Owning a one-of-one rare mustang was never dan wagner's plan.
He just wanted a fast Pony that spoke to his personal tastes. But a combination of bad luck and his own unwillingness to give in led to this '99 Steeda Cobra-which after all he's been through, he's very happy to own.
Dan has always been a Ford fan, especially the Mustang. So when the search started for a new Blue Oval machine, he went for this hot Steeda Cobra. "I also looked into Roush and Saleen, and they do nice cars, too," Dan comments. "Steeda allowed you to pick and choose what you wanted. I wanted the brake upgrades and the supercharger, but I didn't want some of the body treatments. I liked that I was able to get exactly the upgrades I wanted and none of the things I didn't."
After choosing Steeda, a new '99 Cobra was ordered and drop-shipped to Steeda's facilities in Pompano Beach, Florida, for the addition of a supercharger and lots of other goodies. Just over a month later, Dan flew from his home in North Carolina, picked up the very first '99 Cobra to leave the Steeda facilities, and drove it home. According to him, he now owns the only '99 Cobra that would ever get the Steeda treatment.
"Normally Steeda builds quite a few of those cars every year," Dan explains, "but in 1999, Ford changed the fuel system. It went from a return-style fuel system to a returnless, which meant Ford also changed all the computers. Ford had an intake and exhaust issue, and there was a recall on the cars. So none of the tuners were ready to deal with the new computers and fuel system.
"As a result, because Steeda had trouble tuning my car, it didn't do another one in 1999. To the staff's credit, they didn't want to sell anything they couldn't be certain was going to run the way they wanted. Also, because Ford had so much trouble with the intake and exhaust issue, it didn't build a regular Cobra in 2000, but waited until 2001. By 2001, the tuners had started to figure it out," says Dan.
Dan struggled to get his car running the way he wanted. He continued to work with it until it eventually gave up on him while testing at a dragstrip. "I was at Rockingham Dragway running the car," he says. "I was about to go through the lights at the end of the run when it threw a rod out the side of the block."
Although Dan knew a blown engine was likely given its ongoing troubles, it was still a tough pill to swallow. The red Cobra was pushed quietly into a corner of his shop, while he put together plans for a new engine.
Unfortunately, those plans were put on indefinite hold when Dan started his own Ford performance shop-appropriately named True Blue-specializing in Mustangs, near Raleigh, North Carolina. You might think that bringing his own car back to life would be a perfect first project, or at least a good side project, for a shop making its bread by hot-rodding Fords. And Dan says that, in fact, it was his plan, but he simply was too busy taking care of his customers' cars to spend any quality time with his own.
"It's like that old story about the roofer," he says with a laugh. "His roof is the only one in the town that leaks. And actually, it was even worse that just neglect. Over time, it slowly was robbed for parts. I never intended for it to happen, but sometimes you couldn't help it. A customer would be waiting for his car and needed a part. You want to get the customer out the door happy, so sometimes I'd get the part off my car. It was just miscellaneous stuff like the throttle cable and transmission mount, but over time it all added up.
Eventually, Dan sold his shop and moved on to another job. Freed of the 24-hour-a-day responsibilities of running a small business, he slowly realized he had enough time to tackle the Cobra project. But with one blown engine and a list of missing miscellaneous pieces, he spent the next two years saving money and collecting parts to rebuild his beloved Mustang.