18 May 2016

He was Mustang buyer number one, but she was too

Who was first is often hard to determine, and attempts to settle the question can raise hackles. Whether Ron Hermann was the earliest Mustang buyer – or maybe it was actually Gail Wise – may not be as important as identifying the first European to set foot in the Americas, but some Mustang lovers care deeply. To them, it’s right up there with the question of who was first to the North Pole – Cook or Peary? – or whether Gustave Whitehead flew before the Wright Brothers.

The Philadelphia Connection

Ron Hermann of Warminster, Pa., says he was the first buyer. Although some details are fuzzy after more than 50 years, he does remember that he was 17 years old when Barr Ford of Philadelphia took delivery of a blue Mustang convertible. The car was not available for immediate delivery as it was scheduled for display at local dealerships.

Barr’s general manager, a friend of Hermann’s father, let the teen see the car more than a week before the official introduction date of April 17. He committed on the spot – it was April 8, as he recalls – and put $100 down toward the purchase. For seemingly endless weeks he followed the car from dealership to dealership as it was displayed on a turntable, warning onlookers not to touch his car. The original bill of sale has been lost, but if he actually purchased the car on April 8, he would be the first Mustang buyer. Hermann’s title is dated May 14.

Today, the car has 17,000 miles on the clock and still wears its original tires. It’s a true survivor and a beautiful example of what has come to called a ‘64½ Mustang (though they were officially 1965 models).

The Wise Contender

Gail Wise of Park Ridge, Ill., may have been buyer number one — and Ford agrees. Hermann would contest that, but we can say with some certainty that Wise was first to drive a Mustang on the street.

A recent graduate on her way to becoming a schoolteacher, Wise went shopping for a car with her parents on April 15, 1964 — two days before Lee Iacocca was to unveil the car at the New York World’s Fair. She was disappointed to find no convertibles at Johnson Ford in Chicago. Not wanting to lose a customer, the salesman led her to the back of the dealership to show her something that had just come in.

The new arrival was a baby blue Mustang convertible. It was love at first sight. Wise recalls the salesman said he wasn’t supposed to sell the car, but greed apparently got the better of him, and within hours Wise was driving the streets of Chicago and waving to the car’s admirers. When Iacocca revealed the car to the world two days later, he didn’t know he’d been upstaged by a Chicago schoolteacher.

First Built

The first Mustang sold almost certainly wasn’t the first produced. Serial number 100001, the first of the sequence, is in the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich. But Bob Casey, the museum’s former curator of transportation, doesn’t believe it was first built, reasoning that the first car produced would probably have been a coupe, a less complex vehicle.

In other words, when it comes to automotive production and sales history more than half century old, we only know that we don’t know very much.

For more on Wise and her Ford Mustang, watch this video.

11 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Mike Williams CA June 24, 2016 at 14:04
    Don, you memory must be failing, $1960? no way,maybe you mean 2960. I bought a coupe in September 64 for $2650, the dealers wouldn't have sold at a loss on a new car like the Mustang. and what do you mean by "you could buy....$30k" certainly.
  • 2
    Robie Loxahatchee Fl June 24, 2016 at 14:31
    Our 66GT is all original except a bumper.We are the second owners.Really nice car bought many years ago for 12,000 cash.
  • 3
    John Scanlon Florida June 24, 2016 at 19:32
    I worked for the Ford Motor Company during the introduction of the new Mustang, the coupe started at $2,368 and the convertible at $2,614. People stood in line to pay full sticker price and much more as most people loaded them up with options. Lee Iacocca sold 417,000 Mustangs by April 17, 1965, Mustangs one year anniversary.
  • 4
    Ronald Hermann warminster pa 18974 June 24, 2016 at 11:52
    Thanks for the article on my 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible my car is concourse correct nothing has been changed the Wise car sat outside and rusted badly they have a ton of after market parts on the car it is no longer the same car .Ron
  • 5
    Don Thompson port st. lucie, fl. June 24, 2016 at 12:09
    I bought a 1964 1/2 Mustang convt. new from the dealer in Miami for $ 1,960. It was one of the first sold in Fl. and it had a 260 V8 with 3 on the floor. Yellow with a white top. My memory tells me that you could buy a 1965 289 Mustang for less than $30,000.
  • 6
    J Boulger Monterey, California June 25, 2016 at 21:47
    I am the original owner of my 68 Mustang convertible. It is beautiful with 98K miles. Cherry red with new black top and perfect body and chrome, inside is great also. I want to sell it during the Monterey Classic car show come this August. Anyone interested send me an email and we can set up a meeting. Runs great and I am not bragging, just giving you the truth.
  • 7
    Roger Cardin Ma. June 27, 2016 at 20:49
    The vin on my mustang convertible is 100046 so that means it was the 46th car built?
  • 8
    Andrew Sommers Unionville, Ontario June 27, 2016 at 11:44
    If I remember correctly the actual first Mustang was delivered to a Canadian pilot Stanley Tucker who lived in eastern Canada. It was actually replaced by Ford with the 1 millionth Mustang.
  • 9
    Joe Failla Coxsackie, NY July 23, 2016 at 07:54
    I have a 1967 Coupe that I bought on July 6, 1967 at Jericho Ford in Mineola NY. During a bitter divorce my x sold it. I found it in San Diego and bought it back.
  • 10
    Doug Lombardo Wadsworth, Il May 27, 2017 at 19:10
    I love Mustangs and have a '65! I love reading about low serial numbered cars of all types and especially when they are still owned by the original owners! But both Gail and Ronald have wonderful cars with great memories. Ron is fortunate not to have had to drive his car as a daily driver and has been able to retain so much originality. Gail, well she drove hers! To work, to the grocery store, everywhere, and that is to be celebrated too! If aftermarket or OEM parts were needed to restore this beautiful car, so be it! Lets celebrate both of these cars and not sink to worrying about whether this part or that part is original. Both of these cars are so special!
  • 11
    Ted Springfield Illinois July 28, 2017 at 16:08
    Standing at Henry Ford Museum looking at white Mustang convertible. Sign says, this is the Mustsng with serial number one sold to a Canadian airline pilot Stan Tucker. That would make it the first one made. More important than first one sold.

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