A big part of the Ford Mustang’s appeal is its amazing heritage. A heritage of style, performance, and more race wins than anyone can count. It’s quite simply one of the coolest American cars ever built. And to keep interest hot, Ford has two very cool new Mustangs for us to play with, the latest version of their hot-stepping Cobra, and a retro-60s muscle machine, the Bullitt. Is it any wonder that this is America’s favorite pony car?

Not to most Ford fans! They’ve been singing the Mustang’s praises ever since it debuted back in 1964. And while it has suffered a few ups and downs over its storied 37 year career, the folks at Ford have done a pretty good job of keeping this straightforward 60’s concept very competitive in our 21st century car market.

The limited-edition Cobra, a product of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, is well know to fans of high-performance American cars. In 2001 guise, the already powerful Cobra has received another boost in both power and performance.

The hand-built 4.6-liter dual-overhead- cam V8 engine, has been upgraded with everything from a deep skirt block, to tumble port induction. As a result, it pumps out an honest-to-heaven 320 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. That’s 60 more horsepower, and 15 more pound-feet of torque, than its single- overhead-cam cousin in the standard Mustang GT. The only transmission necessary is a stiff but precise, 5-speed manual.

With all 320 ponies working hard, the Cobra romps to 60 in only 5.3 seconds. The 1/4 mile passes by in 13.7 seconds at 106 miles-per-hour. These are pretty exciting numbers. But we must admit, our Cobra was slower than we expected. As expected, the hopped-up V8 delivers gobs of torque from the word go. But we had a hard time getting it to hook up to the pavement. The single-plate clutch is also stiff, but gives the driver plenty of feedback.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the chassis, which despite the addition of the Mustang’s first independent rear suspension, doesn’t feel as connected to the road as previous solid-axle Cobras. There’s plenty of handling grip, and the car’s tendency to oversteer has been replaced by a mild front end push, but the overboosted rack-and-pinion steering keeps you from fully exploiting it.

We are however, very pleased with the sticky ZR-rated BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires, on standard 17-inch alloy wheels. Our braking test delivered average stops from 60 of 120 feet. Stability was excellent, though we expected a bit better results from the big 13-inch ventilated Brembo discs up front. 4-channel ABS, linked to all-speed traction control is standard equipment.

Out in the everyday world, the Cobra delivers a ride that’s still quite firm, but noticeably improved over that of its solid-rear-axle predecessors.

Despite its shortcomings, the Cobra is still quite a hot-to-trot package. One that you can own for $29,205. When it comes to performance for the dollar, its a sure fire winner.

If however, you want as much show as go, you might opt for the limited-edition 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT.

Inspired by the 60’s Steve McQueen detective flick of the same name, the Bullitt adds a dash of classic car chase style to the Mustang’s modern lines. Touches include a cosmetic retro hood scoop, Billet aluminum fuel filler door… And 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels like those on McQueen’s movie car. The retuned front strut, solid axle rear suspensions have also been lowered 3/4- of-an-inch, for that hunkered down look.

While under that pumped-up hood, the Bullitt packs 265 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. That’s a tad more than the standard GT. The 4.6-liter single-overhead-cam V8 adds larger throttle bodies, a cast aluminum intake manifold, and high flow mufflers missing on the GT. Like the Cobra, the only transmission is a 5-speed manual. But here the new box is lighter, more precise, as is the progressive clutch.

So, slam the Bullitt into gear, and hold on. 0 to 60 speeds by in 5.7 seconds. The quarter mile is 14.1 at 105 miles per hour. Or only a hair’s breath slower than our Cobra. Like a shell casing, our Bullitt felt precisely machined and very well put together. Its a nice step above the standard GT and more refined than the Cobra.

This is a car that begs to be driven in an enthusiastic manner. Though we advise you try to avoid duplicating Steve McQueen’s movie stunts on public roads, lest you wish for an extended stay at the cross-bars motel.

To bring those speeds down to legal levels, the Bullitt is equipped with the same 13-inch ventilated Brembo front discs as the Cobra. So it stops as well as it goes and shows. The show carries over to the inside, thanks to a selection of real vintage features such as the 60’s-style gauge faces, a brushed aluminum shifter ball that gets as hot as the sun when not left in the shade and aluminum pedal covers. All for a base price of $26,830.

With the 2001 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra and Bullitt GT, Ford has delivered a one-two punch of performance and style that recalls the Mustang’s illustrious heritage, while reminding us that this 60’s veteran is still ready to rock-and- roll into the next century.

It was America’s favorite pony car then, and it’s America’s favorite pony car now. We’re not surprised, are you?


  • Engine: 4.6-Liter Dohc V8
  • Horsepower: 320
  • Torque: 317 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.3 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.7 Seconds @ 106 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet
  • EPA Mileage: 18 MPG City 25 MPG Highway