428 CJ Mustangs at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals

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On January 28, 1968 Hubert Platt introduced the 428 Cobra Jet Mustang to the racing world during the AHRA Winter Nationals held at Lions Drag Strip near Los Angeles. He drove one car in C/Stock and red-lighted a 12.62 run in the first round of Top Stock.

Ford's 428 Cobra Jet engine made its "en masse" drag racing debut at the eighth annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Winternationals held from February 2 - 4, 1968, at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California. Ford Motor Company sponsored five drivers (Gas Ronda, Jerry Harvey, Hubert Platt, Don Nicholson, and Al Joniec) to race six 428 CJ-equipped Mustangs. The Mustangs raced in the C Stock Automatic (C/SA, 9.00 - 9.49 lbs. per advertised horsepower), Super Stock E, and Super Stock E Automatic (SS/E manual transmission, SS/EA automatic transmission, 8.70 - 9.49 lbs. per advertised horsepower) classes. The engine lived up to expectations as four of the cars made it to their respective class finals. Al Joniec won both his class (defeating Hubert Platt in an all-CJ final) and the overall Super Stock Eliminator (defeating Dave Wren) title.

Pomona Lineup

Gas Ronda (992), Jerry Harvey (983), Hubert Platt (984), and Don Nicholson (987)
Missing: Hubert Platt (985) and Al Joniec (986)

Each car was shipped to Holman-Moody-Stroppe in Long Beach, California for race preparation. The engines planned for these vehicles weren't exactly what we now consider to be "stock" 428 Cobra Jet engines. The list of drag strip modifications for Stock class racing is extensive, and includes 427-style connecting rods, a C8AX-C cam, forged pistons with an 11.0:1 compression ratio, Doug's or Jardine headers, cut blocker transmission rings, a 4.44:1 Detroit Locker rear end, Goodyear slicks, and traction bars. Cars prepared for Super Stock racing got all of the Stock class modifications plus an offset 427 aluminum intake manifold, solid lifter C8AX-D cam, Crane heavy duty valve springs, lightweight valves, a heavy duty clutch, a 4.71:1 Detroit Locker, and bigger slicks. Other modifications for both classes include adjustable rocker arms (and associated valve train components), and a 427-style, C5AZ-E dual-point distributor.

We believe that we have identified all six cars by driver and VIN based on information discovered in corporate memos. Marti reports have confirmed the memo information. In two cases we've found discrepancies between Ford documentation and the VINs stamped onto the fender aprons and dash tags. We're reporting dash tag VINs and noting where they disagree with Ford documentation. Four of the six cars (983, 984, 986, 987, 992) are known to exist today; we identify those cars by VIN. We don't report full VIN information for the one car that remains unfound (985) in an effort to keep that VIN from being fraudulently reused.

We are actively seeking information to confirm the whereabouts of the 985 car. We have reliable information that suggests that it was last seen in a Florida wrecking yard in the 1970s. It may have met its demise there.

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
Hubert Platt8R02J117412Tasca Ford984C/SA

984 Platt Then

984 Platt Later

984 Platt Now

This car has been located. Hubert made it to the C/SA class final in this car, "but pit area confusion and attending noise prevented Hubert from hearing the class final call and the cup went to long-time runner Dave Kempton and his '63 383 Plymouth."1 Other race results are unknown.

Hubert later raced this car as the "Georgia Shaker" with sponsorship from Foulger Ford. At some point in the past the car acquired a clutch pedal and a manual transmission. It went through a series of owners who continued to race the car until the brother of the current owner died in 1982. The car is unrestored with 195 miles on the odometer.

Ford documentation describes the car as "To be sold to John Durbin of Doug Headers for $3500.00". Ford documentation also describes this car's VIN with an "S" engine code; the Marti report describes the VIN with a "J" engine code. The 987 car (described below) has been observed to have stamped VINs with a "J" on the dash tag and an "S" on the fender aprons. The VINs on this car may have been similarly stamped.

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
Hubert Platt8R02S117XXXPaul Harvey Ford985SS/E

985 Platt

985 Results:

  • Lost (red light, 11.59 113.06) to Al Joniec (12.12 109.48) in class final1.
  • Defeated Arlen Vanke in eliminator round one.
  • Defeated (11.09) Ronnie Sox (11.74) in eliminator round two2, 4.
  • Lost (red light) to Al Joniec in eliminator quarter-final2.

The current location of this car is unknown. Hubert continued to race this car after the Winternationals. We have reason to believe that this is the car that he later rolled and wrecked in Georgia. The wrecked car was sold to Randy Payne (who raced it under Foulger Ford sponsorship) and then to Rusty Gillis. We recently asked Rusty if he could tell us anything about the car or if he could confirm the VIN:

I don't know for sure. Hubert had 2 cars. One Super Stocker and I've seen pictures of an automatic that I think was a stocker. The one I got I was told by Randy Payne was that Hubert wrecked it and he fixed it and Randy raced it for a while. The only 1968 Mustang that I know Hubert wrecked was the silver & black Foulger Ford car. When I got it there was an automatic in it but it had a stick brake pedal. Hubert had loaned it to Patty Young after she wrecked her car. He offered it to me while riding in the Ford Drag Team truck on the way to Detroit. He said he was getting the car back from Patty and wanted $3500 for it and I borrowed the money from my Uncle.

Hubert Platt called yesterday to ask me what I did with my 1968 Super Stock Mustang that he raced at Pomona and I bought from him in 1969. I had to give him the bad news that in 1975 we started to update it to current NHRA rules by tubbing it. The gas crunch was putting my Dad's used car lot out of business and I left the shell behind my body shop that I was renting when I left. I had nowhere to take it to and someone smashed the acid dipped fender and we never finished tubbing it. I heard about 30 years ago it was in a junk yard in Bradenton.

Ford documentation describes the car as "Sold to Hubert Platt under $1.00 contract".

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
Jerry Harvey8R02S117414Paul Harvey Ford983SS/E

983 Harvey Then

983 Harvey Now

This car has been located. It is currently in impound in Illinois as part of an estate dispute. Ford documentation describes the car as "Sold to Jerry Harvey under $1.00 contract".

We've been unable to find any documentation that describes the race results for this car. In a recent interview Jerry Harvey described how his first impression of the Mustang was that it wasn't as powerful as other race cars he had driven. Unfortunately he wasn't able to remember specific race results for this car.

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
"Dyno" Don Nicholson8R02J117920Dick Brannan Ford987SS/EA

987 Nicholson Then

987 Nicholson Now

987 Results: Spun bearing in round 15.

This car has been located. Ford documentation describes the car as "To be sold to McCoy Metals Ford, Fullerton, Calif., for $3500.00"". Ford documentation also describes this car's VIN with an "S" engine code; the Marti report describes the VIN with a "J" engine code. The 987 car has been observed to have stamped VINs with a "J" on the dash tag and an "S" on the fender aprons. It is known to have been later raced by Tom Stafford with Foulger Ford sponsorship.

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
Al Joniec8F02R135050Rice - Holman Ford986SS/E

986 Joniec Then

986 Joniec Now

986 Results:

  • Defeated (12.12 109.48) Hubert Platt (red light, 11.59 113.06) in class final1, 2, 3.
  • Defeated (11.80 114.79) Don Grotheer (red light, 11.35 122.78) in eliminator round 14
  • Defeated (11.88 101.91) Tommy Crutchfield (red light, 11.35 126.22) in eliminator round 22
  • Defeated (12.70 90.36) Hubert Platt (red light, 11.55 120.64) in eliminator quarter-final2
  • Defeated (11.81 115.38) Butch Leal (red light, 11.62 121.95, driving a Dick Landy car) in eliminator semi-final2
  • Defeated (12.50 97.93) Dave Wren (red light, 11.56 120.64) in eliminator final1, 2, 3.

This car has been located. Ford documentation describes the car as "Purchased by Rice & Holman prepared by H&M-Stroppe - Long Beach".

Both the March 1968 edition of Autolite "Shop Tips" and the March/April 2008 edition of Legendary Ford magazine (in an article titled The Strike of the Cobra Jet article by Charlie Morris with Al Joniec) say that Joniec "set a record of 11.49 seconds e.t. and top speed of 120.6 mph", but we haven't been able to find any documentation in period race results that describe that particular run. The results and sources we've found are noted above.

DriverVINSponsorCar NumberClass
Gas Ronda8F02R135054Russ Davis Ford992SS/EA

992 Ronda Then

992 Ronda Now

992 Results:

  • Lost (12.02 116.27) to Dick Landy (12.01 118.73) in class final1, 3.
  • Lost (12.00) to Dick Landy (11.91) in Eliminator round 12, 3, 4.

This car has been located. Ford documentation describes the car as "To be sold to Jim Tibbitts, Austin, Tex., for $3500.00".

References

1. WINTERNATIONALS 68 by Jim McFarland and Steve Kelly, Hot Rod April 1968.

2. NHRA 8th Annual Winternationals by Jim Edmunds, Super Stock & Drag Illustrated April 1968

3. 8th ANNUAL NHRA WINTERNATIONALS 68 by Terry Cook and Dan Roulston, Car Craft April 1968.

4. The Strike of the Cobra Jet by Charlie Morris with Al Joniec, Legendary Ford March/April 2008.

5. 1968 Ford Drag Team article from Dearborn Flashback.

Related Links and Resources

Article reprinted from the February 16, 1968 issue of National Dragster from the NHRA web site.

1968 score card from the NHRA web site.

Autolite Shop Tips, Volume 6, Number 7, March 1968

Holman-Moody-Stroppe article from Wikipedia.