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Don Nicholson Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

The 428 Cobra Jet was born of Bob Tasca’s desire to win. Bob Tasca’s Ford dealership in Providence (now Tasca Lincoln-Mercury) was quite active in drag racing back in the ’60s. In his desire to win, Bob developed a number of powerful ideas for his Ford race cars, including the ’64 427 Thunderbolt Fairlane factory drag car. Development began with a 427-powered ’63 Fairlane hardtop that Bob campaigned in the Northeast. Ford liked Bob’s idea and moved the concept into production for a very low number of limited factory drag cars for special buyers. The Thunderbolt was a smashing success.

It’s safe to say that Bob pioneered the 428 Cobra Jet V-8 using off-the-shelf parts from the Ford parts bin. He took the FE-series 428ci big-block engine–already available as an option in the Galaxie and Shelby Mustangs. He then topped it with a 427 medium-riser intake manifold. The 428 had one main feature going for it; outstanding low- and midrange torque. But it was not a high revving engine like the big-bore, short-stroke 427. Because the 428 wasn’t a high-rpm power plant, it proved to be a reliable drag-racing engine capable of excellent quarter-mile times in the lightweight Mustang. It delivered run after run and kept coming back for more.

Ford took Bob’s idea and further developed it with a stronger block, similar head castings, and a more aggressive hydraulic lifter camshaft to conceive the 428 Cobra Jet. Due to a United Auto Workers strike that shut down Ford during the fall of 1967 development of the Cobra Jet didn’t really get underway until December of that year, with the production of a couple of Mustang test mules. The limited-production run of 50 Wimbledon White fastbacks produced strictly for NHRA competition followed. Some of those fastbacks were shipped to professional drag racers, such as “Dyno” Don Nicholson, Hubert Platt, and Gas Ronda, as an opening salvo for the ’68 season. These racers showed up at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona with their fastbacks and earned Ford some respect.

The car shown here is the real “Dyno” Don Nicholson 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 428 CJ raced at the 1968 Winternationals in Pomona CA. It is currently located in a private collection in Middle TN.

Ford’s 428 Cobra Jet engine made its National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing debut at the Winternationals on February 2-4, 1968, at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California. Ford Motor Company sponsored five drivers (Gas Ronda, Jerry Harvey, Hubert Platt, Don Nicholson, and Al Joniec) to race six 428 CJ-equipped Mustangs. The Mustangs raced in the C Stock Automatic (C/SA, 9.00 – 9.49 lbs. per advertised horsepower), Super Stock E, and Super Stock E Automatic (SS/E manual transmission, SS/EA automatic transmission, 8.70 – 9.49 lbs. per advertised horsepower) classes. The engine lived up to expectations as four of the cars made it to their respective class finals.

Each of these ultimate, for the time, Mustangs was shipped to Holman-Moody-Stroppe in Long Beach, California for race preparation. The engines for these vehicles weren’t exactly “stock” 428 Cobra Jet engines. The list for Stock class racing was extensive, and included 427-style connecting rods, a C8AX-C cam, forged pistons with an 11.0:1 compression ratio, Doug’s or Jardine headers, and more. Cars prepared for Super Stock racing got all of the Stock class modifications plus much more.

Four of the six cars are known to exist today.

This car sits in a beautiful private collection also containing a large number of Yenko Camaros.

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at http://www.LegendaryFarms.com.

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