Through the years, there has been a lot of speculation about Mustang Number One. Based on what we had been told by retired Ford executives, historians, and others who were there at the time, we believed 5F08F100001, a Wimbledon White V-8 convertible, rolled off the Dearborn assembly line first, on Monday, March 9, 1964. However, through the committed efforts of one man, Southern California's Bob Fria, we're not convinced this tidy, time-honored piece of lore is so true anymore.
Bob, a retired United Airlines captain, became committed to learning the truth about Mustang production when he purchased 5F07U100002 in 1997. His purchase wasn't only 100002, it was the first production Mustang hardtop built with historical significance in every respect. It was worthy of extensive research and only the finest restoration effort. When Bob began the restoration, there were distinctive features that made his Mustang unlike any others he'd seen before. Bob told us 100002 had unusual stampings and unconventional manufacturing techniques.
To understand 100002's significance, you have to understand how Mustang production began in the first place. The Mustang production story really doesn't begin on Monday, March 9, 1964 with 5F08F100001. It begins even earlier, in January and February of that year, when Ford bucked and built approximately 150 pre-production Mustangs at the Dearborn Assembly Plant.
For years, we were never certain how these "pre-production" Mustangs were serialized. One theory said they were serialized as '64 models, then destroyed. Another theory was they were serialized as '65 models. When Bob began his restoration in 1997, his findings with 100002 supported the latter theory: that Ford assembled approximately 150 pre-production Mustang units serialized as '65 models. Based on Bob's research and news articles written in February 1964, Ford built approximately 150 '65 Mustangs at Dearborn prior to the March 9 startup date. These Mustangs were numbered 100001 through approximately 100173. All are believed to have the "05C" March date code, although they were bucked and assembled in February 1964.
Bob picks up the story: "As reconstructed from all available sources, the first five Mustangs assigned serial numbers were sold in Canada. Only an educated guess can be made as to why. The next 16 were built for display at the 1964 World's Fair in New York."
Despite all of the theories we've subscribed to through the years, Bob's version is pretty solid. It appears certain, based on his findings, that Ford built around 150 Mustangs, designated as pre-production units, prior to the March 9 startup date for assembly line training and testing, ultimately for export and show purposes. A few were exported to Alan Mann Racing in England to be built as Monte Carlo race cars. Others were shipped to Holman-Moody in North Carolina and constructed as race cars. The rest were delivered to airport and hotel lobbies around the country to tease the public.
The five for Canadian export were shipped to each Canadian sales district for display in Ford showrooms. At least one Raven Black hardtop, 5F07K100148, was built for Henry Ford II and enhanced by Ford Design. Another one, serial number undetermined, was built for William Clay Ford.
Ford recognizes 5F08F100001, a Wimbledon White V-8 convertible (see our Nov. '03 issue), as the first production Mustang. It was delivered to George Parsons Ford in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in Eastern Canada, and purchased by airline pilot Stanley Tucker. It survives today at The Henry Ford in Dearborn.