The First-Ever Ford Mustang Was Very Nearly Scrapped | Blog | Hartwell
Gail Wise with first-ever Mustang

The First-Ever Ford Mustang Was Very Nearly Scrapped​

Imagine if the first-ever Ford Mustang was lost to history. That almost happened, as it could’ve been sold for scrap when it stopped working. Instead, it sat in the garage for 27 years before getting a full restoration. We’re very glad about that, because this Mustang has quite a history behind it.

Gail Wise, a teacher from Illinois, bought the car when she was just 22. The day she drove it home, 15th April 1964, was actually two days before the car was officially revealed at the New York World’s Fair. The sky blue convertible was hidden away under a tarpaulin, out of sight in a back room of the Chicago dealership. As soon as the salesman lifted the cover, she knew it was the car for her.

The anticipation around the new Mustang was palpable, and heightened by advertisements that never showed the car – just the logo and the date it was to be revealed. Despite the secrecy, the salesman agreed to sell the car. 

Ford Mustang badge
This photo and above: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

“I drove out of that showroom with everyone waving at me and asking me to slow down,” she says. “People were so happy, giving me thumbs up – even the police.”

At the time, the highways were brand new. “We had no traffic and you could fly. The first time I saw that Mustang, I thought it was so sporty, with bucket seats and a transmission on the floor. Usually sports cars were expensive, and I could afford this car.”

In the next few years, she got married, bought a house and had four kids. The only constant was the Mustang, which the family used for 15 years. Three of the kids fitted on the back seats, and Gail held the youngest on her lap. It was a time where people didn’t buy new cars as often as they do today, she says.

The Mustang was a faithful servant to the family until the day it stopped working. Gail wanted to sell it to make space, but her husband Tom managed to convince her otherwise. It was to be his retirement project, he claimed.

Gail Wise and family with their 1964 Ford Mustang
Photo: Gail Wise

* * *

Almost three decades later, Tom found an online article from someone claiming to be the first Mustang owner. He was looking for Mustang car parts at the time. The article was about someone who bought their car on April 16th, 1964 – still a day before it was released. Gail and Tom had kept all the records for the car, including the owner’s manual and purchase invoice, which confirmed theirs had been bought the day earlier.

All that time spent in the garage means the Mustang is incredibly low mileage for a 54-year-old car – the clock shows just 68,000 miles. The car has been fully restored and was invited to Ford’s recent celebration of the 10 millionth Mustang built

“It’s like being a movie star at 76,” Gail laughs. “I felt like a movie star at 22 when I bought the car. That was 54 years ago and we’re still talking about it.”

The value now? Somewhere between $350,000 - $450,000 – certainly much more than the $3,447.50 Gail paid in 1964, and unbelievable considering it had junk and lawn chairs piled up on it for so long.

We’re surprised it’s not priceless.


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