Road Trip ’95

Almost everyone enjoys a good road trip – but not many road trips are like the one I made in two hours and 23 minutes back in the late summer of 1995 in a brand-new Mustang Cobra R.

The trip from the DC suburbs to downtown Manhattan normally takes about four hours, but I was in a hurry. And the R was just the right tool for this mission.

It was not my Cobra R – a street-legal race car that came without back seats or a radio but did come with the last 351 V8 (5.8 liters for you Millennials) that Ford ever put in a factory-made Mustang, paired with a heavy-duty Tremec five-speed manual transmission.

Fuel cell. Race brakes. Headers.

Just two air bags.

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It had heavy-duty cooling systems for everything except the driver. The R did not have AC – but who needs AC when you are doing 147 MPH through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at three in the morning with the windows (manual) rolled down and the 351 screaming near redline in fourth?

That kind of speed keeps your mind focused on other things.

The Tunnel, in those days, was a kind of underground Autobahn. There was no place for cops to hide and – back then – no speed cameras, either. So if traffic was light, you had a green light.

You were free – and immune.

I-95 up the northeast corridor is another matter – then as well as now. It is a payin’ paper prowling ground and if you’re not discreet or simply unlucky your day may end badly or at least expensively. But it was nighttime and the Mustang wasn’t obviously obstreperous – except for its exhaust, which was as healthy as a ’70 Boss 302’s even with catalytic converters. I didn’t check but would not have been shocked if they were dummies. Those were different days and the car companies were still run by gearhead types who weren’t averse to a little no-harm-done “cheating” in the interests of a good time.

In any event, it had plates – and I had the keys. For one whole week of the best times I ever had and got away with.

The R belonged to Ford – which built it for SCCA road racing. Just like back in the day, when Chevy offered the first (1967) Z28 Camaro, which almost no one had ever heard of until the word got out about this very special Camaro you could buy if you knew the magic words (i.e., “Z28”).

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