WE ADMIT we were skeptical. An email arrived from Bruce Beeghly with an interesting find, 5F08F100140, one of approximately 150-180 pre-production '64 1/2 Mustang units with the "05C" (March 5, 1964) date code. He and restorer Nate Miller were making claims about the car that just didn't ring true because we'd never seen anything like it. So we went to Youngstown, Ohio, for a closer look.
Bruce purchased 100140 from Fraser Dante of Atlanta in December of 2006. We had heard from Fraser earlier, so we knew it was a low serial number car with DSO code 89 for Transportation Services, built and kept for Ford's own use, as were many of the pre-production cars. Some were show or display cars, while others went to racing organizations like Holman & Moody and Alan Mann Racing in England. A few went on dealer showroom tours.
There's more unknown about these pre-production cars than there is known. No two are exactly the same because these were the first production units to roll down the Dearborn assembly plant during those first cold days of 1964. Some were perfect specimens while others were hodge-podge, hand-assembled units. As Bruce and restorer Nate Miller began disassembling this Rangoon Red convertible, they learned quickly just how sloppy things were in the early going.
"Some months after I bought the car, I noticed an article in our local newspaper about the Miller family in Youngstown," Bruce reflects. "Kathy Miller still owned the '64 1/2 Mustang given to her as a high school graduation present. The car had won several national show awards in the wake of a restoration by her son, Nate, who, along with his father, John Miller, performed restorations at Buckeye Muscle Car Restorations in Youngstown."
Bruce knew his Mustang needed a full-scale restoration in order to be taken seriously and have the respect of show judges and enthusiasts alike. He and the Millers went to work disassembling the car, documenting and taking pictures as they went. This would not be a simple restoration because 100140 was not your run-of-the-mill '64 1/2 convertible. It was as unique as a human fingerprint with many production variances when compared to normal production Mustangs (see "Production Oddities" sidebar).
When Bruce and Nate discovered the early production variances, they drew on all available information from known pre-production units with "05C" date codes. They located other pre-production Mustangs (100001, 100002, 100093, 100129, 100145, 100155, and 100173) and, when possible, they inspected them to gather information. They were permitted access to 5F08F100001 at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, where they spent hours going over the car that Ford recognizes as Mustang #1. They exchanged photos and information with Bob Fria, who owns 5F07U100002, recognized as the first production Mustang hardtop. They contacted other owners of pre-production cars and asked for photos. They were able to answer many previously unanswered questions about pre-production units. At the same time, they came up with a battery of new questions that may never be answered.
When they compiled radiator support information, they discovered a pattern that appears to establish how pre-production units were positioned on the Dearborn assembly line. It is a pattern of job numbers, known as "rotation" numbers with mass production units. Rotation numbers are assembly plant locators used by plant personnel to find units on the line. In mass production, there are two rotation numbers-one for the body shop and another for the trim and chassis line. Rarely are they the same. On 100140, the body shop rotation number is stamped into the metal body buck tag. It's also etched into the radiator support with an acid etch marker as an alternate means of identification.