This pack of ponies spans the Mustang’s illustrious history

Sandon Voelker

59 years ago, on April 17, the public first met the Ford Mustang at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. To celebrate National Mustang Day, as the date has since been christened, we’re re-sharing the following article. It originally appeared on this site on August 15, 2018. Cheers! —Ed. 

Three Mustangs sit in dappled shade behind the Gothic-arched gate of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. 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 spaces 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-cubic-inch V-8 and a three-speed automatic transmission. 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.

Owner of first mustang sold powder blue
Sandon Voelker
first mustang sold with number 10 million
Sandon Voelker

“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 says, 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.

First mustang sold
Sandon Voelker

“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.”

VIN 001

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.

Mustang 001 front plate
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Mustang 001 VIN
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Mustang 001 and 10 million
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“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 came in 55 years, 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.

10 million mustang and VIN 001
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10 million mustang side
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10 million mustang dash
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10 million mustang rear
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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.”


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    Great article indeed! My ’66 Mustang has a unique way of reminding me that it hasn’t been out to play recently… the interior (vinyl seats etc) creates an enticing “vintage Mustang scent” in the garage which says its time to fire it up and get it out on the road. In high school I had a ’69 Impala that had a distinctive interior (cloth seats) scent, but nothing quite like a vintage Mustang. I can’t describe it accurately, but for those who own cars from the era, I’m sure they can relate.

    My sister bought a 1965 Mustang coupe, 6 cylinder automatic in Forest Green. Not a bad car but not powerful enough for me.

    I did not know it had been down for so long, so I likely never saw it in Park Ridge unless it was when I was a little kid. Glad to see this car is living a happy life on the road again.

    I was part of the security team for Gail’s Mustang for the short period it was on display at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. It wasn’t there long-I think maybe just the opening night-but I couldn’t help but marvel that I was looking at a one-owner, 50 year old piece of history. I understand the Wises made a brief appearance while the car was there but unfortunately I did not get to meet them.
    Hopefully the car stays in the family when Gail and Tom stop driving.

    I grew up in Newfoundland and I remember when I saw my very first one. It was the blue and white Players Cigarette car. It was quite the beautiful car and made quite the impression on a 13 yr old at that time.

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