When you live on the West Coast, '68 California Special Mustang hardtops are quite common at car shows. Many are modified in some way; few are pristine showroom originals. Yet this seemingly common GT/CS is—well—uncommon due to its 390 GT V-8, four-speed, and concours restored condition.
Mike and Robinette Jewell's Highland Green GT/CS was purchased new on May 8, 1968, from Suburban Ford in Sacramento by Lou Tuttle, who respectfully drove and maintained the car until 1976 when it was given to a high school senior who modified the body and interior for drag racing. After that, it went through a bumpy succession of owners until the Jewells purchased the car in 1983 for $1,500. But with cash tight amid family priorities, Mike sold the car to our long-time buddy and colleague Bob McClurg, a veteran Mustang enthusiast and automotive journalist. It was McClurg who began bringing this GT/CS back to original condition, covering the process as “Project Something Special” in the now out-of-print Mustang Illustrated magazine.
However, when the body was finished and ready for assembly in 2005, McClurg decided to sell the big-block GT/CS back to Mike Jewell, who made the decision to finish the car for concours competition. This time, Mike and Robinette had the resources to complete the detailed restoration. The GT/CS debuted at the Mustang Club of America's national show that year in Concord, California, tallying 693 points out of a possible 700 amid stiff MCA competition and taking home Gold.
According to GT/CS authority Paul Newitt, author of Mustang GT/CS Recognition Guide & Owner's Manual, the Jewell's GT/CS is one of the top five California Special restorations in the world. At first glance, the Jewell's GT/CS looks as though it was restored by a high-end restoration shop, but it was completed inside a 10x20-foot canvass car tent with little more than God-given talent and limited means. Newitt tells us that the Jewell's jewel is one of 111 California Specials equipped with the 390 and four-speed transmission. Of that number, Newitt notes that roughly 40 survive. He speculates only eight to ten are still driven.
What makes the Jewell's GT/CS even more unusual is the GT Equipment Group, a GT/CS option. It is a generously optioned California Special—close-ratio Top Loader four-speed, Tilt-Away steering, front seat headrests, power disc brakes, and AM radio. Most California Specials were equipped with the base 289-2V V-8 with C4 Select-Shift automatic and 2.79:1 highway gears. According to Newitt, most were Candyapple Red.
For the Jewells, the GT/CS has been something of a lifetime commitment dating back to 1983. Though the car was out of their hands for many years, it was pure destiny that brought it back to them and raw tenacity that got it done under humbling conditions. We are confident that the future for this Highland Green GT/CS only stands to get better.