Prototype beauty was hidden behind a bricked-up wall after Ford decided to scrap it
If Ford had put the Vincent Gardner-designed two-seater Shorty Mustang into production, they would have beaten AMC to building such a car by four years.
The AMX was the only American-built, steel-bodied two-seater GT since the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird, and was built specifically to compete with the Corvette.
Gardner’s design career began early — he won the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild competition when he was still in high school.
His first job was with the famous Gordon M. Buehrig, who was part of the team that designed and built the Cord 810 in 1935.
Gardner’s first involvement with the Ford Motor Company was in 1950, when he designed and won a competition co-sponsored by Motor Trend Magazine and Ford.
He called his car VEGA, stemming from his name, Vincent E. Gardner.
It was a lightweight aluminum roadster built on a Ford Anglia chassis, featuring Ford V8 power and Cord-inspired pop-up headlights.
The competition rules stated that the winning design on paper would win the Anglia chassis and $500.
Ford held the rights to the winning design and insisted that the car be built using the $500 prize money.
Gardner managed to convince Henry Ford II to open his wallet, securing $8,000 to build the car.
Ford liked it so much that they displayed it in their 50th anniversary celebrations. It sold in 2006 at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $378,000.
The Gardner-designed 1965 Shorty Mustang was built by Dearborn Steel Tube Co. on a pre-production Mustang chassis.
The body was made entirely out of fibreglass from the firewall back and was used in Ford’s travelling road show. That is where the current owner, Bill Snyder, first spotted the car and vowed to own one.
That dream took a long time to come true because the car did not go into production and was supposed to be crushed.
To save the car from the jaws of the crusher, it is alleged Gardner stole the prototype and hid it behind a bricked-up wall in a rented warehouse in Michigan. The rent was not paid, so the bailiff moved in and the Mustang was discovered.
Ford had already been paid out for the theft claim, so the car became the property of the insurer; it caught the eye of a car enthusiast executive at the insurance company and he purchased it.
Snyder’s 50-year dream came true when he spotted the car for sale in a car magazine.
The Shorty Mustang will be displayed at next month’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida — perhaps in the “What were they thinking?” class.
I hope they can find a model that I really like — the Intermeccanica Mustang Wagon — to park alongside Shorty.