Most people pop down the road to buy a new car. Kelvin Perfect flew to the other side of the world to get his.
True story: when Kelvin ‘KP’ Perfect decided to purchase build number 82 of 355 Sonic Blue Ford Mustang Cobra SVT (Special Vehicle Team) convertibles produced in 2003, he knew he couldn’t look locally. Not because he didn’t want to buy a New Zealand one, but rather because there were no examples of a 2003 SVT Cobra Mustang convertible in the country. As far as KP knows, his car is still the only one of its kind in New Zealand, and one of very few Mustangs of that era in the country. And that makes it a little bit special. That and the fact that KP’s Cobra SVT has its own personally signed certificate from Edsel Ford (Henry Ford’s grandson) to verify its limited edition status.
This ’03 Mustang isn’t KP’s first purchase from the States. Prior to picking up this pristine Cobra SVT, he’d flown there, bought a mint ’65 Mustang convertible, driven it from New York to San Francisco and then shipped it Down Under — he probably hadn’t banked on doing that twice in his lifetime.
However, although KP has a passion for convertibles, things weren’t destined to work out for him and the ’65. A couple saw it at a show, fell in love with it and decided they had to have it. A deal was struck, and the appropriate amount of money was sent in the right direction to force KP’s hand.
And to be honest, KP wasn’t upset about that, because it gave him the chance to get his hands on the car he really wanted. “No disrespect, but the country is full of ’60s Mustangs, so it’s about having something different,” Kelvin says. “I’ve always loved convertibles and wanted something that was rare, looked good, could drive anywhere, had all the luxuries, went like shit off a shovel and of course wore the blue oval.”
And with his past experience of purchasing a Mustang ex-USA working out well, KP didn’t think twice about giving it another shot, and passed the appropriate number of folding ones over in exchange for this SVT Cobra Mustang convertible.
The SVT Cobra Mustangs were given the nickname ‘Terminator’ because they were built to eliminate Chevrolet Camaros and other performance-bred cars of that era. With factory stats of around 390hp and a zero to 400m time of 12.9 seconds (down to mid 12-second passes in the hands of an experienced driver), the SVT accomplished what it was built to do.
They’re hand-built by a team of 50 engineers individually selected by former SVT manager John Coletti in the Ford Special Vehicle Team factory, and every Cobra Mustang is purchased with the knowledge that it has been assembled by the best in the business. And when you’re building the fastest Mustang (until the release of the 2010 model), you’d hope they would be.
During the Mustang’s development, supercharging the 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve V8 wasn’t originally on the cards. The ’99 to ’01 Cobras featured the naturally aspirated 4.6.
The ’02 Cobra was again lined up to have the naturally aspirated engine — although with a 20hp higher output of 340hp — but Coletti became frustrated when the ’02 test mule could not beat the SVT-prepared Ford Focus. It was then that Coletti came up with the idea of supercharging the Cobra. Time didn’t allow the new engine to be produced for ’02, so production was shifted to the ’03 model.
What’s surprising in retrospect is that the SVT team originally told Coletti that fitting an Eaton M90 supercharger was not possible. In some ways they were right, but not only were they ultimately able to fit the M90, they could fit the larger M112, too.
During testing of the now blown Mustang, the engineers ran into the problem of destroying the connecting rods sourced from the ’01-spec Cobra. Instead of building stronger items at huge expense, Ford contacted Manley, and sourced forged rods and pistons, meaning not only could it raise the output to 390hp, it had the potential to go above and beyond if required.
Can Do… Did Do
And KP wanted to test that theory. “It was essentially factory when I got it, with a couple of modifications like exhaust and wheels,” KP tells us. Before he’d even put the car on a boat for New Zealand, work began.
“I’d done some reading on the SVT Snake site, and all the guys there [in the States] recommended that if you wanted to gain some extra power to take it to a shop in Missouri [Stiegemeier — US specialist in Eaton superchargers], and I thought that no one over here would be into the Eaton supercharger.”
Knowing this, KP got behind the wheel, drove the Cobra 700 miles to Missouri and back, and then drove it another 600 miles down to Atlanta to put it on the boat. It may have been a lot of travelling, but it gave KP the chance to drive the Cobra after it had sat in storage at a friend’s house in Ohio for more than half a year.
It was a worthwhile trip, too — the 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve V8’s factory 390hp figure was lifted to 650hp (530hp at the tyres) and 671Nm of rear-wheel torque. “The factory supercharger was whipped off and it was ported and polished inside — as well as given a showroom polish on the outside. It now has a torque plate welded in it, which raises the rear end torque of it,” says KP.
As well as the Accufab wide oval throttle body, BBK ceramic-coated long tube headers and the Stage 5 Stiegemeier ported/polished Eaton M112 supercharger, an SCT hand-held controller was fitted — and loaded with street and race tunes — to re-flash the factory engine management system, netting the car some impressive gains.
While KP was happy with the story the dyno was telling, he was yet to throw his own spin on the rest of the package. Those modifications had to wait until after the car arrived in New Zealand.
“I had the engine and gearbox out and fitted a new clutch and pressure plate [Spec 3 single-plate racing clutch], fitted all the braided line and all of the chrome you can see in the engine bay,” KP explains. “I also resprayed the engine bay and tidied lots up. I got some bits from America like the supercharger tank/radiator; as the original Ford one is plastic, I decided to change it to aluminium.
At the same time, I also changed the front radiator cover to stainless steel.”
It wasn’t game over yet, though. KP also fitted two new billet grilles on the nose, installed a Saleen roll bar and replaced some of the decals and badges on the Cobra, as well as adding a couple of new ones and a set of sequential indicators. While the SVT Cobras left the factory with a multi-link independent rear, KP put some time into improving the Mustang’s handling.
Given that KP’s SVT is dedicated to street use, he’s finding it hard to think about improving the package further. However, if sense fails and the wallet comes out, he does have something in the back of his mind. “The only thing I might do to it is fit a Whipple or Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharger to it, which will take the power up to the 700-800hp mark,” he says. “But to be honest, I probably won’t, as it’s already a handful. And if it’s a nice sunny day I’ll take the car for a drive, and I don’t really want to be worried about driving it on the streets or the fuel consumption.”
When we quizzed KP about his favourite aspect of the Cobra, it didn’t take him long to respond. “The supercharger! Open-top road cruising with the supercharger whining away along with a nice V8 sound out the back — you just can’t beat it!”
What, then, would it take to pry this blue oval machine from his hands? “I’d only sell it if I had a Ford GT lined up,” he reckons. In which case, don’t expect to see this rare piece of Ford metal up for sale any time soon.
2003 Ford Mustang SVT – Specifications
Engine: Ford 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve hand-built V8 forged steel crankshaft, Manley i-beam rods/rod bolts, forged pistons, windage tray, high-volume oil pump, roller finger followers, cast aluminium intake, Steeda cold air induction system, Accufab wide oval throttle body, Stage 5 Stiegemeier ported/polished Eaton M112 supercharger, billet Flow Sonic Blue 2.8 top pulley, 39lb Ford Racing injectors, twin fuel pumps, BBK ceramic-coated long tube headers, Bassani X crossover pipe, three-inch Bassani pipes, aluminium Bassani mufflers, Ford Racing aluminium radiator, Canton polished billet supercharger tank, supercharger electric water pump, water wetter, Generation 2 head cooling modification, SCT Flash hand held tuner,
Driveline: Factory Tremec T-56 six-speed manual gearbox, larger input shaft, Ford aluminium flywheel, Spec 3 single-plate racing clutch/pressure plate, 8.8-inch ring gear with 3.55 gears, LSD, aluminium case, Pro 5 short shifter
Suspension: Front – modified MacPherson struts, 30mm tubular stabiliser bar, Bilstein gas shocks, Eibach springs, aluminium lower control arms, Rear – 26mm tubular stabiliser bar, Eibach springs; billet adjustable camber plates, Roush Racing cross brace, Nolathane bushings all around
Brakes: Front – 330mm vented, slotted and cross-drilled Brembo rotors, two-pot Brembo callipers. Rear – 298mm vented, slotted and cross-drilled Brembo rotors, single-pot Brembo callipers
Wheels/tyres: 18×9-inch genuine Saleen Cobra wheels, 265/35R18 Nitto tyres, 285/35R18 Hankook tyres
Exterior: MGW stainless side scoop inserts, Saleen Speedster top, classic light bar, sequential rear indicators, HID headlights, billet aluminium hand-made grilles, Ford Sonic Blue, K cross member, full-length chassis connectors
Interior: Limited edition leather/suede Recaro-style seats, polished aluminium SVT Cobra kick panels, luminescent Ford gauges, pillar-mount three-gauge pod with Auto Meter boost, volt, air/ fuel gauges, Raptor performance shift light, Cobra gear knob
Performance: 530hp (395kW) at the wheels on 15psi boost pressure, 671Nm torque at the wheels, 0-400m – estimated 11-second passes depending on traction
Kelvin Perfect (‘KP’) – Owner Profile
Occupation: Sales manager
Previous rides: Seven MkI Zephyrs, two MkII Zephyrs, five MkIII Zephyrs, one MkIV Zephyr, two V8 Zephyrs, GT Cortina, XY GT Falcon, XUI Torana, TR4, ’67 GTA Mustang convertible, RS500 Cosworth, 911 Porsche, ’65 Mustang convertible and a bunch of crappers that don’t deserve a mention
Dream car: This one, and a Ford GT
Build time: About a year for the modifications
Length of ownership: Two years
Kelvin thanks: “My mate Bushy and his wife in Ohio for looking after my baby for nine months, Dyno Bob and the crew for the supercharger work in Missouri, Paul, James, Rob and Ben at Main Auto Centre, Glyn at VINZ, my wife Rachel for letting me travel half way around the world to pick up my car and drive it around the States (and of course spend more money on it, as you do) and my son, Leeland, who loves the car and wants to paint orange flames on it when he gets it: yeah right!”
Words: Gray Lynskey Photos: Dan Wakelin