In February 1968, 1968½ Cobra Jet Mustangs swept Super/Stock Class and Eliminator titles at the NHRA Winternationals. FORD 428 COBRA JET & BIG BLOCK HERITAGE! is showcased here, and in the latest edition of Over-Drive Magazine.

Ford’s primary performance car for 1968 was the mid-year 428 Cobra Jet Mustang, with Toploader four-speed manual or beefed C-6 automatic transmissions. The powertrain option was available in coupe, convertible and fastback SportsRoof models. In 1968 the Mustang was pretty much a carryover vehicle with small trim, suspension and safety updates, and important powertrain changes. Ride and handling was improved and, if you ordered a V-8, you could opt for Michelin radial tires for the first time. Gone was the 289 small-block, including the venerable 271 horsepower solid-lifter version, replaced by a new 302 small-block. You could order a 390/325 big block or wait for the mid-year introduction of the potent 428 CJ engine.

Cars tagged for the new CJ option automatically received special attention at the San Jose, CA and Metuchen, NJ assembly plants. Those cars were given reinforced front shock towers, nine-inch rears with 31-spline axles, and four-speed Mustangs were equipped with stagger-mount rear shocks. All CJ Mustangs were factory fitted with a functional fiberglass hood scoop with ram-air induction capability. Under full throttle acceleration, a vacuum-controlled flapper on the air cleaner assembly opened up, allowing air to go directly to the carburetor. Under normal driving, air was channeled through the air filter.

FORD 428 COBRA JET & BIG BLOCK HERITAGE!Before there was a production 428 Cobra Jet, the CJ Mustang was first conceptualized by Bob Tasca, working with John Healey and Bill Lawton, and presented to Ford. Tasca had built his own “Cobra Jet” – a KR-8 “King Of The Road” Mustang powered by a 428 engine with 390 GT cam and valve train, heads from a low-riser 427, 428 Police Interceptor intake manifold with a 735-cfm Holley and 390 GT exhaust manifolds. He felt that Ford didn’t have a suitable Mustang to compete with Chevrolet’s new Camaro that could be optioned with a 396/375 solid-lifter big-block engine.  He had built a Mustang that would give any stock Camaro nightmares! Tasca’s KR-8 Concept was well received and became the inspiration for the production 428 Cobra Jet Mustang.

 Prior to regular production, Ford built 54 Wimbledon White Mustangs with 428 Cobra Jet engines specified by Domestic Special Order number DSO-892017 at the Dearborn plant. They were ordered specifically for NHRA Stock and Super/Stock competition. Essentially, they were base Sportsroof Mustangs, not GTs, built without radios and heaters and with trunk-mount batteries, Police Interceptor drivetrains and 3.89 limited-slip rears with traction bars. Just 20 were produced without any seam sealers or sound deadening materials. Two different engine packages were employed – one rated at 335 horsepower for C/Stock; the other with horsepower north of 360 for Super Stock/E. Distribution of the first Cobra Jet Mustangs included Ford dealers involved in drag racing programs in the U.S and Canada, with Tasca Ford receiving the most – ten CJs. Approximately ten were assigned to Dick Brannan’s group at Ford Special Vehicles Activity.

Dynamometer testing at Ford revealed that a 335-horsepower CJ engine with headers, open exhausts, maximum tuning specs, and without air cleaner or alternator, produced 411 horsepower. A red ’68 Mustang CJ engineering car was evaluated at the Kingman, AZ proving ground and clocked a best time of 108-plus mph in 13.4 seconds.

FORD 428 COBRA JET & BIG BLOCK HERITAGE!A small fleet of Cobra Jet Mustangs was reserved for the model’s California introduction at the AHRA Winternationals at Lions Drag Strip on January 28 and the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona on February 2-4, 1968. Those cars were shipped to Holman-Moody-Stroppe in Long Beach for race prepping. Engines used in the C/Stock Mustangs had “stock” specs and utilized forged 11-to-1 pistons, 427 steel rods and .509-inch-lift, 282-degree-duration hydraulic-lifter cams and valve trains and headers. These cars had 4.44 rears with Detroit Lockers, traction bars and Goodyear slicks. The modified engines permitted in Super/Stock were built with 11.6-to-1 pistons, GT40 forged steel rods, deep oil sumps with windage trays, steel cranks, .600-inch-lift, 380-degree-duration solid-lifter cams and Crane valve trains, lightweight valves and a dual-inlet 735-cfm Holley on a 427-aluminum intake manifold. Rear end gearing on the S/S cars was 4.71 with a Detroit Locker and bigger Goodyear slicks.

The Cobra Jet had a less-than-successful launch at the AHRA Winternationals when Hubert Platt red-lighted in the C/Stock Mustang, clocking a 12.62 in the first round of Top Stock. It was another story at the NHRA Winternationals when five Ford Drag Team drivers – Jerry Harvey, Al Joniec, Don Nicholson, Hubert Platt and Gas Ronda – showed up with six cars for C/SA, SS/E and SS/EA. Dearborn was there in force to showcase the hottest new “production” Ponycar. It would be the first NHRA National meet that Ford dominated. It’s all part of FORD 428 COBRA JET & BIG BLOCK HERITAGE!

It was Al Joniec, right with NHRA’s Wally Parks, driving the Rice-Holman SS/E Cobra Jet, Vin # 5050, that established the new Cobra Jet Mustang as the car to beat. Four of the six CJs made it to their respective class finals and Al Joniec beat teammate Hubert “Georgia Shaker” Platt’s CJ to win SS/E. He ran 120.6 mph in 11.49 seconds. Following that, he beat Dave Wren’s Plymouth for Super/Stock Eliminator.

“My CJ Mustang was capable of running in the low-11s in the 122-mph range, though I didn’t have to run it that hard to win,” said Joniec during a recent interview. “Since it was the official introduction of the Cobra Jet, I didn’t want to lower the record and lose any advantage at future events.”

Bob Gerometta and the folks at Over-Drive Magazine have done an outstanding job covering FORD 428 COBRA JET & BIG BLOCK HERITAGE! in their latest edition. Read the feature @