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Canadian Cobra Jet Mustang Rides Strong With Don Fotti

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
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Canadian Cobra Jet Mustang Rides Strong With Don Fotti 
By Evan J. Smith
The year was 1971 when a young Don Fotti laid out $2,450 cash for his first performance car, a 1968 Cobra Jet Mustang that was just three years old. And while the car fulfilled his childhood dream, he never imagined he’d continue going wide open on drag strips all over North America 50 year later.
Fotti, who at the time, worked at a grocery store in Manitoba, was looking for a cool car. After seeing the silver screen sensation “Bullitt,” staring Steve McQueen, he was on the hunt for something with serious horsepower. He first drove a 1968 Dodge Charger, but it wasn’t to his liking—so he set his mark on a 1967 390 convertible Mustang he saw for sale locally. But before turning over the cash, a chance meeting with the owner of this Acapulco Blue 1968 Cobra Jet changed everything.
The owner asked Don what he was going to pay for the 390, he replied $2,450. Said owner indicated that Don could have the more potent 428 CJ for the same money and on March 15, 1971 a deal was struck.
“He [the previous owner] would never dream of stepping on it to the floor, but within an hour of buying it I was on the highway practicing launches,” Fotti said with a cheerful smile. “And as soon as Keystone Dragway in Winnipeg opened I was there racing. I won four of the first five events I entered and I was hooked.” Fotti even recalls his first pass was a 14.23 elapsed time and in 1972 he scored the track championship. But things changed in 1973. Fotto told us he hurt the motor at a race event, shortly after got married, and the car sat idle for 18 years.
Eventually, Fotti returned to the track and the more he raced the more he fell in love with the straight-line sport. Today, after five decades of ownership he’s produced thousands of quarter-mile passes and he’s turned on many win lights with his 44,000-mile Cobra Jet. Fotti proudly told us, “the heater works, the radio works and the wipers even work. It’s licensed to drive on the street and when I’m home I take it cruising.”
Recognizing the potential value of the original 428 engine, Don removed it years ago after it was hurt and it was replaced with another 428. Today, it’s got a bit more power than stock, in fact, the current FE is real heater.
The current engine uses an aluminum Robert Pond block and a stroker crank with aluminum heads that was prepared by Lance Line of Line Performance in Minnesota. The engine made 714 horsepower and 655 foot-pounds of torque. “I don’t want to put a roll bar in it because it’s an original car, so I’m limited to going 11.50.”
Fotti can be found at every NMRA and NMCA event where he compete in Ford Muscle and Erson Cams Nostalgia Muscle Car respectively. His Mustang has a sinister growl that is heard through headers and a full exhaust, which includes tail pipes. And with that much power, 11.50 is a breeze. Despite having run 10-flat, Fotti doesn’t want to install a roll bar or cage, so he’s content going slower and putting the focus on cutting lights and hitting his 11.50 index.
At 72, Fotti says it’s all about having fun so he keeps the pony dialed back. He achieves this target elapsed time with the carburetor set to open roughly 70 percent of WOT. Wide open it has run 10.02 at 132 mph with a 1.33 60-foot time. It’s been as quick as 1.31, but he shut it down early on that pass, lifting at 1,000-feet so as not to break in the 9s.
The FE is backed by a race-prepped C4 with a Strange Engineering Ford 9-inch rear out back. Traction is enhanced with Caltracs rear split-monoleaf springs, Caltracs bars and the same brand shocks helping the stock suspension find bite. The Cobra Jet wears Mickey Thompson rubber wrapped around Keystone Klassic mag wheels, which are a total throwback to the early days.
“This type of racing suits me perfectly,” said Fotti. “I like shooting for the 11.50 target and not having to change my dial in every pass. Drag racing is a pastime for Fotti who travels the NMRA and NMCA circuit and enjoys racing and spending time with friends and family.

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