Gail Wise walked into a Ford dealership looking for a convertible to drive around Chicago, where she lived and worked after having just graduated from college. They didn’t have any such models, save for one car tucked quietly away in back. She bought it on the spot.
It wasn’t until the moment she drove it off the lot that she had an inkling she might be behind the wheel of something special. Two days later that was confirmed: Almost 50 years ago, and two days before it officially went on the market, Gail took ownership of the very first Ford Mustang sold in the U.S.
She still owns it today, and it wears only 68,000 original miles. “I didn’t go shopping for a Mustang,” she told Ford Social. “I don’t recall any hype” surrounding the much- anticipated all-new sports car. Hers was a top-of-the-line model, with bucket seats and V-8. But what truly appealed to her was it was a convertible, since that was the style of car she was used to driving since her family had already been both convertible and Blue Oval fans forever, having a ’49 Ford and a ’57 Ford Fairlane.
Back in the day, Gail used the Mustang as a commuter car for work and to visit friends, and once she was married, her husband Tom also put it through regular driving in the mid to late ‘70s. But then some minor mechanical problems forced him to push it into the garage, where it sat for 27 years. “I was always a car guy, so I told my wife that this could be a good retirement project for me,” Tom recalled. And so, he handled some of the work himself, while a restoration shop did the major part of the overhaul; the restoration was completed in 2007. Not long after, while researching Mustangs,Tom stumbled across someone claiming to own the first one sold in the U.S. That person’s paperwork showed the sale of April 16. Gail’s paperwork showed hers as April 15.
This special Mustang has lived quite the life since being pulled out of the garage and having its true history revealed. It is seeing road time once again, taking Gail and Tom to local car shows where they and the car are a hit with the crowd. They even took it to the Ford Dearborn campus in August 2013, where the couple and car mingled with executives from Ford.
With the Mustang’s 50th anniversary coming up in April 2014, we asked Gail and Tom why they thought the Mustang was so timeless. “People today relate to a car from the ‘60s. It’s not real old and people say, ‘My dad had one’ or ‘I drove one in college.’” Added Gail, “Everybody has somebody who has that car, and so many people have them in their garage that they’re going to fix up one day, too!”