The Mustang Cobra JetLast Updated June 13, 2023 | Andrew Boyle
Hailed as the greatest April Fools Day joke Ford ever played on the National Hot Rod Association, the 1968 Mustang Cobra Jet could run 11.5 second quarter-miles, averaging close to 120 mph. In 2008, Ford produced a 40th-anniversary edition Cobra Jet. A 50th-anniversary Cobra Jet followed in 2018.
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 block 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, 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 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