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Paul Guenther combined a Terminator with a Pushrod 428 to create Pony Perfection
In 2003 Ford released a spectacular display of power when it introduced the boosted SVT Cobra Mustang. It packed the punch of a 390-horsepower DOHC intercooled and supercharged 4.6L engine, backed by a durable 6-speed and with the styling was right on point. Realistically, those Cobras produced about 425 horsepower, but the kicker was the Manley steel rods and forged pistons, that almost encouraged owners to crank up the boost.
It was a winning recipe and Terminator Cobras immediately became the ones to lust after. Amazingly, 14 years later, Terminator Cobra’s haven’t lost their luster. Even despite there being more powerful factory Mustangs, they carry iconic, cult-like status. Enthusiasts love features like the smooth front bumper, twin nostril hood, and some even like the independent rear suspension.
Ford fanatic Paul Guenther knows the history of the SVT Mustang. He’s comes from a line of Ford enthusiasts and has owned and raced his share of Blue Oval machinery. “My 74-year-old father has been the biggest influence on me when it comes to drag racing. He has raced since the 1960s, and the other big influence would be my long-time good friend Ken Miele.”
“I’ve always had a passion for Ford cars and Stock and Super Stock racing,” Paul said, “but until now I have always had bracket cars. Stock and Super Stock is definitely a different animal and Ken has helped me with the transition.
“In the past I’ve owned a 2003 Mach 1, a 10-second 1993 Fox-body with a 393 Windsor and a 1985 LX with a 396 Windsor that clicked off 9.80s. But I always wanted a Terminator Cobra. In the early 2000s Paul raced clean 1984 Capri that ran 8.60s, but an unfortunate incident led to a crash and the end of the Merc.
“I was racing at Englishtown and blew the ring gear off the flywheel during a run. It just peeled off, then it went through the blowproof bell, cut the transmission lines and tranny fluid dumped on the tires,” he explained. “That was it—I was sideways and into the wall.” Thankfully, Paul was okay, and he transferred the 532 big-block Ford into an ex-Roy Hill Pro Stock Truck owned by a friend. “We put the motor in there and ran 8.30s. We later did a 598ci engine that went 7.80s at 170 mph. It was fun, but I always had a thing for Stock and Super Stock. In the ’60s my dad ran Stock at Atlantic City Speedway in a Cobra Jet. I just have a passion for it,” Paul added.
“So back in the spring of 2014 I found this one for sale on Racingjunk. It was love at first sight. It was the perfect starting point for a Super Stocker,” he said. “I made the trip to Iowa and purchased the rolling chassis that had been newly built and had never seen the track. I still had my work cut out for me to make it NHRA-legal, but it was definitely a good head start.”
NHRA Super Stock allows racers to mix and match engines and bodies from the same manufacturer. And since the Cobra was without its heart, Paul decided to stick with pushrod power. But this was no drop-in-and-go deal. “I had a few choices when it came to the engine combo. I could have gone with a 302, 351 Cleveland, a 429 big-block, an FE or something modern like a 4.6, 5.0 or a 5.4. In the end the 2010 428 Windsor EFI combo was most appealing to me.” This is an allowable engine that Ford designated as an option for the Cobra Jet.
“The parts are readily available and it’s proven to make great power,” Paul said. “Once I settled on the 428 I called Chris Holbrook at Holbrook Racing Engines and put the wheels in motion.” With this combination, the Cobra fits into NHRA FGT/F within the Super Stock category.
Jim Morgan at Morgan International Race Engines handled prep on the Ford Performance aluminum cylinder heads. He began with the allowable porting and he decked the heads to minimize the combustion chamber size (within the limit of the specifications). The ports were then flowed, and finally the heads were assembled and shipped to Holbrook. After the engine was together, it was strapped to the dyno for testing and tuning. Holbrook did some R&D, fine-tuning the mill until it produced suitable numbers. “While the engine we being tested, I ordered a C-4 from Joel’s on Joy, along with an 8-inch converter from A-1 Performance.”
The driveline was coming along, but the Cobra was also lacking its interior. Paul located a donor car so he could gather the factory parts needed to make it Super Stock legal. He also had to remove the tubular K-member and A-arms that were previously installed, because they weren’t legal; he replaced them with OEM parts, and at that time converted the Cobra to a manual rack from Flaming River. The intricate Super Stock rules require the front suspension remain stock, although the K-member can be “altered” and you can use bolt-in aftermarket struts and springs.
Glen Weeks at GW Performance Welding modified a stock K-member for oil pan and header clearance, and Paul set the 428 in place. He then turned to Nick at American Racing Headers for a set of custom pipes. “Nick and the guys at America Racing Headers made an awesome set of stainless steel triple-step headers that look good, fit perfectly and make great power,” Paul said.
The 428 sits in a beautiful engine bay that was smoothed, painted, and finished with fine detail. It’s like a showplace for the powerplant, and the way Paul sees it, the 428 has a lot to live up to since it replaced the awesome blown 4.6L beast. Up top is a Ford four-hole throttle-body that feeds the ported single-plane intake. Paul runs the required “Z304” heads that are mated to the bored block and a Canton pan seals the bottom-end. Holbrook went with a Callies crank, Oliver rods and Diamond pistons to achieve 12.7:1 compression from the small-block. EFI is from Big Stuff and it utilizes 60 lb/hr injectors, Aeromotive pump, and MSD ignition. It also features a Holbrook-designed custom cam, which spins sky high and produces 840 horsepower and 690 lb-ft of torque.
Loving the stock look, Paul left the factory Red paint intact and the body mostly stock. But needing a bit more traction, Paul installed Strange double-adjustable struts along with soft front drag springs. The IRS was traded for a Ford 9-inch that’s suspended by a RJ Race Cars ladder bar with Strange coilovers and a Chris Alston’s Chassisworks anti-rollbar. Rear gears are currently 4.30:1, but that can change depending on track and weather conditions. Stopping power comes from lightweight Aerospace Brakes and rolling stock was replaced with Weld Wheels Alumistars in the front with American Racing Trackstars in the rear with 28.5x11.5-inch Phoenix slicks that fit nicely in the mini-tubs.
“The Cobra came with an aftermarket cowl hood so I had to replace it with an OEM hood to be legal,” Paul told us. “I found one and brought it to Douglas at Starlight Restorations where he did a first-class job at matching the color. Last but not least, I called Sal Biondo from Biondo Racing Products for all my Sparco safety gear and weather station equipment.” Paul finally cracked the throttle in anger in April of 2017.
“The first few runs went well, there was only some minor adjustments needed to be able to make full passes. The Cobra handles great,” Paul stated, “Ken Keir [Ken Kier Race Cars] was a huge help in getting it dialed in and going straight. Now it launches with the wheels up in true Super Stock fashion and it tracks perfectly straight. It's a very fun car to drive.”
Set at a race weight of 3,355 pounds, the Cobra has turned a best of 9.40 at 143 mph. Paul has gone a few rounds, but his focus is on improving performance and eventually taking a shot at the FGT/F national record. “At this point I only have about 20 runs on the car so I’m still working out the bugs and getting used to tuning the EFI. But overall I’m extremely happy with my new Super Stocker. My goal is to run right around one second under my 10.10 index and with the power this motor made, I should have no problem getting there.”