February 11, 2009 will go down in history, not for the government bailout of the worst economic situation since the Great Depresssion, but because Ford Racing's latest entry in grassroots motorsports is atop of the NHRA Stock Eliminator world with its Cobra Jet Mustang--some 41 years after the initial Cobra Jet factory racer took home the win at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals at Pomona. Legendary chassis guru and owner of Cal-Tracs, John Calvert, drove a 2008 Cobra Jet Mustang into history.
John Calvert continually teased NHRA fans and racers online, especially YouTube viewers, with video clips of testing sessions. The videos never showed completed runs and the car was obviously working really hard on the starting as it left wheels up each and every run. Calvert entered competition with a fully-prepped and tested Cobra Jet, he wasn't looking to just be in the field but rather dominate it. He was one of four entries in Stock Eliminator who drove a Cobra Jet. He was the best of the group and qualified number two in the 84-car field. The performance was nothing short of outstanding as he ran 10.08 on the A/Stick index of 11.25. That put him 1.17 under his index, Stock Eliminator qualifies based on how much quicker (or slower) or your car runs against a given index.
Calvert mowed through 7 rounds of eliminations to reach the pinnacle of a NHRA National Event and write his name in the history books. It was 41 years after the inaugural Cobra Jet debut that Calvert repeated history. Calvert had luck on his side--he broke out with a 10.136 on a 10.14 dial-in while his competitor, Tom Gaynor went red with a -.079 light.
Officially named the FR500CJ, Ford Racing built 50 cars to meet NHRA's minimum car-count standards. Ford delivers the Cobra Jet cars with a glaring 425 horsepower (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), a rating far under the combination's potential thanks to Ford Racing electronically controlling output so that it fits in the rules. Let's be realistic, the engine is a GT500 powerplant with a TVS blower, larger throttle body and MAF sensor, and long-tube headers amongst some other minor details. The 400 horse rating is far less than what that engine could produce with a little bit of a workout on the chassis dyno. The cars are more than a Mustang with a hot rodded engine. The vehicles are designed for NHRA Stock Eliminator competition and fitted accordingly. The suspension and driveline are prepped for competition, albeit some minor equipment upgrades. The cars roll on Bogart wheels, 30x9-inch slicks, and skinny racing rubber. Ford even outfits the interior with six-point roll bars and lightens up the vehicles as much as possible.
The 1968 Cobra Jet is a legendary Mustang that was built to outperform its competitors on the drag strip. Bob Tasca of Tasca Ford is credited with pushing Ford to build the Cobra Jet. Tasca's desire to win in NHRA competition led him to drop a 428ci FE (available in Galaxy and Shelby Mustang) into a civilian Mustang and show what could be done. He added a 427 high rise manifold to the engine to get it to make more power. The first Cobra Jet to hit the track was at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals and it was instantly successful by winning class that same weekend.