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Customized Cobra Jet—While Many Racers Opt To Build Their Own Cobra Jet Clone, EB Customs’ Eric Bardekoff Went Way Beyond What Ford Performance Offered

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Written By Steve Baur

Photography by Kevin DiOssi

From Mopar to Mustang and ‘Cuda to Cobra Jet, EB Custom Works’ Eric Bardekoff takes a hands-on approach whether it’s with fabrication or racing. You can see it in the Barracuda that he and his father, Jeff, built and race in NHRA Super Stock competition. You can also see it in the meticulously detailed S550 Mustang that he races in the NMRA’s ProCharger Modified Street category.

His father Jeff was a bracket racer who later entered the NHRA Stock Eliminator ranks in his ’64 Plymouth Fury, introduced Bardekoff to racing early on. The elder Bardekoff eventually put his sons in Junior Dragsters so they, too, could enjoy the thrills of competitive racing.

“I was fortunate enough to have him share the addiction,” Bardekoff told us. “It keeps you out of trouble — we were racing every weekend and didn’t have time to get into trouble.”

During his middle school and early high school years, Bardekoff put his hands to work learning the basics of bodywork and painting from his father’s friend, Jay McHugh. He then built upon those skills by attending Wilson Tech Center during high school, and continued his education at Suffolk County Community College, studying in the university’s automotive technology program.

Once he had completed his schooling, Bardekoff started on his own projects, and things took off from there.

“I picked up a few restorations and got some jobs through our NHRA friends. I was very fortunate and it snowballed from there,” Bardekoff told us of the early days of his EB Custom Works business. In just a few short years, Bardekoff went from doing paint and body restoration work to primarily chassis work, custom exhaust fabrication, and “pretty much everything that revolves around race cars.” While he continued to hone his skills, he and his father picked up a new project — a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda.

“I was originally going to build it for a 9-inch tire,” Bardekoff said of the show car from Kentucky that was packing a tire-burning slant six-cylinder and 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission. “We bought it thinking we wouldn’t have to paint it, but that escalated quickly.”

Over the course of two years, they stripped the body and applied a custom paint job. They also decided to open the wheels wells a bit and go the Super Stock route. Powering the Barracuda is a 2009 Drag Pak engine combination, which features a 360ci Magnum Wedge engine.

During the 2014 Chevrolet Performance US Nationals in Indy, where they were racing the Barracuda, Eric started thinking about their next build.

“We were sitting up in the stands and the Factory Stock Showdown was running and we thought it would be badass to build one of those,” Bardekoff explained. As Mopar enthusiasts, the Bardekoff’s had put their name on the waiting list for a new Dodge // Mopar Challenger Drag Pak, but it had been some time and they still hadn’t been called. A conversation with former Ford Performance Drag Racing Competition Manager, Jesse Kershaw, put them on a different path. As Bardekoff told us, a Chevy was out of the question, but they were open to the idea of a Cobra Jet.

“Jesse Kershaw came up to us and asked, ‘What can we do for you?’ He explained that it would be a 3-4 month wait for a CJ; it was right around the time that the S550 Mustang came out and they were hard to come by, so Jesse told us to find a salvage-title car.”

Looking to capitalize on his growing talents — and get behind the wheel of a new race car sooner than later — Bardekoff opted to build his own Cobra Jet-spec Mustang.

“We bought a salvage one from Copart with 1,200 miles on it. It was wrecked, the passenger side front was done, the wheel was shattered, the shock tower was pushed in—even the trans tunnel was crumpled. If we saw the car before we could by it, we wouldn’t have gotten it, but once it was on the alignment rack, we decided to fix it,” Bardekoff told us.

With the body style being relatively brand new, replacement parts were unfortunately hard to come by.

“We got stuck with the build because we couldn’t get the parts to repair it, so we called Jesse to see what he could do. He ended up overnighting the part to the shop. That was huge!” Bardekoff performed all of the repair and fabrication work on the Mustang, including the installation of his first 7.50-cert roll cage.

With the bodywork complete, it was time to make it shine and stand out.

“It’s a custom-mixed House of Kolors combination,” Bardekoff explained. “I did lots of spray outs to make sure it was what I wanted. The black has a blue pearl in it — a lot of thought went into the layout.”

Originally, it was decided to drop in a naturally aspirated powerplant, but they ended up pulling the plug on the engine combination and put a supercharged Coyote V-8 in the car along with what is a rarity in the class — a manual transmission.

“Everyone said it wouldn’t work and I got it pretty close, but it was driving me insane,” Bardekoff told us of his experience maintaining the combination. While he was sorting it out, Bardekoff ran a number of races with it, including NMCA Norwalk and Indy in 2017.

“With the stick, it was just me working on it and it turns into you need a whole team to run the car. I want to get behind the wheel of Mike Washington’s Pure Evil car. I miss it so much,” Bardekoff related of his decision to put a Turbo 400 automatic in the Cobra Jet.

Turning to the 2018 racing season, Bardekoff entered the NMRA Coyote Modified ranks and competed at the Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio stops of the series. His last race of 2018 was the World Cup event in Maryland where he ran in the Super Street category.

“I was the only domestic car, the rest were front-wheel-drive Hondas. They only prepped about five feet out from the line,” Bardekoff explained of his unsuccessful weekend of racing. It was after that race that he pulled the engine and started planning for 2019.

Over that winter, the NMRA decided to roll the Coyote Modified class into the new-for-2019 ProCharger Modified Street category, and Bardekoff incorporated those changes for his 2019 season.

“It’s been a learning curve this season. I had a lot of issues with the engine/transmission/torque converter to get it where it needs to be and shove it into the sevens. We had the intention that we were going to dominate it this year, but you’re going against guys like Schehr and Connelley that have been doing this for years.”

At the 2019 NMRA season opener, Bardekoff qualified mid-pack and managed to get a first-round win before bowing out. He then skipped the next two events as he opted to pull the engine out for some upgrades, including stepping up to a 3.0-liter supercharger from the 2.9-liter unit pictured in these photos.

“The engine is 100-percent legal for the NHRA Showdown class. I’m probably losing a little bit in that way with the NMRA.”

Fast forward to the fourth event of the season at Maple Grove Raceway, Bardekoff qualified last in the field, and was the only car not to clock a 7-second pass. However, he edged out Martin Connelley in the first round, had a bye for the second and collected a runner-up finish at the conclusion of the race.

The next race would be the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, and Bardekoff once again found himself at the bottom of the sheet, holding the only 8-second timeslip for the class. While he improved his elapsed time from an 8.19 to an 8.12, it wasn’t enough to get around current points leader, Brad Schehr. At that point, Bardekoff made a few changes to his program and did some testing which proved fruitful.

Bardekoff originally had Second Street Speed in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, dial-in the tune on the Mustang’s MoTeC EFI system, and after Joliet, he sought out the tuning services of Nicky Notch.

“Nicky helped pick up around 200 horsepower in a dyno-tuning session,” Bardekoff told us. Notch is also helping with some of the suspension calls and fresh off the dyno, Bardekoff and team went to a track rental for some testing.

“We went to Jake Green’s track rental and the first pass it went an 8.002. We threw more tune-up at it and it went 8.001. We threw a little more tune at it and it spun, and then ran an 8.004 after a shock adjustment,” Bardekoff recalled. “The air was horrible, but on a hotter tune up it went 7.981 at 171.62 mph! They’re running like 7.80s in good weather,” Bardekoff said of his fellow ProCharger Modified Street competitors. “They better start looking over their backs with this car. With good weather in Kentucky, it should pick up 3 or 4 numbers.”

Now that he collected a 7-second timeslip, Bardekoff believes he and his Mustang are prepared for the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and driving to the Aerospace Winner’s Circle would be a great way to cap off a difficult season.

Whatever happens, he’ll have reason to celebrate as he’ll be getting married this fall to fellow NMRA racer Stephanie Davies, who has stepped in as a crewmember this season while Bardekoff rebuilds her Fox Mustang from the ground up for the NMRA Limited Street class.

 

The Details

Owner/Driver

Owner: Eric Bardekoff

Driver: Eric Bardekoff

Hometown: Commack, NY (Long Island)

Occupation: Racecar Fabricator/Builder

Class: ProCharger Modified Street

Crew: Jeffrey Bardekoff, Steph Davies

 

Powertrain

Engine: Ford Coyote

Engine builder: Competition Engine Services (Advance, NC), Matt Kennedy

Displacement: 315 ci

Block: Bear Coyote block

Bore: 3.700 inches

Stroke: 3.650 inches

Crank: Bryant crank

Rods: Carrillo

Pistons: Diamond

Cylinder heads: GT350

Valvetrain: PAC springs

Camshaft—Brand: COMP Cams custom grind

Carburetor or EFI system: MoTeC M150

Power-adder: 3.0-liter supercharger

Fuel brand and type: VP C16

Spark plug brand: NGK

Headers and exhaust: American Racing Headers

Transmission: ATI Performance Products TH400

Transmission Builder: ATI Performance Products

Clutch/shifter/torque converter: ATI Performance Products 9.5-inch billet two-piece converter

Rearend: Ford 9-inch with Indy Gear center section, Strange Engineering 40-spline gun-drilled axles and spool, Gleeson gear set, Mark Williams driveshaft

Fuel system: Weldon pump, XRP Teflon fuel lines

 

Chassis

Body and/or chassis builder: EB Custom Works 7.50-certified chassis

Suspension (Front): OEM Stock

Suspension (Rear): EB Custom Works built to Cobra Jet specs

Brakes (Front) Strange Engineering disc brakes

Brakes (Rear) Strange Engineering disc brakes with dual calipers

Wheels (front) Brand: Billet Specialties Street Lite Size: 17×4-inch

Wheels (Rear) Brand: Billet Specialties Street Lite Size: 15×10-inch double beadlocks

Tires (Front) Brand: M/T Size: 27.5 ET Fronts

Tires (Rear) Brand: M/T Size: ET Street R 275/60R15

 

Body Modifications

Paint: House of Kolor custom paint, w/Sikkens Superior 250 clearcoat

Fiberglass/Carbon body components: Cervinis cowl hood, Anderson Composites ground effects, splitter, True Fiber carbon dash trim, GT350 door panels, MMR rear wing

Windows: Optic Armor

Safety equipment: Racetec seats, Racetec harness

Vehicle weight: 3,550 pounds

Quickest ET: 7.981 seconds

Best 60-foot: 1.18 seconds

Fastest mph: 174


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