Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
March 1, 2009

Despite all the doom and gloom in the world these days, we really are living in the heyday of Mustang performance. From the superb factory offerings to the myriad aftermarket iterations, there are a wealth of specialty performance Mustangs. Things are so good in that respect that it's easy to get caught up in the excitement in the quest for the next bigger and better 'Stang.

Even I am not immune to the hype surrounding the 2010 Mustang, and it begins in our pages this month. Of course, any blue-bleeding Mustang lover would be hard-pressed not to get excited about the introduction of a new Mustang. Even if you have your favorite pre-'10 Mustang, you have to appreciate the Mustang still running wild in the streets. There would be nothing sadder than seeing our beloved Pony orphaned--remember that every time you get sick of hearing about the latest Mustangs.

While in the Motor City to get the lowdown on the next Mustang, which you can see in these pages, I also took the time to convince my friends at Ford Racing to let me peek at the Cobra Jet test mule. If you haven't been following the Cobra Jet saga, it is not only a 40-year-anniversary celebration of the '68 Cobra Jet Mustang, but it's a legitimate, turnkey factory race car. Just a handful of years ago, if I had told you Ford was building a drag-race Mustang that you could order through your local dealer, you would have thought I was writing another April Fool's editorial. However, this car is legit and dealers eagerly scooped up all 50 in a few days.

The Ford Racing boys have been flogging this ride mercilessly to make sure the car will live up to its namesake when loosed on the world of National Hot Rod Association "stock" racing. As such, the tester was torn down and hanging from the hoist for a thorough inspection after a few laps at the hands of Ford Racing's new leader and devout drag-racer Brian Wolfe. I met up with my pal Jesse Kershaw, who led me past security guards, through 10-foot-tall gates, and into the bowels of a development garage where the CJ was enduring its examination.

As I approached the car, I was immediately struck by its visage. The car is far more alluring in person, even though the graphics on the prototype aren't final. With the combination of the Bullitt grille, California Special front valance, Silverhorse Racing quarter-windows, drag wheels, huge retro hoodscoop, and the absence of a wing, the car has a purposeful personality. As I would quickly learn, the car isn't just a collection of parts designed to make a stock Mustang resemble a drag car--no, this car is laden with serious intent.

Designed as a showcase for the brawny supercharged 5.4-liter from the Shelby GT500, the Cobra Jet features numerous safety upgrades that make it legal for 10-second track performance and a number of upgrades that guarantee the CJ will run in the 10s. From a free-breathing inlet tract and open exhaust to an SFI-approved overdrive damper and a built 9-inch, the CJ exudes performance.

I'm sure we'll get into more detail on these cars down the road, but I couldn't help but be swept up in the gravity of a factory drag car becoming a reality. Moreover, it's a factory effort that I believe will actually stand up to the history of its legendary forefathers.

While sensing the historic nature of the car, I also couldn't help but appreciate how Ford has really come around in the post-S197 era. Ford Racing is just as relevant as Ford Motorsport was in the seminal period of the fuel-injected Fox when the GT-40 intake was the cutting edge of bolt-on performance technology. On top of the factory strength, it's more than obvious that the aftermarket has embraced the new Mustangs like a long-lost loved one. The Mustang is poised to continue its rear-wheel-drive performance-car superiority with a giant head start over the new competitors entering the fray.

Of course, adding those competitors gives Ford further incentive to continue improving the car. Sure, they did a superb job making the car better and better in a competitive vacuum, but we all knew that competition would resurface eventually. Having seen what Ford is doing with the new Mustang and Ford Racing is doing with the Cobra Jet, I'm really looking forward to this next battle in the musclecar wars.