Michael Galimi
January 10, 2012

The origin of the catch phrase can't be nailed down to any particular person, but one company that made it extraordinarily famous is Tasca Ford.

The Rhode Island-based Ford dealer might come from the smallest state in the Union, but its legacy in the Ford Motor Company empire is enormous. Bob Tasca Sr., the son of Italian immigrants, established Tasca Ford in 1953. He worked his way up from sweeping floors at a local Ford dealer at age 10 to Ford dealership owner by age 26.

Tasca lived the American Dream until his death at the age of 83 in 2010. The Tasca Automotive Group remains family-owned and is led by his three sons--Carl, Bob Jr., and David, along with their wives and children. The scenario was Tasca's dream--a strong and close family to carry on TAG, which he built from nothing in the '50s.

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The Tasca name resonates with car enthusiasts thanks to its drag racing efforts back in the '60s. It started with modified Galaxies, Thunderbolts, A/FX Mustangs, and ultimately the early generation of Funny Cars. It was the "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" marketing mantra that Tasca realized was vital to his Rhode Island dealership.

Every week the Tasca Ford Drag Team hit the track as it searched for quick times and race wins. The dealership was growing, and so was its influence on Ford Motor Company, which recognized the talents of Tasca and his staff for selling large volumes of Ford vehicles. The successful Tasca would spark up a relationship-turned-friendship with Henry Ford II, simply known as 'The Deuce' to his friends. This relationship helped steer Ford back into the drag racing wars of the late '60s.

But Tasca is perhaps most well-known for what he did with the '68 Mustang. The most fierce engine in the newly redesigned '67 Mustang was a 320hp 390 FE big-block that was much more powerful than its small-block 289 HiPo predecessor, but not powerful enough to compete against the competition from GM and Chrysler. So Tasca let his guys loose on a '67 Mustang in order to beat the Camaros and Mopar contingent. Their test car had a broken engine, so they removed it and headed over to the parts department to pull the best parts off the shelf. A 428 PI short-block was unbolted from the crate, and the Tasca crew added 427 Low-Riser cylinder heads and a Holley 735-cfm carburetor.

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Amazingly, during our trip to the famous dealership, we met the very humble Bill Gilbert, one of the original Tasca Ford Drag Team members. Gilbert still spins wrenches in the Tasca Ford service department. "All we did was use parts off the shelf to build [what was essentially] the first Cobra Jet," Gilbert commented modestly. The addition of those off-the-shelf parts led to the Mustang KR-8, which stood for King of the Road with the 428ci engine.

Tasca knew high-performance cars helped sell the brand and Ford was slipping behind the competition. The KR-8 was fast; its notoriety led the Tasca group to the steps of Dearborn for a meeting with engineers, marketers, and The Deuce. The Ford group wanted a firsthand look at the Mustang that helped Tasca win at the dragstrip. Ultimately, Big Blue moved forward with plans to build the KR-8, which was later renamed Cobra Jet. Eight Cobra Jet Mustangs debuted at the '68 NHRA Winternationals (Pomona, California), where they dominated the competition.

The initial run produced just 50 models to qualify for NHRA rules, and by April of that year, Ford sold 2,900 units for street use. The legacy of Tasca Ford went mainstream and the family still enjoys the lure of drag racing today. Bob Tasca III pilots a Mustang NHRA nitro Funny Car, and there are two in-house modern Cobra Jets--a '10 model that has gone a best of 8.06 at 170 mph, and an '08 CJ, which has run as quick as 9.28 at 147 mph. Carl Tasca Sr. jams the gears in both CJs, and each are run nearly every week during race season at New England Dragway.

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A few Cobra Jets, a nitro Funny Car, and too-many-to-count hot rods make up the stable of the Tasca family, but it was Carl Jr. and his '03 SVT Cobra that led the company to its latest venture--the Tasca Mod Shop.

Carl Jr. was having fun with a couple of different Terminators, but he kept going to outside sources to modify and tune the factory supercharged Mustang. A family discussion took place and it was decided that they would no longer go outside for the modifications when the dealership was fully capable of handling it. With the blessing of the Tasca patriarch, the next generation of Tasca enthusiasts set up the Tasca Mod Shop in 2005. It coincided with the release of the revamped Mustang.

Opening a new division wasn't the only part of the plan, and the family turned to an old friend, Carroll Shelby, to help add a unique element to the speed shop in 2007.

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Many might not realize that the Tasca/Shelby relationship runs deep, and it dates back to the '60s when Carroll Shelby was trying to get his Cobra program off the ground. Tasca had introduced Shelby to the Ford execs at the Dearborn Inn, a quaint hotel that is still open in Dearborn, and the rest, as they say, is history. The two struck up a friendship, and when Shelby needed help building the third Cobra, Tasca was ready to assist. The car was shipped in a crate to Tasca Ford, which at the time was located in East Providence, Rhode Island. The team worked day and night to get the car together, and Tasca didn't charge Shelby one dollar for the assembly work. The two remained close friends until Tasca's passing in 2010.

Fast-forward to 2007 and once again Shelby and Tasca teamed up, as the Mod Shop is the East Coast headquarters for Shelby Super Snakes. The high-powered Mustangs are built in-house and a Shelby inspector flies in to certify the vehicles. A customer in the East no longer has to ship his or her GT500 to Las Vegas, home of Shelby American, for the conversion.

The Mod Shop is more than a Shelby authorized builder, however, it's also a full-service speed shop and tuning facility for late-model Ford vehicles. We saw a few '11 Mustang GTs being modified with superchargers and some Shelbys going under the knife during our visit. Additionally, Tasca builds Factory Five Racing kit cars. One of the roadsters on the build schedule was being assembled for Ford Racing as a SEMA show vehicle.

"We run our Mod Shop like everything in Tasca Automotive Group, with customer satisfaction being our highest concern," states Carl Jr. "Pop (Bob Tasca Sr.) taught all of us that customer happiness is most important." And keeping Carl Jr. happy is a 900-rwhp package for his Shelby GT500 'vert. As he put it: "It is insane." The group also works closely with FRPP on many projects and is a Top 10 Ford Racing dealer. And just like the main dealership, the Tasca Mod Shop was born from a drag racing legacy and thrives on passion a few generations later.

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