This pack of ponies spans the Mustang’s illustrious history
Three Mustangs sit in dappled shade behind the Gothic-arched gate of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. The 1964.5 convertible in Wimbledon White is VIN 001, the first production Mustang built. In blue is another convertible, the first Mustang sold in America, to then-22-year-old Gail Wise, an elementary school teacher outside of Chicago. And last, built in homage to VIN 001, is the 10-millionth Mustang built—another Wimbledon White convertible. Leaves flutter down from the trees through the space that separate the cars, but it’s 54 years of pony car history between the trio that hangs, invisible, in the air between them.
Bearing witness to it all is Wise, now 76, and her husband Tom, who won’t be caught the whole day without generous grins. “It’s just incredible,” says Wise.
The first Mustang sold in America
Gail Wise was teaching elementary school in Park Ridge, Illinois, when she unwittingly became the first American to buy a Ford Mustang—a blue convertible with a 260-cu-in V-8 and a three-speed automatic. She went to the Ford dealer with her parents knowing she wanted a drop-top, and the salesman revealed under a tarp in a back room one of the dealership’s two allocated showroom Mustangs. Once she saw it the deal was sealed.
“My parents always had Ford convertibles, a ’49 and a ’57. But when I saw that little Mustang, so sporty-looking with its bucket seats and transmission on the floor instead of the column, I loved it,” says Wise.
That was April 15, 1964, two days before Lee Iacocca revealed the car at the New York World’s Fair. Needless to say, she was an overnight sensation at her school as well as in her neighborhood. Thousands had seen the reveal and most only saw advertisements afterwards, but she was driving the real deal.
“Seventh and eighth-grade boys were just hovering over the car, and everyone around town would ask me to slow down and give them high-fives,” she tells Hagerty, beaming all the while. “I knew it was just the car and not me, but I felt like a movie star.”
Pretty soon, even the custodian at her school remarked that if he had a nickel for every time someone ogled Wise’s Mustang, he’d be a millionaire. The car isn’t worth quite that much now, but being valued at $350,000–$450,000 according to our experts, the original sale price of $3447.50 is a little mind-blowing.
When the car broke down in the ’70s, Wise parked it in the family garage, where it would sit for 27 years. Gail always wanted to sell it to make room for all the stuff that goes along with having four kids, but Tom insisted the Mustang would be his retirement project. He made good on his word, restoring the car without modifications or alterations between 2006 and 2007. Then, in 2009, the couple found out they were the caretakers of a very special Mustang indeed—and the craziness hasn’t stopped since.
“Gail was really the target market for this car,” says Ford historian Ted Ryan. “For a young professional like her, it represented attainable, affordable sportiness and luxury.”
Although he was a bit older, Captain Stanley Tucker of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, was also drawn in by the sporty new Mustang back in ’64. An airline pilot, Tucker wanted the car in the worst way and managed to buy the Wimbledon White, three-speed auto, 260 V-8 convertible display model.
“It says a lot that both a schoolteacher and an airline pilot were so interested in the same car,” says Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford museum. The Henry Ford acquired VIN 001 in 1966, offering Tucker the millionth Mustang built (which he optioned out to the max) in exchange.
“There are just a few cars people make a pilgrimage to the museum to seek out specifically, and Mustang 001 is one of them,” says Anderson.
The 10-millionth Mustang
Built as an homage to VIN 001, the 10-millionth Mustang is also painted in Wimbledon White, which is not offered on the current model at all. Demonstrating just how far the Mustang has come since the three-speed auto and 164-hp days, the 2019 Mustang has 460-hp from its 5.0-liter V-8 and uses a 10-speed automatic transmission. The 10-millionth car is also equipped with magnetic shocks as well as the Performance Pack Level 1, which adds Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, larger brakes, unique tuning for the stability control, electric-power steering, and suspension.
“When the Mustang first came out it was a groundbreaker, with a sporty style that was available to everyone,” observes Ryan. “But over time it evolved into a car that became much more synonymous with performance, and the 10-millionth car represents that as much as it is also evocative of Mustang’s original design cues.”
Ryan also helped us track down some data on each of the consecutive “millionth” Mustangs. The 1-millionth car was a ’66 in Silver Frost paint with a black convertible top, deluxe black interior with a woodgrain steering wheel, and styled steel wheels. It has a 289 V-8, automatic gearbox, A/C, Stereosonic tape player, disc brakes, and the Rally Pac.
It gets fuzzier from there. Number 2 million was a ’68 hardtop. With number 3 million Ford can only confirm it was built in the beginning of 1974 production. It took the original Mustang just two years to hit a million cars sold, but there was quite a bigger gap between the 6-millionth car at the start of 1989 production and the 7-millionth at the beginning of 1997 production—a reminder of the less popular third-gen (Fox body) and fourth-gen cars. Then the retro-inspired fifth-gen dropped for the 2005 model year, marking a critical shift where the Mustang got back its FoMoCo mojo.
For her part, Gail is very fond of the 10-millionth Mustang, which she’s had the chance to drive around a bit. “I was surprised how comfortable it is, and how much tech there is going on,” she says, while Tom couldn’t believe how selectable everything is, from the steering and the throttle to the exhaust note. “Our car has push-button radio, and that was a big deal then,” remarks Gail.
“My Mustang is old, but since the restoration it feels like new. When I’m driving it, I feel like I’m 22 years old again.”