With the Woodward Dream Cruise’s weekend of honoring all things automotive in full swing, Ford debuted its 2018 Mustang Cobra Jet, which it teased this past April. The nostalgia in the air was thicker than the Hoosier drag-racing slicks at the ends 0f the Cobra Jet’s 9.0-inch rear axle. The first Cobra Jet came out 50 years ago, dominating the famed NHRA Winternationals that year and cementing its name in the heads of drag racers for generations to come. Or maybe it’s just all the unburned hydrocarbons hovering around M-1 between Ferndale and Pontiac, Michigan, that has us reminiscing over the Cobra Jet name.
Either way, the new Cobra Jet is the latest in a line of turnkey, track-only race cars Ford sells for those looking to go a quarter-mile as quick as possible. Ford won’t say exactly how much horsepower its new drag-race special makes, but it says that the car will run a quarter-mile in the mid-eight-second range. So, even if that’s an 8.6-second pass at more than 150 mph, odds are the Coyote-based engine makes close to 1000 horsepower.
To make all that power, Ford increased the engine’s displacement from 5.0 to 5.2 liters, strengthened its internals, and dropped a Whipple supercharger into the valley. The twin-screw blower displaces 3.0 liters of air for every rotation (that’s about 13 percent more volume than the Roots-type pump on the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1). Unlike the independent rear suspension found in streetgoing Mustangs, this car has a live rear axle supplied by Strange Engineering and located by four links and a Panhard rod. The suspension features ride-height adjusters, and the disc brakes are designed to minimize drag. A parachute is fitted to arrest the car at the end of a run. Skinny tires on the front axle, a stripped interior featuring an NHRA roll cage, an FIA seat, a Sparco steering wheel, a factory-installed wheelie bar, and a carbon-fiber hood also come standard.
Both Chevy and Dodge have sold similar low-volume drag-strip vehicles in recent years. Dodge offered two flavors of its Challenger Drag Pak back in 2015, while the also nostalgically named COPO Camaro debuted at SEMA two years ago.
To honor the first Cobra Jet’s debut in 1968, Ford is limiting the 2018 Cobra Jets to just 68 examples at a price of $130,000. The order books are open. You can have it in any color so long as it’s red or white.
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Ford’s Mustang Cobra Jet strikes as quickly as its venomous namesake
If all you care about is going fast in a straight line, Ford has the car for you. The 2018 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet was built specifically for drag racing. In fact, it’s the quickest drag-racing Mustang ever, according to Ford. Like most things Mustang, the Cobra Jet is also a reference to the car’s past glory.
The first Mustang Cobra Jet was launched 50 years ago, in 1968. That was the height of the American muscle car craze, when winning at the drag strip had a significant impact on sales. So Ford built 50 lightweight Mustangs with 335 horsepower and 428-cubic-inch V8 engines, and made sure they found their way into the hands of drag racers. Ford brought back the Cobra Jet in 2008, and continued building small batches of the cars through 2016.
Like its predecessors, the 2018 Cobra Jet is a turnkey race car that people can buy and send directly to the drag strip. It features a 5.2-liter V8, which is the same configuration that will be used in the upcoming Shelby GT500 road car (Ford did not confirm that both cars will use the same engine, however). Ford wouldn’t discuss power output, but said the Cobra Jet will run the quarter mile in the 8-second-plus range at speeds up to 150 mph.
To fortify the Mustang for drag racing, Ford added a roll cage, racing seats, two-way coil-over shock absorbers with adjustable ride height, 9-inch solid rear axle, and a “low-drag” braking system. Buyers can choose between Race Red and Oxford White.
Ford will build just 68 2018 Cobra Jets, in honor of the original Cobra Jet’s 1968 debut. Pricing starts at $130,000, which is a lot money for a Mustang, but not bad for a complete race car that may also become a collector’s item in the future. Note that Chevrolet and Dodge have offered their own turnkey drag racers in the form of the COPO Camaro and Challenger Drag Pak, respectively. We wouldn’t be surprised to see updated versions of those cars arrive soon to challenge Ford.
The Cobra Jet isn’t the only new special-edition Mustang celebrating the 1960s. Ford recently launched a new Mustang Bullitt to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Steve McQueen film of the same name, and brought back the California Special, which debuted in 1968. But the upcoming GT500 may eclipse them all.
Reviving a nameplate that debuted in 1967 and was last used in 2014, the GT500 will be the most powerful production Mustang ever, with at least 700 hp. Unlike the Cobra Jet, it will also be road legal.
2018 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet First Look: One Fast Pony
Only 68 of the $130,000 race cars will be madeFord Mustang Full Overview
What better place than Woodward Avenue during Dream Cruise week for Ford to unleash a limited-edition 50th anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet race car.
With the roar of engines and high-octane smell lingering over the boulevard from night after night of cruising leading up to the main rolling event on Saturday, Ford ups the ante with the fastest production Mustang on the drag strip. The car was shown to the media today and will make its public debut at the Dream Cruise on Saturday as part of the Mustang Alley display.
The 2018 Mustang Cobra Jet is a turnkey race car—it's not street legal—and Ford will only make 68 of them to mark the year the original debuted. You have a choice of two colors: Race Red or Oxford White. Price tag: $130,000, not including available anniversary badging and graphics. You can place your order now at a Ford dealership.
Under the hood is a 5.2-liter version of Ford's 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 with a 3.0-liter fifth-generation Whipple supercharger. It has a three-speed racing transmission.
Ford says the car can exceed 150 mph, which necessitates a parachute on the back. And it claims the car will do the quarter-mile run in just over 8 seconds, which means it has at least 700 horsepower and likely exceeds 1,000 (more specs including horsepower will be revealed later this summer). For perspective: Motor Trend clocked the Tesla Model S P100D's quarter-mile at 10.5 seconds.
The Mustang has a four-link rear suspension, 9-inch solid rear axle, two-way coil-over shocks with adjustable ride height, and a low-drag disc brake system from Strange Engineering. An NHRA-certified safety roll cage can be ordered from the factory along with FIA-certified seats and anniversary-badged racing wheels.
This latest rendition is a reverent nod to the original Cobra Jet engine that debuted, and won, in 1968 at the NHRA Winternationals. The orignial V-8 generated 335 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. Ford brought back a Mustang Cobra Jet in 2008 with a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8; that run was limited to 50 examples, and they did not have VINs and thus weren't street legal. From 2009 to 2016 Ford made another 250 cars, essentially making 50 every two years. It was in 2013 that the engine switched to the 5.0-liter V-8.
The 2018 model was developed by the Ford Performance team and uses the 2018 Mustang platform. But again, no VINs. It starts life at Ford's Flat Rock assembly plant in Michigan and goes to Watson Racing to lighten the body, add the roll cage and other modifications before returning to Flat Rock for paint and final assembly. Then it returns to Watson for final addition of performance parts.
If you can't get to Woodward, the new Mustang Cobra Jet will be in Norwalk, Ohio, Aug. 25 for the 50th Anniversary Ford Performance Cobra Jet Reunion at Summit Motorsports Park, which is expected to attract more than 150 cars.
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