Bargain Buy: FE-Equipped Superformance

Posted July 26, 2017

By Dean Larson

We’ve had interesting experiences with auctions. We tried to sell a nice Toyota off-roader once on BaT, which didn’t come close to its reserve price, but then sold instantly on eBay. We’ve also seen ridiculously high selling prices like a straight-six-equipped ’94 Ford truck that miraculously brought in over $17,000. If you want to find a good deal on BaT, it takes diligence and good timing. Which leads us to this Superformance MkIII Cobra that was recently bought for a bargain and features a 7-liter lesson in Ford engine history.

The Cobra is a pretty standard build. Assembled in 2004 by Dynamic Motorsports in Ross, Ohio, it features black paint with white stripes, Trigo wheels and full bumpers. The interior shows very well with black leather, Smiths gauges and an authentic-looking transmission tunnel and shifter. It’s a great looking Cobra overall, but the highlight for us is under the hood. 

We’d venture to guess the most common engine found in Cobra replicas is the Ford Windsor engine, sometimes called the small-block Ford. It had a long production run, from 1961 to 2000, and was available in seven different displacements, including the period correct 260 and 289 versions. But not all Cobras carried the small-block Ford. Shelby began experimenting with the larger FE engine as early as 1963 when a NASCAR 427 engine was tested in CSX 2196. After disappointing results, the chassis was improved and tested with an aluminum-block 390 and an iron-block 427. The car showed truly awesome acceleration, but was a handful on the track and missed homologation for the 1965 racing season.

While the big FE Cobra didn’t quite make the grade on the track, it made for a gnarly street machine. Around 250 Cobra 427 street cars were sold by Shelby, but not all of these carried the thick-decked, high-compression 427-ci engine. Some of these cars were actually sold bearing the 427’s bigger little brother, the 428.

Both the 427 and 428 engines proudly claimed a 7.0-liter displacement, but they were actually quite different. The 427 was expensive to produce and difficult to cast, leading Ford to crossbreed the 427 with some of the other FE engines to produce the 428. The 428 supplied 340 to 360 hp depending on its application, down from the 427’s impressive 390 to 425 hp. Many Ford and Mercury standard production vehicles utilized the 428 engine as well as hot Cobra Jet Mustangs and street Cobras.

Sure, the engine in this Superformance Cobra might have been sourced from a Mercury wagon or a Ford Galaxie, but that’s not really a bad thing. The 428 pays tribute to an interesting iteration of the Cobra with a period-correct, big-block rumble. And also, how can you argue with that selling price?

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