0 PHP 2000 Cobra R Lead ArtShades of beige blur by as a red rocketship blasts through the Arizona desert. Banging through six gears the 5.4-liter engine soars toward 7,000 rpm, the 2000 Cobra R proved that its 170-plus-mph top speed rating might have been an understatement. It felt stable as the red speedometer needle climbed toward the last number on the 180 mph dial.

This was one of your scribe’s fondest automotive memories as I rode in and drove the Special Vehicle Team’s latest R-model across the desert and around the track at the Bondurant Racing School. Tautly sprung and stripped bare of any sounddeadener—the raucous, raw R-model. The memory of driving this car place it among a rare pantheon of favorites in a long line of Mustang driving conquests. It enthusiastically embodied the core SVT values of performance, substance, exclusivity, but it might have pushed the value proposition with a $54,995 sticker price.

One of our all-time favorite Mustangs is the 2000 Cobra R. These cars are extremely rare—with only 300 sold—so the last time we drove one was at the media drive over 16 years ago. Thankfully our old friend Paul Svinicki of Paul’s High Performance offered to let us drive his mildly modded version.