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."