California Special Mustang
In mid-February 1968, the California Ford Dealers (Ford Dealer Advertising Fund) began to market a factory-built, limited-edition Mustang, called the GT/CS, or “California Special”. The hope was for a targeted production run of 5,000; however, only 4118 were made, including 251 units that were remarketed in Denver, Colorado, as “High Country Special ’68”. Production ran for only 5.5 months from mid-February 1968 to early August 1968. Today, classic car collectors consider these cars to be very desirable.
The marketing theme for this limited edition was “California Made it Happen!”, a variation on Mustang’s national marketing theme and commercial jingle, “Only Mustang Makes it Happen!”
This was all in response to the new pony car competition for the upcoming 1968 model year from the Camaro, Firebird, Javelin, and even from Ford’s Torino and Mercury Cougar. The state of California, alone, was responsible for the sales of 20% of all Mustangs and Thunderbirds in the country, which gave the regional dealers there the clout to ask for and market their own Mustang.
Lee Grey was the Southern California district sales manager for Ford and he was looking for something unique to spark the sales of Mustangs in Los Angeles. Ford dealers had tried promotions like the “1967 Rainbow Colored Mustangs”, as well as by adding accessories and options to dress up cars for public view. The objective was to make the Mustangs sold in California unique and to look “custom” made, thus differentiating them from the standard models available elsewhere.
Shelby Automotive, now part of Ford, was assigned the task of designing and engineering the necessary parts and assembly procedures for the GT/CS. This was done right alongside the development of their 1968 Shelby. The fiberglass parts were crafted at A.O. Smith, in Ionia, Michigan, in steel molds. A.O. Smith was also the same OEM manufacturer for the Corvette fiberglass bodies. The fiberglass parts for the GT/CS included: the rear decklid and end caps, taillight panel, and side scoops (RH and LH).
The Mustang GT/CS features included: Marchal or Lucas Fog Lights, twist-type DZUS hood pins, side scoops, pop-open gas cap, rear spoiler decklid with end caps, and taillight panel with 1965 Thunderbird taillights (non sequential). Side stripes with the “GT/CS” die-cut logo, along with a rear decklid stripe were included, and were available in white, black, red, and metallic medium blue only. It was available in all standard Mustang colors for 1968, all Ford engine and transmission combinations (except 427/C-6, which was dropped for all ’68s).