Jerry Heasley
August 11, 2011

Some rare finds are really rare and this '68 California Special certainly qualifies. Of the 3,867 California Special Mustang coupes built for '68, only three came with the 428 Cobra Jet engine. John Johnson was the lucky soul to discover this Brittany Blue GT/CS only one mile from his home in Alpine, Utah. He was more than lucky because the car is complete and a one-owner. The odometer reads 26,000, which really means 126,000 miles. Ford also assembled a Candyapple Red '68 GT/CS with the 428 CJ, a car that Johnson says is located in Seattle. For dreamers and wishers, the third car, originally Wimbledon White, is "missing." (If anyone knows the whereabouts of this car, send me an email at jerry@jerryheasley.com). All '68 Mustang 428 CJ coupe owners should double-check their car's history.

Johnson's luck stems more from being in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. Actually, the original owner, John McGilvary, singled Johnson out for a "good home" for his CJ California Special.

"I've got probably 10-12 Mustangs," Johnson explains. "John McGilvary saw my cars and how I take care of them, so he asked if I wanted to purchase the GT/CS."

Johnson's collection includes a pair of '65 K-code convertibles, two '69 Cobra Jet Mach 1s, a pair of '69 Shelbys, a '69 Boss 302, and a '64¢ convertible. The sight of these cars is enough to impress just about any Mustang enthusiast. The Rangoon Red '65 K-code convertible has won multiple Mustang Club of America trailered concours awards.

For several years, Johnson had noticed the GT/CS parked in a garage in a neighbor's backyard. Finally, he got up the courage to introduce himself. Johnson wasn't even trying to buy the car. He was another enthusiast so they simply discussed Mustangs.

"I always encouraged him to keep the car because it is such a cool story," Johnson told us.

As is so often the case, original owners are not necessarily restorers. Two years ago, McGilvary asked Johnson if he would like to buy the car to add to his collection. The car wasn't running, but everything was there. McGilvary had merely stopped driving the car many years ago.

Earlier this year, Johnson sent the car to restorer Armond Diagostino's shop for a concours rotisserie restoration. Their goal is to have the car ready for the MCA Nationals at St. George, Utah, in 2012.