THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE FIRST FORD MUSTANG HARDTOP
"The Only Known Surviving Pilot Plant Vehicle”
Data Plate Build Date: March 5, 1964
Revised as of November 1, 2008
According to Ford Motor Company, the first production Mustang was formally rolled off the assembly line on Monday, March 9, 1964 at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant located 12 miles southwest of downtown Detroit in the massive Rouge Industrial Complex.
Prior to the first production car roll off, Ford builds a number of “pre-production” cars to implement assembly line procedures and to provide a number of vehicles for company internal use. There were approximately 180 pre-production Mustangs scheduled to be completed and off the assembly line by March 5th, the end date for pre-production vehicles. This Caspian Blue Mustang, the first pre-production hardtop assigned a VIN number, 5F07U100002, was built on the first day of pre-production, February 10th after its pilot plant built partially completed chassis was relocated to the Dearborn assembly line for final assembly. Out of all of those first day cars that are known to exist, this 002 car was the only one to be painted blue. It also was the only one with a 6 cylinder engine as all the others had V-8’s. (Ref. Mustang Production Guide #1 by Jim Smart & Jim Haskell)
The first two Mustangs assigned VIN numbers were built for sale in Canada. A Wimbledon White convertible, VIN 5F08F100001, was the other car. The next 12 Mustangs were built for use as ride cars on the “Magic Skyway” ride in the Ford Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. As to why the first two cars were sent to Canada, only an educated guess can be made. Ford was planning a spectacular Mustang introduction to the public internationally on the evening of April 16th, at which time the actual car would be shown for the first time formally to millions of viewers at home on their televisions. In order to be sure that Mustangs were available to be seen in dealerships the very next day, it was imperative that key dealerships had at least one car on display in their showroom.
As the theory goes, it made sense to first ship those cars which would take the longest time in terms of distance and logistics to get in place for the formal showing date. The cars for Canada fit into this category, since they were to be located at dealers on both the east to west coasts of Canada. These two cars were transported, most probably by rail car, to the Ford of Canada facility in Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River for processing. According to Ford of Canada, these cars were not actually sold to Ford of Canada, but were invoiced by the factory directly to the individual Canadian dealer where the car was eventually destined to be sold. It is assumed each of these two cars was immediately shipped by Ford of Canada to their intended destinations by the appropriate means of transportation. According to the Ford of Canada Historical Department, there was a directive sent to those two Canadian Dealers relating specifically that each of those cars was to be used as a display model in the showroom and not sold at least until a sufficient supply of Mustangs were received by the dealer so as to not leave the dealership without merchandise to display. The length of time referred to in the directive is not known.
According to Mr. M. C. W. "Moe" Grant, then General Manager of Whitehorse Motors in the town of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, this Mustang was sent to his dealership by mistake and arrived in May of 1964. Mr. Wayne McKenna, the Whitehorse Motors salesman who first sold the car, states the Mustang was never ordered by his dealership. There was an error made by the shipping company in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the car was dispatched from there to his dealership in the Yukon. McKenna believes the Mustang was originally destined for the large Brown Brothers Ford dealership in Vancouver. Apparently this wasn't the first time a new Ford vehicle was shipped in error to Whitehorse Motors instead of Brown Brothers Ford. The costs of shipping it back to Vancouver were prohibitive and the decision was made by Ford to leave the car in Whitehorse for sale by Whitehorse Motors. Just where this Mustang had been between March and May is unknown, but it is assumed the vehicle was delayed in transit due to the shipping error. Needless to say, it never made the world wide Mustang April 17th debut.
In 1964, all Ford new-car-shipping to Whitehorse Motors was by rail from Detroit to Vancouver, where the vehicle was placed in a shipping container and loaded aboard a ship. The ship then sailed a 4 day journey off the west coast of Canada to the port of Skagway, Alaska. The vehicle, container and all, was then transferred to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway narrow gauge train for a 120 mile mountainous trip to the town of Whitehorse where it was unloaded downtown on First Ave., about 1/4 mile from Whitehorse Motors. It was then removed from the container along side the track in the middle of the street and a salesman from Whitehorse Motors picked it up and drove it to the dealership. (This method of shipping was confirmed by the Historical Dept., Ford of Canada)
This first Mustang hardtop was displayed in the Main Street single car showroom of Whitehorse Motors, the only Ford dealer in the entire Yukon Territory, and with sales of less than 40 new cars per year. Wayne McKenna remembers he had an immediate sale for it, but the factory invoice had not been received and the dealer cost was unknown at the time so the purchase offer was consequently rejected.
Numerous people came in to drive the new Mustang, but since it was a "plain Jane" car with a small 6 cylinder engine, 13" wheels and no options, there were no offers to purchase. With several hundred miles now on the Mustang, General Manager Moe Grant directed salesman McKenna to drive the car as his demonstrator until sold. McKenna states "I hated that car because it had no horsepower and no options like power steering". The dealership installed an engine block heater for winter use and he drove the car, remaining always in the immediate Whitehorse area, over that summer and winter, putting about 2000 miles on it. Sometime in the spring of 1965, a deal was finally made for the purchase of the car. A 1957 Plymouth was traded in by Mr. Doug Wootton, and the Mustang was sold to him for $3200.00 Canadian. McKenna stated “We normally would have never taken a `57 Plymouth in trade at our dealership, but we were so anxious to get rid of that Mustang we would take almost any deal!". Incredibly, now one year old, the first Mustang hardtop was finally sold!
Ownership chronology from that first sale is known and documented in its entirety through 14 owners. It was driven in the Yukon until October, 1983, including 3 years at a remote small silver mining town north of Whitehorse named Elsa. A subsequent owner then moved with the car to a suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, where the Mustang remained until December of 1993 when it was sold to a new owner in Bozeman, Montana. It was not until this time that the Mustang was recognized as being something special because of its serial number, but that history was not thoroughly investigated by that owner. The Mustang was resold as inoperable with a blown engine to a Mustang enthusiast in Temecula, California, and was then sold to me one year later as inoperable and in need of restoration in September of 1997. I brought the car to its new home in the Los Angeles area. A complete total restoration to factory new specifications was completed on October 26, 1999.
After more than ten years of extensive and exhausting research, I was able to uncover all of the true facts and document the car as a genuine pilot plant chassis as well as the first pre- production Mustang hardtop to receive a Vehicle Identification Number. The authentically restored Mustang has been displayed at the Ford 100th Anniversary Show in Dearborn, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Nethercutt Museum, both in Los Angeles, and at various shows and national Mustang venues.
Who would have ever thought the first Mustang hardtop would have been sold new at the top of the World?
These interior photos show some of the unique interior parts used that are different from later production cars.