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Lowest-available production Mustang (No. 00002) highlights Mecum Indy

Sometimes second place comes with a silver lining. Or, in this case, gold. With the official first-production 1965 Ford Mustang safely tucked away inside The Henry Ford Museum, the next best thing is about to cross the auction block. And the winner is expected to pay handsomely for it.

Mecum is offering Mustang No. 100002 at its Indianapolis auction on May 20, more than five decades after it was shipped to the wrong Canadian showroom and missed the Mustang’s April 1964 debut by a month. The pony car is the first Mustang hardtop and also the first with a 6-cylinder engine; No. 100001 is a convertible and carries a V-8.

Mecum’s pre-auction estimate for Mustang No. 100002 is $450,000 to $650,000. That’s 22 to 32 times the $20,300 value listed in the Hagerty Price Guide for a 1965 Mustang coupe (with 170-cid, 6-cylinder engine) in No. 1 condition.

“This is likely someone’s only chance to own the second-oldest (by serial number) Mustang in the world,” said Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide. “For a Mustang collector or a museum looking for a draw, this is a car that carries a lot of bragging rights. It’s both a Holy Grail and a unicorn.”

Similar to The Henry Ford’s white Mustang convertible, a showroom car that was accidently sold to a Canadian pilot, the blue coupe offered by Mecum took a wrong turn that changed its fate. Bob Fria, who became the 14th owner of the coupe in 1997, has spent the last 20 years researching the car’s history and its early Mustang brethren.

According to Mecum’s auction description, Fria learned that between 150 and 180 pre-production Mustangs were built between Feb. 10 and March 5, 1964, including Nos. 100001 and 100002. Which of the early Mustangs actually came off the line first has never been determined, since “then, like today, Ford didn’t necessarily build cars consecutively by VIN.”

However, Fria discovered “that 100002 was scheduled for early assembly to allow time for shipping by rail to Brown Brothers Ford in Vancouver on Canada’s western coast. However, the Caspian Blue hardtop was somehow misrouted, eventually ending up at Whitehorse Motors in the Yukon Territory in May and totally missing the Mustang’s April 17 introduction. There was never a more unlikely car for the cold, rugged Yukon than a Mustang with a 6-cylinder engine, 3-speed stick and 13-inch tires. Whitehorse Motors installed a block heater, then used the car as a demonstrator until it was finally sold in the spring of 1965.”

Kinney said the car’s history adds to its appeal. “It’s an underdog fighter that made its way through some very obscure circumstances to have survived intact 50-plus years on.”

Fria had the car completely restored shortly after he bought it, and the Mustang was displayed at Ford World Headquarters during Ford’s 100th anniversary in 2003.

Mecum’s Indianapolis auction runs May 16-21. For those who cannot attend, live coverage is scheduled for May 18 from 12:30-4 p.m. on NBCSN and 4:30-6 p.m. on Mecum.com, May 19 from noon-3 p.m. on NBCSN, and May 20 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Same-day delayed coverage will be shown May 20 from 8 p.m.-midnight on NBCSN, and delayed coverage will be televised May 21 from 6:30 p.m.-midnight and May 24 from midnight-3 a.m. on NBCSN.