How a Ford Dealer created the legendary 428 Cobra Jet engine for a higher performance Mustang...
Written by Mike Bumbeck
Tasca Mystery 9 altered-wheelbase Mustang takes a bite of California's Irwindale Raceway at the 1966 AHRA Winternationals with more than 600-hp worth of Hillborn-injected Ford 427 SOHC "cammer" V-8 authority.
It's possible you've never heard of Tasca Ford, but the performance-oriented dealership certainly left a lasting impression on Ford—and the Mustang. In 1967, Bob Tasca Sr. combined race-proven engineering with factory Ford parts to create a high-performance Mustang supercar dubbed the KR-8. The Tasca-tuned combination worked so well that Ford pushed the engine into production Mustangs as the 428 Cobra Although the original Ford Mustang was a hit with younger crowds from its inception, by '67 there was competition in the pony car field. Chevrolet had shifted its performance focus away from the Corvair and onto the new Camaro. The Mustang underwent a restyle that brought a size and weight increase, and the engine bay was now able to accept larger V-8 engines between the shock towers. Ford offered its 390-cid FE-series 320-hp Thunderbird Special V-8 for 1967, but there was a problem. Performance.
The 390 might have been acceptable in a personal luxury Thunderbird or full-size station wagon, but under the Mustang's hood it was no match for a Camaro packing a high-winding, deep-breathing 327-cid small block V-8. And it certainly wasn't enough against the big block Plymouth GTX or Pontiac GTO. Word of its shortcoming quickly spread and sales lagged, prompting Rhode Island-based Tasca to come up with a performance fix for the heavy, low-revving 390 Mustang.
That's the KR-8 Mustang behind the Ford GT40 in this famous shot at Tasca Ford. From left to right are Bob Tasca Sr., High Performance Manager Dean Gregson and Ford New England representatives. Gregson's aluminum-body Ford Cortina SCCA racer sits under the billboard welcoming Mario Andretti.(Tasca Ford)
After tuning the 390 engine as far as it could go, Tasca turned to mechanic and drag racer Bill Gilbert for a solution that offered customers improved performance without costing too much. In theory, the high-performance Ford 427 V-8 could be had as a $622 option, but few young Mustang buyers were willing or able to fork over that kind of cash—the equivalent of $5,000 today—for a high-strung engine. Those who could usually opted for the Shelby Mustang. Gilbert came up with a formula that combined high-flow 427-sourced cylinder heads with a police-fleet tough 428-cid rotating assembly.
Noting that the 427-powered Galaxie got a considerable bump in performance from 1963 to '64, Gilbert reached out to an engineering contact at Ford and determined that the performance increase was all due to changes in the cylinder heads. The bad news was that 427 cylinder heads would not fit the 390 block. In a stroke of genius, Tasca ordered a factory stock 428 Police Interceptor short block assembly from Ford and discovered through creative fitting that the 427 heads would work on the 428 short block with little more than piston notching for larger valves. "I flycut the pistons right in the block," Gilbert said.
He sorted out camshaft specs and placed call to another insider at Ford—Poppa "Sully" Sullivan, who set up the machines and purpose ground a camshaft for the KR-8 combination that Tasca dubbed the C-Stock cam. The engine was equipped with a 427 oil pump and recurved 427 distributor, then topped with an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold and single Holley 735 CFM carburetor, fed by a dual snorkel air cleaner. With a modified C-6 automatic transmission and suspension modifications, the formerly sleepy Mustang became the 7,000-rpm "King of the Road."
Tasca used measured drag strip and real-world street testing over dynamometer-based tuning. "We didn't have a dyno back then, but we had our own test called the '10-Second Test,'" Gilbert said. "It didn't make any difference whether it was this car or that car or whatever car—you made the comparison test on that vehicle. Every time you did something to it, you'd run the 10-Second Test again. Was it faster or slower? That was our barometer."
Tasca Jr. said the test began with a rolling start. "I'd go 20 miles per hour," he said. "Bob Andreozzi would have the stopwatch, and as soon as I hit it, I'd count '8-9-10' and look at the speedometer." The KR-8 tested faster than baseline across the board.
Tasca Sr. drove the KR-8 from Rhode Island to Dearborn as proof of concept and for testing against some 427-powered factory specials. With a closed exhaust and street tires, the Tasca KR-8 ran a low 13-second quarter mile at 105 miles per hour. Ford officials were so impressed they wouldn't let the car head back to Rhode Island with the KR-8 powertrain. Tasca drove it home with a 427 from the Ford GT40 Le Mans program, backed by a Gilbert-modified C-6 transmission. After Ford dissected the KR-8 combination, Tasca answered any criticism of engine tolerances and piston-to-wall clearances by reminding the corporate guys that the 428 short block was a Ford factory part.
Additionally persuaded by thousands of impromptu inquiries about the 428 setup (Mustang fans simply tore out an article in Hot Rod magazine and mailed it), Ford Motor Company put the KR-8 engine into production. It was installed in the '68 Mustang as the 428 Cobra Jet. In a full-circle experience, Ford shipped Tasca Ford an early production selection of 10 Cobra Jet Mustangs in white. Bob Tasca asked Gilbert to weigh all 10 and chose the two lightest and best-running examples. One was converted by Holman-Moody into the 11-second Tasca Ford Cobra Jet Super Stock drag car; the other became the unbeatable "Street Bertha."
Editor's note: Bob Tasca Sr. died in 2010, but the Ford performance heritage that he set in motion endures today at Tasca Ford and the Tasca Mod Shop in Cranston, R.I. Special thanks to Bob Tasca Jr., who showed us around and introduced us to Bill Gilbert; Carl Tasca, who races a Ford Cobra Jet Mustang; and Bob Tasca III, who campaigns an NHRA Top Fuel Funny Car. The complete history of Tasca Ford can be found in "The Tasca Ford Legacy: Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday," by Bob McClurg.
This week's tip is a quick one from Greg Gifford at DealerOn that will help you be a MUCH better marketer for your dealership.
One of the most important aspects of SEO and PPC marketing campaigns is keyword research – you need to know what words are included in how people search for the cars, trucks, parts and services you sell, so you can optimize your website content and create better performing ads.
A favorite keyword research tool among automotive marketers is Google itself – So, you may already have noticed that if you start typing in a search phrase and "don't hit enter," you'll see the Autosuggest results. These auto-populated searches show what related searches are most often performed by Google users.
Most people only see 4 Autosuggest results, but we are here to share with you a simple settings tweak that will show you 10 keyword results... A 150% increase!
if you do any sort of marketing for your dealership, this is a killer tip!
One of the most important aspects of SEO is keyword research – you've got to figure out the right keywords to target. It's important to know what people actually type into Google when they're searching for the things that you sell.
It's important for offline marketing as well – if you understand how customers look for your products or services and how they think about your business, it's much easier to create targeted ads that convert car shoppers into sales opportunities.
While there are a ton of great keyword research tools online, our favorite is a free one that everyone's already got – Google.
If you go to Google and start typing a keyword phrase and don't hit enter, you'll see the Autosuggest searches populate below the search field. Most people see the default of 4 results, but we're going to explain a simple settings change that will show you 10 results:
1 --> Go to Google (in your browser), and click the "settings" link down on the bottom right.
2 --> Select "search settings".
3 --> Under Google Instant Predictions, select the radio button for "never show instant results"
4 --> Scroll to the bottom and click Save.
Now, when you start typing in the search bar, you'll see 10 Autosuggest results instead of 4.
You'll have a much more detailed view of what people are searching for when it comes to the keywords they use when shopping for cars... You'll have better keyword targets to aim at, and your site content will be more focused on what matters most to automotive consumers.