1996 Ford Mustang Cobra - $24,900
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If you were a Mustang fan in the ‘90s, this was the car you dreamed of owning.

The 5.0 Mustang was the catalyst that ignited the second horsepower revolution. Cheap, fast, durable, and with a huge collection of upgrades available through the aftermarket, you could build a Mustang capable of running with the world’s fastest cars. Then Ford ended the party and introduced a modern-tech 4.6 liter overhead-cam engine for the Mustang. 5.0 enthusiasts screamed in horror. It was the end of performance, they complained. It’s 1973 all over again, they cried. But then something miraculous happened: the 1996 Mustang Cobra.

With four cams, 32 valves, and a lot of aluminum, the all-new Cobra engine was a state-of-the-art apology letter to 5.0 fans. It made 305 effortless horsepower, a big hit of low-end torque just like the old 5.0, and while the 5.0 sounded great, the Cobra engine sounded like ripping silk as it screamed to its sky-high 7000 RPM redline. And you’d better believe it responded to modifications—hoo boy! If you were a Mustang fan in the ‘90s, this was the car you dreamed of owning.

To give the Cobra a proper introduction, Ford gave it a dramatic look in the form of custom BASF Mystic paint, which changes hue depending on how the light hits it. Only 2000 of those first Cobras were painted this color and if you wanted to buy the paint, you had to produce a VIN—Ford ensured that there wouldn’t be any copy-cats. This well-maintained and subtly upgraded 1996 Cobra is number 4841 out of 7496 Cobras built in 1996 and number 655 out of those 2000 Mystic Cobras, so it’s pretty exclusive. Showing just 27,019 original miles, it has been in the same owner’s hands since new and comes with a huge cache of paperwork, manuals, and other important documents that will keep this car’s pedigree safe. The chromatic Mystic paint remains in excellent condition with no repainted areas, so the color shift is consistent from panel to panel, a critical element with color-change paints like this. From certain angles it looks purple, but as you move it shifts to blue, then green, then bronze, then back to purple. Most folks have a blast walking around this car in our showroom, and love it or hate it, it gets a huge amount of attention. It has never seen snow or inclement weather and the number of times this car has been in the rain can probably be counted on two hands. It has always been treated as something special and even after more than 20 years, seeing one of these cars in public is still a treat.

The Cobra was pretty much Ford’s top-of-the-line, so it came loaded with every feature available at the time. Supportive black leather bucket seats were a nice step up from the more ordinary chairs in the Mustang GT and thanks to quality materials and care, these show modest wear that’s in line with its age and mileage. Basic black is the theme throughout the interior, which is in excellent condition, from the original carpets to the unmarked door panels, to the back seat which looks like it’s never hosted a guest. Cobras received special white-faced gauges (back in 1996, this was really different) and you’ll note the 7000 RPM redline for the four-cam motor. This car, which packs a little something extra under the hood, also has a pair of Auto Meter gauges on the A-pillar to monitor boost and fuel pressure, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The only transmission available was a 5-speed manual, which carries an exclusive leather knob that was another Cobra-only part (this car includes a chrome T-handle knob as well). A/C, power windows and locks, cruise control, and a decent AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system round out the list of goodies. Everything works like it should without any issues save for the Auto Meter fuel pressure gauge, which is disabled because the sending unit doesn’t quite fit under the hood. There’s also a good-sized trunk, making the Cobra a surprisingly practical supercar.

The 4.6 liter four-cam Cobra V8 is every bit as good as its reputation. The only other cars to have sophistication like this have names like Porsche, Ferrari, and Jaguar. They were hand-built and the guys who put them together even signed their names on the cam covers, something that the guys over at Aston Martin have been doing for decades. In factory trim, it made a robust 305 horsepower, which in 1996 was a pretty big deal. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, because the cammer feels every bit like a 5.0, although unlike the pushrod motor, this one doesn’t run out of breath after 5000 RPM. With a forged crank and 4-bolt mains, it’s insanely over-built, which is a good thing because this car has been upgraded with a ProCharger supercharger. Neatly tucked into the engine bay between the water neck, the alternator, and the coil packs, the industrial-grade blower pushes 10 pounds of boost into the otherwise stock Cobra motor, and with appropriate fuel and calibration upgrades, cranks out more than 500 horsepower. There’s an intercooler down low that certainly helps and thanks to the deep-breathing 4-valve heads, all that boost makes a huge difference in the way this car moves. On the other hand, thanks to careful tuning, it starts and idles like a stocker, passes all the sniff tests, and generally behaves just the way the factory intended. If not for the intimidating whirr of the blower drive, you’d never know this was a 500-horsepower animal.

Crack the throttle and let the blower get up to speed and you suddenly have a very different machine on your hands, so make sure it’s pointed in the right direction. It isn’t a huge, instantaneous hit of power, but with the high-revving engine, it feels like it could pull forever and you still have that low-end punch that makes it awesome at slicing through traffic. On the roll, there still aren’t many cars that can keep up with a well-driven Cobra like this and a quick drop into 3rd gear will dispatch anything this side of a Z06 Corvette without much drama. Just because the car is 20 years old doesn’t mean the sophistication doesn’t pay off. This sucker is a blast to drive.

Fortunately, the SVT engineers dialed up the Cobra’s suspension and brakes to match. The Cobra’s suspension is actually softer than the GT’s, so it rides nicely, but thanks to slightly recalibrated shocks and larger roll bars, it offers more grip and more confident handling under all conditions. The brakes are the legendary 13-inch PBR units with Cobra insignias that first debuted on the 1993 Cobra R, and even with the supercharger you’ll be hard-pressed to find their limits. Remarkably, this car retains its stock exhaust system, so while it’s ferociously fast, it’s also deceptively quiet, making it an awesome stealth fighter on the street. The stock suspension rides nicely and thanks to the beefy superstructure of the new SN95 platform, the interior is quiet and rattle-free. 17-inch alloy wheels with charcoal inserts were unique to the 1996 Cobra and carry recent 245/45/17 General performance radials that are only the second set of tires this car has ever worn.

Documentation is beyond extensive, including a certificate of authenticity that’s a big part of why these Mystic Cobras were special. There’s a custom touch-up pen that’s obviously unique to the Mystic cars, factory manuals, brochures, and receipts for the supercharger installation. It also includes all the original parts, so if you want to take it back to 100% stock, it won’t be a problem. This is an owner who knew how to properly document his car.

We know not everyone loves the flip-flop paint on the Mystic Cobras, but it certainly makes a statement and attracts attention. And if we had to pick one ‘90s Mustang that would be a future collectable, this would surely be on the short list. Add in the superlative road manners, the insanely powerful engine, and a handsome, restrained look, this is a Mustang that continues to impress. As I said, if you were a Mustang fan in the 1990s, this is the end game. This is your chance, call today!

Vehicle: 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra
Price: $24,900
Stock Number: 115023
Mileage: 27,019
VIN: 1FALP47V9TF158796
Engine: 4.6 liter DOHC supercharged V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.27
Wheelbase: 101.3 inches
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: 245/45/17 performance radials
Exterior Color: Mystic
Interior Color: Black leather
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