Storied Cobra Jet
It Took 17 Years to Get the Details Right
As Paul Rosina tells the story, he may have been one of Kevin Marti’s very first Marti Report customers. Paul met Marti at the celebration of the Mustang’s 35th anniversary at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999. Paul bought a copy of Marti’s book Mustang . . . by the Numbers and ordered a data report on the 1968 Cobra Jet Mustang that he’d bought—minus its drivetrain—a few years before. The report revealed that his car had originally been sold through Tasca Ford in Rhode Island. Bob Tasca, as the Ford faithful know, was largely responsible for getting Ford to make the Cobra Jet engine for the Mustang, so Tasca lineage was important to Paul’s car’s history.
In 2005, Paul went to a car show at Tasca Ford. There he met one of Bob’s sons, who told him about Dean Gregson, Tasca’s performance sales manager back in the 1960s. It was possible that Gregson sold Paul’s car originally, and if he did, he would have a copy of the invoice because Gregson had kept all his Tasca paperwork.
“I called him up, and he called me back 20 minutes later,” Paul remembers. Gregson did have a copy of the Mustang’s original invoice, and on it was the name of the original buyer.
“Milton Yulke,” Paul says, spelling it for us. “Not too many Yulkes in the phonebook.” The internet showed a listing for a Milton Yulke in the Bronx. Paul tracked him down in Florida. On the phone, Yulke confirmed that he had purchased a Cobra Jet Mustang from Tasca.
Yulke had read about the Cobra Jet in Hot Rod magazine and wanted one. “But none of his local Ford dealers had any idea what a Cobra Jet was,” says Paul. From the Hot Rod articles Yulke knew about Tasca’s involvement with the Cobra Jet’s development, so he called the agency and got Bob himself on the phone. “Come on up,” he told Yulke. “I have a whole lot of them.”
When Yulke got there, two Acapulco Blue Cobra Jet Mustangs were sitting side-by-side in the showroom. They were identical except for their drivetrains: one was a four-speed with a 4.30 rearend, the other an automatic with 3.91 gears. “I wanted the automatic,” Yulke said, “but I wanted more gear—4.56s.”
Gregson told him, “No problem.” In the service bay, Tasca had rearends setup with various ratios just for this kind of situation.
“My car was built on May 7,” Paul says, “and Yulke bought the car on May 22. So it had its original rearend in it for two weeks.”
Before he left the dealership, Yulke bought a C8AX-C performance cam. Then he drove the car home. “About a 140-mile trip,” Paul figures. “Broke those 4.56s right in.”
At home Yulke installed the cam, headers, and a Mallory dual- n Paul wanted gold stripes on his car, but learned from the original owner that it came with white stripes. Kevin Marti told him Acapulco Blue Mustangs with blue interiors were accented with white, gold, or black stripes, and that the dealer invoice didn’t indicate stripe color. So Paul felt OK making the change. These are N.O.S. stripes, which Paul feels better match the original gold color than aftermarket stripes.
point distributor. Then he went racing. He’d drive the car to Englishtown, mount a set of slicks, and run mid- to low-12s, Paul says. In 1970, Yulke traded in the Mustang for another Cobra Jet, and never saw it again.
Paul knows little about the Mustang’s post-Yulke history. He bought it from a man who said it had been stored at an abandoned Army base in the Portland, Maine, area. The seller figured it had been sitting there since the early 1980s, “judging by the dust on it,” Paul says. “That’s why the car didn’t have much rust on it. It only spent 10 or 12 years on the road.”
Paul, who lives in New York State, brought the Mustang with him to the Charlotte show in 1999, and then took it down to Southpoint Auto Body in Florida, as the shop had a reputation for perfection. Perfection that took “11 years, three months, 18 days. Not that I’m counting,” he says with a laugh. “Life happened. He moved and couldn’t get the car done. It was a pain, but in the end, when I got the car back, I couldn’t have been happier. For what he charged me, I can’t complain. It would have cost double in New York.”
While the car was in paint jail, Paul had time to assemble a replacement drivetrain. He found an engine in a 1969 Cougar XR-7 convertible so rotten it literally “broke in half” when he put it on the trailer. At some point a 428 had replaced the car’s original 351. Paul says, “The first thing I noticed on that engine was a Cobra Jet intake manifold with an April 10 date code. My car was built on May 7, so I had my date-coded intake manifold.” The block was a “May 29– dated, 1968½ Cobra Jet block, seven weeks late for my car, but it’s all I had.”
One of the cylinder heads had a partial VIN on it, so he sent the number to Kevin Marti. That head came from a 1968 Cobra Jet Cougar XR-7 automatic.
An even bigger surprise was waiting when he opened the Cougar’s trunk and found “the air pump, brackets, hoses, diverter valve, heat shield, all sitting in the trunk. That’s $2,500 worth of emission controls, all date-code correct. I couldn’t believe it.”
A 1968 Cobra Jet Torino that was built just four days after Paul’s Mustang donated its tailshaft housing, 3.91 rearend, and 31-spline axles. Likewise, the C6 automatic was rebuilt from one with a 1968 case.
Paul got his Mustang’s body back from Florida in 2010, and he spent the next two years assembling it. “I’ve only put 1,000 miles on it in five years,” he admits. “I’ll drive it to local shows, but for long-haul shows it goes in the trailer.”
Proving that these cars are never really finished, “I have one more story,” he says.
“Two years ago I was at the FE Reunion, and there’s a guy there with an April 3 1968½ Cobra Jet block. That’s a primo piece. I figured he’d want $3,500 or $4,000. All the parts fit KR Shelbys, which is why prices are through the roof. When he said $1,200, I couldn’t get my money out fast enough. So now I have an April 3 block, perfect date code for my May 7th car.”
How does he know that date is “perfect”? Well, that’s one more story.
“The car that was sitting next to my car at the Tasca dealership showed up at this
show in North Carolina. There was a Cobra Jet reunion within that show. He got 14 1968½s, and the 4.30/four-speed car was there. It is three serial numbers away from mine. It was a mostly original car, so I went under it, saw an April 3 date, and figured that’s the block I want. By dumb luck I found an April 3 block.”
So this fall, after show season is over, Paul will pull out the engine, take it apart, and put the date-code parts on that April 3 block. He has already found the perfect home for the Cougar Cobra Jet block, but that’s another story altogether.
n Paul was hoping to finish the Mustang in time to use it in his wedding. “I didn’t have the whole interior of the car in yet, just the front seats. But it rained that day so it stayed in the garage.”n Below that lever is a C6 built from a 1968 housing. It’s joined to the engine with a 2,800-stall, 10-inch converter from Select Performance. “It shifts real nice,” Paul says, and the 3.91 rearend gears “are perfect for the road.”
n Paul’s attention to date-code-correct parts didn’t stop with the driveline. Even the seatbelts (made in the 34th week of 1967, per the date code) are right for the car. n A self-described “date-code guy,” Paul worked hard to replace the Mustang’s missing driveline with parts correct for the car’s May 7 build. He did take a few liberties during the engine’s rebuild. An “old Wolverine Blue Racer” camshaft gives it “a little lope, and I did not go with the factory exhaust. I have a 2½-inch dual-exhaust system that looks like a 1970 system. I take the points hit at shows because I like the sound and power.”n All Paul Rosina knows about the Cobra Jet after its first owner traded it in is that it was in an accident in the mid 1970s. “It must have been sandwiched, since there was damage on the hood, bumper, and lower front valance, and a buckled quarter-panel.” A mint quarter from a “rust-free coupe” replaced the damaged one, and the body shop “did such a good job you can’t tell which side was changed.” n Learning the car’s Tasca Ford provenance through a Marti Report, and a subsequent conversation with Tasca’s Dean Gregson, were key to Paul’s discovering his car’s earliest history via the original owner.