There comes a time when the sleeper status of a track day car quickly begins to fade. Unfortunately for Project Apex, our sleeper status was diminishing in the minds of others at an alarming rate. We’re not certain whether it was due to the Forgeline GS1R wheels, MOMO interior, Maximum Motorsports roll bar, or simply because other drivers were getting accustomed to seeing the taillights of a 2001 Cobra. But the gig was up. It was as if Thanos had snapped his fingers, except instead of losing half of our car, we lost the part that held the mystique of being a daily driver that just happened to excel on the track. The final blow to our deception came when we overheard other drivers in the pits discussing how fast that “old” Mustang was.
We decided it would be a nice gesture to give the chassis some TLC before showcasing it in the Maximum Motorsports booth at the 2023 Mustang Week. While we’re fans of patina on classic cars and trucks, the factory Mineral Gray paint on our platform had been weathered and damaged by the sun, giving it the appearance of neglect rather than desirable patina. Years of sitting idle after an unexpected engine shutdown had left our Cobra exposed to the elements, and our unfortunate chassis bore the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath. Every time we worked on it, we discovered more dents, hail damage, and, in some places, even rust. It was high-time to address these imperfections and present Mustang Week attendees with a stunning 2001 Cobra, even if it was primarily a track car.
Prepping The Mustang For Paint
Before the concours restoration gurus chime in, it’s worth mentioning that this is a 2001 SVT Cobra that sees regular track use, rather than a race-heritage CSX-vinned Cobra. Our approach will be far from a frame-off restoration, but it aims to give our Mustang the same level of luster as its high-performance GT3 counterparts from Germany. This decision wasn’t due to a lack of effort or budget; it was driven by purpose. While a quick trip to a paint booth for a respray could have given us a shine for a limited time, we wanted to make our paint on par with the car’s performance. Taking it up a notch meant returning to the same place where Project Apex’s owner, Ivan Korda, had sent his original New Edge Mustang 15 years ago: Tim Urban of Alternative Koncepts in Seffner, Florida.
Our to-do list may have appeared straightforward to us, but we weren’t the ones doing the labor. Tim’s expertise was crucial for tasks like filling in and smoothening the wing mounts, the third brake light, and the keyhole from the trunk lid. Ironically, Tim still had a trunk lid that Ivan had donated to the body shop many years ago for a previous New Edge project. Additionally, we aimed to incorporate our Carter’s Customs hood vent in the center to maximize heat extraction. Beyond that, we needed to ensure that the hail damage, rust, and other imperfections were expertly smoothed out.
Tim began the process by removing the tail lights, bumpers, and exterior trim pieces. Once the car looked like a theft recovery, It was then time to sand down and fill in the areas where Mother Nature had left her marks on the chassis. As previously mentioned, the trunk lid’s third brake light, keyhole, and wing mounts were on the list to be filled in. The Carter’s Customs vent was slated for reinstallation, but this time, the gap between the vent and the front of the hood would be filled in, creating the desired GT500-like aesthetics. Given that the car would primarily see track use, there was no need to retain pesky license plate bolt holes.
With the prep work completed, the next step involved carefully taping and sealing off the interior, wheels, engine bay, and trunk to prevent any overspray from affecting these areas before the car was moved into the paint room.
Once A Diamond In The Rough
After removing the trim panels, masking off certain areas, and achieving a smooth surface, it was time for the exciting part. Tim expertly wielded the paint gun, transforming the Cobra from its once diamond-in-the-rough appearance into a refined and polished masterpiece. The fresh Mineral Grey coat gleamed brilliantly, but we didn’t want to stop at just a paint job. After all, no amount of shiny paint could fully compensate for the dull and sun-faded plastic trim that marred the exterior. To take our Cobra to the next level, we reached out to Late Model Restoration (LMR) to enhance the exterior with some new trim.
As anticipated, the majority of the black plastic on the exterior or in the engine bay has faded or cracked due to exposure to extreme heat. Fortunately, LMR had the products we needed in stock and ready to ship. What an amazing time to be alive! Some of us still recall posting “WTB” ads on forums in our quest to make our builds as pristine as possible. Thanks to LMR, we were able to source new headlights, fog lights, wiper cowl, hood struts, radiator cover, firewall-to-hood seal, wiper arms and blades, and even door weatherstripping by simply visiting their website. Everything fit with OEM precision and made our Cobra look twenty years younger.
Off To Mustang Week!
With Hurricane Idalia approaching the Florida coastline and Mustang Week rapidly approaching, we found ourselves with our hands full as we raced to finish the car. We usually strive not to be the “team last minute,” but in this instance, everything was coming down to the wire. Fortunately, a few late nights were all that we needed, and now we had our 2001 Cobra exactly where we wanted it. It was finally time for the drive from Florida to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to showcase Project Apex!