A young Bob Tasca Jr. launches...
A young Bob Tasca Jr. launches the KR-8 Mustang in the Tasca backlot in 1967.
The story has been told in numerous books and magazine articles. For years, we've known how Rhode Island Ford dealer Bob Tasca replaced the blown 390 in a '67 Mustang with a 428 Police Interceptor equipped with 406 heads and other modifications from the Tasca Ford parts department. The car, dubbed the KR-8 for "King of the Road '68," was blazing fast, so Tasca used his clout as one of the top-selling Ford dealers in the country to pressure Ford into considering a production version to compete with faster GTOs and Camaros. Hot Rod magazine staffer Eric Dahlquist wrote an article about Tasca's KR-8 and suggested that readers contact Henry Ford II in Dearborn if they wanted to see the car in production. Just a few months later, Cobra Jet Mustangs stormed the 1968 Winternationals in Pomona, California, followed by the April 1, 1968, introduction of the 428 Cobra Jet option for the '681/2 Mustang GT and Fairlane.
You can see the KR-8 hardtop...
You can see the KR-8 hardtop in this photo, taken at Tasca Ford around April 1967 to celebrate the Mustang's third birthday, with driver Mario Andretti as special guest. The KR-8 is parked right behind the Ford GT-40. Bob Tasca Sr. is on the left next to Andretti.
That's the story in a lug nut. But what about the actual KR-8 Mustang? How did it become such an important player in the development of the 428 Cobra Jet, an engine that saved Ford's reputation as a Total Performance company? And what happened to the actual car?
"I lived that story, I can tell you that much," Bob Tasca Jr. told us. Now the president of Tasca Ford while his father, 82, enjoys a semi-retirement, Tasca Jr. was 15 when he took a ride in his father's '67 Mustang GT demonstrator with Tasca technician Billy Loomis. It was a ride that would change the course of Ford performance history.
"The Lime Gold notchback was my father's everyday driver," Tasca Jr. said. "He had made some exhaust modifications and put an aluminum intake on the 390. Billy was working on it one day, but I don't remember what he was doing. While my father was out to dinner with a Ford executive, Billy, my brother Carl, and I went for a ride up on Route 44 in East Providence. I'll never forget, Billy turned the car around and floored it. He thought the shifter was in 'D' but it was in '1.' I was thinking to myself, 'When is he going to shift?' But he didn't shift it. So it floated the valves and we blew the engine. We got it back to the dealership and my father was very upset when he found out we'd blown up his favorite car."
At that point, instead of repairing the original engine, Tasca Sr. asked assistant parts manager Glenn Tiberiis to order a 428 Police Interceptor short-block. "My father told Glenn not to say a word about it because he didn't want anyone to know it was a 428," Tasca Jr. says.
Hot Rod's Eric Dahlquist arrived...
Hot Rod's Eric Dahlquist arrived at Tasca Ford after the KR-8's test session at Ford, so his engine shots show the 427 Tunnel-Port that Bob Tasca Sr. obtained from the Ford Experimental Garage.
Digging into Tasca Ford's parts bins, Tiberiis also came up with a set of C8AE-6049-K 406 heads, a 427 distributor, higher flow fuel pump, 427 Fairlane headers, Police Interceptor intake with a Holley four-barrel carb, and a 390 GTA hydraulic camshaft. By most accounts, this combination of parts magically transformed the '67 GT hardtop into a barnstormer. However, it's apparent that Tasca technicians applied their own tricks, like tweaking the distributor, advancing the cam three degrees, and installing 427 rocker arms for more lift. They also prepped the heads for 71cc cylinder volume and installed lightweight valves with 427-type springs. Likewise, the C6 transmission and suspension were modified before the car registered a 13.46-second ET at over 104 mph on its first timed run. The KR-8 Mustang eventually ran a best of 13.39 at 105.
Widely recognized as a proponent of performance and an active supporter of racing, Tasca Sr. was also vocal about Ford's lack of performance offerings. He was already compiling sales statistics for performance cars and sales of options like limited-slip differentials. According to his breakdown, Fords accounted for only 7.5 percent of all '66 high-performance vehicle sales. From his business perspective, the competition's advantage was costing him money. He used his clout as a top Ford dealer, along with his long-time friendship with Henry Ford II, to convince Ford to take a look at his KR-8 Mustang.
During his visit to Tasca...
During his visit to Tasca Ford to check out the KR-8, Dahlquist snapped this photo of Bob Tasca Sr. in his office
Tasca Ford's Performance Sales...
Tasca Ford's Performance Sales Manager Dean Gregson (left) and Assistant Parts Manager Glenn Tiberiis look over some of the KR-8 components. This photo originally ran in the November 1967 issue of Hot Rod.