No. 927
December 13, 2017

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Editor's Note: We thought we'd re-run Dr. Bud's much-requested piece about driving the Mustang Cobra R. Enjoy. -WG

By Dr. Bud E. Bryan 

Austin. It was blacker than a steel blue 45, the milky gray of the city sky at night long faded from my rearview mirror. The ribbon of asphalt stretching out in front of me was just a shard of coal, barely visible in my lights, the broken white center line having gone solid long ago. There was no one out here. No cops waiting in the bushes. And no more excuses as to why I couldn't push the new SVT Mustang Cobra R for all it's worth. Barking through its side pipes like an irritated Rottweiler, this machine is all attitude and coiled muscular fury. The first true spiritual descendant of the original and wonderfully raucous '65 Shelby GT350 Mustang, the Cobra R is a machine that offers no apologies. Its reason for being and its only purpose on the planet is to simply get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, and it does so with an almost surreal combination of power and responsiveness, certainly far beyond any Mustang that's come before it. And I'll be goddamned if I was going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers... 

It was still 94 degrees or so at 1:30 in the morning. I've got both windows down - screw the aerodynamics - because I want to savor every last moment. The guttural moan of the badass hooligan V8 mixes with the rushing air in an intoxicating blend that they don't bottle and can't replicate in some sanitized, heartless video game. Straining to look way out down the road in front of me, at 140 M.P.H., in the dark, it doesn't matter. You sense ghosts in the shadows and see the occasional varmint's eyes glaring back at you, as if they're crying, "how dare you trespass here, in our territory..." But in a split second they acknowledge that a faster, stronger beast is in their midst, and they stay frozen at the side of the road. 

I push the pedal down harder. I'm getting lost now in that speed-altered dimension of time and space, all concentration and focus...aware of everything and nothing at the same time, just hands and feet and blurred scenery and mechanical wail. Just then, I sense something out in front of me. It's just one of those feelings you get in your gut sometimes, after too many miles and too many close calls. Suddenly the road falls away and the Mustang leaps off the ground, my lights lighting up nothing but air. For what seems like an eternity, the beast floats and the revs spike, but in a nanosecond it sets back down with a jarring little juke to the left. That old racer's instinct takes over...hell no, don't back out of it lift and you're dead. I correct ever so slightly, and the Cobra R responds and leaps forward as if to say, "that was alright, pardner, you passed the test, let's go, flog me as hard as you want." 

The road curves to the right now. How sharp? How long? Screw it. I keep my foot in it. What's probably a lazy little bend at 65 M.P.H. is now a full-fledged ball-test on the ragged edge of control and sanity. I let the Cobra R take a tail-out set, drifting at a particularly sharp angle - one of those ass-puckering, run-for-the-roses angles. The curve starts to ease as I unwind the wheel delicately...ever so delicately, sliding right up to the white-lined edge as the road unfurls to a ruler-straight stretch as far as I can see. I jam my foot down as far as it will go. The Cobra R storms down the road. I'm ridin' a Hot Red Rocket to Hell, and at that instant, absolutely nothing else matters. It's all sound and fury signifying everything a high-performance machine should be.

I start to meander my way back to civilization. The Cobra R lopes along, very pleased with itself that at any moment it can leap up and terrorize the landscape. The sky starts to go back to milky gray as the city approaches. I need some gas. The harsh lights of a Texaco station in the middle of nowhere loom ahead. I pull to a stop and climb out of the beast. I start to put premium in, locking the hose on low-speed fill so I can walk around the Mustang and look it over. The lights do weird things to the Cobra R's color, making it more like a wild shade of vibrant, tomato soup red. Bugs are impaled all over the front end, and heat pours off of it as it sits there, grumbling and heaving with all sorts of ticks, clicks and crackles.

I notice the kid back in the office looking out at the Mustang. He studies it from a distance, probably not having a clue about what he's seeing. Just then, two guys roll to a stop in a Honda Civic that's all lowered with huge wheels and tires and a big-ass exhaust pipe hanging out the back. These two guys know exactly what they're looking at. They get out and walk slowly over to the Cobra. They eye it respectfully from a distance, occasionally eyeing me too. The driver pipes up... 

"That the new Cobra R?" 


"How's it run?" 

"It's all good, all the time. It's a great car." 

The kid just nods and smiles at me and then to his buddy. It's funny about people who are into cars. Here are two kids, multi-colored hair, tattoos, earrings and the whole bit, with absolutely nothing in common with a 40-something guy with too many miles on him, but because we're car freaks, the mutual love for fast machines always seems to transcend any and all differences. I finished up and got ready to go. The kids just stood there and watched as I started it up and burbled out the driveway. I knew what they were hoping for, and what the hell, who am I to disappoint them? I booted it, and the Cobra slithered a little bit before gathering itself up, then I kept my foot in it to the redline through the first three gears, disappearing off into the night. I flashed for a moment on those famous words from The Boss... 

"The highways jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
But there's no place left to hide..."

Amen to that. As I cruised back, I couldn't help but think about the true significance of the Cobra R. It's a machine that survived a corporate bureaucracy that normally only revels in the bottom line. It's a machine that's the embodiment of irrational exuberance and a direct-link to every great American high-performance car that came before it. It's a machine that technically shouldn't exist at all in today's politically correct world, but one that lives and breathes to remind us of everything that's good about cars and why we all went crazy about 'em in the first place. It's also a glorious one-fingered salute to the do-gooders and automatons who go through life worried about all the bad things that could happen to them if they let the least little bit of passion creep into their pathetic, black-and-white, cut-and-dried existence, as opposed to experiencing all the truly pleasurable things that life has to offer in full Technicolor.

Not many cars have soul any more, but believe me, the SVT Mustang Cobra R exudes it from aero-massaged nose to glistening rear wing. It's the latest and greatest in a long line of unapologetically American, irreverently badass machines. Whether your thing is all chrome and fuel-injected Saturday night specials, or a lonely twisty road that beckons you to go faster, we should all appreciate machines like the SVT Mustang Cobra R.

Because you just never know when people will run out of the balls necessary to make them anymore...