For AS long as I can remember, I've always been the one selling my hot rods at bargain-basement prices. I've either needed out of them, as was the case when I began college, or just wanted something different. My need/urge to part ways with my ride has usually led to selling the car cheaper than what I purchased it for.
As the years pass, I've watched my father make good deal after good deal simply because he had the money in hand and/or was willing to wait for his price. I sold my first Mustang and got out from under the payments, and I walked away with enough money to pay for my first semester of college, which I thought worked out perfectly. I can recall several other cars that I let go really cheap, though, and I've generally never had the money in hand to go looking for good deals.
We think we did alright with...
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I have, however, been lucky enough to come across two bargains in my 18 years of automobile ownership, and both of them happened to find me with relatively full pockets-obviously, funding was a key ingredient in sealing the deal.
My first score was a '67 Mustang fastback that I still own. I had been on the hunt for one for some time. Then the Gone In 60 Seconds remake came out, and suddenly the $2,500 cars that I could not afford became $5,000 rolling hulks of rust.
I stopped looking only to have a truck driver who had dropped off a fiberglass hood for one of our project cars tell me that he was selling a '67 Mustang for $1,500-$2,000. I purchased the Pony for $1,800. It's a 289 GTA Mustang that belonged to the guy's mother, who had purchased it new.
Luckily for me, my previous job had just involuntarily cashed me out of my profit-sharing plan a month prior and sent me a sizeable check with which I made my first good deal. Chalk one up on my empty side of the scoreboard.
Fast forward four years and I still have the GTA, though it sits in anticipation of its restoration and now holds the record for the longest period of ownership of any car I have ever owned.
About six months ago, my friend George Xenos phoned me and asked if I would be interested in buying his '93 Cobra. The '93 Cobra is one of my all-time favorites, so I asked how much, and he responded with, "$5,000." I asked him to give me a few days to make some calls, and then asked why he needed to part with his pride and joy. It turned out he was wanting to make a down-payment on a house and needed the money quick.
I had joked with George for a long time about trading my '67 for his Cobra, but it never went further than that. After hanging up the phone, I sat dumbfounded and expected him to call back at any point to rescind his offer. I called my financial planner-i.e., my wife-and explained the situation.
Once the previous owner had...
Once the previous owner had dismantled the drivetrain and suspension, the Pony rested on a custom dolly built from 4x4 timbers and some industrial grade castors.
Not much here, but we have...
Not much here, but we have plenty of ideas to fill this space. So far, a naturally aspirated stroker sounds really good. Maybe we'll even disguise it as the stock motor.
Several engine-bay harnesses...
Several engine-bay harnesses have been lengthened and stashed out of sight inside the fenderwell.
Since the Cobra has no drivetrain,...
Since the Cobra has no drivetrain, my brother Tom and I slipped in a four-cylinder 7.5 rear to make it mobile.
A low-mileage, Southern car...
A low-mileage, Southern car is a wonderful thing. Starting with such a clean ride will no doubt make bolting things up much easier, and it should take less time since I won't have to clean and detail everything.
Shoot me now, but the interior...
Shoot me now, but the interior honestly still smells new. I may never crack open the windows. The new-car scent lasted about 25,000 miles on my last new car, so I should probably stop driving it at around 20,000 to be safe. Screw that!
Yes, that is 1,331 miles....
Yes, that is 1,331 miles. The previous owner had installed the white-faced gauges, which oddly enough caused me to make an error in an SVT story I did a few years back ("The Fast and the Furious," Dec. '03).
Over the years, my wife's own '90 Mustang GT has been the subject of numerous modifications on these pages, and her knowledge of the Cobra's inherent value and rarity made it an easy decision for us. We agreed to do whatever we had to do to get the five large as it was too good a deal to pass up.
George purchased this '93 Cobra from its original owner back in January 1996. The car had logged a mere 776 miles, and George pulled it out of its bubble (yes, he stored it in an inflatable bubble) to drive it every now and then, adding just 600-or-so more miles before it broke a valvespring.
The motor was torn down and all of the valvespring pieces were found, but George had big plans for the car and began to disassemble it. Visions of a supercharged 408ci Windsor motor, a full race suspension, and bigger brakes would really put the bite into this snake.
Unfortunately, the teardown proceeded faster than the funding for the project could accrue, and the Cobra sat dormant in its bubble, stripped of its drivetrain and suspension.
The real kick in the pants is that George sold me the original 17-inch wheels for it, and while I told myself I should hang on to them because they were such a great deal and I liked them so much, they were eventually sold on one of the many LX Mustangs that passed through my stable. Try finding a set now at a reasonable price.
Thanks to the low-mileage and George's religious bubble upkeep, the Cobra looks brand-new and still smells new inside. The car's only modifications, aside from being stripped of its drivetrain, were white-faced gauges and some lengthening of the engine wiring harnesses to hide them in the fenderwells.
On the afternoon George called, I went home and put one of my other project cars up for sale to help offset the cost. It generated a bit of interest and someone offered to trade me some South African coins for it, but remarkably the next day a serious buyer called and showed up with truck, trailer, and a pocket full of cash.
I lost about $900 on it, but there was no love lost between the ailing project and myself, not to mention the purchase price accounted for nearly half the Cobra's cost and I was in need of a quick turnaround.
I borrowed the rest of the money and made the deal with a reluctant owner signing over the title to his pride and joy. Don't worry about him, though. George and his fiancee, Brandi, own an '04 Mystichrome Cobra convertible and he couldn't have given his '93 a better foster home.
Most of the car's nuts and...
Most of the car's nuts and bolts have been bagged and tagged, which should help quite a bit. I also have most of the engine accessories and miscellaneous components, though I expect I'll be looking for a few more when it comes time for assembly.
I've always loved the '93 Cobras-the Teal ones in particular. I figured I would have to build my own, as I couldn't afford one otherwise, but somehow I managed to chalk up two marks on my side of the scoreboard.
Now that I have finished up with some other magazine project cars, I have the time and resources to resurrect this snake to its former glory. While editor Evan Smith would have it restored to factory original condition, I would be too tempted to sell it for profit if that were the case. I've always driven and enjoyed all of my rides, and doing so with an all-original Cobra with 1,331 miles on it would just be stupid.
That said, we've decided to look at it as a brand-new car and modify it as much as we have our '97 Cobra project car, Superfly. We intend to improve all areas of performance within the platform while keeping it perfectly comfortable to drive anywhere. Think a step or two beyond the Cobra R, except with a radio and A/C.
A few more of the original...
A few more of the original parts that I procured include the radiator, the overflow bottle, and the fan shroud, along with the 8.8 housing, inner fenderwells, and the transmission crossmember.
From here to the finish line we'll bring you monthly installments detailing how we slung a new suspension underneath it and rebuilt the dismantled 8.8. We also have to slap on some good stoppers and a performance wheel and tire package-though we haven't decided whether to keep it stock looking or go with something more modern.
After that, we need to assemble a suitable powerplant that meets today's performance standards, back it up with a stout but smooth-shifting gearbox, and take care of some detail items on the ponycar.
Stay tuned for this snake's...
Stay tuned for this snake's return to Mustang high performance.
Once all is said and done, we plan on driving the wheels off of it, hitting the dragstrip, and hopefully some autocross and open track events.
In beginning a project car, giving it a name is always a tough decision, and with a Cobra, it's easy to fall into using one of the numerous cliches, such as Snake Bite, Twice Bitten, Dr. Hiss, or Venomous. Having made off with the Cobra for next to nothing, we're going to evade all the tacky snake references and call this project Stolen Goods.
Deals and Steals
As we previously mentioned, having the funding to jump on a deal is extremely helpful when bargaining for price. Sometimes though you can happen across individuals who just need to get out of a project, or who haven't given any thought to selling their ride but your timely offer just makes the decision for them.
My brother purchased the LX coupe pictured here for a mere $400. At first glance, one may wonder who would pay $50 for it, but the car was complete aside from the motor and trans when he bought it. He's just been in the middle of some bodywork. The deal also included another LX hatchback that had an 8.8 with 3.55 gears in it. Also part of the deal was a six-point roll bar that was still in its shipping packaging.
With the $400 sounding a bit better now, my brother also planned to swap out the drivetrain and wiring harnesses from his 1991 GT, whose body looked like it went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. The main point is, if you're willing to do some of the work yourself, or can get it done cheaper than somebody else, unfinished projects may be something for you to consider, as deals can often be had quite easily.