James Watt is smiling down on drag racers. Most people think of lightbulbs when they hear his name, but Watt wasn’t an electricity guy, he was a power guy. A true hot rodder, Watt literally invented the concept of horsepower. His contributions to the scientific community were so significant that the unit for power is named for him, and known as the “watt.”
POWER AS A PHILOSOPHY
If you’re reading this and you’re not sold on electric-powered drag cars, fear not, James Watt wouldn’t have been either. Electricity wasn’t much more than a concept during his lifetime. Watt was a steam expert. Converting liquid into a gas was the power supply Watt knew, and it offered him the greatest promise for applying horsepower in the prime movers of his machines. Sound familiar?
Like drag racers, Watt was fascinated by muscle in all forms. Steam was just the technology he had access to, but he was interested in anything that converted fuel to useful work. Clearly, so is Ford Motor Company.
“WE WANT TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT AND THE ONLY HISTORY THAT IS WORTH A TINKER'S DAMN IS THE HISTORY WE MADE TODAY.” — HENRY FORD
Proving innovation knows no off-season, Ford revealed a concept car it calls the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400. It’s an all-electric drag car based on its SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Cobra Jet Mustang built by Watson Engineering, and it’s been modified to accept a 1,400-hp electric powertrain that’s intended to propel the car to low-8-second e.t.’s at more than 170 mph. On its first outing with Motor Trend it ran a best of 8.66 at 160 mph, and according to the car’s driver (and MLe Racecars co-founder) Pat McCue, the car makes even more power now.
Ford says the Cobra Jet 1400 was built to demonstrate the capabilities of an electric powertrain in one of the most demanding race environments on earth — the dragstrip. It’s also a way to mix two of the automaker’s most dynamic research and development capabilities: combine the problem-solving mindset of motorsports with the future-leaning resources of electrification.
“Ford has always used motorsport to demonstrate innovation,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director, Ford Icons. “Electric powertrains give us a completely new kind of performance and the all-electric Cobra Jet 1400 is one example of pushing new technology to the absolute limit. We’re excited to showcase what’s possible in an exciting year when we also have the all-electric Mustang Mach-E joining the Mustang family.”
THEN AND NOW
As seen in the photos, the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 honors the original Cobra Jet that debuted at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals and was the dominant car in the 2019 SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown. The video shows the car making shakedown runs at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Ariz. “This project was a challenge for all of us at Ford Performance, but a challenge we loved jumping into,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “We saw the Cobra Jet 1400 project as an opportunity to start developing electric powertrains in a race car package that we already had a lot of experience with, so we had performance benchmarks we wanted to match and beat right now. This has been a fantastic project to work on, and we hope the first of many coming from our team at Ford Performance Motorsports.”
Ford Performance and MLE Racecars continue to test the Cobra Jet 1400 ahead of its public debut at the 2020 Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals (Sept. 3-6, 2020) where fans, media, and competitors alike will get to meet the race car, as well as see exactly what it’s capable of on the track.
1 HORSEPOWER = 745.7 WATTS
Still not so sure about this? Don’t worry. Electric drag cars aren’t here to replace gasoline, alcohol, or nitromethane. Electric drag cars are here to add to our motorsport, and dragstrips are here to do what they’ve always done for passenger car technologies —make them better. As racers, we understand new concepts are for us to consider and be inspired by to make our own programs better. And we know to take a new technology serious when the person in the other lane beats us with it.
WHAT HISTORY WILL BE MADE AT THE LUCAS OIL RACEWAY IN INDIANAPOLIS THIS YEAR?
To catch all the action of the 2020 DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals in person you can buy your tickets HERE, livestream the race on NHRA.tv, and be sure to watch the full NHRA on FOX broadcast on your local Fox channel.