When Day-Two Won’t Do: Matt Whidden’s SVT Mustang Cobra Project

Matt Whidden bought a stock Cobra for a temporary daily driver, but he couldn’t resist the urge to turn it into a full performance build. Check it out here!

97 Cobra Mustang
Whidden’s plans for his bone-stock ’97 Cobra daily driver started innocently enough, but the initial strategy of just lowering it and replacing the wheels and exhaust lasted less than a week by his own admission.

“This is just another build – like many others out there – where things kind of got out hand,” says the owner of this blown SVT Mustang Cobra, Matt Whidden. “I originally bought this ‘97 Cobra as something fun to drive while my ‘95 Cobra was down for a big power build. The idea was simply to lower it, put on new wheels, and replace the exhaust. That lasted less than a week.”

Whidden says that while the ’97 Cobra wasn’t meant to be his pride and joy project, the allure of Ford’s modular V8 proved to be a siren song too strong to ignore. “The four valve motor’s smoothness and powerband quickly won me over, even though it made 300 horsepower less than my 95 Cobra,” he explains. “I bought the car with the intent of actually driving it, and two years later, I’ve spend a few hours behind the wheel and hundreds upon hundreds in the garage.”

To learn more about the DLG-1, dual channel wideband gauge, click here

Mustang Cobra
Six months into Whidden’s ownership, this is how the now-supercharged Mustang Cobra sits today, with a suspension overhaul courtesy of Maximum Motorsports, Koni, and Hyperco that should help the rest of the car keep up with the newfound horsepower.

The car’s got plenty to boast about due to those efforts, though. Starting with a showroom-stock example, Whidden quickly set to work heavily revamping the suspension, which now features Maximum Motorsports coilovers, Koni single-adjustable shocks and struts, and Hyperco springs front and rear. There’s also a host of other bits and pieces from Maximum Motorsports, like their adjustable rear sway bar, Panhard bar, control arms, camber/caster plates, full length subframe connectors, and four-point roll bar.

Brembo calipers
Whidden’s Mustang sports a laundry list of corner-carving hardware. These Brembo calipers with cross drilled rotors should provide the stopping power needed to keep the car’s overall capability balanced when hustling it around the track.

Considering the suspension upgrades and the significantly improved chassis rigidity, along with the True Forged Chicane three-piece forged wheels wrapped in Falken Azenis RT615K rubber, there’s little doubt that this pony can hang with the best of them out on the track or autocross course. But with Whidden’s penchant for horsepower, it wasn’t long before he turned his attention to the power train.

Crinkle-black powder coated intake

triple pillar pod with custom bezels






(Left) Crinkle-black powder coated intake, cam and coil covers, along with a custom radiator cover, help give the Mustang’s engine bay a clean, custom look. (Right) Installed in a triple pillar pod with custom bezels, the DLG-1 gauge provides real-time information on the air/fuel ratio and allows Whidden to monitor the left and right exhaust banks on one gauge.

To get the power where he wanted it, Whidden added a custom-built Vortech V3si with a Treadstone air-to-air intercooler to the mix, along with an Aeromotive 340 LPH fuel pump, a Tial Q blowoff valve, Siemens Deka 80lb injectors, and a 3.33″ pulley to provide 10 Psi of boost. “The tune isn’t finished, but the car will have to be held to 450rwhp at around 6200 rpm until I build another shortblock with billet rods,” Whidden says. To monitor things under the hood, he uses Innovate Motorsports DLG-1 gauges with custom bezels mounted in a triple pillar pod. “I like to monitor battery voltage, IAT, water temp, and boost,” says Whidden. “I tune the car myself and it’s very convenient to be able to monitor most of the parameters that the computer sees without having to have my laptop hooked up.”

Mustang's interior Mustang's interior





(Left) The Cobra’s interior upgrades include 2003 Cobra 10th Anniversary seats and center console, an FR500 steering wheel and a Pro 5.0 shifter, along with a host of odds and ends to help modernize the cabin. (Right) With the rear seat gone courtesy of a Maximum Motorsports delete kit, the Odyssey PS 1200 battery has been relocated to provide room in the engine bay and better weight distribution.

Despite how far the car has come under his care, Whidden says there’s still plenty of work still to be done. “I’ve now owned the car 2 years and have only driven it a few times. I work out of state in long periods of time, so that stretches my timeline out, but I’ve had the car in my hands less than 6 months. Eventually, I’m shooting for 600rwhp on 91 octane with 03 Cobra heads and 01 intake, with a custom 96-98 upper lid adapter,” he says. “I already have all these parts as well – there’s an entire bedroom of the house dedicated to parts awaiting install.”

red cars
Whidden swaps between the True Forged wheels and these MMD 551C rollers, the latter of which are wrapped in Nitto Invo tires. Keep an eye out for that F-150 Lightning in a future story.

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