The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic American automobiles still in production. Indeed, it helped establish the muscle car segment. Six generations of this legendary pony car have spanned over a half-dozen decades and offered many memorable iterations for collectors.
But popular YouTube car reviewer Doug DeMuro itched to get his hands on one specific model: the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, nicknamed the Terminator Cobra. Let’s take a look at the car and his thoughts.
What is a Ford Mustang Terminator Cobra?
In the late 1990s, the fourth generation of the Ford Mustang got a facelift. Under Ford’s “New Edge” styling theme, the Mustang had a sharper look with more exterior creases. Some power gains came, too, and the look endured through 2004, the final model year of the fourth-generation Mustang.
The SVT “Terminator” Cobra followed in the footsteps of other SVT Cobras across the fourth generation of Mustangs but brought massive upgrades in the 2003 and 2004 model years. With the base Mustang at the time, drivers got a 3.8-liter V6 producing 190 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. Jump up a few notches to the Terminator Cobra, and the powertrain graduates to a 4.6-liter V8 harnessing 390 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque.
MotorTrend says the previous Cobra released in 1999 was underwhelming. Ford rated the power at 320 hp, but many estimates put the actual power rating closer to 285 hp. Things changed four years later when an intercooled supercharger pushed the Terminator’s power to 390 hp. Some estimates from engine dynos put the horsepower closer to 420 or 430. Because it was a factory-built supercharger, modifications were also easy for drivers who wanted more boost and power.
However, that potency didn’t come with a massive price tag. At the time, a base 2003 Chevy Corvette was down on power compared to the Terminator Cobra — 350 hp to 390 hp — but at an MSRP of $43,635, MotorTrend reports. That was $10,000 more than a Terminator Cobra.
It wasn’t all about power, either. Terminator Cobras handle well and feature Brembo vented disc brakes and 17-inch alloy wheels. Despite the power and handling for a lower price than competitors, Ford sold fewer than 14,000 Terminator Cobras of the 19,000 it made, including coupes and convertibles. Kelley Blue Book puts the typical listing price for a 2003 Terminator Cobra with 100,000 miles at around $20,000.
That ended up being the final time the Cobra name was used on a Mustang, as the fifth-generation redesign came in 2005, and upgraded Mustang models have borne the Shelby name instead.
Doug DeMuro’s take on the Terminator
In his YouTube review, Doug DeMuro takes out a 2004 Terminator Cobra convertible with under 33,000 miles for a drive. He has eagerly waited years to review the car because of one factor: the paint job. He’s been keen to find one in the rare “Mystichrome” color that changes depending on where you stand — or sit. The Mystichrome’s blue-purple hue also covers the seats and steering wheel.
The interior is where DeMuro finds the first drawback to the Terminator Cobra. It’s uncomfortable, but that speaks to what he says Ford marketed the car as — “cheap speed.” You don’t get more power than a base Corvette for $10,000 less without making a few sacrifices.
A fun quirk on the interior is the font used on the airbag — the “SRS” (Supplemental Restraint System) was in the same cursive as the Mustang name written on the passenger airbag cover. Ford stitched cobra snakes into the seats and surprisingly printed “Mustang” in script on the inside of the door frame. As a convertible, there’s a special button for putting the soft top up that also reminds you to put the parking brake on.
Turning the car off is unusual, too, with a special switch above the ignition you have to push to turn the vehicle off. However, starting the car requires simply turning the key in the ignition using the same fob type used with every Ford of that model year.
Though it’s only a two-door car, the small rear windows have switches to power the corner panes up and down. Behind them, the small trunk has a small opening, but the lid hides a nice touch of Mystichrome paint inside. As DeMuro notes, that’s an expensive trunk lid.
Under the hood, the supercharged engine offers a mix of a throaty bellow punctured by a high-pitched whine. DeMuro loves the sound and driving experience. The latter keeps it straightforward — no sport mode, just driving. He also says the handling and steering are solid. And by the end of his review, DeMuro decides he might get a Terminator Cobra for the simple fun.
How did the Ford Mustang Terminator Cobra get its nickname?
MotorTrend reports that the Ford Mustang Terminator Cobra’s nickname came from a design competition among three versions: Bruce Jenner, Rambo, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Each bore similarities to its corresponding celebrity. The last of the trio won the contest and adopted the “Terminator” moniker for Schwarzenegger’s character in the film series of the same name.
“By chance, it coincided with the ‘termination’ of Chevrolet’s 35-year-long Camaro pony car program,” MT adds, “giving the name added impetus.”