Elisa Brooks
August 12, 2011
Photos By: Justin Cesler

Forty years after its debut, Ford brought back the iconic Cobra Jet, of which 50 were built strictly for racing competition in 2008.

Ford thrilled us again in 2010 and 2012, producing 50 more CJs per year that are NHRA-legal animals bred to dominate on the dragstrip.

The opportunity for owning a FR500CJ Cobra Jet isn't even a thought that flutters through most of our minds, as they are rare and expensive. It's not something easily attainable for the average Joe, so can you imagine owning not one, but five of these amazing machines?

It's hard not to be just a little bit envious of New Jersey native Anthony Bongiovanni. A mechanical engineer by trade, Anthony started his own computer software and hardware firm, Micro Strategies, about 28 years ago. And through his hard work, he's been able to live out his dream of being the proud owner of two original Cobra Jets and three full-tilt clones-each one with a story and special purpose.

It's easy to envy Anthony since he has the coolest toys, but the truth is, you won't meet a nicer or more humble guy. With such impeccable taste in high-performance vehicles, it's hard to believe his first visit to a dragstrip was only a short five years ago. What is even more interesting is that Anthony went from owning none to owning six Mustangs in a year's time.

"I went to the track to watch my friend Ray Scardelli race in Super Stock with my younger daughter, Michelle, who was eight at the time," stated Anthony. "She was so excited, and Ray suggested that I get a Jr. Dragster for her," he added. So that's what he did, and before long his two daughters were involved in drag racing.

Anthony has always been a car nut, even as a kid. He loved anything with an engine, and wanted to eventually get involved in motorsports, but being a dedicated business owner and father, finding spare time was a challenge. But with his daughters, Genna and Michelle (13 and 9 years old at the time respectively), racing NHRA junior dragsters, he was finally able to tap into the unshakable passion of high-performance drag racing.

Over the next few years Anthony watched his girls excel as racers, and the unbreakable bond between father and daughters created even more motivation to take racing to the next level-and just in time, as his oldest daughter began to outgrow the junior circuit.

Anthony decided to build Genna a "real" car, and he was captivated by the S197 body style that had just been released. His search began for a six-cylinder Mustang to turn into an NHRA Stocker, but he ended up finding the perfect pair of project cars-two '08 S197 Mustangs.

With the help of Ray Scardelli, Anthony's original plan was to turn one of the S197s into a Shelby to run the NHRA Stock Eliminator class and then forge a plan for the second car later on. But trying to piece it together with Shelby parts was a lot harder than he originally anticipated, and at the time, Ford had just announced a sweeter deal in the Cobra Jet program. As he browsed the Ford Racing website, Anthony zeroed in on the CJ exterior kit with all of the parts he needed to turn this Mustang into a serious drag racer.

Like a mad scientist, he strategized on how he could create a blazing Pony for his little girl. Anthony also had the itch to go fast, and he got underway with the second S197 Mustang so the father-and-daughter team could take their new passion to the next level together. You know what they say-a family that races together stays together!

The build commenced for the first '08 Mustang, and Anthony sent the soon-to-be NHRA-legal Mustang off to B&B Race Cars in Hohenwald, Tennessee, for the chassis build. Darren and Anne Breaud of B&B are known for their high-quality workmanship and performance, so big expectations were set. Anthony decided on a Three-Valve engine that went to B&B Performance Machine in Rahway, New Jersey, for the ultimate buildup, and the car would run in NHRA as a base GT.

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Ambitious, and just starting to get his feet wet in this project, Anthony felt that the standard 300hp Three-Valve was the right choice for the NHRA Stock class, but it turned out to be less than competitive due to a poor horsepower-to-weight factor. Ultimately, it ran 11.60 and that just wouldn’t do, so it was back to the drawing board for this mare.

In the meantime, he was yearning to move on to his second project car, which was going to be his toy. He ordered a 5.4-liter Four-Valve CJ crate engine from FRPP for his Super Stocker, and just as before, sent the engine off to Bob Oster and Dave Jack at B&B Performance Machine. This build included massaged heads, wild cams, and a few other internal tricks within the Super Stock rules.

Atop this fierce 330ci engine is a 2.3-liter TVS supercharger, which is legal so that he could run competitively in the NHRA SS/CA class. Backing this beast is a C-4 by Pro Trans and a Ford 9-inch rear. And boy did this Cobra Jet run. To date, Anthony has been 8.80s at over 150 mph with a 1.20 60-foot, carrying the wheels far enough to make most of us faint.

Just as he was diving into his Super Stock project, Anthony added yet another Pony to the Bongiovanni stable. (This is number three for those who are counting.) He purchased a ’10 body-in-white from FRPP, and decided it was a better car for Genna to run with the new CJ naturally aspirated Three-Valve. This combo is factored much more favorably by NHRA than the old GT Three-Valve (235 versus 300), yet it utilizes the FRPP intake, factory CNC-ported heads, and larger cams. It will ultimately run low-11s and high-10s, and be very competitive in the NHRA J/SA class.

Once again, a C-4 transmission went in, only this time prepared by Performance Automatic. He also added an authentic ’10 Super Cobra Jet with the aluminum-block and five-speed combo (of which we believe there were only 13 built).

We realize all of these cars and combinations can get rather confusing, but if you’ve been paying attention, simple math will show his first ’08 Cobra Jet was left without a heart and soul. Bringing it to life is a 5.4-liter CJ engine that was purpose-built for the NHRA AA/SA Stock class. This baby was boosted with the aforementioned TVS supercharger, and needless to say, it’s very competitive. Our very own Evan Smith drove this CJ during the recent Atco, New Jersey, NMRA event in the Mod Muscle class, and ran it’s best time to date—a blazing 9.43 at 143 mph with the nose to the sky and a 1.26 60-foot time. We expect nothing less from our fearless Revvin’ Evan.

Many racers face the dilemma of having to properly tune their cars, and usually they end up dependant on someone else to tweak their ride after every modification. Being a hands-on guy and wanting to avoid this dreaded tuner dependency, Anthony taught himself the FAST system and handled the calibration of all of his Mustangs. He has had success through trial and error. Being a software guru probably helped straighten his learning curve a little.

As the owner of a software company, Anthony was able to mix business and pleasure. So making his company, Micro Strategies, the main sponsor, enabled him to promote and grow his brand. With that, it came time to incorporate a unique paint theme for the Cobra Jets, and Anthony let Genna add her touch to inspire a really uncommon look that would reflect her personality. The classy scheme is very smart and racy.

B&B Race Cars not only built the superb chassis and suspension to each car, but it applied the knockout paintwork, too. The result is an eye-catching pearl white, edible-looking candy purple, and jade combination. His youngest daughter, Michelle, wanted the ’10 car to be slightly different, so she chose a deep candy-apple red instead of the purple. When you see this trio of Stallions, you know exactly who owns them.

Sadly, the Three-Valve Mustang had a serious malfunction during its initial test pass. After leaving the tree nicely and running a satisfactory test pass, Anthony lifted and began to slow the CJ. When he flipped off the data-gathering computer, the car became engulfed in flames. Anthony stopped the car and exited safely, unfortunately, he could only watch his daughter's Cobra Jet burn, while the track staff scrambled to find water and a way to extinguish the flames. It was too late by the time help arrived, as the damage was extensive. On a brighter note, the rebuild of this project is underway.

Anthony's Mustang collection grew again when he added a '12 Super Cobra Jet and a black '10 Shelby GT500 to his arsenal of sweet rides. Hey, he had to have one for the street. He plans to keep the '10 and '12 Cobra Jets parked most of the time and to compete with his trio of clones.

The long-term goals for the Bongiovanni Racing team is to have fun with friends and family, and to have the fastest Cobra Jets in their respective NHRA classes. You'll see Anthony at many NHRA and NMRA events, and if you do, be sure to check out his Mustangs. Low-9s and high-8s are pretty amazing within the guidelines of the NHRA rules, but with his drive and some applied intelligence, Anthony will make even bigger strides with these unique modular-powered Ponies, which are definitely built to race.

When you see this trio of Stallions, you know exactly who owns them.

Cobra Jet 1

  • Vehicle: 2008 Cobra Jet built for NHRA Super Stock by B&B Race Cars
  • Class: NHRA SS/CA
  • Engine: 5.4L DOHC Cobra Jet built by B&B Performance Machine
  • Heads: Factory Four-Valve ported to Super Stock specs
  • Intake: Factory
  • Supercharger/Boost: FRPP TVS
  • Amount of Boost: 10 psi
  • Headers: Gebler 2-1/4-inch
  • Camshaft: Bullet Racing Cams hydraulic-rollers
  • Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
  • Engine Management: FAST XFI System
  • Tuned By: Anthony Bongiovanni
  • Fuel: VP-C16 fed by 80-lb/hr injectors, Weldon fuel pumps, and Aeromotive regulator

Drivetrain

  • Transmission: Pro Trans C-4 Automatic
  • Torque Converter: PTC Bolt-Together
  • Rearend: Ford 9-inch, 5.13 gears

Suspension

  • Front: Santhuff front struts and Eibach front springs
  • Rear: Santhuff rear shocks and Eibach rear springs with B&B antiroll bar
  • Wheels & Tires: Weld with Phoenix Slicks
  • Race Weight: 3,145 pounds minimum w/driver
  • Best 60-foot: 1.20
  • Best e.t./mph: 8.80 at 150-plus mph

Cobra Jet 2

  • Vehicle: 2008 Cobra Jet built for NHRA Stock Eliminator by B&B Race Cars
  • Class: NHRA AA/SA
  • Engine: 5.4L DOHC Cobra Jet Built by B&B Performance Machine
  • Heads: Factory Four-Valve
  • Intake: Factory
  • Supercharger/Boost: FRPP TVS
  • Amount of Boost: 14 psi
  • Headers: Gebler 2-inch
  • Camshaft: Bullet Racing Cams hydraulic-roller
  • Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
  • Engine Management: FAST XFI System
  • Tuned By: Anthony Bongiovanni
  • Fuel: VP C-16 fed by 80-lb/hr injectors, Aeromotive pump and regulator

Drivetrain

  • Transmission: Pro Trans C-4 Automatic
  • Torque Converter: PTC Bolt-Together
  • Rearend: Ford 9-inch w/4.56 gears

Suspension

  • Front: Santhuff front shocks and Eibach front springs
  • Rear: Santhuff rear shocks and Eibach rear springs with B&B antiroll bar
  • Wheels & Tires: Weld with Hoosier 9x30-inch slicks
  • Race Weight: 3,640 pounds w/driver
  • Best 60-foot: 1.26 (foot-braking)
  • Best e.t./mph: 9.43 at 143 mph

Cobra Jet 3

  • Vehicle: 2010 Cobra Jet built for NHRA Super Stock by B&B Race Cars
  • Class: NHRA J/SA
  • Engine: 4.6L DOHC Cobra Jet built by B&B Performance Machine
  • Heads: FRPP CNC-ported Three-Valve
  • Intake/Throttle Body: FRPP
  • Supercharger/Boost: None
  • Amount of Boost: None
  • Headers: Gebler 1-5/8-inch
  • Camshaft: Bullet Racing Cams hydraulic roller
  • Compression Ratio: 11:1
  • Engine Management: FAST XFI System
  • Tuned By: Anthony Bongiovanni
  • Fuel: VP C-11 39-lb/hr injectors, Aeromotive pump and regulator

Drivetrain

  • Transmission: Performance Automatic C-4
  • Torque Converter: Select Performance
  • Rearend: Ford 9-inch w/5.13 gears

Suspension

  • Front: Santhuff front shocks and Eibach front springs
  • Rear: Santhuff rear shocks and Eibach rear springs with B&B Antiroll bar
  • Wheels & Tires: Weld with Hoosier 9x30-inch slicks
  • Race Weight: 3,110 pounds w/driver
  • Best 60-foot: Awaiting full run after rebuild
  • Best e.t./mph: Awaiting full fun after rebuild

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