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2009 Cobra Jet Mustang - History's Cobra Jet

We show how the FR500CJ Mustang stacks up against its predecessors

Photography by CC archives, , Ron Lewis/Ford Racing

If this were a Hollywood script, it would be predictably boring. Ford builds a slew of factory drag race cars, and the camera introduces a well-to-do Ford fan, Brent Hajek, who buys 11 of these fresh, Blue Oval racers. Scant days later, a quartet of the new cars is painted to replicate the Cobra Jet 'Stangs that competed in the '68 Winternationals. One car displays the Rice-Holman moniker with Al Joniec's name across the door, and it becomes the favorite son, the machine that honors Joniec's '68 Super Stock victory that solidified the 428 CJ Mustang as Fords new showroom racer. The moon and stars align during a Car Craft-engineered photo shoot, and Hajek meets John Calvert--who owns and races his own '68 428 Cobra Jet Mustang. Hajek asks Calvert to wheel the Joniec car. But precious little time exists before the 40th anniversary running in 2009. Calvert and his guys are out to win and must make a rash of tweaks to convert this untested ride into a win-light machine. After four weeks of flogging, the tribute racer rolls up to the starting line at the Winternationals, and Calvert slogs through seven rounds of competition. Perhaps even more bizarre is the series of mistakes that amazingly befall Calvert's competition right up to the final where the Joniec twin takes its place in history at the precise moment the win light illuminates. Any good movie producer would instantly trash this script as too predicable. But improbability makes history fun

This is just the happy-talk side of the story that you have probably already heard through the electronic media. To us, the busted-knuckle thrash that demanded 10-teens at 126-mph consistency is a much more compelling story. While that Hollywood fairy tale is how legends get their start, we found a real Car Craft story in the hardware.

Here's what every Ford drag race lover needs in his garage. The front car is the '09 Winternationals-winning car in the Rice-Holman tribute colors. The '68 in the center is Calvert's personal Super Stock 428 CJ. The third car is the AA/Stock Cobra Jet driven by Jim Waldo painted in Foulger colors.

Engine
Here's where you would think drag race technology would be at its pinnacle, but Ford took a slightly different track and nuked everybody in Stock Eliminator at the same time. When you talk Stock Eliminator, you gravitate toward normally aspirated engines. But nothing in the NHRA rule book prohibits blowers, so Ford took advantage of the opportunity and plugged one of those killer Eaton Twin Vortices Series (TVS) superchargers on top of an iron-block 5.4L engine and added a twin-bore 62.5mm billet throttle body, 80 lb/hr injectors, and a set of American Racing long-tube 1 7/8-inch headers, using a very nice merge collector system. The first thing any good Stock Eliminator racer would do is tear down the motor and blueprint it to within an inch of its life. But with these Fords, according to Calvert Racing's chief fabricator, Matt Bernasconi, "The motors are untouched. This one [the Rice-Holman car] is just like the one that just came off the truck." That sounds like typical racer spin but only until you realize that Ford's 425hp label leaves room within the rules. There were minor blueprinting changes to the engines, since the car ran 11.50s at 120 right out of the box. Nobody's talking about boost, and to put all this in perspective, an eight-stack of 80 lb/hr injectors can supply more than enough fuel to make 800-plus horsepower. We're not making any suggestions here, other than the ability to run mid-10s like the other A Stockers was not going to be difficult from a power standpoint. That's why the engines were basically left alone. If you put the muse to this, it's a brilliant way to go racing. No matter how bad the air gets, you know horsepower won't be what holds you back.

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