Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
September 1, 2011

We hear stories all of the time about how enthusiasts saw a particular car that inspired them when they were little. Whether it was a new Mustang right off the transporter or some street machine with a 3/4 race cam and open headers, we all remember those rides, and oftentimes they lived down the street or tore up the local track. Longmont, Colorado's Bob Smith grew up hearing about his dad's '68 GT500KR, and naturally, he wanted a hot ride of his own to tear up the streets with once he was old enough to drive.

"I bought my first '68 Mustang when I was 15," recalls Bob. "Like most teens, I wrecked it three months after I got my license. That sucked bad!" That same summer, Bob and his dad went to the NHRA Mile-High Nationals and Bob fell in love with the '68-1/2 Cobra Jets of John Calvert and John Dusenberry.

"Both cars were four-speeds, and watching those cars leap from the line after dumping the clutch was awesome," says Bob. "From that moment on, it was nothing but '68 Cobra Jet fastbacks for me!"

Bob was 19 years old when he purchased his first '68-1/2 Cobra Jet Mustang, and was thrilled until he started to fix some of it's issues.

"I realized that it had been wrecked bad in the front and back," recalls Bob. "That really turned me off toward the car, so I sold it. Sixty-eight and a half Number 2 was an old Super Stock Cobra Jet that was a monster. My biggest issue with that car was that it had been tubbed in the late '70s and hadn't been upgraded in technology. I took it to a local chassis shop to update the chassis, but what I got was far from what I was after. Bye, bye, car Number 2."

While all of that was going on, Bob started tinkering with 5.0L Fox-body Mustangs and in early 1996, he bought a '95 Cobra R. It only had nine miles on the clock, and as Bob put it, "That was an awesome car and even more so after I added nitrous to it."

The late-model cars served their purpose while Bob continued to "build what I thought was the meanest Cobra Jet that I could envision-I always wanted to build the ultimate CJ." He eventually found the right car on the Internet in October 2001. Bob talked with the owner and a deal was struck-Bob would trade the Cobra R for the freshly restored '68-1/2.

Cobra Jet Number 3 turned out to be the winner, before it even hit the track. The car was a rust- and accident-free restored car. The white exterior was complemented with the black hood and side C stripe. The previous owner had pulled the 351C that was in it after procuring a date-correct 428, but that didn't last for long.

"I immediately sold the drivetrain out of it," notes Bob. "I still get a lot of crap for that." Bob then dropped the roller off at Mike Lupfer's chassis shop, where 3 inches were added to the rear wheelwells by mini-tubbing the back end-Bob says that they still look like factory wheeltubs from the trunk. The car still has the factory framerails, but they have been notched for the wheeltubs and larger tires. Next, Lupfers fabricated a four-link coilover rear suspension, through-the-floor subframe connectors, and the 12-point chrome-moly rollcage that fits the car like a glove.

The first form of motivation for this Wimbledon White rocket came from a 440ci FE engine that used a CJ block and crank. It produced a healthy 688 hp on the engine dynamometer, and Bob backed it with a Jerico DR-4 manual transmission for effortless shifting, and a Mark Williams 9-inch rearend to take the punishment-the 35-spline axles twist the MW spool without flinching. Unfortunately, the 440 kicked a couple of rods out during a pass, and was subsequently replaced with what might be the baddest FE engine that Bob could dream of.

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Keith Craft machined a Shelby aluminum block, shaving some 80 pounds off the front end in the process, and stuffed it with a 526ci rotating assembly-it's twisted the engine dyno to a stunning 840 hp at 7,100 rpm, and more than 700 lb-ft of torque. With a 14:1 compression ratio, we're certain it crackles through the exhaust nicely, while burning the Sunoco Maximal race fuel. In this form, the Cobra Jet has run a best of 9.90 at 138 mph in the quarter-mile. This included a 60-foot time of 1.36 on the back tires at Bandimere Speedway, on a day where the corrected altitude was 9,400 feet above sea level. At sea level, the car would be flirting with the 8-second zone!

Unfortunately, Bob's father passed away before he could go a for a ride in the car, so Bob keeps a picture of him in it so that he would be going for a ride every time Bob drove or raced it. There's also a picture of Bob's twin daughters who "changed my life in every way."

"I would like to thank my dad, Mike Lupfer for an awesome chassis, my buddy Keith for always being there for help, and the special ladies in my life-Andrea, my wife, and my awesome little girls, Danielle and Brianna."

Bob runs the Cobra Jet at the track about 12 times a year, and occasionally drives it on the street when he has "one of those days when you need to relieve some stress." The Mustang has so far met his every goal, though friends do occasionally tease him about adding some nitrous to it. Bob has also wanted a '70-'72 Maverick since he was little, too. That could be an even tougher quest than the ultimate Cobra Jet.

The Details

Robert Smith's '68-1/2 Mustang Cobra Jet

Engine
  • 526ci FE built by Keith Craft Racing (Arkadelphia, Arkansas)
  • Shelby aluminum block
  • Scat billet steel knife-edged crank
  • 4.375-inch bore
  • 4.375-inch stroke
  • Oliver 6.700-inch Billet rods
  • JE forged aluminum pistons, 14:1 compression ratio
  • Comp Cams solid roller camshaft, advertised duration 292 degrees, 0.786-inch lift
  • Jesel 0.904 lifters
  • Comp Cams pushrods
  • Danny Bee beltdrive
  • Keith Craft CNC-ported Edelbrock Performer RPM FE heads (NHRA version), Comp Cams triple valvesprings, Stealth Titanium valves, 2.30-inch intake/1.73-inch exhaust, T+D 1.76:1 shaft rockers
  • Dove single-plane intake, ported
  • Quick Fuel Technologies 1,150-cfm Dominator
  • Moroso valve covers; MSD crank trigger ignition, billet distributor, 8.5 wires, and coil; Meziere water pump, engine plate, and mid plate

Transmission

  • Jerico DR4 four-speed manual with 3.05 First gear
  • Lakewood scattershield
  • McLeod Soft-Lok clutch
  • Long pistol-grip Vertical gate shifter

Rearend

  • Mark Williams 9-inch rear, driveshaft, and aluminum third member with spool
  • 35-spline gun-drilled axles
  • 5.14 Richmond Pro Gears

Exhaust

  • Tubular stepped headers built by Mike Lupfer, 2-1/8, 2-1/4, 2-3/8-inch primary tube steps, 4-inch collectors, 4-inch X-style midpipe to Borla XR1 mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: Koni 90/10 shocks, Moroso trick springs
  • Rear: Mike Lupfer-built four-link suspension, notched rear framerails for mini-tubs, AFCO double-adjustable coilover shocks

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood disc, 11.65-inch vented rotors, four-piston calipers
  • Rear: Wilwood disc, 10.5-inch vented rotors, four-piston calipers

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing Trakstar, billet aluminum, 15x3.5, 1-3/4-inch backspacing
  • Rear: American Racing Trakstar, billet aluminum, 15x11, 5-inch backspacing

Tires

  • Front: Mickey Thompson E/T Drag, 27.5x4.5
  • Rear: Mickey Thompson E/T Drag, 29.5x10.5W

Interior

  • Factory black door panels, dashboard, and carpet; Kirkey aluminum seats; Grant GT steering wheel; Auto Meter tach, water temp, fuel, and oil pressure gauges; window net; and Simpson five-point harnesses

Exterior

  • Single-stage Wimbledon White paint, Glasstek 4-inch cowl induction-style hood, Simpson parachute

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