When Frank Hurley of the Ford Division’s New Car Merchandising Group suggested putting together a combination clinic program and drag racing team in late 1968, the idea was hardly original. Chrysler Corporation had instituted the concept the previous year, when the Dodge and Plymouth divisions staged the first Dick Landy and Sox & Martin Supercar Clinics. They became such a rousing success that no one, Ford Division included, could ignore them.
Hurley contacted Emil W. Loeffler, who was Ford’s Product Engineering officer at the time, to secure a staff to represent both eastern and western Ford Drag Teams on and off the track. Ford’s first pick for the eastern region was Hubert Platt of Atlanta, Georgia. Hubert and his brother Houston had gained considerable notoriety down South during the match-race stocker era. Hubert would go on to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with at the national event level in early Funny Car racing.
In 1966, Platt signed on with Ford Racing to develop, test, and refine the new R-code 1966 427 Super Stock Fairlanes. In 1967, Platt set the NHRA SS/C record driving one of those cars, and based on those performances was chosen the following year to debut one of five 1968 Cobra Jet Mustangs at the NHRA Winternationals. By all accounts, Platt, a good ole boy in the Southern tradition, appeared well qualified for the job of Eastern Region Ford Drag Team captain, whose duties included wheeling the team’s brand-new SS/IA Ford Mustang.
At Platt’s behest, Ford chose Georgia’s Randy Payne as his assistant and co-driver. Payne’s racing credentials dated back to 1957, when he raced a number of hot cars including a 1939 Willys BB/GS. Payne had successfully transitioned into Super Stock class racing, and the year previous had racked up enough points with his Cobra Jet Mustang to earn a trip to the 1968 NHRA World Finals.
The plan was to field two cars per team. A pair of 1969 R-code 428 Cobra Jet Mustangs and a pair of R-code 428 Cobra Jet Torino Cobras were slated to compete in classes ranging from SS/E to SS/J and SS/EA to SS/JA depending upon the particular event or how soft the record was in a particular class. In an effort to lay down a much larger corporate footprint, Platt & Payne’s clinic cars raced mostly in the automatic transmission classes, while Terry & Wood mostly set records in the stick classes.
In December 1968, the first 1969 Cobra Jet SportsRoof Mustang was pulled from inventory at former Ford Drag Racing program manager Chuck Foulger’s Ford dealership in Monrovia, California. A letter of authorization from Loeffler noted that a 1969 428 Cobra Jet Mustang with automatic transmission was “required immediately” for Hubert Platt. The actual car chosen was an Indian Fire, non-air, Q-code CJ with a C6 automatic, a 3.50-geared rearend, and E70-14 whitewall tires. According to the Marti Report, it is the only such Mustang SportsRoof originally equipped with high-back bucket seats.
Holman-Moody-Stroppe, which also built the 1966-1967 R-code 427 Fairlanes, prepared these cars as well as the incredibly expensive and highly sophisticated clinic trucks used by the team. A letter from Arlen Whittington at Ford’s Special Vehicles department addressed to Dick Russell at Holman-Moody-Stroppe stated that the Mustang was to be equipped with a “blueprinted engine and ladder bar rear suspension.” Chuck Foulger was to look over these “dollar cars”—they were sold to team members for the nominal sum of $1 for liability purposes while FoMoCo paid salaries, travel expenses, and upkeep on the vehicles—and make whatever adjustments were necessary. Those adjustments included the following.
• Every other impeller blade was removed from the water pump and a larger pulley installed.
• A larger pulley was also installed on the alternator.
• The right rear spring hanger was made longer than the left.
• Each leaf spring was tied every 4 inches ahead of the rear axle.
• The car’s right side wheelbase was made 1 1/2 inches longer than the left side to enhance deep staging.
• The torque convertor stall speed was set at 3,500 rpm.
• Timing was set at 12 degrees initial, plus 28 degrees of advance.
• The 428 CJ engine did not like a lot of timing when pulling into high gear, so HMS adjusted the spring tension on one set of points in the dual-point distributor to allow one set to “bounce” at a predetermined rpm, thereby retarding the timing two to three degrees.
For their efforts, Ford was immediately rewarded when Platt won class at the 1969 NHRA Winternationals. Throughout the year the teams of Platt & Payne and Terry & Wood set numerous NHRA and AHRA class records in SS/E-SS/EA, SS/H-SS/HA, SS/I-SS/IA, and SS/J-SS/JA. Equally as important, the Kar Corporation performance clinic programs orchestrated by Mack McCoy brought in thousands of eager Ford buyers and no doubt sold the Dearborn automaker quite a few cars.
However, by 1970, the Ford Drag Teams were deeply engrossed in the new NHRA/AHRA Pro Stock Eliminator classes, with Platt and Terry driving 427 SOHC Pro Stock Mustangs. Both Payne and Wood would continue to campaign the CJ Mustangs and Torinos, but by December 1970 the edict had come down from the Big Glass House in Dearborn that the Ford Drag Team program was history.
Platt sold his 428 CJ to Eger Motor Sales in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, which kept it until 1977, when it was acquired by La Trobe, Pennsylvania’s German Motor Sales. From there, the CJ was purchased by West Virginia dealer Sam Yanen Ford and raced by Sam’s son Rick. Noted collector and restorer Bob Perkins purchased the car and then sold it to Ford Dealer Jacky Jones.
Gary and Mary Schwartz of Merrill, Wisconsin, bought the Mustang from Jones in 1984. Last year they were able to realize their long-term goal of restoring the car. During our photo session at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gary was quick to point out that Blairsville, Georgia’s Mike Plott from Jacky Jones Restorations was primarily responsible for the Mustang’s show quality restoration.
“When I got the car it was in amazingly good condition,” Mike says. “It had sat in storage for all those years, so the body was excellent. I was trying to remember whether we installed new fenders on it, but I do know we installed a new hood for sure. A friend of Jacky’s named Steve Hill painted the car in PPG blue and white basecoat/clearcoat with a touch of pearl in it. The lettering was done by Larry West. Larry was one of the original sign guys from back in the day. He did the gold leaf lettering on the car and actually made some of the vinyl decals, which weren’t currently available.”
Mechanically, the original suspension components were still with the car, as were the ladder bars, the Stroppe-installed 4.57-geared 9-inch Ford Traction Lok rearend, and so on—but the Stroppe-blueprinted 428 Cobra Jet engine wasn’t. “A numbers-correct 428 CJ engine was built by the late Dwight Powell of Dawsonville, Georgia, according to factory specifications,” says Mike.
Fortunately the B&M and Hurst Line Loc–equipped, heavy-duty C6 automatic transmission still remained and was checked out by retired Ford technician Tommy Phillips.
Asked what the biggest handicap was during the six-month/600-hour restoration, Mike said, “The biggest thing was waiting to get a new set of the original Doug’s crossover headers. Of course, Doug’s Headers had been bought and sold a number of times, so it took a while for the current owners to locate the original 428 CJ header jigs.”
While the headers are technically correct, Plott and company had them thermal coated by Performance Coatings in lieu of the original spray-on VHT Silver to ensure lasting beauty.
“We also had to have a new set of chrome reverse rear wheels made to achieve the correct offset,” Mike says, “Finding an original set of 10.50×15 Goodyear Blue Streak Drag Specials was another challenge Coming up with the correct tachometer also took a little bit of searching. At one time they had a Stewart-Warner tach in the car, but from all the pictures we have of the car it looks like they replaced it with a Sun tach, so that’s what we went with.”
Platt’s Cobra Jet was the centerpiece of the Scott Drake Automotive Group booth at the 2016 SEMA Show, and it garnered rave revues. Plans call for showing the car at major car shows and at Ford-only events, but due to the CJ’s historic importance and rarity, it is doubtful that you will see it in open competition. That is, unless Hubert’s ghost comes back and wants to make a pass or two.
At a Glance
1969 Mustang Cobra Jet
Owned by: Gary and Mary Schwartz, Merrill, WI
Restored by: Jacky Jones Restorations, GA
Engine: 428ci/335hp (factory rating) Cobra Jet V-8
Transmission: C6 3-speed automatic
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 4.57 gears and Traction Lok
Interior: Original black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15-inch chrome-plated Cragar with Cragar center caps
Tires: 6.70×15 Goodyear Super Cushion front, 10.50×15 Goodyear Bluestreak Drag Specials rear
Special parts: Prepped by Holman-Moody-Stroppe for drag racing
Flashback to 1969