The enduring mystery of the “lost” 1965 Bertone Mustang

The death last month of L. Scott Bailey, the founder of one of the most esteemed automotive publications in the 20th Century, revived a long-standing mystery surrounding this car: a one-off Ford Mustang styled by Italian coachbuilder Bertone and then-unknown designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. I'd show you a more modern picture than this, but the car hasn't been seen in public for decades. Yet there's evidence it's still intact, somewhere.

Bailey, 87, founded the advertising-free Automotive Quarterly in 1962. Less a magazine than a series of books, AQ set a standard for automotive writing that's not been met since. Every issue was filled with a level of care and obsession that simply can't be found today, from exhaustively researched stories by noted historians to high-quality paper and beautiful photography. In 1964, at the height of the Ford Mustang launch, Bailey had an idea after a meeting with Italian designer Nuccio Bertone: what could Bertone do with a Mustang chassis?

The result was unveiled at the 1965 New York Auto Show, and the Bertone Mustang was hailed as an instant success, winning a "best in show" award. In the next AQ, Bailey wrote about the design and the car, running a picture of himself, Bertone and "young designer-in-charge" Guigiaro -- a few years before Giugiaro would leave to start his own firm that would steer supercar design in a new direction throughout the 1970s.

Since 1965, little's been seen of the Bertone, and it's not been viewed in public in decades. Many concept cars are destroyed, and the value of a one-off Mustang such as this wouldn't have been apparent for several years. Bailey himself apparently once launched a search to locate the car several years later to no avail. Today, thanks to its uniqueness and design from two of the greatest automotive stylists, the Bertone Mustang might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, depending upon its condition.

After his passing rekindled a few memories, one forum poster on a Mustang message board left this enigmatic note: "The car in question, and it's location are known by a select few. The current owner does not care to speak with anyone about it (as of January 2010) as it is his/hers." We can only hope to see it again soon; no car this stunning should stay out of the limelight for so many years.