I’ve often felt like the proverbial square peg in the round hole of automotive journalism. The politics, the chumminess, the pervasive influence of the PR people, the tightly-controlled drives on billiards-table-smooth roads, the gossip, the idiocy, the complete and total lack of ethics. You get the idea. This is not the first time I’ve discussed this.
But every once in a while something happens that makes me forget all of that.
Last week, I drove a new-in-box 1995 Cobra R around the track at National Corvette Museum. This would be a major event in the life of nearly anyone who cares about cars in general and Mustangs in particular, but it’s particularly significant for me.
In 1995, as some of my more devoted readers may remember, I was a salesman at Bob Keim Ford in Clintonville, Ohio. We were not an SVT dealer, so we were not eligible to take delivery of any Cobras. I considered myself to be a “car guy” at the time and was absolutely miserable about this. When customers came in to try our very minimal stock of Mustangs (usually one V6 hardtop, one V6 convertible, and one GT) I’d suggest that they go to the SVT dealer down the street and try a Cobra instead.
For the 1996 model year, the Cobra went 32-valve and acquired the infamous “Mystic” paintjob. We had one come through on the transporter. I went out and started at it until the truck honked at me to get out of the way. I could, at that moment, conceive of nothing finer in life than to own a Mystic Cobra.
My first experience behind the wheel of an actual Mustang Cobra would come in 2007 when I rented a seat in the Camaro Mustang Challenge. This is a five-liter ’94 Cobra:
As much as I loved that Cobra, it was a rattletrap that wound up in the scrapheap a few years later. Robert’s Cobra R, on the other hand, is pure perfected unobtainium from 1995, one of 250, with plastic-wrapped doorhandles and the dealer inventory sticker still on the windshield. Driving it at NCM was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I’m grateful to Robert for making it happen, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to write for him, and people like him, and people like you. So the next time I’m hung over and awake far too early at the Detroit Auto Show, watching three-hundred-pound men rush a breakfast buffet like the bulls at Pamplona, I’ll remember why I’m really doing this: for the moment when you grab fourth gear down the back straight and live a young man’s dream in vivid color.