Dale Amy
September 18, 2006
Photos By: E. John Thawley III
A pastel and white visual flashback to the '50s and '60s, 3dCarbon's CS convertible.

Way back in 1968, a limited run of Mustangs called the California Special was made available on the left coast. In base form they were mechanically stock six-cylinder hardtops (V-8s were optional) that had been adorned with distinctive and aggressive body bits, along with some striping, scoops, a specific grille, and CS badges. For the most part, they offered a muscular persona without the expense of feeding and insuring a real musclecar. Fast-forward to the '05 SEMA Show, and darned if history didn't repeat itself with 3dCarbon's '05 V-6 CS-officially referred to by the Newport Beach-based company as the California Series-and this time around in convertible form, but true to the spirit of the California Special nonetheless.

Though nearly four decades have passed since the original CS, the idea is still the same: You don't necessarily need 600 or 700 hp, or even a V-8, to set your Mustang apart from the herd. This is the second of two S197s that 3dCarbon (www.3dcarbon.com) has prepared for SEMA, the first being the wildly extroverted, blown GT fastback featured prominently in our Nov. '05 issue. That one was all racy and in-your-face with a deeply jutting chin spoiler, bulging fender flares, and a tall, stand-off rear wing. By comparison, the body accoutrements created by 3dCarbon principals Ernie Bunnell and Billy Longfellow for the CS convertible project are of a slightly kindler, gentler motif, engineered specifically for the Mustang V-6. Yet the two designs have at least one thing in common: They each took home Ford Motor Company's SEMA Best of Show design award, the fastback in 2004 and the convertible in 2005. And that's not easy.

This time, the 3d dudes went for the Ultimate Pacific Coast Cruiser look and nailed it by combining the CS's Ocean Blue Pearl hue-a DuPont creation, applied by custom motorcycle painter Tom Prewitt-with a white top, stripes, and interior. Stylistically, the effect is like a modern reincarnation of the '57 T-bird. We can almost picture the modern reincarnation of Suzanne Somers behind the wheel whenever someone gets around to remaking George Lucas' '73 classic, American Graffiti.

Steeda's cold-air kit and a MagnaFlow stainless exhaust.

After being so well received at SEMA, it's no surprise that nearly all the show car's tasteful body embellishments have made it into 3dCarbon's online catalog. The front air dam and rear lower skirt are V-6-specific-up front because of the V-6's unique fascia and out back because of the single exhaust cutout. The way-retro, side-mounted Pony Vents are one flank option and Shelbyesque sidescoops are another. And the three-piece Mach 3 rear lip spoiler is a subtle alternative to a freestanding wing. All are made of high-pressure polyurethane, are shipped unfinished, and attach using screws or OE-approved, 3M double-sided tape.

The CS interior is striking.

Powerwise, 3dCarbon made few modifications to the CS with the exception of a Steeda cold-air kit and a MagnaFlow stainless after-cat exhaust. Steeda's contributions also include lowering springs, front and rear sway bars, and billet-aluminum rear lower control arms. You have to admit that a good lowering and those 20-inch Blingz Ghost GT rims-8.5 inches wide in front and a full 10 inches out back-sure do toughen the stance of a V-6 Mustang. Behind the Blingz and their fat BFG g-Force KDW rubber wrappers is a full set of Baer GT-Plus discs.

Stitchcraft in Huntington Beach, California, gets credit for the unabashedly white interior-and we mean white, right down to the door panels, dash trim, steering wheel, shifter and boot, and carpet. Though maybe not our choice from the color palette (too much like snow), this certainly creates a decidedly upscale cockpit, especially embellished as it is with an Eclipse Fujitsu Ten-based audio and navigation system custom fit by Autotechnology of Anaheim, California. Even the trunk, which artfully houses the amps and sub, is upholstered in white. And the top? It's done in Haartz Twill vinyl. White, naturally.

Maybe not our usual fare here at 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords, 3dCarbon's California Special redux is nonetheless a reminder of why the Mustang has always had the universal market appeal that most automakers can only dream about. With a little forethought and help from the ever-expanding aftermarket, it can be personalized for any taste or mission.

Horse Sense: 3dCarbon has three distinct body kits for the S197: one for the V-6, one for the GT, and the emphatically more flamboyant Boy Racer kit (see "Frame Shift," Nov. '05, p. 38) that will work with either.