After a brief absence, Ford is bringing back the Mustang California Special, and the latest special-edition pony car amps up both the performance and comfort quotient.
The GT/CS will join the reborn Mustang Bullitt that was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit just two months ago, Ford hoping to regain some momentum in its tough battle with the Chevrolet Camaro.
This marks the fifth-generation California Special, the original making its debut way back in 1968. And it’s the most powerful version of the GT/CS ever, the 2019 model punching 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque out of the familiar 5.0-liter Mustang V-8.
(Ford bites the Bullitt. For more on that revived special edition, Click Here.)
From a performance standpoint, the most significant development comes with the addition of auto rev matching on the manual transmission version of the California Special. There’s also a CS version of the Mustang EcoBoost model. No rev-matching but it does get active exhaust flaps.
There are some faux details, as well, including non-functional “scoops” on the rear fenders.
From a visual standpoint, the most notable feature of the California Special is the fading race stripe that runs halfway down the door panels. The last version of the CS, which ran during the 2016 and 2017 model-years, featured the stripe down by the rocker panels. This puts it back where the original had it 50 years ago.
The 2019 Mustang California Special also gets a blacked-out grille, unique five-spoke wheels and a front splitter borrowed from the latest Mustang Performance Pack 1.
(Mustang heats things up with Performance Pack Level 2. Click Here for the story.)
Inside, the CS gets new sport seats with suede trims and the GT/CS logo on the seats and floor mats.
While many Mustang fans might prefer listening to the GT’s resonant exhaust growl, they’ll also have the chance to kick out the jams with an optional Bang & Olufson sound system making a full 1,000 watts of sound.
For Mustang history buffs, the original California Special was inspired by a notchback coupe prototype developed by Carroll Shelby. Ford built a version of its own and offered it as a diesel special in 1968. That model made anywhere from 195 to 335 horsepower, depending upon the engine option.
The CS badge wasn’t revived until 2007 when it got a three-year run. It reappeared from 2011-2014 and again in 2016 to 2017. How long this version will be around, well, Ford isn’t saying.
Nor is the Detroit automaker revealing the price tag yet, saving that until closer to the California Special’s launch this summer.
As for the Mustang Bullitt, a special edition originally meant to commemorate the classic Steve McQueen film, the latest edition was introduced by the legendary action hero’s granddaughter, Molly McQueen, who declared it “badass,” adding that “This car does something that really channels the spirit of my grandfather.”
The Bullitt will have a bit of an edge over the GT/CS, pumping the Mustangs horsepower numbers up to 475 hp, though torque remains 420 lb-ft.
Ford isn’t the only one turning out special edition pony cars. With more and more buyers shifting to SUVs, Chevy is also hoping to keep interest up for the Camaro, while Dodge is also increasing the number of variants — and options packages — for its own muscle car line-up. Just last week, in fact, it launched the new Shakedown Package for the Dodge Challenger.
(Click Here for more on the Challenger Shakedown Package.)