Ford Mustang "California Special" & "High Country Special"

A Special Model from the Very Start – "California Special GT/CS" and the"High Country Special"
1968 Ford Mustang California Special People try to sell everything these days with the claim of “Limited Edition” – chocolate, yogurt, and even toilet paper.
A few decades ago, however, “Limited Edition” was not just hyperbole from the marketing department but an actual indication of something special, as in the case of the Ford Mustang California Special (GT/CS) and the Mustang High Country Specials (HCS).
1968 Ford Mustang High Country Special
"California made it happen”. This is how the Ford marketing experts promoted the 1968 special model of the Mustang that was sold only in California. The slogan was well chosen, not least because it was a variation of the traditional Ford advertisement “Only Mustang makes it happen”.

The campaign was based on an initiative from the Ford sales director for California, Lee Grey. The positive response from company headquarters to his idea was a reflection of just how important the state of California, the most populous state in the US, was for the American market. 20 percent of all Mustangs and Thunderbirds were sold in the Golden State alone.
The model, which was in the showrooms of California Ford dealers starting in February 1968, was known as the Mustang GT/CS, or just the California Special for short.
You certainly can‘t argue with the design, and it would not be a stretch to say that Ford had created an even more beautiful Mustang variation in the first year of production.

Nevertheless, the GT/CS is the undeniable object of desire for more than few admirers. Upon closer inspection, this is hardly surprising.

To start with, the plan to manufacture just 5,000 units made the GT/CS a very small series. In the end, only 4,188 GT/CS came off the production line, of which 251 were delivered to Denver, Colorado where they became a special rarity on the roads of the Rocky Mountains as the “High Country Special”.
It stands to reason that these two models would be extremely sought-after today.
1968 Ford Mustang California Special 1968 Ford Mustang California Special
1968 Ford Mustang California Special 1968 Ford Mustang California Special
Love at first sight
What actually makes these models different from the rest of the Mustang family?
This question brings us back to Lee Grey, whom we’ve already met. A year earlier, in 1967, Grey had seen a Shelby GT500 coupe prototype with the affectionate nickname “Little Red” in Los Angeles as part of the presentation of models for the coming year.
It must have been love at first sight for the sales director. He immediately made an appointment with Ford boss Lee Iacocca to get his okay on using the unique features from “Little Red” for his version of the California Special.

These special features included the striking rear spoiler made of fiberglass, wide taillights borrowed from the 1965 Thunderbird, (nonfunctional) side air intakes, a black radiator grille with fog lights but no pony symbol, two hood locks, special decorative stripes, and a special gas cap. The majority of the CS parts were ultimately shared with the 1968 Shelby. The letters GT/CS were on the air intakes, and the words "California Special" were on the side at the rear of the car.
In terms of the car’s power plant, all engines that were available with the Mustang at that time were available for the GT/CS, and could be chosen depending on the buyer's driving style and budget.
1968 Ford Mustang California Special 1968 Ford Mustang California Special
1968 Ford Mustang California Special 1968 Ford Mustang California Special
  These specifications applied likewise for the already mentioned and even rarer High Country Special for Colorado. Instead of the letters GT/CS on the air intakes, there was a crest-like badge with the words High Country Special and the stylized silhouette of a mustang that seemed to gallop over the Rocky Mountains.

All California Specials were based on the 1968 model and were offered only as a coupe, not as a fastback or convertible.
The High Country Special series, however, was available for three years. In 1966 and 1967, there was a coupe, convertible and fastback, and in 1968 only the coupe version. In addition, the HCS was available only in Aspen Gold, Columbine Blue, and Timberline Green, while the GT/CS was available in all Mustang colors. 333 HCS units were built in 1966, 416 in 1967, and 251 in 1968.
As already mentioned, today both the California Special and High Country Special are among the most sought-after Mustang models. The prices are high as a result, depending of course on the condition, engine, etc., and can even be in the high five-digit range for vehicles in top condition. This is hardly surprising because such models are in our inventory very infrequently due to their rarity.
But it’s not entirely impossible, though, to see a California Special or a High Country Special live in our showroom one of these days…