Although reports have long claimed the first Mustang was sold in Newfoundland just before midnight on Friday, April 17, 1964, one Illinois woman says she purchased her Skylight Blue convertible on April 15 – two days before official sales were set to begin. And she’s still got the paperwork – and the car – to prove it.
The Mustang was the talk of the town long before its much ballyhooed debut at the World’s Fair in New York on April 13, 1964. It was unveiled first in the fall of 1963 in Dearborn for several major magazines—Time, Newsweek, LIFE, Look, Esquire and Sports Illustrated included. By April 13, 1964, interest was at a fevered pitch; more than 125 press representatives, print and broadcast, were on hand that Monday to hear marketing marvel Lee Iacocca promote his “youth car.”
Sales officially began on Friday, kicking off a feeding frenzy the likes of which industry watchers had never seen before. Estimates claimed as many as 4 million horse lovers galloped into Ford showrooms that first weekend alone. Dealers’ initial stocks were depleted immediately, and another 22,000 orders were placed on that first day of public sale.
Tales of tugs of war were widespread. In Garland, Texas, 15 buyers clamored for a local dealer’s last Mustang. His solution? Award the car to the highest bidder, who then insisted on spending the night in his prize to ensure it wouldn’t be sold out from under him before his check could clear the next day. A Pittsburgh dealer reportedly put a Mustang up on a rack then couldn’t bring it back down due to the crush of curious onlookers gathered below
She knew nothing of Ford’s upcoming pony car when she went out new model shopping that Wednesday. What she did know when she stopped into Johnson Ford on north Cicero Avenue was that a convertible would suit her just fine.
“I’ve got something in the back that is really new,” was the salesman’s understated response to her stipulation before showing her two Mustangs, a coupe and a topless Skylight Blue model nicely loaded with a 260-cid V-8, automatic transmission, power steering, power soft top, faux knock-off wheel covers, console and the fully instrumented Rally Pac.
“That’s me; that’s what I wanted,” recalls Gail, now Mrs. Tom Wise, when she saw the convertible. “When I first saw it I fell in love with it. And when I was I driving it that first year I felt like a movie star. Everyone just stopped and stared when I went by.”
The guys at Johnson Ford hadn’t heard of Ford’s plans to officially kick off Mustang sales two days later. Tom and Gail still possess the original bill of sale and invoice, with the former fully notarized as “PAID Conditionally By Check, April 15, 1964.” They also still have the car itself — meticulously restored in 2007 by Greg’s Auto Body in Lake Bluff, Ill.
Is this the very first Mustang sold? Another, a highly promoted pre-production convertible, showed up two years ago in a Chicago collector car dealer’s hands with an original sale date of April 16, 1964. According to former Mustang Club of American officer Jim Chism, rumors of such early sales have long been heard and no one is sure how many pony cars got loose before the official on-sale date.
“As the story goes, a dealer somewhere got his car in and did not pay attention to the fact that it was supposed to be kept under wraps until April 17,” explained the retired MCA vice-president. “He pulled it into his showroom and sold it right then and there. Ford was pissed.”
Gail Wise, on the other hand, was pleased. And fortunately her husband Tom knew a keeper when he saw one.
Make that two.