• One of 50 lightweight Mustangs produced

• Delivered to Ford in Dearborn as a marketing vehicle

• Factory-sponsored drag car driven by Dave Lyall

• Sold to Lyall for $1 to compete in the Super Stock wars

• Documented with copies of the window sticker, Lyall’s $1 contract, Michigan title search, Ford internal memos about the 428 Cobra Jet Lightweight Mustang program, and Marti Report

• Finished in Lyall’s racing livery

• 428 Cobra Jet engine

• 4-speed manual transmission

• Cragar wheels, Hurst shifter

• Radio delete, bucket seats

• Photo-documented frame-off restoration

 

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet Lightweight
Years Produced:1968
Number Produced:50
Original List Price:$3,612.60
SCM Valuation:$100,000–$150,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$14.95
Chassis Number Location:Plate on the passenger’s side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Pad under the back of the driver’s side cylinder head
Club Info:Mustang 428 Cobra Jet Registry
Website:www.428cobrajet.org
Alternatives:1969 Chevrolet Camaro 427 COPO, 1968 Dodge Dart GSS 440, 1962 Pontiac Catalina Super Duty
Investment Grade:B

This 1968 Ford Mustang Lightweight, Lot F213, sold for $143,100, including buyer’s premium, at Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic Auction in Indianapolis, IN, on May 17, 2013.

On December 26, 1967, Jacque Passino, Manager of Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations, sent a telegram to all regional and district sales managers announcing a special, limited-edition “428 Cobra Jet Engine Mustang.” Four days later, 50 Mustang fastbacks were rolling down the Dearborn assembly line.

All were painted Wimbledon White with black vinyl interiors. All were equipped with a heavy-duty 4-speed manual transmission, 3.89:1 rear axle and manual drum brakes. The first 20 or so were built without seam sealer and sound deadening, while the remaining cars were built as usual. All were radio- and heater-delete, but no other exotic tricks were used to reduce weight. And all were powered by a modified 428 Police Interceptor V8, a powerplant not yet available on the Mustang. The VINs were sequential, starting with 8F02R135007 and ending with 8F02R135056. Thus, the legendary “135” cars were born.

Ready to run

These Mustangs got their moniker from the first three digits of the VINs (R135xxx). All were built to qualify the Cobra Jet as a production car for the NHRA. The lighter cars were slated for Super Stock/E racing, while the remainder, equipped with a slightly de-tuned Cobra Jet, were built for the C/Stock class.

Thanks to research by Scott Hollenbeck and Chris Teeling, we know only 14 dealers got these cars, including the usual suspects of Ford racing, such as Tasca Ford in Rhode Island, Russ Davis Ford in California and Dick Brannan Ford in Indiana. Three were shipped to Canada. Ten were also sent to Ford’s Stock Vehicles Department in Dearborn.

In February 1968, a Cobra Jet stampede descended upon the Winternationals in Pomona. No fewer than eight Mustangs were prepared by Bill Stroppe for the event, driven by a who’s who of Ford drag racing — Dyno Don Nicholson, Gas Ronda, Al Joniec, Hubert Platt, Jerry Harvey, Carl Holbrook, Bill Ireland and Phil Bonner. Strangely enough, only Al Joniec’s and Gas Ronda’s Mustangs were “135” cars; the rest were 390 Mustangs modified to “135” specs. Al Joniec beat Hubert Platt with a 12.12 at 109.48 pass in the SS/E final, then went on to defeat Dave Wren’s Mopar in the Super Stock Eliminator final with a 12.50 at 97.93 after Wren redlighted.

Torque monster

What made these Cobra Jets work so well was more than just horsepower. Unlike Ford’s built-for-racing 427, the 428 engine was a long-stroke, slower-revving design. That long stroke produced massive amounts of torque, while the lower redline made the engines very reliable, perfect for days of racing. Vintage photos of these cars launching at the lights invariably showed the front wheels off the ground, the product of both great torque and good traction.

These eight Cobra Jets and their drivers became the Ford Drag Team, barnstorming the country to display the Cobra Jet’s prowess. The rest of the “135” cars tore up drag strips around the U.S. and Canada, and by the time the tire smoke had settled, the 1968 “135” Cobra Jets had racked up impressive results.

For example, Barrie Poole set the ET record for SS/E at 11.87 in his native Canada, and then did the same in the U.S. with an 11.32 ET. When the production Cobra Jet Mustang arrived in showrooms on April 1, 1968, potential buyers already knew what to expect, and showroom sales were amazing — Tasca Ford alone sold 47 the first month.

This car

Cobra Jet 8F02R135031 was delivered to Ford’s Stock Vehicles Department for “highway development.” It was then sold to Dave Lyall of the Detroit area for $1.

Dave is one of the legendary figures of Ford racing. He was hired in Ford Engineering’s dynamometer department in 1963, and within a few years was working on Ford’s NASCAR, Le Mans, Indy and other racing engines (and he still builds Ford racing engines in the Detroit area).

He was also drag racing on weekends, having driven, among others, a lightweight 1963 R-code Galaxie and a fiberglass-bodied Falcon in 1965, so he was an ideal candidate for a “135” car. This was a factory-sponsored racer — Lyall paid Ford the obligatory $1 for the Mustang, which had an MSRP of $3,612.60.

Valuing a thoroughbred

Vintage race cars are always niche vehicles. It seems like everyone loves ’57 Thunderbirds or ’69 Camaros, but to sell a race car such as the Dave Lyall Cobra Jet, a potential buyer would have to be at least a drag-racing fan, and probably a Ford enthusiast, but most likely a Mustang man, too. So depending on who you are, this could be the Holy Grail of race Mustangs — or just another car. That reduces the pool of potential buyers at any auction, and makes valuing, and selling, a car like this difficult.

Mecum tried selling one of the lightweight Cobra Jets (8F02R135012) at Kissimmee last year, but it was a no-sale at $140k (ACC# 200517). Another “135” Mustang (8F02R135019) was a no-sale at Kissimmee this January, with bidding reaching $200k this time (ACC# 215169). I don’t know what is more amazing, that bidding reached $200k, or that the seller did not accept it.

At least with the Dave Lyall Mustang, the seller, Richard Ellis, recognized a fair (although a bit disappointing) price for the current market and accepted it. At this price, I’d call this car well bought — after all, this is a Mustang with a real race pedigree. And as they say, try to find another for less.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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