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©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The relatively plain looks of the Fairlane Cobra 428 gave no indication of its muscle car performance. See more muscle car pictures.

Ford jumped on the budget-muscle car bandwagon with the 1969 Ford Fairlane Cobra 428. This midsize model was a little out of character for the brand: It performed. The subject was a dressed-down Fairlane hardtop or SportsRoof fastback with the grille blacked out and minimal exterior ornamentation; about the only clue to the car's true nature were small Cobra snake emblems and "428" badges.

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They signified the 428-cid Cobra Jet V-8, which was standard. The $3,200 base price also included a four-speed manual, with automatic a mere $37 option. Estimates put the Cobra Jet's true output at around 400 bhp, though Ford rated it at 335. The optional Ram Air induction system cost $133 and used a functional hood scoop to feed an air-cleaner breather valve that opened under heavy throttle. These CJ-R engines retained the 335-bhp rating, but were stronger than the standard mill, and turned high-13s at 102 mph.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The 428-cubic-inch V-8 was rated at 335 horsepower, but it probably achieved closer to 400.

Like the '68 econo-racer Mopars that launched the segment, Cobra stuck to basics. A "competition" suspension with staggered rear shocks, F70x14 tires, and hood-lock pins were standard. Power steering ($100) and power front discs ($65) were extras. Limited slip was a $63 option, but available ratios included 4.30:1 gears in a bulletproof Detroit Locker, which required an engine oil cooler. Interior was bench-seat plain; bucket seats with console added $169, an 8000-rpm tach, $48.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The 1969 Ford Fairlane Cobra was as plain inside as outside. Bucket seats and power steering were among several options that cost extra.

Like the mainstream intermediate on which it was based, the Cobra had a benign feel on the road, with predictable handling and numb power steering. But unlike most Fords, it flew.

"The 428 had...a lethargic way about it: it wasn't zingy like a Chevy," recalled Patrick Bedard for a 1990 Car and Driver retrospective. "But it had earth-mover torque, and it stayed in tune -- exactly what street racers needed. It was good with an automatic, too: just punch it and hang on. Which meant that every CJ was a threat no matter what kind of yahoo was in the chair."

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