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Old 07-08-2014, 12:49 PM   #1
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4.6 Cobra Motor

After owning several 1965 and 66 Mustangs as well as an 89 5.0, I'm looking at purchasing a '96 - '04 Cobra or possibly an '03/'04 Mach 1. I've been told by several people that the DOHC heads had problems in the '99 to '04 years, while others told me to stay away from the '96 to '98 motors. I figure there has got to be club members who can give me accurate advice on the matter.

Any info that is provided will be appreciated.

Thanks, Mike
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Old 07-08-2014, 09:07 PM   #2
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My choices on those years. Get a 97-98 and not a 96 as they had over heating problems and if they were not fixed, you will inherit a problem. In the category of the 1999 - 2004, I would select a 2004 since the majority of the kinks on the 03s had been resolved.

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Old 07-09-2014, 09:23 AM   #3
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I'm going to completely disagree with everyone you've heard from and then tell you to listen to me as I've also owned several 65-66 Mustangs (still have a '65 289 hardtop with a T5 conversion), and several 88-89 5.0s, and now own a 96 Cobra road race car and a 98 Cobra daily driver....
Here's why.
Yes, the 96 Cobras ran hot on occasion while sitting in traffic in hot climates. There was a TSB from Ford telling them to make a few changes including an upgraded radiator and a few other parts. Put in an aftermarket radiator (if it hasn't already been done) and you're fine. Chances are any over heating issues that happened have been resolved in the last 18 years by previous owners!
All of the 4.6 DOHC modular motor cars were great cars. Some had minor issues but nothing more than you'd see with any other car. They got better with each revision (like most cars).
Here's the only advice you need to hear: Get the best car you can afford.
Figure out how much you want to spend or can afford to spend and start there. I recently bought my 98 Cobra for $4K. It has a lot of issues but I was prepared to fix them my self. These issues are maintenance things from previous owner abuse. I could have spent $9K and bought a perfectly clean 98 Cobra with no issues but I didn't want to spend that much. I have a race car habit (hobby) to fund!
Anyway, research what's on the market (, ebay,, forum classifieds) and see what colors you like, what bodystyle (coupe, vert), and things like that. If you MUST have an automatic transmission, then you buy a Mach1.
Each year newer car is a little better than the previous. Again, get the newest, lowest mileage car you can afford.
Have a favorite color? That will help. Ford changed up the color choices regularly. Bright Atlantic blue? Only offered in '98. Competition Orange (one of my favs) was only offered a few years (03-04). If you like black like me? You can go with any year, I own four black Mustangs and a black F350. Also, if you want to spend a little more and get better confidence that the previous owner knew their stuff and took care of the car, start of the forums like here and Those cars tend to bring a premium but are owned by enthusiasts. Typically you'll find cars with more performance modifications on the forums compared to autotrader or
Any car can have issues but don't let that scare you away. You've done the right thing by asking here first (and hopefully joining the club). Tony runs the best "show" in the country as far as car clubs go and you will never regret the friendships you gain and the camaraderie from a club like this.
Hope this helps! More questions??? Ask away!
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Old 07-12-2014, 03:07 AM   #4
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Great advice Jimmy.

I have owned a 96 cobra, two 97 cobras, a 99 cobra, and still have my 03 cobra. I do have expirience with most ever year in one shape for form though.

1996: These are excellent cars. The overheating thing is something I feel has been blown out of proportion. It's one of the problems nobody really forgot about. If they 96's had a problem, odds are it would have been fixed over the past 18 years.

1997: This is my favorite year of the 96-98 variety. I like the wheels, the clock on the dash and the no surprises the 98 has.

1998: Least favorite for me, but I do like bright atlantic blue. This car has a difference PCM and a one off bastard fuel system which I don't like. I don't like the factory wheels in this year model. Other than that, it's virtually the same car with a few changes to the interior.

The SN95 cars have one of the most desirable blocks in the business. The block itself and the crankshaft are tough as nails. Over the years, these engines have become less and less desirable and the prices show it. There's a 60,000 mile engine/transmission/harness for like $2200 on SvtPerformance.

99-01- Different heads, intake, and block. The heads are better, but marginally. Intake... meh, and the engine block is weaker. It does the job I suppose. Returnless fuel system (not an advantage) and IRS (the worst ones you can get). For me, if you leave these cars alone they are wonderful. If you like to drag race, this is about the worst place you can start. I love the look though, and the interior is just nicer in them (marginally).

03-04 Cobra: A league of it's own. If you want a cobra and can afford one of these, then buy one. Head and shoulders ahead of any that came before it in nearly every category.

03-04 Mach1: Great cars, but not as good as the cobras. It's basically a solid axle 01 cobra with some flashy badges, seats, and hood. It is available in an automatic though, so it's got that going for it.

In closing, the 96-01 cobras were wonderful cars, it's just the 03 cobra was "that much better". For a little more money, you could have a beefed up version of the independent rear suspension, a transmission/clutch that was light years ahead of the 3650 trans, an engine filled with forged components, a supercharger, gorgeous seats, and pretty body pieces. Everyone realized this and the values of all others tanked.

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