428 Cobra Jet
The other FE in our top ten is the 428 Cobra Jet. Dreamed up by Bob Tasca and his team of performance minded cohorts, and debuting in mid-1968, the CJ immediately gave Ford some much needed street credibility. So much so, that for the moment in time that was March 1968, Hot Rod magazine's Eric Dahlquist proclaimed it "the fastest running Pure Stock in the history of man."
It's tough to beat a Shaker-equipped...
It's tough to beat a Shaker-equipped 428CJ for aesthetic appeal (top), but only a smattering of Ram-Air CJs got such a trendy setup. Only '69-'70 Mustangs got Shakers with the Ram-Air 428s-all others, including '68 1/2 Mustangs, '68 1/2-'69 Torinos and Cyclones, and '68 1/2-'70 Cougars, had more traditional hood-mounted 'scoops with vacuum operated air cleaner flaps (bottom). To be clear, 428CJs were available in most cases sans Ram-Air, whereupon a traditional air cleaner was used.
The 428 Cobra Jet was Ford's muscle car engine for the masses, and due to its genesis from affordable passenger car pieces, it was built in relative quantity-more than 20,000 in '68 1/2-'70 Mustangs alone. As if the street cred wasn't enough, 428CJ-powered machines immediately established themselves as tough competitors in the Stock and Super Stock drag racing ranks, and may well be the most successful Ford engine to campaign in such over the long-term.
From day one, 428CJ Fords...
From day one, 428CJ Fords have been a fixture in the Stock and Super Stock drag classes. Al Joniec won at the CJ Mustang's debut outing at the 1968 Winternationals, while others, Fred Moreno here, continue the tradition in the new millennium. Today's SS CJs, such as Moreno's wheels-up SS/GA ride, run mid to high 9s, or roughly 2 seconds quicker than Joniec's Mustang of 42 years ago, thanks to modern technology and more liberal rules.
From Al Joniec's Super Stock Eliminator victory at the CJ's 1968 Winternationals debut, to John Calvert's national records and wins in very recent memory, the engine has been a force to be reckoned with for 40 years.
The first word to come to...
The first word to come to mind when looking at the engine compartment of a Boss-9 Mustang may not be "Shotgun," but rather "shoehorn," for the engine simply shouldn't fit. Fact is it didn't-until highly modified shock towers were installed, along with other bits like a smaller power brake booster, revised control arms, engine compartment bracing, and much more. Installation of the engines and the myriad of ancillaries were accomplished by Ford subcontractor Kar Kraft Engineering, on a niche assembly line in Brighton, Michigan.
Too bad Ford didn't have everything together when it came to the homologation effort for the Boss 429 engine, the Mustang Boss 429. It could've been the nastiest factory muscle car of all time, and yet still probably qualifies as the most exotic. Nevertheless, the big Boss was a big winner in the arena it was built for-stock car racing. FoMoCo dominated the 1969 NASCAR season, as Boss 429-powered Torinos and Cyclones did the heavy lifting that resulted in 30 victories out of 54 races, another driver's championship for David Pearson, and the manufacturer's championship for Ford.
Not as extroverted as its...
Not as extroverted as its small-cube Boss brethren, the Boss 429 was nonetheless impressive in appearance. The big hoodscoop and decals on the side were enough clue that this SportsRoof was something special, and lets not forget the big boots that were the Goodyear Polyglas F60-15s-the first of such size on a production car. We suspect many a street race ended before it even started-that is if the opponent got a glimpse of the aluminum-head monster under the hood.
Since we're speaking of production engines, we'll return to the iterations seen in the Boss Mustangs of 1969 and 1970. Rated at 375 horsepower, the Boss 429 held the highest factory horsepower rating (tied with '71 429SCJ) for a Ford-built Mustang until eclipsed by the 2000 Cobra R and it's 385-horse 5.4L Four-Valve. No matter the performance, the Boss was also a bulletproof piece, consisting of a four-bolt main bearing block, and particularly in the early stages, a brutally tough reciprocating assembly that was truly designed for 500 miles at over 7,000 rpm. These first 200-some engines are known as S-code assemblies, and used massive connecting rods with 1/2-inch bolts. T-code engines came next, and while still using a great forged steel crank, employed much lighter connecting rods with 3/8-inch bolts. S-code Boss Mustangs seem to hold sway with collectors due to their lower production numbers and more direct NASCAR heritage, but in truth, the T-code cars should be better street and drag race platforms. Not only did they have a quicker revving bottom end, most T-motors were fitted with a far superior solid lifter cam than the early motor hydraulic bumpstick. In all, the Boss 429 Mustang is a rare breed no matter which engine variation-just over 1,300 were built.
The Boss 302 truly was the...
The Boss 302 truly was the little engine that could. Impressive-looking in 290hp production form, it's absolutely wild in '69 Trans-Am race trim as seen here. Dual Holley Dominators were so large they required an offset distributor to clear the massive assembly. Rule changes dictated a single four-barrel intake for the 1970 Trans-Am season.
Winner, Winner! It's hard to levy much criticism at the '69-'70 Boss 302, for it truly was a magical piece of machinery. OK, you could say that the original pistons had a habit of cracking, but that's water under the bridge in an age when any hard running Boss has been rebuilt with the latest and greatest slugs.