Eric English
January 1, 2004

Among the many musclecars to rise from the golden era of the mid-'60s to early '70s, few can claim a more illustrious history than the 428 Cobra Jet Mustang. You know the story well: Tasca Ford project turned production powerhouse, '68 Winternationals Super Stock king, perennial NHRA class winner, and a performance car that Hot Rod magazine called "the fastest running Pure Stock in the history of man."

With a scrapbook like that, it's easy to see why 428CJ Mustangs are among the most sought after and exactingly restored Mustangs in the hobby. But beyond the racing accolades, the Cobra Jet excelled because it worked so well on the street-courtesy of the long 3.98-inch stroke, straightforward single four-barrel Holley, and maintenance-friendly hydraulic camshaft. Even in the hands of an all-thumbs novice, the CJ was more than respectable. But in the hands of a skilled driver, the big FE could be a veritable boulevard brute.

Michael Johnson is a believer in the beauty of the SportsRoof/Cobra Jet combination, as his exemplary '70 Mach 1 demonstrates. In this instance, however, beauty doesn't equate to stock, as Michael seized the opportunity to build a subtle and tasty modified, incorporating items that Dearborn, circa 1970, couldn't, or wouldn't, provide. We're talking hydraulic roller cam, five-speed tranny, four-wheel discs, and more.

Beginning with a solid but tired Ivy Metallic Q-code Mach 1, Michael transformed the car into one of the nicest restomods on the road, with a level of craftsmanship and detail second to none. The Grabber Green Deltron topcoat was chosen for its unique and eye-popping character, and expertly applied by Howard Calvin of North Bend, Washington. Other visual deviations from stock include blackout lower cladding, 16x8-inch Vintage 45 wheels, and the Shaker scoop from ram-air Cobra Jets.

Under the hood, the 428 was treated to a thorough rebuild by Mike Lattin, who upgraded the bottom end with forged pistons and ARP fasteners before adding aluminum Edelbrock heads, Comp Cams roller rockers, and a Crane hydraulic roller cam. The stock 735-cfm Holley was shelved in favor of a Holley 850 that sits on an aluminum Police Interceptor intake manifold. Not only does this combination add to the CJ's already prodigious power output, it significantly improves on a big-block Mustang's notorious nose-heavy reputation.

The interior of Michael's Mach 1 makes subtle improvements over the classic '69-'70 style as well. A Shelby console pod is filled with Auto Meter gauges, which combine with a factory tach to monitor engine vitals. The LeCarra steering wheel is a sweet-looking piece, while the Steeda Tri-Ax shifter is masked to appear as an original Hurst unit. Banging gears is now done through a Tremec TKO transmission, paired with 3.89 gears for quick starts off the line

Lest you think Michael's CJ is all forward motion, it's a well-balanced package with a Flaming River steering box, Magna front and rear springs, Koni shocks, and Total Control subframe connectors. BFG Comp T/As are yet another contributor to the stick factor, while four-wheel discs from Stainless Steel Brakes slow things down in a hurry.

Since the Mach 1's completion, Michael is enjoying the fruits of his labor in a big way. That means lots of cruising and driving, plenty of show competition, and even a few passes down the quarter-mile. The results are outstanding no matter the venue. All told, the finished product is one terrific musclecar that, in many ways, is even better than the original.