The first shipment of right-hand-drive Ford Mustangs has landed in New Zealand and will soon be in their rightful owners’ hands – unlike the first Mustang, a Wimbledon white convertible (above) with the serial number 5F08F100001.
It was a pre-production model shipped early in 1964 from the Ford factory in Detroit to a dealer in Newfoundland, Canada, one of 180 such cars built to promote the new brand throughout North America.
But the dealer sold it in error. Thousands of production Mustangs were being shipped to dealers ahead of the official sale date and the demonstration model got lost in the rush.
The sale started a chain of events that led to Ford buying back the car. It is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. But more on this story down the page.
Ford NZ isn’t saying how many Mustangs were in the first shipment to the Auckland wharf but a second is understood to be on the water now. All told, more than 550 Kiwis ordered the Pony car before RHD production began.
“It’s New Zealand automotive history in the making,” said Ford NZ managing director Corey Holter. “Safe to say, we are as excited as the customers who will be taking delivery over the next week or so!”
The most popular car with Kiwi buyers is the $71,990 Mustang GT Fastback with the 5.0-litre V8 engine and six-speed automatic gearbox. Almost six out of 10 Kiwis have gone for this powertrain.
The same car figures high on the list of choices in other markets. So too the colour Race Red, although it’s now the second choice among Kiwis after Magnetic. Ruby Red lies third, followed by Deep Impact Blue, Shadow Black, Oxford White and then Triple Yellow towards the back of the field.
Convertibles make up 15 per cent of orders, so too manual gearboxes. The Mustang range is: 2.3-litre Ecoboost Fastback automatic $56,990; 2.3-litre Ecoboost Fastback convertible automatic $61,990; 5.0-litre GT Fastback manual $71,990; 5.0-litre GT Fastback automatic $71,990; 5.0-litre GT convertible automatic $76,990.
“The magic of the Ford Mustang is its universal appeal,” said Holter, who soon leaves NZ for a new role with Ford in the USA. “The Mustang is everything we love about cars – it embodies driving excitement, fun and the freedom of the open road.
“Ford says the Mustang is the heart and soul of the Ford Motor Company, but I’d go one further and say it’s the heart and soul of motoring.”
Canadian airline pilot Stanley Tucker and American teacher Gail Wise would no doubt agree with Holter. Fifty-one years ago Tucker bought the demonstration convertible that was never supposed to be sold. Across the border in Chicago, Wise bought a soft-top Mustang, too, a baby blue model that Ford acknowledges as the first ‘official’ Mustang sale.
Tucker bought his car before the Mustang officially went on sale on April 17, 1964. Wise did the same. She told the Chicago Tribune newspaper on Mustang’s 50th birthday last year that the car was in the showroom but covered up.
“The salesman said this was a special car that wasn’t on sale yet,” said Wise. “Under the tarp was this baby blue Mustang convertible. This is for me, I said, I love it.
“When I drove it out of the showroom everyone was staring at me and waving and giving me high fives,” she says. “I felt like a movie star.”
The date? April 15, 1964, two days before (Ford CEO) Lee Iacocca unveiled the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair.
Gail married engineer Tom Wise a couple of years later and the couple still have the car, now restored. They have the original bill of sale, too, dated two days before a premature claim to the first official Mustang.
Across in Canada, pilot Tucker was driving his Mustang weeks before executives at Ford realised that their very first car had been sold. They wanted to buy it back, but Tucker said no, he was having too much fun with it.
Eventually they struck a deal. On March 2, 1966, Tucker drove Mustang No. 1 back to the Ford factory and turned the keys in for a new model – the one-millionth Mustang, a white convertible.