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Easily one of if not the most recognized Mustangs ever here is my take on the iconic finale for the SN platform.
While I have not personally owned one I have spent the last few years driving and working on my brothers 2003 Cobra. I feel I can give a very accurate review on the car as a whole. I highly recommend reading a book titled Iron Fist Lead Foot it covers the Terminator in great detail and is well worth the read.
My personal thoughts on the Terminator are mixed, I love the brute force it is what an american car is meant to be fast fun and brutal. But I feel the car could be better balance it is too nose heavy, to unpredictable with the back end wanting to kick out in every corner.
In 2001 just before the 2002 Cobra was about to be released to the public John Coletti head of SVT at the time decided the car was terrible and could not be released so in an 18 month span the 2002 Cobra was scrapped and SVT designed, re-engineered, tested and built the Terminator from the ground up. Just in time for Fords given deadline for the project.
When designing the 2003 Cobra powertrain SVT decided to forgo an N/A motor and went to eaton for a M112 Roots style supercharger, while testing the aluminum blocks used on previous Cobra's were tossed out and Cast Iron blocks were used for added strength but the Iron added weight and along with the supercharger the car gained nearly 200 lbs of weight on the nose pushing the wight balance to a very nose heavy 57/43 split. Manley pistons and connecting rods were used in the motor and the previous forged Cobra cranks to allow for 1000+ HP using factory parts.
In stock form the cars were extremely under rated at 390/390 BHP and TQ with several cars making those numbers or more at the rear wheels. With basic bolt ons the cars have proven to make 500 HP/TQ with a ported blower. One of the most common upgrades on these cars is a blower swap to a Whipple or Kenne Bell since it is just as simple as unbolting the eaton and bolting the upgraded blower on and doing a few supporting mods.
The major problems every terminator include heat soak because of the incredible amount of heat generated from the supercharger which makes them overheat after 20 minutes of hard driving. Larger heat exchangers and boxing in the radiator and heat exchanger helps but it is still an issue. Alternators are also known to go bad because they are overspun and get very hot in their location at the bottom of the motor. Larger pulley's help with the overspin issue but the heat is still a major issue.
SVT also used the Tremec T56 in the 03/04 it is a great transmission but can be notchy and a short throw shifter always helps with them as well as what people call the anti-venom mod:
Because weight special shocks and struts from Bilstein along with 600 lbs springs were developed to give the terminator better handling but the car still suffers from under-steer and the mass is easily noticed. Ford tried improved steering by using the steering rack from the 2000 Cobra R. Subframe connectors are still the single most helpful mod to make the chassis stiffer and better.
THe IRS was carried over for these two years as well and the rear gear ratio was upped to a 3.55 and the IRS was known to have a "clunk" but in 2003 it seemed to be a little worse but the same combination of fixes seemed to help eliminate it. Here is the complete IRS thread that goes into great detail:
The same PBR and Brembo brake setup is used on the 03/04 as the 96-01 Cobra's. Better fluid and pads are recommended to get better results.
With the redesign SVT did some interior updates using leather and alcantera on the seats except for the 2003 10th anniversary editions which had a red vinyl insert and the 2004 Mystichrome which had color matched seat inserts to the body paint. THe familiar white faced gauged became a reverse glow and a boost gauge was added to the cluster.
However the Cobra interior is still nothing to brag about it is just better than the other models because the seats are improved the rest is carried over across the model range.
The body was redesigned to create as much airflow as possible the only part on the 03/04 that says terminator is on the side scoop vent cover. The rear bumper is known to "ride" up and the way to fix it is to simple raise the trunk and forcefully push down on the side that is raised and it will pop back into place. A lot of people remove the hood liner to allow better heat extraction through the hood vents.
01 Cobra....A few bolt ons running on E85
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