What Is the Mustang Cardinal Edition?Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Andrew Boyle
Sold exclusively in North Carolina and Virginia, the Mustang Cardinal Edition was a limited edition pony car available only for the 1968 model year. In the late ‘60s, Ford was ambitiously trying to capitalize on the unexpected success of the first generation of Mustangs by reaching further into regional markets across the country. To do this, a number of limited edition Mustangs — mostly featuring dealer-installed cosmetic upgrades — were developed and sold with varying degrees of success. These ranged from the iconic California Special, released in 1968, to little-known one-offs such as the Ski Country Special.
A Mustang for Old Dominion
In 1967, Ford began to see Mustang sales drop significantly from the previous year’s high of 600,000 units. With a fatigued market and increased competition from rival pony cars by Chevy and Dodge, Ford began to look for new ways to market its flagship success. The Cardinal Edition — named for the state bird of Virginia and North Carolina — was an attempt to appeal to the hearts and minds of buyers in that state, one of the larger markets for pony cars at the time.
The big selling point of the Mustang Cardinal Edition was its special paint. Available in Cardinal Red or Wimbledon White, the car was only available as a hardtop with a 200 CID inline-six engine. Additional features of the Mustang Cardinal Edition included a special cardinal emblem, usually mounted on the c-pillar, a flip-up chrome gas cap, a black interior, special wheel covers, and lip moldings, and black GT striping. The car was heavily advertised in newspapers throughout Virginia and North Carolina and sold throughout the 1968 model year.
The Cardinal Edition’s Legacy
Although advertised as a “Collector’s Edition,” today the Mustang Cardinal Edition is little more than a footnote in the history of the first-generation pony car. Since no sales figures for the vehicle are available, it’s possible some Cardinal Editions can still be found on the road today.
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