Eric English
January 1, 2005

Once the coupe arrived at Perkins' restoration shop, the first order of business was to get busy cleaning. Despite a life of indoor storage, a thick layer of Texas red dust had found its way into nearly every nook and cranny of this low-mile miracle, and the cleansing process required a combination of careful disassembly and meticulous detailing. The perfect standard interior is a time warp to simpler days past, reminding us that the right car just doesn't need the kinds of amenities we've grown accustomed to in new automobiles. Come to think of it, perhaps such modern touches of navigational systems, climate control, and DVD players are just a grand cover-up for cars lacking real soul. There's no doubt Cantrell's Cobra Jet has plenty of the latter, some of which was garnered during tows down the gravel road that accessed the local dragstrip. The resulting front-end rock chips have been carefully remedied, and the engine treated to an exacting detail job that included reinstallation of the smog system. Underneath, a date-matched N.O.S. exhaust system replaced the mildly deteriorated originals.

Cantrell first saw the coupe during a trip to Perkins' place to pick up some critical pieces for yet another restoration project. A self-described Cobra Jet nut who's owned a number of the rare machines through the years, Cantrell was immediately smitten, and no wonder. Besides the obvious low-mileage appeal, the svelte '68 body style, quintessential musclecar color, and original paperwork, other factors drew Cantrell in like a dog to a bone. This was not a car to miss out on, and with Perkins amiable to a deal, Cantrell soon found himself the lucky third owner. The '6811/42 joins a '69 SCJ Mach 1 in his stable, but possesses an altogether different identity. Whereas 428 Mach 1s exhibit a decidedly in-your-face musclecar attitude, first-year CJs are a unique blend of early Mustang persona and pinnacle performance; in short, you just don't expect this kind of wallop from such a pretty face.

We could've asked Cantrell which ride he finds more desirable, but why bother? Owning both sides of the Cobra Jet coin means you don't have to make such a subjective analysis; instead, simply flipping a silver piece on any given weekend will do. Whether heads or tails, there's no loser in this case-just two stellar styles of big-inch fun.

Final TallyWhen it comes to production numbers, few Mustangs have been the subject of as much rampant speculation as the 428 CJ cars. While Shelby and Boss Mustangs have long enjoyed some pretty concrete figures, Cobra Jet production has always been more of a mystery. Early buff books claimed the '6811/42 cars were built as fastbacks only, though we've known for a long time that's false.

Enter Kevin Marti, whose access to Ford's computer archives has provided the hobby with a wealth of definitive production data for '67 and newer vehicles, including an accurate count of 428 CJ-powered Ponies. Marti's books, Mustang by the Numbers and Cougar by the Numbers, include plenty of informative minutiae such as the number of cars built with a particular option, a given paint/interior color combination, or a specific powertrain. Even more detailed information can be obtained for a modest fee from Marti Auto Works (12007 W. Peoria Ave., El Mirage, AZ 85335; 623/935-2558; www.martiauto.com).

We've listed all three years of 428 CJ Mustang production data below, though it should be explained that the numbers in our table look different from those in Marti's book, which includes CJ-powered Shelbys. Marti was kind enough to run the numbers for us, excluding the Shelbys, leaving the following tally for standard production 428 CJ Mustangs. Mystery solved!