Jerry Heasley
March 20, 2014

Paul Pettigrew was running reports for work at four o'clock in the morning. "They take several hours to run," Pettigrew says, "so I scan Craigslist while I'm waiting."

A '68 California Special popped up for sale. The price was "reasonable" at $5,000 and the Mustang was located about two and a half hours away in Buckley, Washington. The ad asked for phone or text responses. At 4:15 AM, Pettigrew sent a text, then forgot about it. He figured the ad, placed at 1:00 AM, was either a hoax or the car was gone.

At 9:00 AM, Pettigrew got a phone call from the owner. The '68 GT/CS was for real. "I told him I would drive up that night and bring the money because I have a pretty good grip on Mustangs." At 49, Paul has been buying Mustangs since he could drive. In fact, at 18, he bought and raced a Pro Bracket '66 Mustang with a 428 Cobra Jet. He's owned a couple of Boss 302s and a Boss 429, in addition to several other vintage Mustangs.

However, the California Special's owner wanted to send pictures first. He offered Pettigrew "first right of refusal."

"At noon, I was starting to get really nervous," Pettigrew says. "I called him back and he said he had just emailed the pictures."

Pettigrew grew even more nervous that the car might disappear when the owner said, "You don't have to take the car if you don't want it. Twenty-five other people left phone numbers." Pettigrew checked the photos and called back five minutes later to try to close the deal, but the owner wanted to "hold" the car until Pettigrew could see it in person. The two agreed to make the transaction on Saturday, three days ahead, but Pettigrew called and said he'd pull his trailer up on Friday.

Pettigrew found an amazing sight in Buckley, a '68 California Special with original Sunlit Gold paint sitting in an old garage, untouched, since 1979. "I didn't think there was anything like this left," he said.

As they pushed the GT/CS into the driveway, the owner explained that the car had originally been driven by the wife of a man he had worked with for years at Boeing in Auburn, Washington. In 1979, the California Special suffered a carburetor fire, scorching the hood. Instead of selling the Mustang, it was parked in a garage.

The second owner tried to buy the GT/CS at that time. He wasn't successful until 1983 when the wife died. The original owner allowed his friend to keep the car in the same garage for all these years. "The gentleman I got it from was going to restore it, and you know how that goes," Pettigrew says.

When the second owner lost the storage after the original owner passed away, he had to find another place to store the car. Instead, he put it up for sale.

Pettigrew adds, "The original owner had pulled the 289 and removed both bumpers, the passenger side door, and the right fender. That's where he stopped. All the parts were in the garage."

Pettigrew was impressed because the car doesn't have a spot of rust. He removed the carpet to find "mint" floors. Options include the 289 two-barrel engine, C4 automatic, factory console, power steering, and AM radio. The car still wore its original full wheel covers.

Pettigrew says he could replace the carpet, rebuild the engine, put the car back together, and have a Survivor. The hood needs repairs, but the rest of the paint is mainly dull but not flaked or chipped.