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1964 Ford Mustang Convertible - On The Road Again
Thanks To Volunteers At The Henry Ford, Mustang No. 1 Is Up And Running Again
On May 2, 2003, the original 260ci engine in 5F08F100001 came to life for the first time in over 37 years. The event, in conjunction with the first drive on May 6, was the culmination of a three-month refurbishing of the first production Mustang, a Wimbledon White convertible that was mistakenly sold to an airline pilot in Newfoundland, then recovered by Ford in a trade two years later before being tucked away at the Henry Ford Museum in the fall of 1966. For nearly four decades, the historic Mustang either languished in storage or, after meeting the museum's 20-year-old rule in 1984, flip-flopped between storage and display-always pushed and never driven.
Earlier this year, Malcolm Collum, conservator at The Henry Ford (as the museum is now called), received a request from the museum's Collections Committee to investigate the possibility of getting two display cars-Mustang No. 1 and an '05 Ford Model B-into running condition for Ford's Centennial activities at Greenfield Village. Although both cars had not run in years, they were deemed worthy of "refurbishing" because getting them into running condition would not require a lot of time and effort.
That's when George Gunlock entered the picture. A chassis engineer at Ford, Gunlock has served as a volunteer at The Henry Ford for the past 11 years, and he was looking for a museum project to assist with. As Gunlock tells it, "When Malcolm told me they were planning to revamp Mustang No. 1, my eyes lit up!"
As it turns out, Gunlock owns four Mustangs, including a pair of Shelby GT350s. Plus, in 1970, he was a young Firestone tire engineer assigned to Bud Moore's Trans-Am team. Needless to say, Gunlock had a huge interest in Mustang No. 1.
The project started in earnest in early March when Collum and Gunlock inspected the 10,634-mile, 39-year-old Mustang at its display area inside the museum. After locating the original keys, which had been stored in a museum file for years, the team began making notes about the car's condition. Opening the trunk, they found a set of, in Gunlock's words, "obviously used" spinner hubcaps, apparently the originals, as the car had been displayed with nonspinner covers. According to Gunlock, "The trunk was quite clean, and the mat was like new. There was a jack and lug wrench, but no spare tire."
As a tire engineer, Gunlock also checked the 6.50x14 bias tires, most likely the originals because Ford switched to 6.95x14 tires shortly after the Mustang's introduction. "They were not in great condition," Gunlock notes. "They held air but were pretty cracked from age."
The team was relieved to learn the engine turned freely by hand, but the master cylinder was stuck. Thankfully, the radiator remained filled with antifreeze and the fuel tank had been drained. The exhaust system appeared original, although banged up and dinged, apparently by rocks or gravel.
Two major concerns surfaced: When the "diaper" that prevented fluids from dripping onto the museum floor was removed, they found signs of a transmission leak, most likely from the seals, and the oil pan showed evidence of damage from a large object. Further inspection revealed a nonoriginal oil-pan gasket, suggesting the pan had been removed at one point for repair.
Collum cringed at Gunlock's recommendation. "We didn't want to get the engine running, then have transmission fluid leak all over the ground," Gunlock said. "So we decided to disassemble and inspect the C4 and install new seals at the same time. That led to another issue. We couldn't get the transmission out from the bottom without cutting the original exhaust, so we made the decision to remove the engine and transmission from the top as an assembly."
Joe Boulton, a Dearborn Proving Grounds Transmission Garage supervisor, was called in to refurbish the C4. He found modest residue in the pan, the result of mild clutch wear and 37 years of fluid settling. Although the rubber seals were still pliable, he located new seals at a local parts store and installed them in the C4.
With the engine on a stand, the oil pan was removed to make sure there were no internal problems as a result of the pan damage. Thankfully, everything looked sound, so the oil-pickup screen was cleaned and a new oil-pump shaft installed before the pan was put back into place.
At this point, the temptation was to freshen up the engine and engine compartment. However, as Collum pointed out, the museum's mission is "to preserve, not restore," so the engine was simply cleaned as preparation for its reinstallation. The water pump didn't turn smoothly, so it was pulled to reveal heavy corrosion. An exact replacement pump, PN C40E-8505-A, was located and installed.
The generator was in perfect working condition, although the team had to read up on the old practice of "polarizing" the generator because no one was old enough to remember the procedure. The starter failed a routine bench test, so it was torn down and reassembled twice before it mysteriously started working. New points and plugs were installed and the carburetor was rebuilt.
Noting body damage repairs on the right front fender and left rear quarter, the team requested assistance from Ford's Global Paint Engineering engineers, who used an electronic paint-thickness gauge to find the anticipated .006-.008-inch paint thickness. Gunlock explains, "Because cars were not painted by robots in those days, it was expected, and found on Mustang No. 1, that the paint was a little thicker on horizontal surfaces, somewhat thinner on the sides, and thinnest on the lower sides where it was harder to reach with a spray gun." The paint engineers determined that Mustang No. 1 retains 90 percent of its original paint.
"The body fit is marginal by today's standards," Gunlock says. "The hood is high on one rear corner, and clearances to the fenders are not uniform. We agonized over fixing it, but Malcolm studied old pictures and determined it was always that way. Those old pictures even allowed Malcolm to confirm that the now repaired dent in the front fender was there in 1966 when Tucker traded the car back to Ford."
Not wanting to dismount the original tires from their rims, they located another set of rims and fitted them with reproduction 6.95x14 BFGs from Coker Tire. "The car will not drive again on its original tires," Gunlock explains, "but they will be reinstalled when the car goes on permanent display."
During our photo session with Mustang No. 1 at Greenfield Village, we had a chance to closely inspect, and even drive (see Hoofbeats, page 4), the historic convertible. It's not a concours car by any means-especially underneath and under the hood. Two years of driving in the Canadian far east (almost in the Greenland time zone) took its toll on the undercarriage, now exhibited as surface rust and the dinged-up exhaust system. The exterior paint has its share of nicks and chips, but the interior is almost perfect. Remarkably, the plasti-chrome on the instrument panel is like brand new.
As soon as Mustang No. 1's refurbishing was complete, the car was trucked to New York City for a Mustang 39th anniversary press conference at the New York Auto Show. During Ford's 100th anniversary celebration, the convertible was displayed at Greenfield Village, where it also participated in a couple of parades. Mustang No. 1 has also been invited to Nashville for the Mustang Club of America's 40th Anniversary Celebration.
After 37 years of mostly storage, it's great to see the first production Mustang, now on the road again, doing what it was designed to do in 1964-generate publicity for Ford's Mustang.
The Captain's TaleIn early April 1964, some two weeks before the Mustang's official introduction on the 17th, Captain Stanley Tucker was out for a drive in his old Pontiac and noticed a large crowd at George Parsons Ford in his hometown of St. Johns, Newfoundland. Stopping to check out the commotion, Tucker spotted the new Wimbledon White Mustang convertible. Smitten by the car, Tucker decided on the spot that he wanted to buy the Mustang, eventually corralling the dealership owner, George Parsons, to ask for immediate delivery. Parsons wanted to hold on to the car for a few more days to attract attention, but Tucker persuaded him into a next-morning delivery.
And so, Captain Tucker drove home the following day not knowing he had purchased 5F08F100001, the first production Mustang.
Neither did Ford. Shortly after Tucker's purchase, the dealership called Tucker to tell him they had sold the car by mistake. Ford wanted the car back. Apparently, Mustang No. 1 had toured Canada as a promotional vehicle before it ended up at George Parsons Ford. It was not supposed to be offered for sale.
Tucker, then 33 years old and single, was enamored with his Mustang convertible and refused to give it up. For the next two years, he drove his Mustang, putting 10,000 miles on the odometer. Then, in 1966, Ford got serious about retrieving the first production Mustang. According to an interview with Tucker by Mustang Monthly's Jim Smart in 1983, Ford offered Tucker a brand-new '66 Mustang convertible, optioned to Tucker's specifications, in trade for 100001. Tucker accepted. "What the heck," he told Mustang Monthly, "There was a new car in the deal. But it was actually foolish on my behalf when I think about it today."
According to Tucker, when he ordered his new '66 Mustang from George Parsons Ford, he put a big "X" across the entire order sheet. However, he did decline the 289 High Performance engine after learning about its limited warranty, selecting the 289 4V instead. Tucker ordered a Silver Frost convertible with a black top, black Decor Group interior, Styled Steel wheels, air conditioning, AM/cassette, and even a television.
Ford actually publicized the trade as "Number One for One Million and One," with Tucker receiving Mustang No. 1,000,001 during the Millionth Mustang assembly line ceremony at the Dearborn Assembly Plant on March 2, 1966. "I spent some time with Iacocca and the boys," Tucker said. "They even set me up with some of the girls in the office!"
In the fall of 1966, Mustang No. 1 was delivered to the Henry Ford Museum, where it sat in storage for 18 years before meeting the museum's 20-year-old qualification for display. Tucker, meanwhile, drove his Silver Frost convertible for five years, then sold it to a St. Johns' mechanic.
From a Judge's ViewDuring Ford's 100th anniversary celebration in Dearborn, Chip Hill, a certified Mustang Club of America Gold Card Judge for '6411/42-'65 Mustangs, dropped by The Henry Ford to inspect and photograph Mustang No. 1, not only for himself but also to assist conservator Malcolm Collum in documenting a number of questionable components on the car. Here's what Chip had to say:
There were only a few things that I found "unusual" as compared to other early unrestored cars I've seen. The most notable were perhaps the gray (instead of black) engine-block paint, beveled (instead of square) armrest-base interior corners, and the unusual white knob on the end of the turn-signal lever. A few things that I had personally never seen before but can easily accept as authentic were the fragile, clear-plastic seatbelt retainer loops and the phosphate-black sheetmetal screws (like those between the seat and door sill) in the foot-area carpet of both the passenger and driver side.
It was also interesting to see evidence that supports my personal opinion on a couple of controversial judging issues. For example, I believe the pinch-weld blackout paint on the earliest cars was brushed on rather than sprayed. Mustang No. 1 has it brushed on. I have also believed for some time that the early fuel-line bracket (both pieces) was painted block color, while the screw remained natural. It always seemed odd that the screw would be natural, but Mustang No. 1 helps to explain that, because it appears the main bracket was already attached to the water pump when the block was painted (gray in the case of No. 1), and the prepainted (black) clip and unpainted screw were added on the assembly line as the fuel line was installed.
Some of the more obvious oddities that were probably swapped over time are the windshield-washer bag, the radiator cap, and possibly the oil-fill cap (the cap is right but the decal is unusual). There are also many '6411/42 features on this car that few restorations exhibit. The square-corner sill plates, grommetless lock knob openings (very early cars only), and crimped-band gas-tank hose clamps are nearly impossible for restorers to reproduce.
The hood is also unique (but authentic) with its rolled corners on an undimpled underside frame. Two other points that help authenticate the hood is the absence of the four indentations along the leading underside crease and the 12 16 C2 stamped in the lower left corner. This indicates a December 16 sheetmetal stamping date and is consistent with other stamping dates I saw on the car, including 1 14 C2 on the left fender, 1 13 2C on the trunk lid, and 12 19 D3 on the left-front inner fender apron.
I believe a fellow judge, Charles Turner, has documentation that the larger air cleaners were used with the 260 engine. And having the oil filler on the valve cover instead of the timing cover is not at all unusual. It is generally believed that the early engines were equally split between the two styles. What is cool about Mustang No. 1 is that the timing cover has the plugged hole, proving its vintage!