited. Growing up my mom would always tell anyone with ears where she was from she would always say,” I am from Okemah, Oklahoma. We didn’t even have a stoplight!” Ok sure mom, you were from a small town but atleast it was a town! Leesburg, Texas isn’t even a incorporated town. Shelby was born with a heart valve leakage, but that didn’t stop him from joining the Army Aircorp at age 18, and served during WW2 as a test pilot and instructor. While stationed at what is now Lackland Air Force Base, Shelby got married and had 2 children, after reaching the rank of staff sergeant pilot he was honorably discharged.  Bouncing around jobs from 1947 til 1952, Shelby would try his hand at a few things, first being a Oil field roughneck, and later a Chicken farmer, Carroll couldn’t quite find his life’s calling. That was until one day when his friend Ed Wilkins invited him to take a trip to a road race in Norman, Oklahoma. They both took the 3 hour drive with a MG-TC racecar in tow. Shelby, now 29 had never raced anything much less a British sports car. Shelby was out armed, most of the field being Jaguars and other high end high powered cars, but he won. twice. Soon he was driving Jaguars and racing as much as his wallet would allow. Then he was noticed and a team owned by John Wyer put him in their Aston Martin DB3S racecar at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a HUGE break for Carroll. Although he lost that race at Sebring, his signature look of wearing farmers overalls and being a great on track driver solidified his racing career and opened up a HUGE window of opportunity, he would go on to drive the hottest and most iconic sports cars of all time, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Allards, and Maserati Birdcages as well as Ferrari 375 GP roadster. But the biggest accomplishment of Carroll’s life was yet to come. the reason Shelby is a household name came in 1959, he won the biggest race in the world, the 24 hours of LeMans. Shortly after the race and after many nitroglycerine pills, Shelby hung up the driving suit and retired from racing.
But he wasn’t gone yet.

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The MG that Carroll Shelby drove to a win in Norman, OK^

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Carroll Shelby in a early Maserati racecar^
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Carroll behind the wheel of the DBR1 car as he wins the 24hours of LeMans^
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Shelby, Wyer and team celebrating their win at LeMans^
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Photo that Shelby signed, of him in the winners circle of LeMans^
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Wyer and Shelby
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Shelby in his normal chicken farmer attire^
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In action photo of Shelby behind the wheel of the DBR1^
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Early photo of Carroll
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Shelby wins^

Shelby knew that he had shocked the world, and he knew that the American public wanted to celebrate with him and maybe even a few American drivers. So he got to work. Shelby wanted to beat the corvette in the SCCA championships. He found a company in England named AC, and struck a deal with ford to have them supply the new 260c.i. V8 and voila he had a winner. But he knew he needed drivers if he was going to take it further, in 1963 Carroll had convinced Bob Bondurant to come race for him.
They won everything. Shelby and Shelby American was unstoppable, in 1964 and 1965 dan gurney and Bob Bondurant behind the wheel of a 289 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe won their class at LeMans, beating out all of the Ferrari 250 GTO cars. THIS was huge. *1964 was also the first year of the Ford GT, but was not yet refined by Shelby.
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Early AC Bristol^
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AC Bristol Coupe^
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late Shelby Cobra, this particular one has a 427 Ford in it^
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After winning LeMans, Shelby rubbed elbows with all of the Hollywood elite including Steve McQueen as seen here^
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Bob Bondurant behind the wheel of this Shelby Daytona Coupe^
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Shelby Daytona Coupe racing at the 24Hours of LeMans
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Daytona Coupe blasting around the LeMans race track^
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Bob Bondurant being coached up by Carroll Shelby^

American pride was beaming and Shelby with the help of his racers was at the height of his game. in1965 Ford was upset that their GT40s had not even finished the race at LeMans and handed the reigns over to Shelby, would Shelby have enough time in the 4 months to fix all that was needed to get a overall win at the BIGGEST RACE IN THE WORLD? sadly no. Carroll had changed a few things, like the powerplant to a 289. and put Bob Bondurant behind the wheel but even that wasnt enough as the cars overheated and did not finish. now not only was Ford upset, Shelby was too. and in 1966 everything would change.
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Bondurant on in the paddock at LeMans ina GT40 MKI^
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GT40 and Ferrari P2 on track^
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Bob Bondurant and a GT40 Spyder, as well as some of the testing done on the car^

Bob Bondurant wasn’t sure if the Ford crowd would figure it out, and he wanted to win, I’m sure he was persuaded by many teams but Ferrari ultimately pinned him down. was it a bad choice or the right choice for him? its hard to say what history might have looked like today. But Shelby DID figure it out and 1966 was the most historically significant LeMans race since its beginning. Ford brought out 3 Ford GT40s each powered by a 7.0 liter, 427 cubic inch MONSTER. Shelby and his cars won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Bondurant’s Ferrari didn’t even finish. Ford went on to win the race for the next 3 years.
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Bob Bondurant being coached up by Legend Enzo Ferrari^
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Bondurant behind the wheel of a Ferari 330 P2
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Bob Bondurant in his prime^
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Bob Bondurant and Shelby American teammates
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the Ferrari Bob drove at the 24 hours of LeMans^
Bob Bondurant took it as a sign to find other avenues to show his love of racing and later that year found a job as a driving instructor on a movie set, Gran Prix, starring James Garner. Bob went back to LeMans in 1967 in a corvette, but yet did not finish. Still thirsty for a victory he entered into a Can-Am series driving a McLaren. This didn’t fare well for Bob as we broke a steering arm at 150MHP and the car went into a flip, some 8 times. Suffering from ribs, legs, feet, and back injuries, doctors said he would never walk again but he overcame the injuries. If leaving Shelby and not finishing LeMans twice wasn’t enough of a sign to stop racing a crippling 150mpg wreck certainly was.
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Bob on the scene of Gran Prix^
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James Garner in Gran Prix^
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McLaren Can-AM racecar^
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Bondurants 150MPH wreck^

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With no career behind the wheel left, what was he going to do? in a time where he couldn’t retire to be a racing commentator, especially for a sport unpopular in america he was forced to find another means of bringing in the money. He thought back to when he was a instructor for that racing movie, Gran Prix, and thought if he could teach James Garner he could teach anyone how to drive. And so he started the Bondurant Racing School, his first 2 students being Robert Wagner and Paul Newman, who needed to learn to drive for their upcoming movie “Winning”. This was the first spark in Paul Newman’s LeMans destined racing career.
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Bob’s first year in business at the racing school^
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Bob Bondurant and Paul Newman chatting at racing and cars in general^

Bob moved his track a few times in the 70s and 80s but in 1983 Ford Motor Company signed on to sponsor his school and later in 1990 Bob built his own facility in Arizona.
In the early 90s Ford began supplying a few safety race prepared mustangs and other offbeat quirky cars to the school. V8 fox body mustangs, SN95 V8 powered cars, Later overhead cam models of the mustang including the elusive Cobra DOHC powered cars. all with similar modifications, They were painted orange, received a panhard bar and torque arm from Roush, a window safety net, a race seat on the drivers side, a fire suppression system, a 6 point roll cage, a seat harness, 2 piston cobra 13 inch rotor brakes, Monroe GP shocks and struts, Eibach springs, a 8 quart oil pan, and upgraded cooling system. Even the 99-01 cobras which came with independent rear suspension from Ford got the straight axle with panhard and torque arm treatment.
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Former Bondurant race school car sent to Saleen for even further modification^
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SN95 Bondurant racing school car prepared by Roush and finished in orange^
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New Edge Bondurant racing school car prepped by Roush and finished in orange^

Sometime after 01 Ford withdrew their sponsorship of the school. I and others think this was because ford instructed the school to crush all the mustangs used at the school as none were sold to the school and none had any paperwork, besides the obvious reason that if sold to consumers they would eventually end up on the street. Despite Fords demands to crush the retired cars the school did sell them. all of them.
How much was a Bondurant race prepared car? Cheap. Just today a owner of one told me he paid $10000 for a 1998 cobra with a clean log book, meaning low miles and no accidents or over abuse. I didn’t ask him when he bought it but I have to assume in 2000 or so as they had to make room for the newer New Edge body style cars. unfortunately these cars have gone up considerably in value and some owners have even found legal routes to make the cars street legal and acquired titles and even insure them as daily drivers.
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Bondurant 01 Cobra engine bay^
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Bondurant 01 Cobra interior^
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Bondurant 01 Cobra prepared by Roush^

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Many stories have been told to me about some quirky ford experimental cars that ended up at the school and wow there are some WAY out there examples.
like this Mercury Marauder, which in itself its already a weird car, using a 320hp Cobra C head DOHC v8, traditionally using a 4 speed automatic. This Bondurant car found using a 5 or 6 speed manual and a Cobra intake manifold as well as a harness bar and R compound tires. although i can not find any other pictures I’ve heard of a Mercury Sable SVT, and flying laps in Ford 16 passenger vans full of students at the school.
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One thing is for sure, these racing legends have left their mark, weather it be a coiled cobra or a traffic cone colored car they will be remembered.
Gurney-Bondurant-and-Co
Shelby team next to Daytona Coupe^
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Team Shelby American in their prime^