The 1996 Ford Mustang was a milestone car. First of all, the ’96 Mustang ditched the goofy tail lights in favor of something more traditional. But more so, it marked the point when the Mustang completely separated itself from the pushrod V8 and went with a single, and dual over head cam engine combo; some to elation, others to disappointment.
The disappointment was twofold: first, the loss of such a tried and true powerplant in the 302 V8, and second, the replacement SOHC was smaller in displacement, much larger is physical mass and weaker in power. It was the “forehead slap heard ‘round the world” when the ’96 Mustang GT hit the scene with a mere 215 horsepower—however, it was all we had, so we worked with it.
The elation came with the introduction of the ’96 Mustang SVT Cobra. The SOHC 4.6 was replaced by a significantly healthier DOHC 4.6 that pumped out a more respectable 305 horses—and looked pretty aggressive, to boot! True, a 2018 EcoBoost can pump out more power, but in 1996, this was the top of the heap.
Honestly, the 1996 SN95 SVT Cobra was a great car. Ford took an awfully huge risk when they switched over to the OHC powerplants, and even though it was kinda’ shaky in the beginning, they didn’t give in. Twenty-two years later, we’re graced with some of the best machinery to come out of Dearborn, Michigan, in the forms of the 5.0 Coyote and the 5.2 Voodoo engines. John Davis, the host of Motorweek, really liked the SVT Cobra; it had plenty to offer in the form of power, handling and comfort. The 1996 SVT Cobra was a winner.
The Cobra itself was the start of a long line of Mustang specialty vehicles that would later be the catalyst of some of the best Mustangs to date; including the Bullitt, Terminator, and the Shelby Mustangs. The 1996 SVT Cobra bridged that gap. It’s safe to say that we’re over the disappointment.
Living in Richmond, Tx, PJ Rentie has been in the automotive industry for more than 30 years. This former Assistant Editor at Vette Magazine also spent time with companies like NOS, Edelbrock, Hillbank Motorsports, Classic Industries, and was an automotive instructor for Cypress College for ten years. In his spare time, PJ hopes to one day bring his Fox Body Mustang out of the back yard and back onto the street!