The Historical Significance
of the Mystichrome Cobra
Tailoring Amped-up Looks for Hopped-up Performance
During the latter half of the 1990s, Ford offered a few color-shifting paints on their various vehicles. On certain 1994–1995 Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys, one interesting paint choice was Venetian Blue Clearcoat Metallic. This same paint was offered on the 1995 Thunderbird, and it was marketed as Chameleon Clearcoat Metallic as part of an undermarketed 40th anniversary package. Regardless of its name, the paint shifted from a bright indigo blue to a deep violet. Another offering was Cypress Gold Frost Clearcoat Metallic, first offered on the 1996 Lincoln Town Car Cypress Edition, and it was later made available on other Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys through 1999. The Cypress Gold Frost paint shifted from a light greenish-gold to a champagne gold and finally to a rust-tinged sienna tan. Yet another choice was Deep Evergreen Clearcoat Metallic on 1997–1998 Ford trucks and Lincolns, which shifted from a bright emerald green to teal blue.
The most interesting, color-shifting paint offered at this time was available exclusively on the SVT Cobra for only one model year. The special paint was called Mystic Clearcoat Metallic, available only on the 1996 SVT Cobra. Of all these vehicle offerings with color-shifting paints, the 1996 Mystic Cobra was the dazzler with its more pronounced color shifts from dark hunter green to dark purple to root-beer brown. Producing 1,999 units for purchase by the public, all as coupes with black interiors, Ford offered this paint option to promote technology as a theme. This was the model year that Ford switched to the modular V8 across the Mustang lineup, and the SVT Cobra’s new modular powerplant boasted 305 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The aluminum-block engine was naturally aspirated with 4.6 liters, 32 valves, and dual overhead camshafts. The automotive press was instantly impressed with the expressive Mystic paint, and it was such an uncommon color scheme. The 1996 Mystic Cobras attracted an immediate following, but as with everything else, there was room for improvement, namely in the color-shifting paint technology itself. Regardless, the technology was off to a successful start in its first automotive production applications, and the paints sparked the interest of performance enthusiasts who wanted a customized paint treatment straight from the factory.
Below: The 1996 Mystic Cobra was by far the flashiest color-shifter of its era, as the exhibited colors were dark, deep, and vibrant. Deep hunter green, dark purple, and root-beer brown gave the Cobra some attitude and flair.
Although Ford officially cancelled production of the 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra due to the 1999 model’s power output fiasco, sales brochures were still printed in anticipation of the new model year’s offerings. According to this 2000 brochure, the Cobra was largely supposed to be a carryover from 1999, but with one exception. Late in the model year, Ford was going to produce a limited number of Cobras in Mystic Gold Clearcoat Metallic, and enthusiasts still speculate that Ford simply wanted to observe the dawn of a new millennium and century with this paint option. The brochure does not state a proposed quantity, and to this day, little else is known about this new Mystic paint, other than it was supposed to shift from green-gold to orange-gold to orange-red, according to another now-defunct website. Basically, Mystic Gold was supposed to exhibit the striking colors of a sunset. Enthusiasts wondered if the Mystic Gold paint would be offered on the 2001 SVT Cobra, but alas, no mention of it in the 2001 sales brochure. When questioned about whether Mystic Gold would ever be offered in the future, Ford stated that their painting process had been updated during calendar year 2000, and the Mystic Gold paint was now incompatible with their new process, thereby rendering the special paint obsolete. Sadly, this meant the Mystic Gold Cobra will only ever exist in print, as the one-off prototype photographed for the brochure was presumably destroyed after making the show circuit in early 1999.
Below: The only photograph still floating around on the Internet of an in-person encounter with the Mystic Gold Cobra prototype shows the vehicle on display at some event in 1999 with Ford Racing and (presumably) SVT exhibits.
Fortunately, with such immense interest in the stillborn Mystic Gold Cobra, Ford and SVT learned that eager consumers were waiting for another special-edition Cobra with color-shifting paint. By this time, Coletti and his team at SVT were already starting to plan for what would become the Terminator Cobra, and color-shift technology was changing as well. According to another Ford source, the color-shifting paints they offered in the ’90s were proving to be problematic when an outfitted car visited their body shops for touch-ups after the all-to-common fender-bender or another mishap. These older, color-shifting paints required special application techniques for continuous color and additional variances to be applied in order to control the tint. Otherwise, a touched-up body panel will not match an adjacent body panel with original paint. This may explain one of the reasons behind Ford scrapping the Mystic Gold paint altogether.
The real beauty of the Mystichrome paint formula is in the technology behind it. According to DuPont and its chemists responsible for the finalized Mystichrome paint formula, their latest creation does not require any special handling, and the paint itself contains the appropriate variances so that any applications will match perfectly every time. This means that the Mystichrome paint is truly the next generation in color-shifting technology, which also echoes the technological and mechanical advances in the Terminator Cobra’s powertrain and performance compared to previous Cobras. Truly, the Terminator Cobra and the Mystichrome paint were specially made for each other, tailored specifically for the particular car’s personality and explosive performance. This is why the Mystichrome paint would not be appropriate for any other future car, as the paint formula and its matching Mystichrome leather interior were part of SVT’s internal planning and budgeting for the Terminator Cobra, and it was produced so that the most-powerful SVT Cobra to date could be part of the Mustang’s 40th anniversary celebration.
Below and lower right: The Mystichrome paint and the Terminator’s 17×9-inch chrome wheels complement each other in a tasteful, bespoke manner. Chrome Cobra emblems adorn each front fender, and the full side scoops house the only part on the car with “Terminator” stamped onto the back side.
Above and below: Color-shift paint technology was fairly new when Chameleon Clearcoat Metallic was offered on the 1995 Thunderbird, exhibiting a shift from indigo blue to deep violet. Deep Evergreen Clearcoat Metallic, shifting from an emerald green to a teal blue, was offered on the 1997 Lincoln Town Car and the 1998 Lincoln Navigator. Cypress Gold Frost Clearcoat Metallic was first available on the 1996 Lincoln Town Car Cypress Edition and later offered on various other Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys, including the 1999 Lincoln Navigator.
The Mystic Gold Cobra will forever
remain an automotive enigma.
Below: The Mystic Gold Cobra prototype was photographed for the press release and the 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra sales brochure, as shown.
Below: Because of its vibrant colors and extroverted personality, the critical few may call the Mystichrome Cobra garish, ostentatious, or even pretentious, but its owners understand its many secrets, tireless character, and unrestrained elegance.
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