In the spring of 1968, Don Duttinger read an article in Hot Rod magazine about Ford's new Cobra Jet Mustang. So, with magazine in hand, Don drove to his local Ford dealer to order one of the Mustangs that was created to resurrect Ford's performance image. "The salesman didn't even know about the car," Don says. "He didn't think it could be ordered. So I ordered what I thought would be a close second: a '68 fastback with the 390."
Later that evening, the salesman called Don at home. "He was still at the dealership receiving a shipment of cars," Don relays. "He said there was a Mustang on top of the car carrier that looked like the one in Hot Rod. Without hesitation, I drove down to the dealership and climbed the carrier to look at the Mustang's window sticker. It was a 428 Cobra Jet!"
The salesman soon learned the Sunlit Gold GT fastback was headed to a New York Ford dealership to be used as a showroom display vehicle. However, after Don shelled out an extra $200 for "loss of sale," along with his '65 Mustang fastback trade-in, the Cobra Jet Mustang was his for $86.20 a month on a three-year loan.
For the next four years, the gold fastback was Don's daily transportation. Living then, as he does now, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Don recalls winter driving when the big-block's torque and four-speed transmission made it difficult to find traction in the snow. But his favorite memories come from street racing. "It was a sleeper," Don says. "In 1968, people didn't know what it was. They thought it was just a GT with a 390. I remember beating a 455 Buick and afterwards the owner coming up to me and asking, 'What the heck is that thing?' "
Then in 1972, with fuel prices and insurance costs on the rise, Don parked the Mustang, unlike most musclecar owners of the era who unloaded their cars for cheap. He explains, "I figured they weren't going make big-blocks anymore, and the Mustang was paid for and wasn't costing me anything, so I put it in the garage and let it sit."
Five years ago, Don decided to reawaken his sleeping beauty. Four years of heavy use and 28 years of storage had faded the original Sunlit Gold paint, so Don had the car repainted, going with gloss black on the hood instead of the original flat black for easier maintenance and cleaning. With the exception of the original distributor, which he lost after replacing it with an ACCEL performance version in the late '60s, all of the original equipment went back on in a quest to make the Mustang as original as possible. Today, with just over 60,000 miles on the odometer, Don's rare Cobra Jet Mustang retains the majority of its original parts, including the C8ZE radiator hoses, a Goodyear Polyglas spare tire, smog equipment, and a factory Holley 735-cfm four-barrel carburetor with the Autolite tag still attached. The engine has never been apart.
Today, with his street-racing days way behind him, Don relives his CJ Mustang memories at shows (where he also displays the original window sticker and yellowed June 11, 1968, sales invoice) and on Sunday afternoon rides with his wife. But unlike 1968, most people today know the hoodscoop means there's a 428 Cobra Jet under the hood. "I can't even stop for lunch and a beer," Don says, "without the whole bar emptying out to look at my Mustang."