2003 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra Convertible
Jimmy Dinsmore's picture

The 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra Is Perhaps Greatest Mustang Ever Produced

2003 SVT Ford Mustang Cobra is highly underrated and should be considered near the top of all-time best Mustangs ever created. Let's see if the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra is the greatest Mustang ever.

As a Mustang historian (a title that still sits weird with me), people ask me, what Mustang would you own if you could get buy any of them. That’s such a loaded question. I love the 1960’s era Mustangs for sentimental reasons. A ’67-‘69 Mustang Convertible would be great to have.

But, for me, a Mustang that doesn’t get enough credit as an instant classic, and one I for sure would dream about is the 2003 Mustang Cobra.

Here is why the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra may be the greatest Mustang ever. This car was produced by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team or SVT. The SVT unit of Ford existed from 1993 until 2006. The last vehicle produced by SVT was the 2006 Ford GT. SVT is responsible for some of the most powerful, enjoyable vehicles that Ford has ever created. Having a vehicle made by SVT automatically means this car (or truck) is special. And the 2003 Mustang Cobra is no exception.

In fact, John Clor of Ford Performance and Mustang historian once called the 2003 SVT Cobra, “the top production Mustang of all time because supercharging changed Mustang forever.”

The SVT Cobra was introduced during 2002 as a 2003 model year. The SVT Cobra took modern Mustang horsepower to all-new heights by introducing an Eaton supercharged 4.6-liter DOHC V8 engine known as the Terminator.

What a cool and apropos nickname for such a game changing engine. The SVT Cobra also had a 6-speed manual transmission and special front end that had a heat-extraction hood. The round Cobra fog lights remained. A rear fascia had the name Cobra inscribed on the bumper as well as a sleek rear spoiler. On profile it featured special rocker panel moldings and side scoops and the Cobra emblem was emblazoned on the inside in several spots, including the seats. The engine makes 390 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque (at 3500 RPM). It had a quarter mile (tested) track speed of 13.01 seconds.

2003 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra Coupe and Convertible

Certainly there’s faster Mustangs around that would do better in the quarters, but the SVT Cobra is still special and powerful, thanks to that supercharger. The 0-60 mph time is impressive at 4.8 seconds (again thanks to that supercharger).

The car sat on 17-inch tires and 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels. One of the most impressive features were the 13-inch vented Brembo performance brakes with twin-post calipers. The ride and handling were widely appreciated by enthusiasts as the SVT Cobra offered a distinctive performance in that regard thanks to a modified MacPherson strut system and gas-powered Bilstein dampeners.

The 2003 SVT Cobra was one of the last production Mustangs built on the SN-95 platform. This platform helped revive the muscle car era for Ford and in Mustang heritage it’s a respected platform for the Mustang.

Ford produced a total of 13,476 SVT Cobra Mustangs in the 2003 model year of which 8,394 were convertibles. The Satin Silver color was the rarest with only 242 made (for coupe) and only 81 made for convertible.

When new it had a starting MSRP in the mid $30s and mint condition ones can still go in the mid $20s (or higher).

If anyone is buying me a present, I'm a size convertible (black, red or white). Let me know in the comments section below if you agree that the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra is the greatest Ford Mustang ever. Check out my latest story on Ford kicking off safe driving tour for new drivers.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Find most of Jimmy's stories at Torque News Ford and Torque News Ford Mustang. Search Torque News Ford daily Mustang, F-150 and other Ford news stories from our expert automotive reporters.

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Nah, the SVT was exciting at the time, but not by today's standards. The current Mustang with the Ecosport 2.3T has a 0-60 around 4.4 secs, so hard to get all excited about the SVT.
Every year the 0-60 time gets better. Imagine when there's an electrical one.
Ford produced the Raptor as an SVT model from 2010-2014, making it the last SVT produced. The Ford GT was not "SVT".
John Clor of Ford Performance and who worked for SVT said the GT was the last one. I took that info directly from him.
I owned a '92 Convertible Mustang LX (5.0 V8) and it was a very fun car. I remember when the SVT Cobra came out. It was so powerful and quick, and adding pulleys would quickly add even more power. Plus that was a lighter, more raw generation of Mustangs, which made it an exciting car to drive. And I give Ford kudos for continuing to improve the Mustang, even after Chevy killed off the Camaro in 2002. Ford could have just sat back and raked in the business that Chevy gave up, but they actually raised the bar with the SVT Cobra instead. The subsequent success of the Mustang brought out today's Challenger to compete in 2008, and Chevy realized their mistake and brought the Camaro back in 2009. But the evolution of the Mustang kept moving on, and the sophistication and balance of overall performance in later Mustangs exceeded the earlier musclecar and ponycar beginnings, and they shifted to compete in handling and braking using a stiffer more capable chassis that started to rival European sports cars. The new 2020 Shelby GT500 is not a dedicated drag racer like the Dodge Demon. It has an amazing 760HP, but it can put all that power down into acceleration without racing slicks, and it can run on a circuit racetrack with the top performance cars of today. Which adds up in my book as providing an outstanding and well rounded performance car. That doesn't take away from the historical importance and value of the SVT Cobra, but it does make today's Mustang's the best yet for me.
Great point about the Camaro being cut that year. I had forgotten about that.
I am second owner of a 2003 Terminator. Two years ago, at approx 91k miles, the cooler took a dump. After researching, I shipped the motor to Proweld in Kentucky. The blower was then shipped to Stiegemeier in St. Louis. Results are 598hp at the crank, and no lumpy cam! It’s known around town as Sleeper Beauty! I’m sure one day, from a roll, I’ll meet a faster street car... Great article on the, “Terminator”. Thanks
I bought the 03 cobra new, black convertible . Still have it . Best , most fun power house you could ever have . Still in garage shinning like a new penny Low mileage and I love it more now than the day I drove it home from dealer .
Second owner 03 torch red 510 rwhp what a blast.Low miles .Make sure your going straight once 12 lp boost spins up .. What more can you ask for for the price
To me it's the best Mustang ever. I love the story behind the making of the car. The passion and responsibility the SVT Team poured into every mechanical aspect of the vehicle is to be admired. I'm the lucky 2nd owner of a 10th anniversary Torch Red. It's my dream car.