Period Correct Performance: Dennis Fahey’s 1993 Cobra

With the prices of used Fox-body Mustangs at an all-time high, it’s not surprising that the subject of restoration, and how to perform one on what many still consider to be a late-model vehicle, is a burgeoning market with numerous thoughts on what might be the most appropriate direction to take. For Brooksville, Florida’s Dennis Fahey, the restoration of his 1993 Cobra was about restoring it back to the mid ‘90s, when relatively new Fox-body Mustangs were modified with the latest bolt-ons to unleash the performance of the formidable 5.0-liter pushrod powerplant.

This Cobra needed mile-deep paint, but it needed to be the modified car you would have wanted to own cruising the street race scene in the Tampa Bay area back in the ’90s—Dennis Fahey

Fahey was just starting his collection of Fox-body Mustangs when an opportunity to buy a 1993 Cobra came up. The car was an early production model, being the 23rd off the line, and the black SVT snake was optioned with Opal Gray leather interior. Previous owners had driven the wheels off of it, racking up over 176,000 miles of rear-wheel-drive fun, and they had modified the car a good bit along the way.

The Motorsport decal on the front window is sure to bring back a lot of memories for enthusiasts. Just like back in the ’90s, this car looks stock, but has seen a multitude of modifications.

The 5.0-liter engine had received a Comp Cams 270 camshaft, and the factory short-block was topped off with a set of Edelbrock RPM aluminum cylinder heads with 2.02 intake valves. The previous owner kept the early production model, flat-sided factory Cobra intake manifold, but added a BBK cold-air kit to feed it. On the exhaust side, there was a pair of well-worn long-tube headers with an off-road X-pipe.

“This Cobra needed mile-deep paint, but it needed to be the modified car you would have wanted to own cruising the street race scene in the Tampa Bay area back in the ’90s,” Fahey said. “While not a popular or safe activity to be condoned, it was that scene where our passion for the Fox-body was born. The car was already modified somewhat, so she sounded great, rode nice, and ran well, but we wanted a more period-correct, ‘Day 2’ restoration.”

After deciding to freshen up the engine bay, Fahey found a set of NOS Ford Motorsport 8mm ignition wires, and went down the rabbit hole from there. Next, it was replacing the exhaust with some vintage Ford Motorsport pieces, which included Ford Motorsport 1 ½-inch shorty headers, and a deep dive into his contacts netted him an original 2 ¼-inch Ford Motorsport off-road pipe. Remembering the Ford Motorsport catalog of the ’90s, Fahey acquired a set of Ford Motorsport pulleys — the ones anodized in blue, of course. Those, however, would end up sitting on a shelf as an opportunity came up to buy a Ford Motorsport-branded Powerdyne BD-11A centrifugal supercharger off of Facebook Marketplace.

“I knew the power was going to be marginal, but the whole point was to get the Motorsport-branded BD-11A Powerdyne for it,” Fahey explained. “We pulled the kit apart and sent the brackets off to have them powdercoated by Anderson Performance Coatings in Inverness, Florida.”

While the short-block has been left untouched, the top half of the little 302 has been upgraded with an aftermarket cam and cylinder heads, along with the Powerdyne supercharger. The kit was missing the fuel management unit, but Fahey sourced one through a fellow Fox-body enthusiast who had moved on to a bigger fuel system.

With the engine and exhaust sorted out, Fahey started looking at the Cobra’s tired exterior. He decided to perform another period-correct modification, and that was to have the rear wheels widened. In the 1990s, there was really only one company that people looked to for this, and that was Weldcraft in Livonia, Michigan.

“I was inspired by Nick Meyer’s black ’93 Cobra, which had the widened rear wheels,” Fahey told us. “He talked me through how wide I could go and I wanted to be able to put a 315 on it.” Rather than use the original wheels off the car, Fahey picked up a second set that were in need of refinishing. He then sourced a few sets of OE center caps and picked out the four best looking ones.

When it came to the Cobra’s exterior body panels, they definitely wore the mileage proudly.

“It had been through several partial repaints and they weren’t good. The deck lid had an inconsistent finish on it and there was a little bit of rust down the driver’s side A-pillar and windshield,” Fahey said.

For a hot minute, he had the thought of just repainting the worst parts of the car, but after thinking about it and talking it over with National Parts Depot’s (NPD) Matthew Laszaic, he decided to have the whole car painted. For that substantial task, he reached out to Dean Santiago of Spike’s Performance and Refinishing in Ocala, Florida. Santiago has painted a number of high-profile magazine project cars in the past, and his Ocala, Florida, shop was just an hour from Fahey’s residence.

This Cobra may look pretty stock from the outside, but keen eyes will see that something is up with the back wheels. Stuffed under the rear quarters are 17×10-inch widened Cobra wheels wearing fat 315mm Nitto tires.

While the Cobra didn’t have any major dents or damage, it would have to be laser straight for its black paint job to be perfect. Santiago smoothed everything out and, as he prefers to do, melted out the factory lead filler where the rear quarter panels meet the roof and then welded the seam solid.

Thinking back to the vintage cowl-induction-style hood that Dugan Racing used to offer for the Fox-body Mustang, Fahey contacted Laszaic and procured one of NPD’s 2-inch steel cowl-induction hoods. He also ordered the one with the factory style bracing underneath so he could run a stock hood insulator as well. Rounding out the front-end updates were replacement decals from David Osborne at Jim Osborn Reproductions and a full set of NOS Ford headlights, the latter requiring the purchase of individual components from various sources.

At the back of the car, the Cobra was wearing replacement taillights when Fahey purchased the car, and his initial thought was to restore a set of original ones for it. But the decision was made to go with replicas from NPD to help show the scope of Fox-body restoration parts that the company offers.

Moving to the interior, Fahey planned a full restoration of the factory Opal Gray leather upholstery, door panels, and other parts.

At the same time, NPD wanted to use this project as an opportunity to catalog the factory fasteners that hold the car together to be able to provide concours-quality replacement hardware for future enthusiast restorations.

Every piece of the interior was renewed with the exception of the steering wheel, and the car owner currently is looking at options to have another wheel recovered, but companies that can do a factory-like job of that task have been hard to come by.

Working through Laszaic, Fahey was able to have TMI Products handle the installation of the replacement leather skins, as well as a replacement headliner on the factory board. Auto Custom Carpets supplied the new rug and Fahey worked with NPD and its SEM line of products to repaint the plastic interior top to bottom, including the dash, center console, sail panels, and door panels.

Final touches to the interior came in the form of a Pro 5.0 shifter with a stock shifter handle bolted to it, and Fahey sourced a factory premium cassette radio to supply the tunes — a vintage Alpine CD player would have been a period-correct option for sure!

With the paint now pristine and the interior impressively restored, the project was coming to a close, but Fahey had one more thing in store for the Cobra.

“The Motorsport windshield banner was something Matt [Laszaic] and I came up with,” Fahey explained. “Ford Motorsport offered one with the Ford ovals on each end back in the day. We worked with a local company to reproduce it, but made a little bigger and bolder version of it.”

Cobra 23 commemorates the car’s SVT status and production number, and the Ford Motorsport frame is the perfect item to bring attention to it.

With the resto-modification complete, it was time to sit back and admire the completed project, and NPD admired it enough to put it on the company’s Fox-body Mustang restoration catalog.

“That is a rare occurrence, as most cars that are chosen are 100-percent original restorations or original cars,” Fahey told us.

As anyone that has owned a black car can attest to, keeping it clean is a labor of love and that fact is not lost on Fahey.

“This is the second black Fox-body I’ve ever owned, and I had said I would never own a second one. It’s difficult to maintain, but the allure of having number 23, the fifth car off the line sold to the general public, was too much to pass up. When you think of number twenty-three — we’re children of the 90s — you think of Michael Jordan, and he was really the greatest athlete of our time while growing up.”

And it’s that production number that also seems to be the first question Fahey gets asked when showing the car — the second question being what the mileage is.

After the Cobra wrapped up its cover photo shoot at NPD, Fahey took it to the 2019 Carlisle Ford Nationals where it was put in the show’s feature building, which was filled with cars celebrating 40 years of the Fox-body Mustang. As the pinnacle of that platform, the 1993 Cobra couldn’t be more fitting for that event.

“We would thank Matthew Laszaic, Rick Schmidt, and the entire team at National Parts Depot for their continued support of the car hobby and our endeavors within it,” Fahey noted. “We would also like to thank TMI Products, Spike’s Performance and Refinishing, along with Cold Case Radiators for their support on this project.”

Fahey’s growing Mustang collection features another 1993 Cobra, a red LX hatchback, a silver Special Service coupe, a Saleen Mustang, and more.

Technical Details

Owner/Driver

Owner: Dennis Fahey

Hometown: Brooksville, FL

Powertrain

Engine: Small-block Ford

Engine builder: Ford Motor Company

Displacement: 302 cubic inches

Block: Stock

Bore: Stock

Stroke: Stock

Crank: Stock

Rods: Stock

Pistons: Stock

Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM

Camshaft—Brand: Comp Cams 270

Carburetor or EFI system: Factory EEC-IV electronic fuel injection

Power-adder: Ford Motorsport-branded Powerdyne BD-11A centrifugal supercharger

Headers and exhaust: Ford Motorsport shorty mated to 2-1/4-inch Ford Motorsport off-road H-pipe. All ceramic coated Flowmaster 2.5-inch cat-back exhaust system.

Transmission: Stock T5 five-speed manual

Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Centerforce

Rearend: 3:73 Gears

Differential: Ford Traction-Lok

 

Chassis

Suspension (Front): BMR coil springs with stock replacement struts

Suspension (Rear): BMR coil springs with stock replacement shocks

Brakes (Front) Brand: Stock   Disc/Drum: stock 1993 Cobra

Brakes (Rear) Brand: Stock    Disc/Drum: Stock 1993 Cobra

Wheels (front) Brand: Stock   Size: 17×7.5

Wheels (Rear) Brand: Stock   Size: 17×10, widened by Weldcraft

Tires (Front) Brand: Nitto      Size: 245/45/17 G2s

Tires (Rear) Brand: Nitto       Size: 315/35/17 G2s

Body modifications: Body fully stripped, straightened, and painted by Dean Santiago of Spike’s Performance and Refinishing

Fiberglass/Carbon body components: 2-inch steel cowl hood with stock underbracing provided by National Parts Depot. The stock style underbracing accepts a factory hood insulator allowing for stock appearance while the hood is up, but still giving the aggressive look of a cowl hood.

Photo gallery

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About the author

Steve Baur

A lifelong automotive enthusiast, Steve Baur attended the University of South Florida for journalism and has worked as a technical editor and editor for numerous automotive publications for over 20 years.
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