On April 15, 1964, 22 year-old Gail Brown bought a brand-new '64½ Mustang convertible. At the time, I'm sure she never imagined that she would still own the car nearly 50 years later. Even less imaginable was the idea that her Mustang would create a stir on something called the Internet, which none of us envisioned in 1964.
You may remember Gail's story from our December 2010 issue. When Gail landed her first job as a school teacher, her parents took her to Johnson Ford in Chicago to purchase her first car. Her father drove convertibles, so she wanted one too. Finding nothing suitable on the lot, the salesman escorted Gail and her parents to the dealership's shop area and pulled the wraps off a Skylight Blue Mustang. With her father co-signing, Gail bought the convertible on the spot, even though the dealership wasn't supposed to sell Mustangs until Ford's new pony car officially went on sale two days later on April 17.
For a couple of days, Gail was driving the only Mustang on the Chicago highways. "I felt like a movie star," she told us.
Gail married Tom Wise in 1966 and started a family. Gail and Tom drove the Mustang until 1979, when it was stashed, well-worn and rusty from Midwestern winters, in the family garage. Gail talked about selling the Mustang for space reasons. Tom, however, envisioned the car as a retirement restoration project. Twenty-seven years later, he finally got around to restoring Gail's convertible. Thanks to Tom, Gail Wise still owns her Mustang and will celebrate 50 years of ownership two days before the Mustang celebrates its own gold anniversary on April 17. The odds are very good that Gail has owned the same Mustang longer than anyone else.
Since our story ran in 2010, Gail has been enjoying her moments in the spotlight. Last summer, the Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan invited Gail and Tom to their Mustang Memories show at Ford World Headquarters, where their Skylight Blue convertible was part of a special heritage display. Ford even issued a press release describing Gail as "the woman believed to be the world's first production Mustang owner."
A few months later, I was talking with writer A.J. Baime, whose Shelby-related book, Goes Like Hell, has triggered several articles for our annual Shelby publication. A. J. told me about his new automotive column in The Wall Street Journal and asked if I knew any interesting Mustang stories. I told him about Gail and her Mustang. A couple of weeks later, I started getting emails and Facebook posts with a link to a video. Turns out, A.J. lives in Chicago, so not only did he write a column about the Wises and their Mustang for his WSJ column, he was also able to pull together a film crew to produce a WSJ website video, which went viral in the Mustang world. I even overheard someone talking about it at my local Beef O'Brady's sports bar.
A few days later, Gail sent me a link to another video. Seems a local Chicago TV station, FOX 32, picked up on the WSJ story and sent their own crew to visit Gail and Tom. I couldn't be happier for the Wises, who are enjoying the attention in their retirement. As A.J. Baime told me later, "They are the nicest people I've ever met."
After appearing in the two videos, Gail's Mustang has made her a "movie star" for real.