Disregard the John Force and...
Disregard the John Force and Mike Neff ID decals on the door. That's NHRA Pro Stock and Ford drag-racing legend Bob Glidden taking off from the starting line in the all-new '08 Cobra Jet drag Mustang. Bob and his just-as-famous son Billy were on hand to run a pair of Cobra Jets in a best-of-three match race/side attraction of the PSCA's Street Car Super Nationals IV event held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last November.
Horse Sense: As it did in 1968, Ford produced a first-year run of only 50 '08 Cobra Jet Mustangs. Several of these race Ponies were purchased by Brent Hajek, who also owns an original Tasca Ford 428-powered drag 'Stang. Brent vowed that the supercharged Super Stockers were not purchased to sit in storage or on display at car shows. Proving the point in February, Brent entered four of his new Cobra Jets in the NHRA Winternationals, 40 years after Al Joniac took an original Cobra Jet to the winner's circle in Super Stock eliminator at the same race.
Each year we hear about or see new 'Stangs that are built specifically for drag-race competition. Of course, the horsepower and level of technical sophistication for these race cars vary with respect to the class they're built to compete in. However, one thing that is common among all of the drag Ponies we encounter each racing season is that a huge amount of enthusiast blood, sweat, tears, money, and time has been spent producing these bad-to-the-bone, wickedly fast Mustangs.
Building a race Mustang for any racing discipline is an endeavor that is accomplished by acquiring necessary parts and constructing the car, either yourself, with the help of friends (as your tech editor did with Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez of Extreme Automotive on Project T-top coupe), or by commissioning a shop or race-car builder to make it happen (as we've done with Project Boss 340, which is being assembled by A.R.E. Performance and Machine of Simi Valley, California).
Needless to say, that brief drive was an absolute tease as the growl of Cobra Jet's 425 supercharged horsepower had me ready to do a lot more than just putter up to the parking space at barely 6 mph. (Before you Melvins reading this get too worked up, understand that the 425 is the NHRA's factored horsepower rating for the new cars, which at a weight of 3,300 pounds, should put the cars in the "AA" classes of Stock and Super Stock eliminator. Fully opened up, CJs are capable of making more than 600 flywheel horsepower.)
For the last few years, Ford has made tremendous inroads in supporting "grassroots" racers, creating the FR500 Series (S, C, and GT) of full-tilt turnkey race S197 Mustangs and making them available through the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog and Ford dealerships nationwide for those enthusiasts who have the funds to buy the factory-built racers.
Without sounding too clich, it's amazing how history has a way of repeating itself. Forty years ago in 1968, Ford introduced 50 unique, now legendary drag cars called Cobra Jets-lightweight fastback 'Stangs packing 428ci engines, Top Loader four-speed transmissions, and enough hard-core race trickery to make the CJ Mustang an instant winner in Super Stock eliminator at NHRA national events.
The new Cobra Jet 'Stang's...
The new Cobra Jet 'Stang's really are "no frills" on the inside. The cockpit treatments include basic cloth seats and carpet that are upgraded with slick Cobra Jet embroidery; a full, eight-point rollbar; a 5-inch, pedestal-mount, shift-light tachometer; Ford Racing oil, temp, and volt gauges; a Hurst short-throw six-speed shifter; line-lock; and radio-delete plate.
Fast-forward to the present, and Ford Racing now has a new addition to its FR lineup of race Mustangs, this one being the '08 Ford Racing Cobra Jet (FR500CJ). While the FR500S, FR500C, and FR500GT 'Stangs are all geared toward the road-racing sector, the new FR500CJ is a factory-produced, supercharged 5.4-liter race Mustang that's all about covering the quarter-mile and chasing NHRA Stock and Super Stock glory-nothing more, nothing less. Similar to the method in which its '68 namesake could be purchased, today's version of the Cobra Jet is available through any Ford dealership's parts department-literally-to anyone who can cover its $69,900 price tag.
We had the great fortune of interacting with Ford's born-again drag Mustang shortly after the new Cobra Jet was introduced at the '08 SEMA show. Even though the 'Stangs probably don't have class opportunities in NMRA other than Super 'Stang, Modular Muscle, Open Comp, or the bracket categories, there's no doubt that the CJ is a bad-ass hot rod, one we're pretty certain will quickly achieve the same glory that its namesake did when it ruled the Super Stock ranks in the late '60s.
KJ And The JetsSeeing an '08 Ford Racing Cobra Jet Mustang from afar is one thing, but last November I had the opportunity to experience the car up close and personal on two separate occasions.
My first encounter with a CJ came when I was asked to transport one from John Force Racing's headquarters in Yorba Linda, California, to the Pomona Fairplex for the NHRA Powerade World Finals. We loaded the 'Stang into our enclosed trailer and trucked it over to the track, where I drove it through the pits and then parked it at Motorcraft's display in Nitro Alley (the manfuacturers' midway).