Pristine in Green
Justin McCormick created the perfect New Edge—a 2001 Bullitt with a 2004 Cobra drivetrain
By Steve Turner
Photos by Rob Dahm and Will Prater
If you’ve never driven a 2001 Bullitt, you are doing a disservice to yourself as a Mustang fan. For their time, these cars packed a balance of style and handling that was befitting of a car inspired by the 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback in the most famous movie chase scene ever. Being behind the wheel of a Bullitt might not have made you as cool as Steve McQueen, but it was close.
Of course, if there was one weakness in the Bullitt’s character, it was the powertrain. Revved up by a measly 5 horsepower over a Mustang GT’s Two-Valve, the Bullitt engine only benefitted from a new cast intake and tuning. It was likely that Ford didn’t want this specialty model cannibalizing Cobra sales, so it kept the power down.
Despite that foible, the Bullitt still has its fans (your scribe included). One such fan is Justin McCormick of Monroe, Michigan. He eventually made the move on one, but it isn’t the car you see here.
“I purchased a 2001 Bullitt, number 5381, a few years back. My father and I drove to Lynchburgh, Virginia, to get it. It was a cool car, I was always a fan of the clean Bullitt look and the Dark Highland Green was just amazing in my opinion,” Justin said. “I messed around with it for a year or so. It was getting up there in miles, my anal-retentive, OCD side kicked in and the car just wasn’t up to my standards. I sold the car for a good amount and had money burning a hole in my pocket. I started looking at ’03-’04 Cobras.”
Yes, the specialty cars of the New Edge era seem inextricably linked. Each has its own set of fans, and the groups are as unique as the cars themselves. From the Bullitt to the Mach 1 to the Terminator, the early 2000s had a strong run of limited-production ’Stangs. For Justin, the Bullitt was The One.
“The clean lines of a Bullitt. No spoiler, smooth side skirts, smooth side scoops, and the quarter windows. Not many people notice the subtle change of the quarter windows on Bullitts, which were later adapted to the ’03-’04 Mach 1. They make the car,” he explained. “No spoiler, those windows, and a large, dished wheel-and-tire combo in the rear makes for the perfect Mustang in my opinion. Last but not least DHG. Dark Highland Green is my all-time-favorite factory color on a Mustang.”
Still, for a fan of the Bullitt to consider switching to Terminator is truly a power move. At least, it is one motivated by the Cobra’s superior power. Justin picked up a Terminator clone—based on a 1999 V-6—which he had been driving. Shortly thereafter, he decided he couldn’t bear investing a lot of time and money into a clone, so it was time for a bold move. Justin came up with the ideal solution.
“One day—randomly—a light popped on, and the Terminated Bullitt came to fruition in my head. I started my search for an unmolested, bone-stock, low-mileage Bullitt. I didn’t want to spend big money,” he said. “A lot of guys try and get upper teens for their low-mileage, stock Bullitts. I stumbled upon a 23,000-mile, one-owner Bullitt (number 2793) on AutoTrader in Chicago for a realistic price. I immediately called the guy and told him I would be there the next day for it. My dad and I jumped in the car and proceeded on another road trip to pick up another Bullitt.”
Shortly after bringing the car back, Justin and a few friends dismantled the Cobra clone with the help of a few pizzas and adult beverages. With the car in pieces, he inventoried the parts, keeping those he needed and selling off the rest.
In just two short weeks, Justin had swapped over all the necessary wiring harnesses, the engine, and the transmission. The car was up and running that quick. Later he swapped over the independent rear suspension. Even that didn’t lift the car up to his standards, as he spent another week polishing the complete exhaust and driveshaft to a mirror shine. For more detail, you can check out his entire build thread right here on SVTP.
With the hardware and support hardware in place, he brought the car to Lidio Iacobelli at Alternative Auto for a custom SCT tune.
“It’s fun and easy to drive, the Eaton supplies instant, tire-burning torque. The IRS allows the car to be low to the ground, yet it rides like a Cadillac in comparison to a live-axle car,” Justin said. “It breaks necks too, people are always looking at it. I had one older gentleman tell me it was the best looking late-model Mustang he as ever seen. I am not sure on that one, but it was nice to hear.”
So, does the resulting combo feel like a Terminator? Justin says it is as close to the real thing as you can get.
“There really isn’t a comparison. This car is truly a Terminator in Bullitt clothing. Every single wiring harness, nut, bolt, clip, fastener, etc., is all ’03 Cobra. Nothing was left undone or untouched,” he said. “The swap is true and factory correct. You would be hard pressed to find any indication that the car wasn’t shipped from Dearborn this way, and I pride myself on that.”
As you might imagine, this car can leave people scratching their heads. You can only imagine the questions a swap like this brings out at car shows…
“Did that come with a Four-Valve?”
“I thought these were Two-Valves?”
“Is that a 5.4?”
“Is that a real Bullitt?”
Justin has heard them all.
“My girlfriend Brittany and I went to the 50th anniversary birthday celebration this past April in Charlotte. It was really the first time the car got exposure. It was pretty comical to say the least. I was parked next to an ’03 Cobra which worked out perfectly,” Justin explained. “People would stop between the two cars, look at the Cobra, then look at mine, then talk amongst each other with confusion. A handful of people apprehensively walked up and asked in a confused way ‘Is that the original engine?’”
It is an original Cobra engine, though Justin would prefer to take the stock Terminator power and the whole combination to another level.
“I would eventually like to add a blower upgrade—whether it be a VMP TVS 2.3 or a Whipple—I have not decided. I don’t want to make it too crazy, as it’s a street car, and I try to drive it as much as possible. I would love a mid-500rwhp car,” he added. “The interior needs some attention, it’s pretty bland. In the future I may work with TMI products to have the seats redone to give the interior a little more contrast. I am working on a different exhaust set up as well…”
For now, he enjoys driving the Terminated Bullitt to car shows and cruising at events like the Woodward Dream Cruise. So, if you see him out there enjoying the car, appreciate all the effort that went into this project. Justin built the Bullitt that we all wished Ford had.
The Mod List
Engine: MMR Iron 5.0 stroker w/ ARP main and head studs
Camshafts: 2003 Cobra
Cylinder Heads: 2003 Cobra Four-Valve aluminum
Intake: 2003 Cobra intercooled lower
Power Adder: 2003 Cobra Eaton supercharger w/ Billetflow 2.76-inch pulley
Fuel System: 2003 Cobra
Exhaust: Long-tube headers, UPR X-pipe, and Magnaflow cat-back
Transmission: Tremec T-56 six-speed manual w/ SPEC twin-disc clutch
Rearend: 2003 Cobra IRS diff w/ 4.10 gears, Ford Racing Carbon-Fiber Traction-Lok and Ford Racing girdle
Engine Management: Stock w/ custom tune by Lidio Iacobelli of Alternative Auto delivered via SCT device
Ignition: 2003 Cobra
K-member: Maximum Motorsports
A-arms: Maximum Motorsports forward offset
Springs: Maximum Motorsport 550 in-lb coilovers
Brakes: Stock w/ slotted rotors
Wheels: 18×9-inch Bullitt replicas
Tires: Continental Extreme Contact DW, 265/35-18
Springs: 2003 Cobra cut and powdercoated
Control Arms: 2003 Cobra with Maximum Motorsports Delrin bushings
Brakes: Stock w/ slotted rotors
Wheels: 18×10-inch Bullitt replicas
Tires: Continental Extreme Contact DW, 295/35-18