Jim Smart
December 1, 2004

The '68 California Special, also known as the GT/CS, has been the topic of many conversations since they started rolling off Ford's Milpitas, California, assembly line nearly four decades ago. At first glance, they appear to be something Carroll Shelby produced, with fiberglass side scoops and deck lid, hood locks, stripes, and more. But outside of the scoops, rear spoiler, stripes, and locks, they aren't much different from any other '68 Mustang hardtop. Most were "C" engine-code units, powered by the venerable 289-2V V-8. Most had C4 Select-Shift transmissions. A handful had the 200ci six, 390 High Performance, or even the 428 Cobra Jet. Chances of seeing any of these in your travels-well, you're more likely to be struck by lightning.

Retired school principal Russ Furstnow of Flagstaff, Arizona, thought he'd been struck by lightning when he found this Highland Green California Special hardtop for sale a few years ago. "I love the styling of the '68 Mustang hardtop," he told us, "It has great lines and classic style. The GT/CS option really enhances those lines."

For Russ, the California Special was a lucky find. A true southwestern car, the GT/CS was solid and void of any rust, plus Russ knew its history. It was originally purchased by a northern Arizona family that wanted it as transportation for their teenage son, who took pride in ownership and good care of the car. In 1995, Russ hit pay dirt when the car came up for sale.

Russ initially planned to use the GT/CS as a daily driver. But when he read Paul Newitt's book about California Specials, he realized he owned an unusual and special Mustang, with approximately 5,000 produced. Russ then decided to give the car a full-scale restoration, admitting that for a time his bedroom was filled with Mustang parts. While he was at it, he documented all of the paint dabs, chalk marks, and stickers to ensure accuracy. Auto Body Works performed the bodywork and paint.

When you study the close attention to detail in this restoration, it becomes obvious Russ took extra pains to get it right. He's been rewarded with the recognition of his peers with regional MCA Gold and First Place awards at every show he's attended. That's what doing a world-class restoration is about.