Prototype Mustang 'shorty' answers question, 'How short can you go?'
Although there may be little hope for an answer, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance has established a "What Were They Thinking?" class for cars that some might label weird, odd or strange. According to the concours, "The class, with a philosophy unique to 'The Amelia,' is a place for significant and interesting cars that fit no class, category or commercial orthodoxy."
Eight "category defying" cars will be included in the 18th annual Amelia Concours d'Elegance's "What Were They Thinking?" class on March 10. Headlining that class is Bill and Chris Snyder's early Mustang, one of the first 10 1965 Mustang models built.
"Nearly half a century later, we still don't know what Ford was planning when they commissioned the creation of Bill and Chris Snyder's 1964 ½ 'shorty' Mustang," stated a concours release. "We do know that they created one man's dream car. We just don't know why."
The Snyders' Mustang (actually an early 1965 model), is a truly one-off two-seater. It's fiberglass from the cowl to the tail, yet its design features the signature Mustang traits, just in a compacted package. The fastback's fiberglass panels were built by Dearborn Steel Tube Co. on a pre-production Mustang chassis pulled for research and experimentation.
"It was custom built and became part of a Ford travelling show," said Snyder. That's where he first encountered the fiberglass "shorty" Mustang. "I loved it. I said, 'I'm gonna buy one!'" The Ford salesman said that there would be no such car for sale and that this fastback fiberglass Mustang would likely go to the crusher.
According to the concours, the one-of-a-kind Mustang fastback two-seater was designed by Bill Gardner, who was also convinced that Ford would consign his show car to the usual unhappy fate of cast off Detroit experimentals and prototypes: the crusher. So he stole it and walled up the fiberglass mystery Mustang two-seater in a warehouse in Inkster, Mich.
Gardner didn't try to sell it and he didn't leave a trail. He also didn't pay the rent for the warehouse. Within six months, it was found behind a wall. By then, the insurance company had paid the claim. Ford didn't want it and the "shorty Mustang" was taken to the insurance company's New England headquarters and parked outside. A company executive bought it. Soon an ad in a car collector publication alerted Bill Snyder that his two-seat fantasy Mustang was available. The deal was done long distance and, as one of Snyder's employees was headed for New England, the car was driven to Ohio.
The "shorty Mustang" is based on one of 10 pre-production chassis. The wheelbase was shortened 16 inches and the standard 260-cid V-8 was enlarged to 302 cubic inches. It's a recipe that still appeals to Bill after more than four decades. "The car goes like stink," said Snyder.
More on Mustangs
Read about Mustangs in the book "Mustang: The Original Pony Car"
Read about the 'patron saint' of Mustangs in the book "Carroll Shelby"
About The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
Now in its second decade, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is among the top automotive events in the world. Always held the second full weekend in March, "The Amelia" draws nearly 250 rare vehicles from collections around the world to The Golf Club of Amelia Island and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island for a celebration of the automobile like no other. Since 1996, the show's Foundation has donated over $2 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other deserving charities on Florida's First Coast. The 18th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is scheduled for March 8-10, 2013. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org or call 904-636-0027.