’68 Cyclone: Honoring an unsung 428 on 4/28

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Outside of a few European manufacturers, automakers have strayed away from offering half a dozen body styles of each model they produce. In the ‘60s and early ’70s, however, just about every manufacturer gave buyers multiple versions of cars. We’re not just talking about two-door, four-door, coupe, and wagon, either. Plymouth gave us two hardtop versions of the Barracuda for a few years; GM offered more formal A-body coupes like the Monte Carlo, Cutlass Supreme, and Grand Prix; and Ford and Mercury brought fastbacks by the ton.

Many of the most famous Mustangs were fastbacks. While the Cougar didn’t’ get the same treatment, Mercury wasn’t shy about offering the stylish silhouette on plenty of other models. The Parklane and Monterey a adopted sleek roofline that smoothly transitioned to the decklid. Our favorite Mercury fastback, perhaps, would have to be the Cyclone.

In the late ‘60s, Mercury’s Cyclone and Ford’s Torino went to battle on high-speed NASCAR tracks. They each spawned more aerodynamic versions, the Talladega and Spoiler II, as part of the aero wars with Chrysler Corp. Those long-nose versions were built in much lower numbers, but the regular fastback versions of both models are much easier to come across. They also happen to be, in our humble opinion, among the best-looking muscle cars to ever roll off a Ford Motor Company assembly line.

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One of the top engines offered in those speedy Fords was the 428. Not as wild as the big-bore 427, the 428 was also built on the FE V-8 architecture that powered everything from work trucks to Le-Mans-winning GT40s. The four-barrel version of the 428 installed in performance models starting in 1968 was dubbed Cobra Jet, which has become one of the most storied monikers in Ford drag racing history. The 335-hp engine was a good foundation for drag racers and street cars alike, earning a reputation right off the bat when the engine took the Super Stock Eliminator class by storm at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals.

All-Electric Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 Prototype
The 428 hit the dragstrip running in 1968. Today, Cobra Jet is still synonymous with drag racing. Ford Performance

If you’re in the market for a 428-powered fastback, your options include various Mustangs, the 1968 Shelby GT500KR, the Torino Cobra, and the Mercury Cyclone. Of those, the Cyclone is easily the most affordable. The #3 (Good) value of a 1968 Cyclone fastback is $23,000, a $3000 premium over the still quite good-looking hardtop. The 1969 Cyclone CJ (for Cobra Jet) is just a bit more at $26,800. However, the #3 (Good) value of a similar 1969 Torino Cobra is nearly $40,000. It goes without saying that the Shelby is considerably more valuable.

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Perhaps it’s because we love a bargain, or that we have a soft spot for orphan brands, but the Cyclone seems like an underrated piece of the muscle car story. No doubt it’s great way to get your hands on a very cool machine that few seem to remember.

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