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1969 Ford Mustang Super Cobra - Nostalgia Trip
Rusty Gillis' Super Cobra Jet Mustang Sportsroof Maintains An Honorable Place In Ford Racing History
Later, he went to the U.S. Nationals at Indy with a buddy who was racing a 289 Comet. He met veteran Ford Super Stock racer Hubert Platt. He crewed for Hubert for two months, visiting racing venues in Chicago, Detroit, Davenport, Tulsa, Dallas, Toledo, the Northeast, and Atlanta, then back home to Florida. Hubert had Rusty pick up a new V-8 Maverick from Paul Harvey Ford in Indianapolis and drive it to Atlanta. Rusty also piloted Hubert's F-350 car hauler out of Dallas for a long trek to New Hampshire to witness history firsthand. Tasca Ford was bringing a '69 Boss 494 to Epping to lay down a challenge-any street car that could beat the Boss would win $1,000.
During one of their many road trips together, Hubert told Rusty about a '68 Super Stock Mustang for sale for $3,500. Rusty rushed home and borrowed the money from his uncle. His record was 11.70 in SS/FA competition. During Rusty's time on the road with Hubert, he learned a lot about professional drag racing.
In 1970, Rusty drove to Pomona, California, for his first NHRA Winternationals. He didn't do well; he was the slowest in class with his '68 fastback. The best news was beating a Camaro, which lost only because the guy redlighted. Rusty staged against Stacey Shields, who was driving a '68 fastback built by Holman/Moody/Stroppe in Long Beach and sponsored by Paul Harvey Ford out of Indy. Rusty received good advice from the head of Ford's drag-racing program at the time. He suggested Rusty shut down at the 1,000-foot mark to keep from going under record. Rusty clocked a 12.00 at 104 mph, getting a win over Stacey. News for Rusty only got better as he refined his technique and raced all over the southeast in NHRA Super Stock. He set the SS/FA record at Suffolk, Virginia, that year.
The following year, Rusty returned to Pomona, winning class and passing tech inspection. He went on to Phenix City, Alabama, and set the NHRA mph record at 120.64 mph. At West Palm Beach, Florida, he cracked the AHRA record at 11.46 mph at 119.84 mph.
Toward the end of the '70 season, Hubert told Rusty about a '69 Mustang SportsRoof body he found and wanted to know if Rusty wanted it. It was a 428 Super Cobra Jet fastback that had been one of Ford's Boss 302 test cars. It was a factory test mule that found its way into private ownership. The truth is, only factory teams had cars like this, and Paul Harvey Ford was one of those teams. Rusty bought the car and transferred everything from his '68 fastback over to the '69 SportsRoof. The '69 was a pinch heavier and ran in the SS/GA class. Once Rusty got the car in proper tune, he repainted it Pearl White, with a splash of Candyapple red and blue.
Rusty admits the car was disappointing until he installed 302 front springs and a better C6 transmission. Times improved dramatically-a 121.39 mph at Amarillo for a strong shot of self-esteem. Performance only got better with time and experience, with wins all over the country in NHRA Super Stock. Rusty won the '71 Miami National with an 11.24, beating an 11.45-second record. Another quarter-mile pass, this time for Firestone tire testing, netted Rusty an 11.50-second e.t. at Gainesville. He again won in class at Pomona that year.
During Rusty's racing career with this Boss 302 testbed, he accomplished a lot from coast to coast in racing venues both large and small. He ran consistent 11-second quarter-mile times, set records, and never forgot the people who helped him along the way. In 1974, Rusty decided it was time to hang up his helmet and park the Mustang. Much of that motivation came from what was going on at the time. Performance on the street was fading due to high insurance rates, governmental pressure, and gasoline prices. Rusty wouldn't drive this car again until 1990 when it was raced in C/SA competition. His best time was 11.13 seconds-which means he's not getting older, he's getting better.