It’s no secret that back in 1964 when Ford introduced the original Mustang, this was more of a lifestyle car than a muscle monster (e.g., it couldn’t house Big Block V8s). And when talking about the figures that convinced the Blue Oval to “update” that status, most people think of Carroll Shelby, but there’s a whole list. Enter Rhode Island Ford dealer Bob Tasca, whose name it tied to the 1968 assault of the R-Code Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, just the car we have here.
We’ll soon get to how the 428 Cobra Jet, which wasn’t initially destined for the Mustang, reached the pony and turned this into a drag racer with number plates. However, we must first discuss this particular example, which was recently pulled out of a barn by Dennis Collins, whom you might know from the Discovery Channel’s Fast N’ Loud show.
Aiming for a hot start of the year, the classic car collector headed out to LaGrange, Georgia to get up close and personal with an R-Code 1968.5 Mustang that hadn’t been driven since 1994, a vehicle that brought up a “Holy Grail” reaction from the enthusiast.
What is an R-Code Mustang?
We recently discussed the significance of a K-Code for the classic Mustang. And while that brought a list of performance goodies topped by a 289 ci V8, the R-Code is an even more serious affair.
The Mustang had received its first major facelift for the 1967 model year, with the adoption of Big Block muscle being the mechanical highlit. And the mid-1968 model year—this explains the 1968.5 designation—saw Ford introducing the 428 ci (7.0L) Cobra Jet engine, whose presence was signaled via the letter R in the VIN.
You’ll notice this in the final image of the gallery below, which shows the VIN at the bottom of the windshield—as Collins explains after having received expert advice on the matter, the “R” missing from other tags on the car, such as those on the front fenders, isn’t necessarily an issue.
It’s also worth noting that some enthusiasts seem to prefer using the R-Code simply to mark the presence of the said Ram Air induction.
How the 428 Cobra Jet landed on the 1968 ‘Stang
After having blown the 390 FE V8 on one of his 1967 Mustangs, Bob Tasca decided it was time for the Mustang to finally gain some proper muscle for the drag strip, so it would recover some of the ground it had lost to more potent machines from GM and Chrysler.
As such, the said V8 was replaced by a 428 Police Interceptor short-block that had received plenty of custom parts, with the result becoming known as the KR-8, for King of the Road 1968—later on, the KR badge went on to be used by Shelby Mustangs.
The result was successful, albeit not without its rushed effort flaws and it convinced Henry Ford to come up with 428 Cobra Jet option for the 1968.5 Mustang. This is the car we have here, which features plenty of engine upgrades and other improvements over the beast Tasca had created. And the motor was officially rated at 435 horsepower!
When equipped with a four-speed manual and a 4.30 Traction-Lok rear axle like this example, the machine was capable of low-13s quarter-mile times, even though Collins talks about the E.T. of the car going as low as 11.5s, which is quicker than any contemporary N/A Mustang, with only the supercharged S550 GT500 doing better.
This could become a survivor-style build
After somebody stole the Ram Air induction and the carburetor from the top of the motor, the previous owner of the car, who got a hold of the vehicle in 1994, decided it was time to move this into a barn. Apparently, the engine ran back when the vehicle was taken inside, but it had a knock.
And, as we can see in the video below, the structure had to be torn apart to take the car out. However, when talking about such a drag strip darling, which only comes with 15,937 miles, by the way, no effort is too great.
It’s also worth noting that Collins got another 428 (the block, heads, and crankshaft) for the R-Code Mustang. And now that he bought the car, the aficionado promised the previous owner that he’d make significant steps towards bringing the vehicle back to the road in the next three months. And, at least for now, he seems to be leaning towards a survivor-style build that’s as original as possible.