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.

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