Sto­ried Co­bra Jet

It Took 17 Years to Get the De­tails Right

Muscle Car Review - - Muscle - By Drew Hardin Pho­tos: Richard Prince

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.

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