Ford’s original prototype Mustang retractable was likely scrapped, but that doesn’t mean the chance to own a drop-top pony car with the convenience of a solid roof has to be junked, too. On Oct. 16, VanDerBrink Auctions will offer a Mustang retractable built by one of the original Ford Motor Co. engineers who revived the Mustang retractable idea in the 1990s. The car comes from the collection of Harv Bish, who bought the retractable 1966 Mustang from Ben Jr. Smith, one of the original engineers of the retractable Ford Skyliner and Mustang.
The 1966 Ford Mustang retractable.
Harv and Ginny Bish began traveling across the United States to buy cars in 1975. They attended shows and loved going to the auctions in Arizona, and it was there Harv bought his favorite car: the 1966 Ford Mustang with a hardtop roof that retracted into the trunk so the car doubled as a convertible. When Harv and Ginny were at Barrett-Jackson, they watched the Mustang retractable cross the block. They were at the back of the crowd when the car didn’t meet its reserve.
Afterward, they spoke to the owner, Ben Jr. Smith, and worked out a deal to buy it.
The retractable hardtop was an idea that many car companies had over the years, but Ford successfully employed it on a mass-production scale with its 1957-’59 Skyliner. The company built 48,400 retractable Skyliners during the late 1950s. Ben Jr. Smith was one of those original Skyliner engineers.
Smith never gave up on the concept of a retractable, even after Ford set it aside. After a stretch in Argentina as chief engineer for Ford, Smith returned to Detroit. By this time, the Mustang was in full swing and selling extremely well, and Ford began looking for other model ideas. The Mustang fastback was already developed and a retractable hardtop model was being considered. Smith and his coworkers developed a prototype retractable Mustang in 1966 from a 289-cid-powered 1965 Ford Mustang. The car was shown several times and then disappeared once the idea was scrapped by Ford. Smith looked for the car, but feared it was sent to scrap. He and his coworkers had many hours into the concept, which was well received.
To build the retractable Mustang, Ford extended its body panels 2-1/2 inches on a stock Mustang chassis. An oversized deck lid was a unique feature required for the top. For all of its unique features, the car was fitted with a door top-VIN plate that states, “Not for title or registration” since it was a prototype.
Smith never stopped wondering where the concept Mustang went and dreamed of finding out who might own it. Rumors surfaced of one being in Oklahoma, but it was never verified. Smith took an early retirement from Ford in September 1993 and subsequently bought a used 1966 Ford Mustang.
At the same time, David Smith bought a similar 1965 coupe. They worked together to develop a retractable hardtop Mustang again by following the original engineering ideas. By April 10, 1993, they had completed prototype Number 1, a red 1966 Mustang. They showed it at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. The 1965 Prototype was car Number 2. They further worked to develop their ideas for another two years and ended up making 35-50 kits, which were all signed and numbered. David Smith sold complete cars, but Ben Jr. Smith never sold his prototype cars.
Harv is proud to be the owner of one of these Ben Jr. Smith prototypes and enjoys showing it. The kits were manufactured under Retractable Unlimited in those years, and Harv also has a 1967 Ford Mustang with one of these kits. But it’s the red 1966 Ben Jr. Smith prototype Mustang that has his heart and steals the show. It continues to get stares from people who wonder why it doesn’t quite look like a regular Mustang.
Now that Harv is in his 80s, he wants to spend more time with his family and part with his collection, which has grown to more than 100 vehicles plus parts. The collection hosts everything from Ford Model As to muscle cars, Tri-Five Chevrolets and, of course, many Mustangs. While Ford is Harv’s favorite marque, there is something for everyone.
Everything will be sold at auction on Oct. 17 at 9:30 in Aurora, Neb., in a celebration. VanDerBrink Auctions will conduct the auction of the rare 1966 Mustang concept, along with approximately 100 other collectors cars and parts at no reserve.
“I want people to enjoy them as much as I have,” Harv said.
The will be a celebration on Oct. 16 with a preview of the cars on-site in Aurora, Neb. The auction will kick off right away on Oct. 17 with the sale of collectible tractors until the sale builds to the fabulous collector vehicles. Be on time, you won’t want to miss the chance at one of these beauties. Bidders may also register and bid online through proxibid.com.
Yvette VanDerBrink of VanDerBrink Auctions, says, “I love selling those unique cars. It will be fun to sell the Mustangs, but there is really something for everyone here. From a beautiful 1957 Chevy to a Road Runner. You will want to mark this one on the schedule.”
For more information and images of the collection to be auctioned, go to www.vanderbrinkauctions.com or call Yvette at VanDerBrink Auctions, LLC at 605-201-7005.
See you at the Auction!
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