Photos by Isaac Ireland
(This is the second in a two-part series on the construction of the 2016 Mustang Cobra Jet)
The 2016 Cobra Jet is powered by a 5.0L V-8 and the engines are built at Performance Assembly Solutions (PAS ) in Livonia, Michigan, and shipped to Watson Racing in batches. All 5.0-Liter Cobra Jet engines arrive at Watson on an engine pallet and are topped with a Whipple 2.9 Liter Cobra Jet Supercharger, a Ford Racing-engineered FEAD (Front Engine Accessory Drive), Cobra Jet Cams and Ford Performance Cobra Jet Valve Covers.
Once on the engine prep station, technicians install American Racing Headers’ long-tube exhaust headers, flywheel and the transmission. For 2016, Ford Performance equipped the engine with a race-prepped Joel’s On Joy C3 automatic transmission.After the engine/transmission is prepped for “decking” it’s placed in a movable fixture for attachment of the lower engine cradle, steering rack and lower control arms. Once the K-member, lower control arms and front spindles are attached, the drag struts are installed complete with Strange Engineering lightweight brake rotors and two-piston calipers.While the engine/front suspension is being prepped, the rear axle is being readied for installation. The Cobra Jet 9-inch unit is built by Strange Engineering and shipped as a ready-to-install item complete with rear disc brakes. For 2016 Cobra Jets, Ford Performance offered a 3.89 rear gear ratio.
While on a two-post lift, the Cobra Jet body is raised for engine and rear-end installation. Once placed on the engine cart, the engine/transmission is rolled under the body and the car is lowered while the engine is raised into the Cobra Jet engine bay. Once the engine and cradle is in place, the eight engine cradle bolts are torqued to spec. The transmission cross member is then installed on the transmission and attached to the frame mounts.Once the engine/transmission is secure in the chassis, the technician then moves to the rear end assembly and lifts the unit into the chassis. The upper control arms and lower control arms are attached and tightened to spec. The Cobra Jet uses tubular control arms with rubber bushings at all rear suspension attachment points. After the rear end is mounted, the rear coil-over shocks and Panhard bar are installed.
After the rear suspension is in place a Dynotech one-piece driveshaft is installed. With the Cobra Jet producing a bit more power than a Shelby GT350 and engineered to take repeated 7,000 RPM launches, a beefier one-piece Dynotech unit was selected.The final step after the decking station is the installation of the wheels and tires. The Cobra Jet has unique Weld Competition RT-S front 15”x3” wheels complete with a Cobra Jet Snake machined into the wheel spoke. Tires on the 2016 Cobra Jet Mustangs are from Hoosier and the rear tire size is 30×9×15.
The final station is where the massive Cobra Jet air inlet tube and K&N filter are installed. After the air intake unit is complete the car is ready to be moved to the alignment area for first start, final check and drag race alignment.
Once on the lift, a Cobra Jet build team member starts the car for a systems check. All gauges are monitored for accuracy as well as engine sound. Once everything looks and sounds acceptable the car is shut down for final calibration and prep.
While the car is on the lift the front and rear suspension is checked for alignment. To adjust the rear suspension, the alignment techs use the adjustable Panhard bar to center the rear end. For front-end alignment, the tie rods are adjusted to bring the suspension into front-to-rear alignment specifications.After the alignment check the cars are pushed to the decal application area for their unique Cobra Jet decal package. The base Cobra Jet decal package includes Cobra Jet quarter-panel script, CJ fender decals and 5.0-Liter Cobra Jet hood decal.
While we visited the Cobra Jet assembly line, the build team was averaging three to four cars per day. Considering the complexity of some of the part installs and the hiccups that always arise, the team appeared enthusiastic to be a part of the 2016 Cobra Jet program. While we don’t know if any of the 50 cars will win a NHRA national event like John Calvert’s 2008 Cobra Jet, the 2016 version has several improvements over the previous models. While most cars are sold to collectors, we’re anticipating a few of these cars will hit the dragstrip early this year.
Don’t be surprised if one dips into the 8-second quarter-mile zone, not bad for a turnkey factory-built car.