Ever since the Great Recession, automakers in general have stuck to creating concept cars and prototypes more firmly rooted in reality than in the preceding decades. Now derided as a wasteful expenditure of resources, the sometimes drawn-out process of building prototypes and concepts is what gave us great cars such as the Ford Mustang, a car that first debuted as a two-seat, four-cylinder roadster.
It wasn’t the only oddball concept to bear the Mustang name, either, with Hagerty delving into the details of the little-known Mustang III “Shorty” concept, one of the oldest Ford Mustangs in existence.
One of 15 pre-production models, the Shorty Mustang was originally delivered to fabricator Dearborn Steel Tubing as a convertible model. DST set about removing 16-inches and the rear seats from the Mustang’s wheelbase while shoehorning an early 302 cubic-inch V8 prototype under the hood. From there, body specialist Vince Gardner created an all new fiberglass body from the A-pillars back, shortening the fastback roof in a way that still resembled the eventual production model.
Though the Mustang III was never intended for production itself, Gardener took a shining to his creation, so much so that he stole it rather than destroy it, as Ford tended to do with prototypes. Gardner hid the Shorty Mustang behind a false wall in a warehouse, and when he failed to pay rent, the landlord entered the property and discovered the hidden Mustang, notifying authorities.
Aetna Insurance, which had already paid Ford for the stolen Mustang, took ownership of the prototype, and the car ended up in the hands of an Aetna executive. Four years later, Bill Snyder bought the Mustang out of Hemmings Motor News, having admired it years earlier on the car show circuit. The Shorty Mustang was restored in 2013, and in 2015 it was sold to car collector Howard Kroplick, who can proudly claim to be one of just a handful of two-seater Mustang owners.