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2010 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet - Part I

In The House Of Lords

By , Photography by

Before you can be a drag-racing hero, you need to learn to drive. And that is exactly what we set out to do after John Calvert invited us to drive his 2010 Cobra Jet in NHRA Division 7 competition. After geeking out a bit at the prospect of driving a fast car in a money race, we realized we might be a little rusty at the starting line, and we had zero seat time in a Super Stock Cobra Jet—or any CJ, for that matter. For that kind of experience, we turned to Roy Hill's Drag Racing school in Sophia, North Carolina, where you can drive his supercharged Cobra Jet Mustangs at the zMax Dragway in nearby Charlotte and leave with a Super Stock license of your own.

Roy Hill

As historic drag-racing figures go, Roy Hill is the guy who is always around, always involved, and always racing. As a young man in 1969, Hill got a chance to travel west with Sox and Martin, where he got a dose of public-relations experience and exposure to Stock Eliminator racing. When he returned home, he built a 1962 Dodge with a 440 engine and won the C/Stock class at Concord Dragway.

"That was probably the worst thing to happen to me," Hill says. "They offered the winner $5 or a trophy, and I took the $5. I was hooked."

Hill spent the rest of the year racing in G/Stock Automatic and D/Stock Automatic with a Hemi engine and started winning races. Along the way, he met the Pettys, Buddy Martin, and Butch Leal. It was Martin who talked Hill into looking at the then-new Pro Stock class. Hill built a 1968 Barracuda to run in Pro Stock in 1970.

In 1971, Hill traded up to a Plymouth Duster that he purchased from the Pettys for $7,500 and out-qualified them by two positions. Hill went on to win races with a 1972 Duster built by the Pettys and later driving Butch Leal's 1974 California Flash Duster, until 1982 when he decided to go match racing and met some decision-makers at Ford.

"There wasn't really Mercury in the class in 1982," says Hill. "So that's what I did." A year later, Hill campaigned a Pro Stock Capri with Mustang sheetmetal, then a Tempo in 1985, and a Jerry Haas Thunderbird in 1987 that won 22 national events for Hill in the IHRA. By then, Hill had gained the support from Ford, which helped him develop a team that finished high in the IHRA rankings. In 1989, Hill started a drag-racing school at Rockingham Dragway, a track he would buy in 1992. There, he ran Winston-sponsored drag racing and Roy Hill's Drag Racing School.

In 2008, Bruton Smith built zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, and in 2010, Rick Hendrick and James Finch called Hill with a new Cobra Jet. Hill took that car to Indy and won in Super Stock, allowing him to form a new five-car team. That team is based at the zMax track, where Hill currently teaches his school.

The Classes

There are 10 classes offered by Roy Hill, but we were interested in the Super Stock/Cobra Jet class. If you are lucky enough to own a Cobra Jet, Hill offers a two-day class for $5,900. "It's the easiest thing for a guy to buy an 8-second car from the factory now," Hill says. "We need to tune the driver and the car. It works the same with the COPO Camaro and Dodge."

If you don't have a Cobra Jet, it's no problem. For an additional $1,000, Hill will loan you one of his.

The classes are two days. The first includes one to two hours of track orientation with diagrams of the zMax layout and a question-and-answer period. Then it's out to the cars. Hill uses V6 Mustangs to ease students into the program and get them get acquainted with the track and the starting line. There aren't any burnouts, just staging and driving. The slow cars give you time to see the timing cones, stripes, and where to exit. Hill is always watching, and if he thinks you're ready, you can move to one of the Cobra Jets.

You might have confidence going into the school, but there is no way to mentally prepare for the noise and motion of a supercharged Cobra Jet if you have never experienced one. Hill's cars are as violent as it gets. The fast one will touch the 8.70s at 160 mph, and the less fast one will run mid-10s at 130.

If you paid attention and didn't do anything dumb in the V6 Mustangs, the end of Day 1 or start of Day 2 includes suiting up and launching off the foot brake in the 10-second car. But first, you must complete the burnout.

The Burnout

The burnout is the trickiest part of drag racing to learn, and it is where more new drivers will fail to license. You must have awareness of everything that is inside and outside of the car, while wearing a cumbersome driving suit with thick gloves, boots, and a helmet. The engine is so loud it deafens your sense of hearing entirely, and everything happens fast, making each move potentially dangerous to the people around you. In this situation, you must rely on the guy standing next to the car—in this case, Roy Hill—to guide you. After gently easing the beast into the water box and stopping on command exactly where you are told, you must flip the correct switch for the two-step limiter, pump the brakes, set the line lock, and then floor it.

Hill uses the word intimidation for the relationship between the student and the Cobra Jet. Lifting, needlessly steering, and failing to keep the tires spinning for the requisite number of 5 to 7 seconds are why you fail. Trust us, spending time with your foot on the floor in one of Roy Hill's 8-second Mustangs is something you will never forget. After you release the line-lock button, glide out of the water box and stop the car. Hill will tell you what to do next. You are going to be breathing hard.

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5 comments
Dong Bocog
Dong Bocog

just be consistent of your time, watch your dial, and youll come out winah

Kris Parker
Kris Parker

shallow..bring it up to 2000 and "tickle" the 2nd bulb..

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