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High Country Specials Ford Mustang - Rocky Mountain Highs
The High Country Special Mustangs Blanketed The Western States With Special Colors And A California Special Look-Alike
Offered during the '66-'68 model years and available at 100 Ford dealers in the Colorado, Wyoming, and Western Nebraska regions, the High Country Specials were among the first of the promotional Mustangs created to enhance sales. For the first two years, the HCS Mustangs were set apart by their unique colors, while the '68s borrowed heavily from the Shelby-like California Special styling.
In 1966 and 1967, High Country Specials were available in all three body styles, all painted with one of three promotional colors: Aspen Gold, Timberline Green, and Columbine Blue. The front fenders sported a brass badge featuring a running horse in a blue-sky background over a mountain horizon and the words "High Country Special." A delete-paint-code number on the data plate and a DSO of 51 for Denver, followed by a four-digit code, identified a Mustang as a High Country Special. Bob Teets, the recognized expert on High Country Specials and keeper of the registry for these rare Mustangs, suspects the four-digit code represented a dealer number designating a group for a certain dealership.
Teets has updated the production figure for the '66 High Country Special from 330 to 333, based largely on publications he has uncovered. A Denver Post advertisement dated July 26, 1966, mentioned, "Only 333 people in the entire United States will be driving one of these High Country Specials." In August 1966, a Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad publication called Green Light reported, "333 of them rode flanged wheels of steel across the Rio Grande on July 18 from Salt Lake City to Denver, the first full trainload of sports cars to move as a single shipment across the system."
The production figure for '67 High Country Specials now stands at 416, thanks to Kevin Marti's production database for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury cars and trucks built from 1967 to 1973. Teets believes that other documentation, such as a Rocky Mountain News advertisement stating "This special emblem marks your Mustang as one of the 400," was close, but not as accurate as Marti's Ford-based figure.
For 1968, the High Country Specials were nearly identical to the more widely recognized California Specials, including the nonfunctional fiberglass side scoops on the rear quarter-panels, a fiberglass decklid and quarter-panel caps that formed an integral spoiler similar to the '68 Shelby, Mustang script lettering in the upper right corner of the spoiler, a fiberglass rear panel with Shelby taillights, and a pop-open gas cap. The side stripes were centered from the leading edge of the front fender to the rear edge of the side scoop. Special stripes also accented the unique integral spoiler formed by the fiberglass rear decklid and quarter-panel caps.
The '68's triangular decal was originally designed as part of the striping on the fiberglass side scoop. Teets reports some HCS Mustangs never received this extra piece of stripe on the side scoop. The standard Mustang chrome running horse and corral were deleted from the front grille, and Lucas fog lamps were mounted on both sides of the grille opening. The standard turn-signal hood fastened with twist-type hood locks. Special promotional paint was not part of the '68 High Country Special, but all had a DSO of 51 for Denver.
When Tony Popish, founder of the Special Order Paint Registry for '64 1/2-'73 Mustangs, ran across a program from Continental Divide Raceway, where Denver-area Ford dealers premiered the '68 High Country Special, he immediately routed it to his friend, Teets. The program stated, "Today you are getting the first public look at the exciting new High Country Special '68 featured in the drivers parade lap and on display. Only 250 will be built. Inspired by Shelby GT ... but priced like a Mustang."
A production number, 250, for the '68 model had finally surfaced, making the '68s the lowest production High Country Specials offered. However, Kevin Marti of Marti Auto Works recently told Teets that his database indicates 251 High Country Specials were produced in 1968.
Of the 4,025 '68 California Specials produced, 251 were designated as High Country Specials and were produced on 12 different days in June and July 1968, with June 8th as the first day of production. In a widely publicized event, the High Country Specials were loaded on a 23-car train, touted as the "largest special shipment of new automobiles ever received in Denver." The High Country Special was offered at the "sneak preview" at CDR, driven off the dealership lots, and rarely seen again. Some even resurfaced as incorrectly striped California Specials.
Ski Country Special
While information in the High Country Special registry continues to grow, Teets is also interested in sightings of the even more elusive Ski Country Specials produced in 1967. Available for the Mustang, Galaxie, Fairlane, and Country Sedan, the Ski Country Specials came with ski racks, snow tires, Equa-lock rear axle, coffee bar, and Ski Country Special badges featuring skis, poles, and snowflakes with "Ford Ski Country Special." Five special promotional colors were offered: Aspen Red, Loveland Green, Vail Blue, Breckenridge Yellow, and Winter Park Turquoise.
Teets currently has only three Ski Country Special Mustangs in the registry and would appreciate hearing from anyone who's seen one.
If you would like more information on the High Country Special or have information to add to the registry, contact Bob Teets at: High Country Special Registry, 6874 Benton Ct., Arvada, CO 80003; 303/424-3866.
|Special Paint Numbers|
|Promotional Name||Ford No.||DuPont No.|
|1966 High Country Specials||Aspen Gold||MX 708815||93-96705|
|Timberline Green||MX 7041278||76358-H|
|Columbine Blue||MX 700852||75757|
|1967 High Country Specials||Aspen Gold||MX 708815||93-96705|
|Timberline Green||MX 7041537||93-83789|
|Columbine Blue||MX 700852||75757|
|1967 Ski Country Special||Aspen Red||MX 707587||2721H 93-83001H|
|Loveland Green||MX 7041959||4209 181-95020|
|Vail Blue||MX 7001065||4690L 181-97344|
|Breckenridge Yellow||MX 7081104||4711L 93-97845H|
|Winter Park Turquoise||MX 700108||4495L 93-96938|
While shopping for an early Mustang, Dave Spry of Estes Park, Colorado, located a '66 convertible in Denver on a Web site. Only after talking with the owner did Dave discover the Columbine Blue convertible was a genuine High Country Special. Dave told us, "I had heard about the High Country Specials, but I had no idea the convertible was such a low-production car. The number of High Country Special convertibles produced in 1966 is estimated to be 'around 30,' according to Bob Teets with the High Country Special Registry."
According to Dave's research, the Columbine Blue convertible originally sold for $3,437 at Goodro Ford on July 23, 1966, the first day the High Country Specials were available for purchase. The convertible spent the next 33 years in the Denver area with four owners before being brought to Estes Park where Dave eagerly began transforming the convertible into a show-stopper. Dave was relieved to find the High Country Special badges and all options still intact. The original 289 2V engine and C4 transmission are in good condition, with 127,000 miles showing on the odometer.
Dave completed the majority of the restoration in his garage and shop. Stock '66 wheels were swapped for '65 wheels, and a fan shroud and air-conditioning fan blade were added to help cool the engine while driving in Colorado's high country. Most would agree the convertible has found an ideal home in Colorado.
Worthy Of Gold
Most Mustangs are not as fortunate as this pristine '67 Aspen Gold High Country Special owned by Ron Bettinger of Golden, Colorado. The convertible has remained in the Denver area since its original delivery to Courtesy Ford in Littleton, where Ron's nephew was the sales manager at the time this HCS would have been delivered.
Production numbers provided by Bettinger indicate his Mustang was one of about 40 High Country Special convertibles produced in 1967. Bettinger reports that Ford dealers in the region apparently had the option of where to place the High Country Special badges. On this particular convertible, they are placed directly above the 289 emblem.
Bettinger says the convertible was in "good condition" when purchased 18 years ago from the original owner, a fellow junior-high teacher. Over the years, the convertible has gradually been "updated" by replacing the convertible top, interior, and dash, as well as various mechanical items. With just 82,000 miles, the 289-2V engine has never needed work.
Exterior options include a power top, tinted glass, a remote rearview mirror, and a deluxe hood with functional rear-facing louvers and integral turn signals. Styled Steel wheels and Exterior Dcor Group options consisting of the pop-open gas cap with running horse, chrome wheel lip moldings, and chrome rear decklid moldings were added to further enhance the convertible's appearance.
There's no doubt Bob Teets owns one of the rarest High Country Specials ever produced. Teets' '68 1/2 HCS, powered by a 428 Cobra Jet, was spotted by his son, Scott, behind an automotive frame shop in Denver. Teets claims he was at the shop in less than 30 minutes after he heard the car included "double Rs" in the VIN; but the CJ hardtop was not for sale.
With no intention of letting this special coupe get away, Teets visited the owner in the spring, summer, fall, and winter for many years. Finally, in August 1995, after the coupe spent a total of 19 years covered with sheets of fiberglass awning and other junk, the owner agreed to sell the rare High Country Special to Teets.
Closer inspection revealed that the coupe had survived its 89,500 miles relatively intact and still sported the original Candyapple Red paint and High Country Special options. Unfortunately, the engine, transmission, and front seats were gone. The car originally came equipped with a 3.91:1 rear backed by a limited-slip differential and a C6 automatic transmission.
Teets found many of the original parts locally and returned the hardtop to factory condition. He reports the most frustrating parts to find included the smog equipment, air-cleaner assembly, carburetor, and correctly dated engine.
Only nine of the 251 High Country Specials produced in 1968 received the 428 Cobra Jet engine, according to production figures from Kevin Marti at Marti Auto Works. Six of the nine are listed in the High Country Special Registry. Marti reports that two white and one green High Country Specials are the three Cobra Jets currently missing from the registry.