This One-Owner Mustang Was the First Ever Sold in the US, Two Days Before It Was Launched – autoevolution

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First Ford Mustang Sold in the U.S.
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Photo: Ford
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Henry Ford II revealed the Mustang to the press 60 years ago today (April 14, 1964). The outrageously positive response from the public baffled all expectations. Ford anticipated 150,000 units would be sold in the first year of the car’s existence. Less than two years later, on March 2, 1966, Ford Motor Company traded in the one-millionth Mustang to the owner of the first car sold to the public.
April 14, 1964, is probably one of the three most important dates in Ford’s history, showing that some cars are simply (Dear)born under a very lucky star. On that day, the American manufacturer unveiled its newest creation, the pony-badged Mustang, at the New York World Fair. It set the pace for the next 60 years (and more to come from now on); it created the ‘pony car’ segment; it went on sale that very same day – by accident.

Before the car’s official launch, dealerships across the U.S. and Canada were sent new Mustangs for promotional purposes. The vehicles were never supposed to be put for sale but only displayed as lures for prospects. Well, one airline pilot from Canada, Captain Stanley Tucker, avalanched into the dealership, ran to the nearest man available, and bought a Mustang on the spot, three days before the car became available for purchase.

Little did any of the parties involved know that it was Mustang number 1—more to the point, Vehicle Identification Number 5F08F100001—the first Ford Mustang to roll off the assembly line. In an eerie twist of fate, the most American automobile was first sold in Canada on the same day Henry Ford’s grandson made the historic announcement.

First Ford Mustang Sold in the U.S.

Photo: Hagerty

A similar event occurred in Chicago one day later, completely unrelated to the Canadian affair. A young third-grade schoolteacher from Park Ridge, Illinois, was looking for a car where she could go to work. She had just gotten the job, and Sunnyside Elementary School in Berkeley, Illinois, was some 12 miles away from her place.

Her name was Gail Brown. She was 22, living with her parents, and eager to buy a new car. Wednesday, April 15, 1964, saw her and her father on the floor of Johnson Ford on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. The Browns were a Ford family and loved convertibles, so Gail had only two requirements for her new car: it had to come from the blue Oval and have a drop-top.

However, the dealership was officially out of ragtops. The disappointment on Gail’s face must have made an impression on the salesman she was talking to because he invited her to see a not-yet-for-sale Ford Mustang in the storage room. It was a convertible, a Skylight Blue 260 V8 with the Rally Pac. However, there was a slight issue: Gail Brown couldn’t test-drive it since the new model wasn’t officially on sale for another two days.

First Ford Mustang Sold in the U.S.

Photo: Hagerty

Instead, she drove off with it, unaware she had just bought the first Ford Mustang ever sold in the United States of Automobile America. That was April 15, 1964, and the neat little Ford cost the young woman a fortune. The price was $3,447.50, and a young elementary school teacher in 1960s America made $5,100 a year.

Gail’s parents loaned her the money, inadvertently making their daughter the first U.S. citizen to buy a Mustang – before it was officially available. Six decades on, the car is still in the possession of Gail Wise (Brown was traded in for Wise when she married Tom, a nuclear submarine technician, in 1966). The family grew to six by the mid-seventies, and the Mustang became the husband’s daily driver.

The pony was sturdy enough to accommodate all the six Wises to an occasional trip to the nearest McDonald’s (), with three children sitting in the back – with no seatbelts – and the youngest in her mother’s lap on the passenger seat. Yes, it was legal back then, and no one thought otherwise.

First Ford Mustang Sold in the U.S.

Photo: Hagerty

Gail stirred quite a commotion when she drove the car for the first time. Passers-by would wave at her and ask her to slow down to get a better look at it (it, the car, not her, the girl). You can only imagine the impression she left with the seventh and eighth graders the following Thursday (April 16) when she rode the Mustang to work.

After 15 years of service in the harsh Chicago winters, the Mustang was beginning to show its age. One winter day in the late seventies, the gas pedal linkage to the carburetor froze. Tom Wise pushed it into the garage with the honest intention of getting it fixed the following week. And there it sat, waiting for that fix-up day for 27 years. The original buyer insisted they sell the car, but Mr. Wise didn’t give in.

His wife tried reasoning with him, pointing out that there was not enough garage space. Running out of arguments in favor of his decision to keep the beater, Tom finally capitulated and extended the garage to accommodate the Mustang further as a retirement project. And indeed, that’s what it became.

First Ford Mustang Sold in the U.S.

Photo: Hagerty

In 2005, the Wises decided to restore the old Mustang, which was a bigger project than he had anticipated. He could wrench on the mechanicals all day long, but he knew he had to get the body to a specialized shop. The cosmetic rebuild lasted a year and cost around $35,000 (in 2006).

Following this renovation, the Mustang slowly began to attract attention – to the point that Ford Motor Company invited the Wises and their historic Ford Mustang to Dearborn to celebrate the 10th million Mustang sold in 2018. Gail and Tom Wise are still the proud owners of their (her) 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang convertible, but their children are not particularly interested in the car – at least, not to their parents’ knowledge.

Although Gail and Tom still drive the Mustang every now and then, the monumentaly significant Ford could just as easily be stored in the garage indefinitely. Three of the couple’s four children live within a mile of their home (one of the two sons has moved to Florida).

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