Courtesy of Auctions America
  • 428-ci, 335-hp Cobra Jet V8 engine
  • 4-speed manual transmission
  • Deluxe Marti Report confirms engine, transmission and colors
  • Professionally restored by Signature Auto of Gahanna, OH — completed in June 2016
  • Restoration utilized many original components
  • Reported this includes engine and transmission
  • GT Equipment Group
  • Very detailed throughout
  • Philco AM radio
  • Argent wheels

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Ford Mustang GT CJ 428 fastback
Years Produced:1968 (from April through the end of the model year)
Number Produced:1,299 (706 with manual trans)
Original List Price:$3,123
SCM Valuation:$68,600
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Plate at base of windshield
Engine Number Location:Steel tag under ignition coil mounting bracket
Club Info:The 428 Cobra Jet Registry
Alternatives:1968 Chevrolet Corvette 427/435, 1968 Dodge Hemi Charger, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro L89
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 3117, sold for $104,500, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s Spring Auburn event in Auburn, IN, on May 13, 2017.

By 1968, Ford had realized that they had plenty of competition from the other members of the Big Three for dominance in the Pony-car market. With the introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967 and the second-gen Dodge Charger in 1968, the lead in sales that Ford had gained with the introduction of the Mustang was in the crosshairs, and market share was being threatened.

But there was some good news. Even though Chevy had a fresh car up their sleeve for ’67, Ford had a fresh redesign that gave the 2½-year-old Mustang a shot of testosterone and a big-block 390 engine from the Thunderbird. This redesign ensured that Ford kept a nearly 2:1 sales lead over the first-year Camaro.

The next year brought only nuanced changes to the Mustang aesthetics from ’67, but in April of the production year, the 335-hp (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) 428-ci Cobra Jet engine was introduced.

Bad pony

Historically, this engine, known as the R-code, proved to be the top of the pecking order. But next to it on the order sheet was the W-code — the mythical unicorn 427. Unfortunately, no production Mustangs with a factory 427 are known to exist or at least have been proven authentic, according to Ford stat guru Kevin Marti.

That 427 would have been cool, but the 428 had a longer stroke and smaller bore, which made far more torque and facilitated longer, smokier burnouts. Ford knew that the 428 would stand up to street abuse easier by being slower revving and less peaky than the 427, so in reality, the 428 was the real top dog on the 1968 order form.

Now, if any of us didn’t believe that the 1968 Mustang should live in infamy on its own merits, enter the legendary status the car achieved through the chase-scene driving finesse of Hollywood badass Steve McQueen playing Frank Bullitt. Bullitt drives a Highland Green 390 fastback while hunting hit men in a 440 Charger. While product placement was not yet mainstream in the movie business, Ford did provide two cars and continued to sell more Mustangs than Dodge sold Chargers. Coincidence? Yeah, most likely.

As “Bullitt” earned a place in every gearhead’s heart, anyone who ever had an affinity for Mustangs naturally gravitated toward the subtle-colored fastback. Toss on a set of tarnished Torq-Thrust mags and a blacked-out grille and who would know the difference?

Leave it alone

Looking at our subject car, I would not recommend said strategy. Doing so would most certainly undo much of the restoration effort put forth on what is a nicely optioned car with the 428 CJ, 4-speed and the GT package. Even if your tastes clash with the gold C-stripes that gives doppelganger status to the Oregon Ducks cheerleader squad, the colors were original.

Somewhat surprisingly, the auction house makes no reference to “Bullitt” at all, which is easy to do given this is a Highland Green fastback. Not to diminish the impact of “Bullitt,” but I think the auction house took the high road by focusing on such a high-quality restoration that tries in no way, shape or form to resemble Bullitt’s car. For a lesser car, this tactic might be low-hanging fruit used to add sizzle at auction and would be warranted. Not here.

The other market fear I have is that resto-clones like Eleanor repops and “Bullitt” lookalikes eventually lose their audience quicker than an iconic car brand. Unfortunately, Mr. McQueen has been off the big screen since 1980, so most younger enthusiasts really don’t have any childhood connection to his movies unless introduced by an older fan. Even then, “Bullitt” (and more recently, Eleanor) clones fall on an indifferent public, and nobody “gets” it.

Like it or not, collector car values rely on an audience. When the audience is either too old or too young, prices drop on novelty versions first. Just wait — Eleanor clones could lose a lot of steam in the next 10–15 years, as the Nick Cage redux is already 17 years old. Knowing this, I think buyers’ money is better protected with the caliber of purchase here — an original, high-spec car that isn’t claiming to be famous.

Setting the market

This sales result was a record for a ’68 R-code Mustang fastback, and beyond that, it also placed highly among previous sales for standard-production Mustangs that had everything except Shelby badges or Boss stripes. This money is square in the realm of firsts, lasts and high-quality restorations of rare examples — and deservedly so.

A caring and considerate restoration, as this car appeared to have had, can easily cost what was paid here. The big question becomes whether the buyer should have just ponied up another 40% and bought a nice real-deal Shelby GT500. I guess that depends on your tastes.

I do believe that this car should not be considered a car in the shadow of something greater. Speaking in terms of rarity, more 428 cars in ’68 became Shelby GT500s, so this car is actually more rare as it sits. Go figure.

Comparing this car to a Shelby or a “Bullitt” re-creation doesn’t do it the justice it deserves, because it’s neither — but we simply don’t see cars like this one often, and that makes pricing it a challenge. Suffice to say, for the work done, the rarity of the package and the performance potential of that 428, this money was in the right ballpark, even if it didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone for the consignor, assuming he funded the restoration.

I’m calling this one a fair price all around for a very nice car. A new milestone in the Mustang market, and a great example of Ford’s continued domination in period of the market they started.

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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