Walk in past the counters and parts, open the door and turn on the lights. Instantly you are transported into the world of wonder that is National Parts Depot’s private automotive collection. Rows upon rows of pristine and rare machinery lay dormant until called into duty, and that’s why we have entered the sanctuary. We wanted a look at some of the most aggressive performance Mustangs built in recent decades — the R-models.
It was the ‘sweet-spot’ to pick up a ’93 R-model on the cheap. That ship’s sailed now. — Rick Schmidt, National Parts Depot
The Mustang Cobra is a muscle car/pony car model that was built in model years 1993 through 2004 by Ford SVT as higher-performance versions of the Mustang. These cars were considered top-of-the-line, as they was positioned above the Mustang GT and other specialty models during this era of production. On three separate occasions, the Mustang Cobra got even more aggressive when SVT produced R-model variants in limited numbers.
The R in R-model is of course, for race, and Ford’s now-defunct Special Vehicle Team used to take its top line Cobras and turn all the knobs toward the racetrack with its limited edition Cobra Rs. Because of those limited numbers, these cars are highly sought after by collectors and difficult to find all in one place.
We visited NPD’s Ocala, Florida, headquarters to do just that and received the grand tour from Ford/Chrysler product manager Matthew Laszaic. As you can imagine, we had to take a step back as we gazed upon the amazing collection, but it gets better. Upon the finish of the tour, longtime employee Bob Torres rounded up all the R-models and staged them in order by year.
At this point, we thought this is what it would be like to walk through the pearly gates of Heaven. Rick Schmidt, owner of National Parts Depot met us at the lineup of Rs and explained his overall passion for everything automotive with a keen interest on the Mustang Cobra R models.
1993 Mustang Cobra R
1993 Cobra R Specs
Engine Type: 90-degree, OHV Windsor V-8 Displacement: 5.0 liters / 302ci Horsepower: 235 at 4,600 rpm Torque: 280 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm Bore x Stroke: 4.0×3.0 inches Compression:9.0:1
Suspension Front: Modified heavy-duty MacPherson strut type, 750/850 in-lb progressive-rate coil springs, front strut-tower brace, 31mm stabilizer bar Rear: Rigid axle located by four trailing links, 240/260 in-lb progressive-rate coil springs, stabilizer bar
To demonstrate Ford’s commitment to racing and showcase its newly formed Special Vehicle Team, a 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra R model was developed with a form-follows-function race-car mentality. Starting with a production SVT Mustang Cobra, anything that contributed to excess weight was eliminated, including the back seat, radio, air-conditioning and sound dampening material.
“The 1993 we bought from the owner of a Harley Davidson dealership, in or around 1997. He had ‘put it away’ in his personal garage, along with a ZR1 Corvette I believe, as investments,” Rick explained. “Well, as most things go, other priorities took hold, and we bought the car with about 100 miles on it for significantly less than it stickered for new. Back then was around the time it was the ‘sweet-spot’ to pick up a ’93 R-model on the cheap. That ship’s sailed now.”
Besides reduced weight, these first-gen Cobra Rs featured track-inspired handling delivered by heavy-duty dampers on all four corners and the use of a front-strut tower brace. Intended for serious racers and available only in red, production of the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra R was limited to just 107 vehicles.
1995 Mustang Cobra R
1995 Cobra R Specs
Engine Type: 90-degree, OHV Windsor V-8 Displacement: 5.8 liter /351 ci Horsepower: 300 at 4,800 rpm Torque: 365 lb-ft at 3,750 rpm Bore x Stroke: 4.0×3.5 inches Compression: 9.0:1
Suspension Front: Modified MacPherson strut type with separate spring on lower arm, 700/850 in-lb progressive-rate coil springs, 30mm stabilizer bar Rear: Rigid axle, four trailing links, adjustable vertical shock absorbers and horizontal axle dampers , 200/260 in-lb progressive-rate coil springs, 27mm stabilizer bar
Brakes Front: 13-inch vented cast-iron disc, twin-piston caliper Rear: 11.65-inch vented cast-iron disc, single-piston caliper ABS: Power Assist, four wheel brakes with anti-lock
In the wake of the Fox 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra R’s success, SVT engineers eventually developed a more powerful R-model competition package based on the Fox 4/SN-95-based 1995 SVT Cobra. SVT replaced the Cobra’s 5.0-liter with a special version of Ford’s 351 cubic-inch Windsor small-block. Built to produce 300 horsepower, and fed by a 20-gallon Fuel-Safe fuel cell, the 351 enthusiasts had long asked for was backed by a Tremec five-speed manual transmission.
“I bought the 1995 R-model first, brand-new. Ordered it through Village Ford in Dearborn, Michigan and paid sticker price. Since you had to prove that you had a valid/active license in certain specific racing sanctioning-bodies, I kind of cheated the system by ordering the car under NPD’s name, and using Scot Lamar’s NHRA license as “NPD team driver,” Rick confessed. “We sponsored Scot’s 1969 Camaro super-stock car at the time, and he was happy to participate in the process. First thing I did upon taking delivery, was tow it out to Gainesville raceway, and made five passes. It had eight miles on the odometer for the first pass. It was 97 degrees, muggy, and ran low- to mid-13s at 105 mph on every run.”
Part of that performance was attributable to those signature R-model weight savings, as the 1995 R had no back seat, radio, or air conditioning – not even fog lights, which were omitted to provide ducts for getting cool air onto the front brakes. Heavy-duty progressive-rate springs, thicker stabilizer bars and a front strut-tower brace helped improve handling on the race track.
Production of these Cobra Rs was limited, but not quite as limited as its Fox predecessor. Two hundred and fifty vehicles were built and they all featured white paint and unique center-tiered fiberglass hoods tall enough to clear the engine and induction system.
2000 Mustang Cobra R
2000 Cobra R Specs
Engine Type: 90-degree, DOHC 32- V-8 Displacement: 5.4 liters/ 330 ci Horsepower: 385 at 6,250 rpm Torque: 385 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm Bore x Stroke: 3.55 x 4.17 inches Compression: 9.6:1
Suspension Front: Modified MacPherson strut system gas-charged Bilstein monotones dampeners and separate 800 in-lb spring on lower arm, 28mm tubular stabilizer bar Rear: Dual A-arm independent with high durometer bushings, steel upper control arm, aluminum lower control arm, fixed toe-control tie rod, aluminum spindle, gas-charged Bilstein twin-tube shock absorbers, Eibach coil springs, 26mm tubular stabilizer bar
Brakes Front: 13-inch vented Brembo discs , Brembo four-piston aluminum caliper, Galpher pads, Cooling ducts from front fascia to Multimatic carbon fiber heat shields Rear: 11.65-inch vented disc, single-piston caliper, Akebono pads ABS: Four channel, four-sensor ABS system
Wheels & Tires Wheels: 18 x 9.5-inch fiv-spoke cast aluminum Tires: BFGoodrich g-ForceKD 265/40ZR-18, Custom construction and compound for Cobra R
Production Total Produced: 300 Performance Red coupes
Debuting as the fastest factory Mustang ever produced, the 2000 Cobra R was the rawest New Edge ever built. Its SVT-developed, naturally aspirated 5.4-liter V-8 produced 385 horsepower, good for 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, the quarter-mile in 13.2 and a 170-mph top speed. As a true, lightweight R-model, it also had track-capable brakes, able to make a full stop from 60 mph in just 127 feet.
“I’d always wanted a 2000 R, but wanted to buy one ‘right’ like I did the ’93. I kept waiting for the values to sag to the number that I had in mind, but they never seemed to quite get there,” Rick said. “So, I’d already, in my mind, given up the thought, and was content with the ’93 and ’95. Well, until the 2000 R-model I discovered and purchased two years ago.”
“I was in North Carolina, following up on an offer I’d received from the owner of an actual 1994 Indy pace car (as in, one of three Roush-prepped pace cars to pace the race),” he elaborated. “When I visited his farm to inspect the pace car, I noticed the silhouette of another SN95 under a car cover, and obviously, noticed the wing. I lifted the corner of the cover and sure enough, it was an R-model — with eight miles on it!”
Clearly, Rick wasn’t going to let this unicorn gallop away with out adding it to his collection.
“Negotiations quickly moved to a ‘package deal’ scenario, and in the end, I got the pace car… And I got the R-model for basically the price I’d always had in mind that I wanted to pay. Bingo, and finally I had the trio,” Rick said. “When I came back to retrieve the car, I discovered that the original tank of gas was still in it. Believe it or not, it started and ran on that 13-plus-year-old fuel well enough to get on the trailer. Obviously, we evacuated it and treated/cleaned the fuel system once it was home. I then put 7-8 ‘hard miles’ on her in the industrial park behind NPD. It’s due for another outing soon.”
Like all SVT Cobra Rs before it, the 2000 R came stripped of any stock feature not needed for track use or that would add excess weight. Recaro racing seats, side-exit dual exhaust, a front air splitter and high-mount rear wing hinted at the car’s superb stability and handling capabilities. Again production was limited, but notched up a bit from to only 300 units available only in Performance Red Clearcoat.
The Latest R-Model
Though it was developed during the transition from the Special Vehicle Team to Ford Performance, the latest Shelby GT350R is neither an SVT nor a Cobra. It does, however, wear a snake badge and carry on the R-model tradition into the modern era. NPD doesn’t own this one, but instead stores it for Josh Klugger. Seeing it alongside its forbearers, we just had to include it as part of this R-model collection.
Josh shares the same passion for rare Ford models and hopes to complete his very own R collection in years to come. Currently, Josh owns a 1995 Cobra R formerly owned by Bob Bondurant and is on the hunt for the 1993 and 2000 Cobra Rs.
“I have always been a huge fan of the late-model Mustangs. I have owned six Saleens, two Cobras, three Shelby GT500s, and over eight Mustang GTs,” he said.
Upgraded aerodynamics and suspension tuning on the new Shelby make the GT350R the most race-ready road-legal Mustang ever. As true R-model that follows the tradition of the original Shelbys and SVT Cobras, race engineering helps the GT350R deliver world-class on-track performance.
To protect the integrity of the cars, we couldn’t convince Rick to let us drive them but he said he does take each one of them for a spin every now and then. Rick said he has no problem showing these R-models to any enthusiast that visits the company’s Ocala location.