Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
March 22, 2010
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

"In those days, we were king of Ford racing," Tasca Jr. says. "Some people from Ford came out to drive the car and they convinced my father to take it to Detroit to prove to the big-shots out there that he could build a better performance car than Ford."

You would think that Tasca Sr. would have shipped the car to Detroit. Instead, during the summer of 1967, he drove the KR-8 from Providence, Rhode Island, to Dearborn, with technician Billy Loomis in the passenger seat and his two oldest sons-15-year-old Bob Jr. and 13-year-old Carl, both on summer break from school-in the back seat. "Carl and I were a lot younger then so we fit," Tasca Jr. says with a laugh. "I remember we raced Ford's 427 Mustang and other cars on the dragstrip at the Dearborn Proving Grounds. We beat everything they had."

Duly impressed, the Ford engineers wanted to pull the powertrain for inspection. Tasca Jr. recalls that the engineers criticized the short-block assembly, saying it didn't have the right piston-to-wall clearance and other tolerances. Tasca Jr. remembers his father telling them, "I bought it from you. It's a stock 428 Police Interceptor short-block from over the counter."

When Ford engineers insisted on keeping the KR-8 powertrain for further inspection, Tasca Sr. told them he needed something to replace it for the drive home. Tasca Jr. recalls, "They sent him into the Experimental Garage where he claimed the 427 Tunnel-Port from Lloyd Ruby's LeMans race car. He also grabbed an experimental transmission and a special rear axle. While the Ford engineers were taking the KR-8 engine apart, we were putting the 427 in the Mustang."

Tasca Jr. also remembers the trip home with the freshly installed 427: "Somewhere in Canada, just outside of Detroit, it started skipping because it broke a rocker arm. So we took the pushrod out and drove all the way home on seven cylinders."

Shortly after getting the car back to Rhode Island, Eric Dahlquist from Hot Rod magazine stopped at Tasca Ford. It wasn't just a chance visit. "The fact that I wound up at Tasca didn't happen by accident," Dahlquist told us. "I was indirectly tipped off by a couple of engineers at Ford that if I was going East for my summer vacation, a stop at Tasca might prove interesting." Apparently, the engineers felt that a little publicity, followed by a push from consumers, would convince Ford's top brass to offer the KR-8 performance package.

Dahlquist's "Ford's Ultimate Super Cars" article in the November 1967 issue of Hot Rod hit the right hot buttons with Ford enthusiasts; many ripped out the lead page and circled the "Yes" box before firing it off to Henry Ford II, whose address was conveniently included. "All those 'ballots' went to Henry Ford II," says Dahlquist. "It became one of the most controversial stories I ever did."

The rest is history. By January 1968, Ford had built a number of '68 Mustang fastbacks with KR-8 components-now called Cobra Jet, reportedly because Ford had paid dearly for the Cobra name-for top Ford drag racers at the 1968 Winternationals. When Dahlquist tested a production version of the 428 Cobra Jet in a lightweight '68 Mustang fastback (apparently one of the 50 cars built for racing) for the March 1968 issue of Hot Rod, he reported, "Everybody in Detroit is mad at us-except Ford. With the help of about 2,000 of you out there in readerland who dutifully filled out the ballot in the November issue and mailed it to Dearborn, several key executives who doubted that Ford cars lacked competitive street performance have reversed their opinions." Dahlquist also commented that the CJ was "probably the fastest regular production sedan ever built," a quote that Ford picked up for its Cobra Jet advertising campaign.

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