Sunday, April 14, 2024

Gail Wise bought the first Ford Mustang sold in the United States; 60 years later, she still owns it


     In the spring of 1964, Gail Wise taught third grade at Sunnyside Elementary School in Berkeley, Illinois, a small suburb just east of Elmhurst. She was still Gail Brown then, loved her job, but it was a dozen miles south from where she lived with her parents in Park Ridge.
     "Back then you lived at home until you got married," she remembered. 
     At 22 years old, she couldn't expect to drive her parents' car forever. She needed her own.
     So on Wednesday, April 15, 1964, she and her father went to Johnson Ford on Cicero Avenue in Chicago — her family always drove Fords. Her father had driven a '57 Fairlane 500, then a '63 Thunderbird.
     "My parents always drove a convertible," she said. "I just knew I wanted a convertible."
     But there were no convertibles on the showroom floor. When the salesman saw Brown's disappointment, he took pity on her, and said they had something special in back. They weren't supposed to sell it yet, but she could take a look. He pulled a tarp off a Mustang convertible in "Skylight Blue." No Mustangs would officially go on sale for two days, until after it was unveiled at the New York World's Fair on April 17. If she wanted this one, she'd have to buy it without a test drive. She did want it. 
     "I just fell in love. It was sporty. It had the bucket seats, the transmission on the floor," she said. "He started it up. It went zoom zoom and made that nice, loud noise. I was just so excited to buy it. I was in heaven. I told the salesman it was for me."
     Some aspects of the car might surprise today — the Mustang had seat belts in the front seats but not the back. The passenger seat could not be adjusted. Back-up lights were optional.
     The price was $3,447.50. Her salary was $5,000 a year. Her father loaned her the money.
     Making Gail Wise the first person in the United States to buy a Ford Mustang — 60 years ago on Monday.
     "When I drove out of the showroom, nobody had seen this car yet," she recalled. "Everybody was waving at me, asking me to slow down, so they could see this car. I felt like a movie star. I was very happy. I drove it to school the next day. All those boys, the seventh and eighth graders, were hovering over it."
     She drove that Mustang for 15 years. She married Tom Wise, an electronics technician who worked on the guidance system on a nuclear submarine in the Navy, in 1966. The couple moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Their four kids arrived, and she gave up teaching.
     "When you were married, you started a family and stayed home with the children," she said.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. The Mustang was just a Falcon with different sheet metal.

    1. Always there with the upbeat comment. Can’t you just let people enjoy things?

    2. It happens to be a fact! Deal with it!

    3. The mustang wasn't the only Ford model to be built on the falcon platform. There were at least a dozen other models including vans.
      The shape of the sheet metal for the mustang was a stroke of genius and the two cars don't compare and shouldn't be compared. But if that's the fact you want to hang your hat on, I'm sorry you're such a sour person

    4. Lee Iacocca was a marketing genius in transforming the Falcon into the Mustang franchise which is still going strong. Notably the "new" Bronco is updated sheet metal on the old Cmax platform including the underpowered & somewhat unreliable 4cyl engine

  2. The story made me smile.

  3. My best car ever! A copper Mustang.
    Barbara Maginnis Palmer

  4. Great story on a happy slice of American history.

  5. Great story in today's paper. Hubby liked it too.

  6. Great story! Glad they restored the car. A dear departed friend of mine who was a classic car collector would have appreciated this. He loved restoring 60's muscle cars (tho he preferred big GM sedans).

  7. I noticed on the bill of sale pictured that they got $500 in trade for a Chevy where'd that car come from?
    I had some great times in a 68 red convertible that a buddy of mine owned in the late '70s. It was a gas driving around in that car. It was what they called a chick magnet

  8. Granted, the powertrain was nothing new; it was just new sheet metal, but...well, that's what most new car sales are based on. People don't go into the dealership blindfolded and pick something at random. They want something they enjoy being in and being seen in. That's how I picked my cars over the years (both new and used) and how you picked yours, too. The Mustang checked all the right boxes for its time, and the results speak for themselves.

  9. When the Mustang debuted in '64, there was a huge cover story in Newsweek. They called it "The Pony Car." The Ford Building at the New York World's Fair had brand-new Mustang convertibles on a conveyor belt...just like a Tunnel of Love. I experienced it first-hand in the summer of '65. The Long Island lady with whom I shared the back seat went off to college near Boston, and I started school in southern Michigan. We never saw each other again after that memorable July day.

    Owned a Mustang in '70 and '71...a fire-engine red '66 with an all-black interior, including leather seats. The kid across the street from my parents went into the Navy, and sold it for only a grand. It was pristine. He had even steam-cleaned the engine regularly.

    Made only one long road trip in that car--my first-ever visit to Florida. Then I sold it to a newly-licensed teen-ager for peanuts, so I could afford to move out Boulder, as it turned out. I had that Mustang for only a year. Whatta jamoke I was...

  10. Maybe some of you have heard of Irv Gordon who drove his 77 Volvo over 3 million miles. He was still driving the car a the time his death. He died of an apparent heart while on a promotional tour in China. I have no idea who owns his car

  11. Not a car aficionado, but I can appreciate the devotion over the years even for a car not all that intrinsically special.


  12. My dream car. I was born a few months later. It was a good year!

  13. Cool story. I’m about to inherit my dad’s 2010 Chevy HHR. Not a Mustang. But a real oddball car with a bunch of oddball fans on facebook who own them, wax on about them, complain about them and swap tips. Looking forward to joining them as I head toward retirement.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.