Blue Oval Icon: 2003 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
By the turn of the century, the fourth generation Mustang was nearing the end of its production run. The SN-95 architecture that underpinned the car was ostensibly an updated version of the Fox-body platform, which dated all the way back to 1979. While it had served Ford enthusiasts well, both on the street and at the track, the company had big changes under development for its pony car.
The public would get their first glimpse at the model’s future when a new, larger Mustang with a throwback design debuted in concept form at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show to wide acclaim, a car which would help usher in a retro-inspired design trend throughout the rest of the industry.
But before the S197 Mustang would hit showrooms, SVT engineers were determined to give the fourth generation car a proper sendoff.
After a long, dark period of choked, low-compression malaise that had often focused more on form than function, performance was undoubtedly on the upswing by the early 2000s. Factory machines were once again delivering the kind of capability that had made their ’60s counterparts cultural touchstones during the original muscle car era, but it had come after years and years of small improvements – five horsepower here, a new gearbox there – rather than in dramatic leaps.
That changed with the debut of the 2003 SVT Mustang Cobra. Code-named “Terminator” by the SVT engineers during its development, the final SVT Cobra was no overblown appearance package. Boasting a supercharged powertrain and chassis tuning to match, the Terminator elevated Mustang performance to levels previously unseen and put the competition on notice in no uncertain terms.