On paper, owning a Mustang is incredibly enticing — a big V8, that sound, all that horsepower and torque pulling you out of turns and down the highway. In reality, daily-driving a Mustang is wildly impractical but, dropping cash on the new 2018 Mustang California Special starts to make sense now that Ford gave it some modern tech, making it easier to live with on a regular basis.
Back in the ’60s, when the American coupe’s popularity was at a fever pitch, Mustang owners’ clubs sprang up around the country. A few regional dealers wanted to ride the wave and created their own special edition, uniquely spec’d Stangs. Ford was so impressed by one particular dealer’s rendition, the company put it into production in 1968 and dubbed it the California Special.
In year’s past, the California Special wasn’t much more than graphics package and a few extra cosmetic trim pieces. This year, however, on top of the signature California Special side stripe and rear fender vent, the muscle car gets a B&O Play 12-channel speaker system customized to the acoustics of the car’s interior and a transmission equipped with rev-matching technology. Under the hood is the same 5.0-liter V8 putting out 460 horsepower and 42lb-ft of torque — it would be nice to get a little extra power for a special edition, but hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
For this kind of performance, at this price range, your options are extremely limited. You have to go about $20-$30,000 upmarket to find that kind of power and it’ll most likely be European. But for that kind of money, you also get another world of luxury. The California Special’s new transmission technology and sound system may seem like small additions, but for a muscle car priced in the mid-$40,000 range, it adds refinement to a sports car that needs it.
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