Wouldn’t we all like to have been the first person ever to purchase a Ford Mustang? This lucky woman was, and she traded in a Chevy to do it! Here’s the first Mustang ever sold to the public, and the dazzling story behind it.
The Preview of a Lifetime
When Gail Brown ventured to her local Ford dealership in early Spring, 1964 she had no idea what gem lay in store for her that day. There, sitting behind the storeroom doors under a neatly fitted car cover, was the soon-to-be first production Mustang ever to be sold to the public. Gail knew she wanted something sporty–a convertible perhaps. Definitely something bold. So when the salesman surreptitiously gave her a glimpse of America’s next icon, a thing Ford was calling the “Mustang,” it was an instant match made in heaven.
It was April 15th, 1964 and that Skylight Blue 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang convertible was hiding a 260-cubic-inch V8 under the hood. After boring Gail with the dealership’s current offerings, the salesman had struck gold.
“That’s me,” said Gail. “That’s what I want!”
The Mustang was not intended to be seen by the public or offered up for sale until two days later at the World’s Fair in New York on April 17th, but none-the-less Gail was now the proud owner of the first ever production Mustang sold to the public, two days before its official release. Having traded in a rough ’58 Chevy for $400 towards a down payment and borrowing the rest where she could, Gail drove her new convertible Mustang off the lot for a mere $3,419. By today’s standards, it wasn’t the salesman who struck gold, it was Gail.
At the time, she was 22 years old working as an elementary school teacher in Chicago and would have no idea of the rich history and family bonding that was to center around her newly acquired Ponycar. Nor did she realize that day, April 15th, what a show-stopper she had bought.
“There was a middle school attached to our elementary, and the boys fawned over the Mustang. I was the coolest teacher in the school that year,” she said. “Our custodian told me if he had a nickel for every time those boys stared at my Mustang, he could retire.”
Everyone loved that car. From her days of tinkering with her mother’s ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, Gail indeed had an eye for style. The truth of it was, the Mustang was the perfect car for not only Gail, but generations of people with vastly different backgrounds all looking for a car that had an identity they could feel comfortable driving around in. And that’s where the true beauty in the Mustang lies–it’s a car for everyone.
“From the first days it went on sale in 1964, Mustang has appealed to a broad range of customers, including both women and men of all ages, thanks to its blend of style, performance and affordability,” said Melanie Banker, Ford Mustang marketing manager. “Those attributes remain a part of the Mustang formula to this day.”
1966-1979 – Retiring of an American Workhorse
In 1966, Gail married her longtime sweetheart Tom Wise while he was home on leave from the Navy and the following year, the two settled down in a Chicago suburb to start a family. The ’64 1/2 Mustang drove on and would eventually become Tom’s daily driver in 1974. Unfortunately, 15 years of harsh Chicago winters and four kids proved unforgiving and by 1979, Gail’s Looker was in disarray. The fenders were rusting, the floors sagging and those small mechanical evils that will plague an older vehicle were taking their toll. When Tom went to start their beloved Mustang one particularly harsh winder in 1979, he found the battery had been stolen. That marked the end of an era for the first Mustang sold to the public, but it wouldn’t be the last time this great car would grace the streets of Chicago.
This Mustang would spend the next 27 years in Gail and Tom Wise’s garage, no longer filling its back seats with four screaming kids, but taking on a backseat of its own to the duties and demands of raising a family. Finally in 2007, after all the kids had flown the coup and Tom was happily retired, he set his sights on a complete restoration. Just three years later, Tom, Gail and their Skylight Blue 1964.5 Mustang convertible were back on the road again, this time with no mechanical gremlins, no rust, a beautiful new paint job and convertible roof to top things off. Some may wonder why Tom and Gail did not take the restomod route. Aside from taking away some of the great history surrounding the car, Tom prefers keeping his classics, well, classic.
“I’m a car guy, but not one of those restomod types. This car is bone stock, exactly as it came from the factory,” says Tom.
The Wises don’t let this beauty just sit in the garage untouched, either. They take her out and drive around town as if it was a regular car. The nearly 50 year old Mustang is still a show-stopper at local car meets, and is used regularly for joy rides with the family. Now, the Wise’s 4 children have kids of their own, and it’s going to be a tough to keep the grand kids from asking: “Grandpa, can I have this car when I’m 16?”
History courtesy of Ford Social