Hailed as the greatest April Fools Day joke Ford ever played on the National Hot Rod Association, the 1968 Mustang
Cobra Jet is considered the fastest production Mustang ever. Since then, Ford has made two separate runs of Cobra Jets
to celebrate the 40th and 50th anniversary of this iconic muscle car that took over the drag strip in its hay day.
The 1968 Cobra Jet
In the late ‘60s, Ford built the Cobra Jet, a factory-produced drag racer. Six of these Mustangs entered into the
National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Winternationals in February of 1968. Of these, four of the cars made it to
finals, proving the impressiveness of the Cobra Jet engine.
Unveiled to the world on April 1, 1968, the original Mustang Cobra Jet was a monster equipped with a 428 cubic inch
displacement engine (7.0L) that could easily reach 410 horsepower. Ford’s official stated horsepower figure was 335,
prompting a decades-long discussion about what the actual horsepower output of the original Cobra Jet’s engine was,
but also befuddling NHRA rules and insurance adjusters. What we know for sure was that the final elimination run of
the “Super Stock” Class at the NHRA’s Winternationals came down to Cobra Jet vs. Cobra Jet, and when the dust settled
a new NHRA record had been set: 11.49 seconds.
The 1968 Cobra Jet was powered by a heavily modified version of Ford’s 428 big car engine. Using the 428 as its base,
Ford engineers widened the valve heads and added a 427 intake manifold, ram air induction hood scoop, performance air
cleaner and a number of other upgrades.
A separate Super Cobra Jet engine was also offered that had all of the same performance specs and upgrades, but also
featured a stronger crankshaft and connecting rods, designed for drag racing specifically. This engine with an oil
cooler was part of the “Drag Pack” option for cars manufactured after November 13, 1968. Unfortunately, because of the
oil cooler’s location, none of these cars was able to come equipped with air-conditioning. This engine was later used
on the Boss 429 Mustang as well.
The Cobra Jet was available in both fastback and coupe models with either a three-speed automatic or four-speed
manual transmission. Additional touches included fog lamps, a side stripe, and the distinctive black hood stripe,
which quickly came to be feared on tracks across the country as a symbol of pure speed and power. Only fifty of these
cars were produced.
The price of these upgrades was $500, which adjusted for inflation comes out to about 3,600 dollars, or less than the
GT’s Performance Package Level 2. Perhaps one of the most valuable additions that came from adding this package was
front disc brakes, which were necessary given how fast this vehicle was.
Celebrating 40 Years: The 2008 Cobra Jet
To celebrate 40 years since the original’s debut, Ford returned the Mustang to the drag racing circuit in 2008 with
the release of a brand new Cobra Jet. Also limited to a run of fifty models (just like the original) Ford Racing
started with a 5.4L supercharged V8, a derivative of the same one that would be featured in the GT500 later that year.
To save weight, the new Cobra Jet jettisoned production car luxuries like wipers, a/c, airbags, and side mirrors, but
gained new safety features, like a roll cage and engine compartment block off plate. In the end, the horsepower to
weight ratio ended up being 425hp to 3,240 pounds.
Even though they lacked any comfort features and weren’t legal to be driven on the street, the new Cobra Jet sold out
in three days with a price tag of $69,995.
The new Cobra Jets, just like their predecessors, remained drag superstars. Using one of these new Cobra Jets in
2007, John Calvert set the record in the SS/G class, running the quarter in just 9.57 seconds and reaching speeds of
139 miles per hour.
2018 Mustang Cobra Jet: 50th Anniversary of the Cobra Jet
While the Mustang brand saw their 50th-anniversary pass in 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Cobra Jet came in 2018.
It’s not always easy to pay homage, but Ford released their new Mustang Cobra Jet to great interest and fanfare.
Designed solely to get from the starting line to the finish as quickly as possible, this is the most powerful and
quickest Mustang to ever come from a Ford factory.
With this modern interpretation of the original 1968 superstar, Ford has knocked it out of the park with a machine
that will do the quarter-mile in the mid 8s, using a Coyote 5.2 liter V8 with a massive Whipple supercharger.
With 1968 being the iconic year in question, only 68 Cobra Jets were produced in 2018, making it one of the rarer
Mustangs produced but still producing eighteen more than have ever been produced before. Much like the 2008 Cobra Jet,
the 2018 model is not street legal and is absolutely restricted to a drag strip or other track use. Considering there’s roughly 1,000 hp under the hood, we can all agree that makes sense.
Color options are limited to the Ford classics Race Red or Oxford White, with the option to add special
50th-anniversary graphics and badges. Rear seats are not included.
Image Credit: Ford Performance | Ford