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135 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet Has Been Raced for 49 Years Straight

Richie Pauley doesnt wear a cape or a big S on his T-shirt. Nobody will accuse him of wearing his bib overalls to look like Carroll Shelby. He may not be a well-known name at a Mustang show, but he has become a legend among his peers, with a tenure a year shy of 50 campaigning a 135 series 1968 Mustang Cobra Jetone of those 50 Ford built to drag race. We drove it at Lions Drag Strip. We drove it at Irwindale. Those tracks are all shut down now. We done a little street racing with it, Richie says. Richies drag racing provenance reads like a color rotogravure from an edition of The Saturday Evening Post . Hes been everywhere, manold and defunct tracks and new 21st century ones, Southern California, yeshe crossed the deserts bare and traversed this land dozens of times. He had to, to quench his enthusiasm for drag racing. We caught up with this legend at Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio, where he asked us, You going to Indy? Richie was referring to the NHRA U.S. Nationals, where he would once again put his Mustang, now 50 years old, up against all comers in 2018. Richie lifts the front wheels of his 1968 Cobra Jet launching at the Cobra Jet Reunion at Summit Motorsports Park in August 2018. The racer from Palmdale, California, bought this 1968 CJ in late 1969 from his good friend George Boskovich, famous for building Pops Toy, a Boss 429 modified with a 427 Cammer that became a legend on Van Nuys Blvd. in Los Angeles in 1969 and the early 1970s. When the Boss 429s came out, he [George] wanted one, so I ended up buying the 68 Cobra Jet from him, Richie says. Collectors today tag these models as 135 series Cobra Jets by the common first three digits of the VINs consecutive unit numbers that began with 135107 and ended with 135156. Richies car is 48 (135148), a designation that owners memorize and are so proud of that some make a personalized T-shirt displaying their VIN. Richie had to ask a friend nearby what his number was. He is not a Cobra Jet collector or a historian. Instead, he is a part of Cobra Jet history. One other person has owned a 135 series Cobra Jet longer, but no one has drag raced one longer and gone up and down the strip more times than Richie. Man, he put that old #48 to the use for which Ford intendeddrag racing. Richies 68 CJ is one of 20 built (of 50 total 135 series drag cars) without sound deadener or seam sealer, which some collectors term a Lightweight, but not like the old lightweights that had either aluminum or fiberglass body panels. Interiors came new with black vinyl bucket seats. One day the car will go back to 100 percent stock and maybe be a collector car and go on display with a plaque, but for now Richie continues to race the Cobra Jet, kind of like a wild horse that wont be tamed. Richie was at the Winternationals in 1968 when the Cobra Jets shocked the drag racing world. Al Joniec won his class against another CJ driven by Hubert Platt, and then proceeded to dust off the entire field to win the overall Super Stock Eliminator title. Meanwhile, in the parking lot at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona at those same 1968 Winternationals, Richie recalled how people swarmed around #48, which was a hot commodity. Everybody wanted to know about the new Cobra Jet that would soon be available in the spring of 1968 in the Mustang. Drag racing fans were especially anxious to see the 428 CJ up close, and this very car, #48, obliged them. Richie Pauley, no doubt, was as excited as anybody over the new Cobra Jet. Buying this car in 1969 proved to be an epiphany for the 23-year-old, now 72 and still going strong when we met up with him in the pits of Summit Raceway Park. Richie had just been beaten in the third round by the slimmest of margins in the Vintage Cobra Jet class. I had a better reaction time than every one of them. I was dialed in at a 10.53. It was getting dark. He was quite a ways behind me. I waited too close to the finish line to hit the brakes and broke out by five-thousandths, which isnt much, but it was my stupid mistake. Ford equipped all 135 series drag cars with black interiors. Pauley has added a plethora of equipment to keep his car competitive on the strip today. The interior has all the new electronics to keep a 1968 Mustang competitive in 2018. Richie might have been eliminated, but he was still engrossed in the competition, helping his Cobra Jet drag racing friends. When were at the racesDonny King, John Calvert, and mewe pretty much travel the races together, and if somebody needs help, we pitch in like its our own car and help each other. Weve changed motors at the race track. Weve changed pretty much everything at one time or another at the race track. At this race, Richie was busy on Sunday helping install a transmission in a Cobra Jet. Except, install isnt quite the right word. The clock was ticking. The job had to get done, and fast before the next race. One time in Boise, Idaho, Donny broke his motor. We put my spare motor in his car, and in the final round he beat me with my own motor in his car. Were good friends. Cobra Jet racing became a way of life for Richie and for his family. My wife drove the car. My son drove the car. Its been down the track since Id say 1970 in NHRA Division 7won a lot of races. Richie saved the original 428 CJ engine, but for racing he has installed this 427 with a sleeved-down 428 bore. Is there another 135 series CJ racer that has been in more drag races? The obvious answer is no, because Richie has drag raced #48 every year for 49 years. Through those years, the cars mechanical makeup has evolved to win. Richie described the engine under the hood as a 427 with a sleeved-down 428 bore. Likewise, Richie replaced the original four-speed with an automatic probably in 1971 or 1972. The good news for collectors is that Richie also saved the original engine and transmission. The racing modifications are just bolted in, like the rollbar. The chassis has no subframe connectors. Richie is a drag racer by heart, not a collector, but he says, Someday I think about restoring it, putting it back. This car has more racing history than any other 135. This car has been down the track a lot of times, set a lot of records, won races. Its known all over the country from the West Coast to the East Coast. This is an understatement. All you have to do is ask one of those 135 series owners, many who werent even born in 1968, like Ben Cole, who spoke for 135 owners everywhere when he said, To all of us, Richie Pauley is a legend. One of My Big Excitements Racing at Pomona, I had to race Jack Kaufman, first round, at I think it was the World Finals. A heck of a nice guy. He came up to me and wanted to know which lane, wanted to flip for a lane. I told him it didnt matter which lane, this old Ford would go down either one. He was driving a new Hemi car for Chrysler and I beat him. And he come over to the scale, shook my hand. And he said I was right. It would go down either lane. Ill never forget that. Richie Pauley Richie installed an automatic transmission in the early 1970s. The B&M shifter keeps the car competitive on the strip today.   Richie says, I put my name on the oil pan. A lot of people come up to me and say, Hey, I saw your name on the oil pan. The only way they see it is when the car is up in the air. Its there long enough to get a picture.   Richie has fun competing in C/SAC-Stock, automatic.   Richie is not slowing downhes only 72 after all. Here, he waits his turn to drag race at the CJ Reunion this past August in Norwalk, Ohio. The man is a Cobra Jet legend. He has outlasted everyone.   Richie digs in and helps a friend install a transmission before the next round.   Personalized license plates tell the story.   This is a sight in the staging lanes we hope to see again at another Cobra Jet Reunion. Forty-nine years and counting, this 1968 Cobra Jet is still racing and is still competitive. Note the single wheelie bar.   A rollbar is a necessity running in the 10s.   The tires that hook all that Cobra Jet power are 29.59.0 Mickey Thompson ET Drag Radials. The post 135 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet Has Been Raced for 49 Years Straight appeared first on Hot Rod Network .

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