Ask any knowledgeable Blue Oval enthusiast to name the quickest pure-production Mustang of the muscle car era, and most will say the 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet.
Big-block Camaros and Firebirds, and even 340-cid Darts and Barracudas, were kicking Mustang's tail on the street. Ford countered by making its 427-cid V-8 a Mustang option in early '68 models. It was a detuned 390-horsepower version of the legendary near race-ready 427, however, and its slim availability and $755 cost were downers.
Then, on April 1, came the 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet. It was based on the staid 428-cid big-car engine, but had larger valve heads and the race-brewed 427's intake manifold. It also had ram-air induction and a functional hood scoop. The scoop mated to a special air cleaner with a vacuum-actuated butterfly valve that funneled air directly into the 735-cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor. Output was around 410 horsepower, but Ford rated it at 335 horsepower in an effort to calm insurance agents and con dragstrip rules-makers.
The 428 CJ was offered in Mustang fastbacks and coupes (and in Ford Torino and Mercury Cougar and Cyclone models) with a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic. All 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jets had beefed-up front shock towers and Polyglas F70X14 tires. Four-speed cars got staggered rear shocks. Standard were 3.50:1 gears, with 3.91:1 and 4.30:1 ratios available.
All 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jets came with GT-level touches, such as front fog lamps and a side "C" stripe, but the only other external clue to the armament within was the black scoop and hood stripe. The entire package cost about $500, including front disc brakes. The Equa-Loc differential ($79) and Competition Handling Package ($62) were wise extras.
With 11.5-second ETs at 120 mph, the factory team of eight specially prepared 1968 Ford Mustang 428 CJs obliterated everything in their Super Stock class at the '68 NHRA Winternationals. The impact was no less forceful on the street. "The entire world will come to recognize this engine -- the 428 Cobra Jet -- at the pop of a hood," declared Motor Trend. Finally, thanks to the 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, the competition was chasing Mustang's tail.
Return to Classic Muscle Cars Library.
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These muscle car profiles include photos and specifications for each model:
- Cougar pulled out of Mustang's shadow with the striped and spoilered 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator.
- Beep, beep! Make way for one of the baddest muscle cars of all time, the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi.
- The 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am combined sports-car handling and muscle car power.
- An all-aluminum, race-proven V-8 defined the rare and wicked 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
For even more on fantastic Fords and magnificent Mustangs, check out:
- Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
- The 1967, 1968 Ford Mustang had a fresh look, and the power to match.
- Learn the history of the Ford Explorer, the world's best-selling SUV. Included are profiles of every model year.