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California’s Take on the Pony: 1968 Mustang GT/CS

1968 Ford Mustang GT-CS

For nearly as long as there has been cars in the State of California there has been air and emission regulations. Alright so maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but California was the first state to institute emission regulations. Even though they have been strangling horsepower since 1967, Californians still love their performance automobiles. For example, 20 percent of all 1968 Mustangs and Thunderbirds were sold in the state of California. The response was so massive that Californian car dealers demanded their own special edition of the Mustang. Not surprisingly Ford responded with a California Special. There were only 4k or so of these built and we haven’t seen many unrestored ones on the market. The one you see above is being offered here on eBay and the seller claims it is all original.

1968 Mustang GT-CS Engine

The CS package was a visual one only and didn’t offer any more performance or horsepower than any other Mustang. Speaking of visuals, the GT/CS was visually modeled after the Shelby GT350 and used many of the same components. Unlike the Shelby though, the Californian wasn’t based on the Fastback, but the Coupe body. It also came with unique side stripes, rear spoiler, and unique fog lights. All the regular Ford options were also available, including all the engine offerings. The GT in GT/CS doesn’t stand for the regular GT package, so not all were Mustang GTs. Engine options ranged from the base 289 V8 all the way up to the 428 Cobra Jet. This car came with the 289 2V, which is still under the hood and in running condition. While the seller claims it’s all original, they admit there are a few additions, primarily a new exhaust system. We can live with an aftermarket exhaust if the old one was about gone and this was the only modification that has been made.

1968 Mustang GT-CS Interior

The CS interior wasn’t any different than the standard Mustang. The goal of the dealers behind the GT/CS was to create something that would draw in new customers and the interior of a car usually isn’t what a customer noticed while driving down the road. We can only assume that’s the reason that the CS didn’t receive more than exterior upgrades. That being said, the Mustang interior wasn’t in need of much to begin with. This one’s inside is in nice shape, but does have some flaws. There are a few split seams in the passenger’s seat and signs of regular use and wear. The seller claims it is all original inside and given the 90k miles on the odometer we can believe it.

Mustang California Special

The GT/CS might not be a Shelby GT350 or really anything more than some extra body pieces, a painted on strip, and some fancy badges, but that isn’t the point of the CS. It’s about style, character, and the Californian spirit for Pony cars. It is amazing that the state where just about everything can cause cancer, cars are so appreciated and not just as transportation. Then again, as the GT/CS’s advertising motto went, “California Made it Happen”. So for making this and a number of other specials happen, we thank you California!


  1. John E.

    I’m not a big Pony fan, (don’t throw stones – please). You ask how much will it go for? Current Bid sits at $16,100.00 which looks about right to me. But then, what do I know? :-)

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  2. rancho bella

    It’s a Mustang with extra stickers and blinking rear lights………..sorry

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  3. RickyM

    You are lucky to get gorgeous cars like this in California. We just get rust in all of our English counties !

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  4. Edwin MacVaugh

    A buddy had one in high school with a six cylinder engine and four lug wheels.

    Fact: The GT/CS could have any standard production Mustang engine available at the time. The GT/CS was an aesthetic package, not a performance package. So all Mustang engines were used; from the 200 cid six cylinder all the way up to the 428-4V Cobra Jet.

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  5. Dolphin Member

    I’ll second RickyM’s take on this California Mustang from the sunny South of its proper state.

    I would prefer a fastback Mustang for the great look, but this car has a lot going for it that few nearly 50-year old cars don’t: great original condition including decent paint and interior, low miles, known history with one family including paperwork and black plate, and special model, even if it’s only cosmetics.

    eBay is OK to try for a reserve sale, but the car isn’t too far from Phoenix, so I would rather haul it to one of the auctions there, preferably one that featured original ‘found’ cars.

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  6. Mark E

    So this was a CA only option? I’ve seen these in MN in the early ’70s and in ID in the mid ’70s. I liked the shelby cobra appearance and the cougar-like sequential rear turn signals.

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    • Don Andreina

      There was a 68 ‘High Country’ Special which was a coupe with the Shelby taillights and side scoop. Similar side stripes but with a logo/shield on the scoop. Apparently out of Denver. With Josh’s permission, I’ll post a link.

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      • Mike_B_SVT

        I believe that the GT/CS started as a “California Only” option initially, but after a while Ford openned it up to other DSO’s. Check the California Special website for details.

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      • Mike_B_SVT

        Oh yeah, I believe the “High Country Special” first appeared in ’66 as well.

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    • Donald DRANE

      None were made with sequential taillights.

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  7. Barzini

    Any idea how much of a premium the California Special option adds to a Mustang?

    I love the originality, color scheme, and options.

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  8. jim s

    at $16100 with reserve not met this is going to end up selling for to much to be a daily driver and way to close to what a new mustang sells for. but the current high bidder has 3171 fedbacks ( not your average ebayer ) so the bidding is going to get very interesting, i think. nice to look at and a great find.

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  9. SoCal Car Guy

    “Even Though they have been strangling horsepower since 1967…” Gawd I get tired of hearing that sort of garbage. I’m a California native, I am NOT here to defend many, if not most, of the state government’s oft-foolish actions, but I can, as a horsepower junkie, I ain’t suffering. For example, and assuming I have the money to spend, I can go to my local Ford dealer and buy a new 500-plus hp 2014 Shelby GT500 Mustang or a 400-plus horsepower Corvette — right off the lot or out of the showroom. Sitting in my driveway is a 1999 Corvette with approximately 550 horsepower (471 at the tires on a chassis dyno) that is 100% California smog legal and has no problems passing a bi-annual smog test — and does 0-60 in 3.3 seconds on street tires, all on 91 octane pump gas. I don’t really feel too damn strangled! And I can tell you that as a SoCal native, I can actually breathe the air and see the San Gabriel Mountains, neither of which I could too often as a kid with chronic bronchitis in the ’60s, so I don’t gripe too much about clean running cars, particularly when modern technology makes 400 horsepower cars commonplace and we don’t have to breathe brown air every day.

    Oh yeah, cool little Mustang. Not my style but I really appreciate its apparent state of preservation. An almost five-decade that’s almost completely original and unmolested is a delight!

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    • Mike_B_SVT

      I agree, CA did a lot to keep EVERYONE’s air clean (and still do).

      My understanding is that the “California” Emissions equipment was actually standard on ALL Ford big block cars, no matter what state they were shipped to. So if you ordered a 390 or 428cj, you got emissions equipment (i.e. smog pump) on it no matter where you lived. Was that CA’s fault? I don’t know.

      I do know that starting in 1970, every Mustang and Cougar shipped to CA had the mandatory Evaporative Emissions equipment, which was for fuel vapor recovery from the gas tank. No power robbing from that as it was simply tubes and vents that routed from the gas tank to the air cleaner.

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  10. Gary Fogg

    I HAVE ONE !! I love it !! It gets the most attention of any of my projects from people whe come here !! And I am not a “Ford guy” per say…..

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  11. Gary Fogg

    You could also get the interior upgrades as well, mine came with deluxe interior, upper and lower consoles, Shelby steering wheel and headrests. Unfortunately even though it has the loaded interior it came with the late 68 production 302 2V after they ran out of 289s, mated to a C4 and 2:79 gears WITH AC I don’t think it was a street terror in 68.

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  12. Cameron Bater UK

    While I do love the Mustang (in fact all Mustangs before the 2 and awful 90s shape) I have to say that they had the wrong roof, for a body that has such sleek properties to be paired with that slab of a roof is just wrong, that fastback of this period looks much nicer, anyway I can see the current bid is at 16,300 UDS and I expect that to almost double, I have seen Mustangs of all types and equipments of this period go for 30,000 USD (and bizarrely if you bought it to the UK it would fetch £30,000, they are an anomaly that has roughly a 1:1 exchange rate between UK and US (though not if your buying from outside of your country)

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    • Cameron Bater UK

      I might add that more prestigous mustangs like in or out of house performance cars will fetch a higher price especially if they are from new versions

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  13. Dutch 1960

    Just one point to make on this one, the GT-CS was not a response to high Mustang sales, but was done to try to revive falling sales. 1968 Mustang sales were down by roughly 1/3 from 1967 and 1/2 from 1966. Ford was looking for ways to pick up the sales pace. As California was such an important market, the GT-CS was rolled out here. The low sales volume, a few thousand, suggests that the effort was not particularly successful. These were not uncommon around San Diego, and unlike the more rarely seen Shelby Mustangs, they did not really give off a performance image. More like what it really was, a visually jazzed up stock Mustang. Given the pricing on old cars now, this seems like a very fair deal.

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  14. Dutch 1960

    In the 1960’s the sum total of California’s required pollution regulations was generally a closed crankcase and a PCV valve. Not exactly a draconian situation. In the ’70s, however…

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  15. Dolphin Member

    High bid of $17,251, not sold.

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