"People ask me, 'You turned down $50,000 for a Mustang II?' And I say, 'Yeah, but you don't know how much it takes to put a car in this kind of condition.' "
The kind of condition Bill Blackburn is talking about is ISCA, short for International Show Car Association. There is perhaps no tougher competition anywhere. Cars at these shows are absolutely immaculate, inside, out, and underneath. Only two cars per division are chosen to go on to the international show. Bill qualified by finishing in Second Place in the Eastern Division.
But don't let the showiness of this build-which includes being taken apart three separate times and rebuilt to exacting standards-fool you into thinking the car isn't close to stock. At the 40th Mustang Anniversary Celebration in Nashville last April, Bill took Gold in the Concours Trailered Class of the Mustang Club of America.
In reality, Bill's Cobra II is very close to stock, in the same way a '65 fastback with a Cobra kit and some engine mods could be construed as basically stock with over-the-counter performance upgrades. See those Cobra valve covers and air-cleaner intake? They were available at Ford dealerships for the 302 in 1977, and still are today. The rear sport slats were available too. On the engine, you'll notice headers, but otherwise the 302 is the same as installed in the car in 1977.
As you can imagine, Bill, who lives in Noblesville, Indiana, has a passion for the Cobra II. In 1983, this car was his high school ride. Later, he drove the striped coupe to college, and finally to commute to his first job after graduation. His enthusiasm took off when he undertook an extensive three-year, ground-up restoration. Including time rounding up parts, the job took a solid 10 years to complete.
"My goal is to show people the Mustang II can be just as nice as any other Mustang." Bill didn't realize just how nice his Cobra II would be. The restoration shop, Vail's Classic Cars in Greenfield, Indiana, put him on a three-year waiting list. "The longer I waited, the more I took off my car," Bill says. "By the time I took the car to them, it was just a shell. Everything-interior, engine compartment, underneath-was totally disassembled. So when I delivered it to them, they decided to put it on a rotisserie."
That's when the project moved upscale. The same professional work characterized the 302 build, done by Zimmerman Speed Shop in Greensburg, Indiana. The stock 139 horses would not do; the Zimmerman dyno charted 316 net horsepower.
"They predict 12.65 seconds in the quarter-mile on street tires," Bill tells us. That's plenty of go-fast to smoke the tires in any gear the four-speed is positioned. Bill found out the original transmission was tough enough to take the horsepower as well as the 320 lb-ft of torque.
On the other hand, the rear end went through three ring-and-pinions before Bill got hooked up with Currie Enterprises. "I've never had trouble with the rear end since."
Bill built a Web site, www.globaltravelconnections.com/cobra, to fully disclose details of his Cobra II. There's a short history as well as pictures of the restoration and engine buildup. He writes, "A few highlights worth mentioning include being invited to Ford Motor Company's 100-year celebration, having the honor of Carroll Shelby autographing the sunvisor, and Tech TV featuring the car on its cable television station."
Bill created what might be the premier Cobra II show car in the land. So, what about that 50 grand? "