The cars we loved.
What better way to start off a new year than to discuss yet another Mustang variation? There are more Mustang variations than you can shake a stick at. In addition to what’s available from the factory, today’s Mustang buyer can choose from standard factory options or from Ford’s dealer installed performance parts to make no one Mustang alike. To separate them into “looker and cooker” specials is one way to cut through the options, but for maximum factory approval, nothing beats Ford’s own offerings.
One of the earliest of the non-Shelby factory specials was the GT/CS (California Special). Named such as a monument to California’s growing influence on the car buying public in the late 60s. At that time over 20% of all Mustangs sold in the US were bought in California. The California Ford Dealers Association “commissioned” a special car to be sold only in the state. Dealers hoped for 5,000 cars, but a bit more than 4k were built. Not all of them were CS cars, as a few were sent to Colorado to be marketed in Denver as “Colorado High Country Specials”.
The CS was made from standard factory parts with some help from Shelby, who was responsible for more substantial factory specials like the Shelby GT500. Made for about five months in 1968, the GT/CS was pretty much a standard Mustang (GT or otherwise) with a few choice appearance parts. The first cars, always the hard top coupe featured special stripes and fiberglass parts. A unique (to Mustang) taillight assembly that actually came from the 1965 Thunderbird gave it a bit of Cougar flair. Shelby-like nonfunctional hood scoops topped off the performance look, but truth was that a CS could be ordered with everything from the six cylinder up to the 428 Cobra Jet engine. GT/CS cars were made right alongside Shelby’s other products and would be shipped mostly to dealers in California, but were sent to a few places in the American West and Canada.
There would not be another CS car until 2007, when Ford decided to offer a special tribute to the original 68’ models. By this time highly sought after collectors’ items, the original cars inspired a similar package in the first of the modern Mustangs to be retro inspired. With a similar stripe package, the 2007 would come in two similar colors: red and Vista Blue. In addition to the coupe, a convertible was also offered.
The California Special concept would make a return in 2011on the 7th generation Mustang. Starting with a GT, the CS package added a unique chrome grille, faded stripe graphics and a new lower fascia with fog lights. The new front end would end up on the resurgent Boss 302, but in 2011 it was only available on the CS model. The interior got the special treatment also with carbon finish insets on the door panels. A range of colors were available, but in 2012 only one, Yellow Blaze was on the spec sheet.
The CS continued on through the refreshing the Mustang got in 2013. Along with the monstrous 420 hp V8, other changes included a revised stripe scheme that resembled the 68’ models more than recent CS cars. Now the stripes were on the lower part of the cars side. Black 19’ wheels with chrome accents rounded out the exterior changes. The interior was pretty much carried over from the last two years. The sleeker body with slimmer and more integrated headlights made the 2013-14 models the best looking of the recent CS cars. Like in years past the cost of the package added only $2k to the cost of a Mustang GT.
Ford might have stretched its special editions a bit too far with the CS, but no one seems to be complaining. Sales have been strong, with few cars getting the chance to be flaunted by dealers before it’s bought at considerable markup.
It’s hard to say if today’s CS cars will be collectibles. If Ford continues to produce GT/CS as it has in the recent past, they are not likely to be so special to collectors, yet will continue to be desirable. While a bit more special than the run of the mill GT, the GT/CS like any Mustang is meant to be driven (hard) and enjoyed if not disposable. Maybe that’s why Ford makes so many of them.