The First Mustang Sold
Only a couple of cars that have achieved classic icon status for practically all car-loving Americans. The Ford Mustang, the original 1964, is certainly one of them.
To mark the car's 50th anniversary, the company tracked down customer No. 1. That's right, the first customer took possession of the classic back when Lyndon Johnson was president and the Beatles were just getting started in America.
Gail Wise was a 22-year school teacher looking for her first car, and she didn't want to drive her folks' 1957 Fairlane any longer. Johnson Ford in Chicago sold Wise her first set of wheels on April 15, 1964 not knowing it would be a classic. And wouldn't you know it – she still has the keys and the car in her garage.
She actually bought it a couple of days before Ford President Lee Iacocca introduced the car at the World's Fair. Her dealer didn't know he was so supposed to hold them back until the big announcement.
The sparkling ragtop she and her husband enjoy today, though, went through some bad times.
From Daily Driver To Rust Bucket
Tom Wise says he used it as a daily driver around Chicago, and the salt from the Windy City's harsh winters wore some holes in the fenders and body work. Mechanical problems became too much, and the car was parked in the garage in 1979.
Wise actually built an addition on the garage so the Mustang could be stored until he fixed it up. But that didn't begin until 2006 when the kids were gone and retirement offered the necessary time.
There was some dispute back then about who really had the first Mustang sold, with another Chicagoan claiming to have a bill of sale dated April 16, a day after Gail took delivery. For years, Mustang clubs had believed a the first Mustang was sold in Newfoundland, Canada on April 17.
The Wises have an authenticated bill of sales stating: "PAID Conditionally By Check, April 15, 1964."
A Much-Loved CollectibleWith the 50th anniversary of the classic next year, the car is certainly a collectible, says Ford. But an up-to-date appraisal hasn't been done yet. A look through ebay.com and Hagerty.com, though, indicates that a garden variety 1964-65 Mustang convertible sells for around $25,000. The added value of being the first one sold in America would surely bump that number up a bit, with the quality of the restoration also being a factor.
The "Youth Car"
Why so special? Consider the history. The Mustang was unveiled first in the fall of 1963 near Ford's Dearborn headquarters for several major magazines - Time, Newsweek, LIFE, Look, Esquire and Sports Illustrated. By April 13, 1964, when the car made its public debut at the World's Fair, interest was at a fevered pitch. Ford President Lee Iacocca addressed a huge gallery of press, calling it the "youth car."
The Wise Family had their work cut out for them making Rusty here look like a kid again.
The Car Was A Sell-outIt may be tough to believe looking at this mess. But back in '64, dealer stocks were gone the first weekend, and Ford took an additional 22,000 orders for cars to be delivered as soon as they were built.
Stripping It DownWhen restoration is being done, any car, especially a classic, needs to be taken down to the metal. Luckily, parts for an American classic are easily obtained.
Uniquely American DesignThis had to be a great day for the Wises. Not yet repainted blue, but it's shiny and new again and you can almost imagine yourself on a warm summer day with top down and Beatles music playing from the dashboard.
Retired, and With Great Wheels To Enjoy It
It's a great story to see an American classic kept and restored by the original family. Some of life's sweetest rewards come from those momentary decisions we make, like going to a dealership 49 years ago, and luck. It is hard to belive that the salesman didn't know he wasn't supposed to sell them yet. But that was before the age of Twitter and the like that seems to tell everybody what is going to happen before it actually does.
It's nice to see such a special American icon in the hands of a hard-working American family, and not the play-thing of Powerball winner.