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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Preserving the two-seat Ford Mustang "Shorty" that never was



1964 Ford Mustang âShortyâ
Two-seaters have never been that popular with the business side of the auto industry; for every Corvette and Miata bought by a hot-shot wannabe, there's a dozen buyers who cannot live without a back seat. The last time Ford built a true two-seater was the limited-edition GT supercar in 2005, and despite often toying with the idea, has never made a production two-seat Ford Mustang.

And yet if you're lucky enough, you might run into this at a car show — a 1964 Mustang known as "Shorty"  with two fewer seats, 16 fewer inches between its wheels and a long history.

Ford had big plans for expanding the Mustang line in 1964 beyond a two-door and convertible, but never seriously considered a shortened two-seater that would have been a return to the type of small, sporty car it tried with the original Thunderbird.

 That didn't keep one of its suppliers, Dearborn Steel Tubing, from commissioning a shortened Mustang from designer Vince Gardner, who modified much of the Mustang's look with fiberglass panels to fit an experimental Ford chassis.

Under the hood, DST also managed to place 260 V-8 that had been enlarged to 302 cubic inches with twin carbs — giving the Shorty a punch ahead of its time. After displaying the car at several shows in 1964, Ford was planning to crush the Shorty, but Gardner hid it in a warehouse, and Ford reported it stolen.

 The Mustang was only found after the warehouse's owner uncovered it and turned it back to the insurance company which had paid Ford's claim.

Four years later, the car was bought by Bill Snyder, an Ohio businessman who had seen it on tour and sought it ever since. That was 46 years ago, and after a recent restoration Snyder has taken the Shorty back to the show circuit.

It's an intriguing idea of what the Mustang could have been — or, maybe for the two-seat enthusiast, what it still might be one day.