1968 California Special (GT/CS)
Perhaps one of the best known of the limited edition classic Mustangs is the 1968 California Special, or GT/CS. Most Mustang veterans and even casual enthusiasts have heard of it, yet false info and rumor still abound on the net.
The California Special roots started with "Little Red", a hand built experimental Shelby coupe. Shelby's were only offered in fastbacks and convertibles, but there was enough interest in expanding to the coupe body style that a prototype was mocked up. Although the Shelby coupe idea was ultimately scrapped, the groundwork was laid for the California Special. Borrowing heavily from the Shelby parts bins, the GT/CS was the most elaborate special edition Mustang yet, going way beyond the typical fender badge or special paint.
The GT/CS was unveiled at a Ford dealer party at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. The advertising tag-line was "California Made it Happen" although in truth the GT/CS was sent to sales districts beyond just California. Kansas City, Dallas, L.A., San Jose, Salt Lake, Seattle, Phoenix and Canada were all eligible DSO's to sell this limited edition pony. (A Denver DSO (51) made it a High Country Special)
What made the 1968 California Special more significant then any other limited edition Mustang to date was the extent of the factory modifications. Borrowing from Shelby parts, the entire look of the car was changed making it into something immediately recognizable as a special Mustang.
The front end featured factory fog lights set in a blacked out grille. The fogs were originally Marchals and then Lucas after a CA recall. The hood featured integral turn signals and factory twist style hood locks, the same as used on the 1968 Shelby. Starting at the front headlight buckets a unique triple side stripe ran down the length of the car, terminating just past the simulated side scoops. On the scoops, cut into the tape stripe was the GT/CS insignia. These scoops are very similar to the Shelby models, but unique to the GT/CS because they were non-functional. Continuing past the stripes to the rear quarter panels you find "California Special" in a chrome trim script font.
The tail end is where the Shelby influence is unmistakable. The fiberglass trunk lid has an integral "duck tail" spoiler with matching fiberglass quarter panel extensions. These are direct Shelby part numbers. As are the wide, horizontal taillights and fiberglass taillight panel. Although many think so, these wide tail lights are not sequential like you would find on Cougars or T-birds. On the deck lid is the "Mustang" script typically found on standard Mustang front fenders. The tape stripe continues along the rear edge of the trunk spoiler and turns down the quarter panel extensions. Topping everything off is a unique pop-off gas cap with the running horse in the center.
Ford advertising description of the GT/CS from one of it's brochures:
GT/CS California Special Mustang. Limited edition. Inspiration by Shelby GT. But priced like a Mustang. Look at all the special equipment that's standard.
Blackout grille. rectangular fog lamps. Functional louvered hood with integral turn signals. Shelby-style rear end - a sassy spoiler, full-edge striping. Wide horizontal taillights. Pop-open gas cap. On the sides, simulated air scoops with "GT/CS" insignia. Special stripes. Naturally, GT/CS includes every other standard that's made Mustang famous. Bucket seats. Leather-smooth vinyl trim. Carpeting. Floor shift. And many more.
Best of all, you can "customize" a GT/CS into your own one-of-a-kind Mustang. It's done with Mustang's wide array of options. Make it posh. Sporty. Out of this world. Decorate it. Automate it. Some tempting options shown below. More where those came from. California made it happen! Make Mustang GT/CS happen to you now at your Ford Dealer's!