|First Production Hardtop Mustang
1964 1/2 COUPE
Was it the first Mustang built?
Researched and written by Bob Fria
It had been generally accepted in Mustang circles that the first production Mustang off the assembly line was the 1964 1/2 Wimbledon White convertible, Vehicle Identification Number 5F08F100001, currently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This vehicle was in fact represented by the Museum as being the "First Production Mustang". In the book Mustang Production Guide, Volume 1, copyrighted 1994, and authored by Jim Smart and Jim Haskell, this vehicle is also referred to as "the first mass production unit off the line according to Ford Motor Company". The "so called" Job 1 publicly rolled off the assembly line on March 9, 1964 even though the vehicle data plate shows a build date of March 5th. But when was the white convertible really built?
Canadian Eastern Provincial Airlines Captain Stanley Tucker owned that
first production white Mustang convertible. Coincidentally, I am also an airline Captain, but with United Airlines. I recently found a 1964 1/2 Mustang hardtop in Caspian Blue color bearing factory VIN number 5F07U100002. This "plain jane" hardtop has now been formally acknowledged in writing by Ford Motor Company as the first production Mustang hardtop to be assigned a VIN number.
This vehicle also has a data plate build date of March 5, 1964. There is a strong possibility of this Mustang being "Job 1", the first production Mustang off the Dearborn assembly line not the white Convertible as incorrectly represented in past years by Ford and the Henry Ford Museum as the "First Mustang built." That title representation was corrected by the Henry Ford Museum officials in the Summer of 1998, to read "1965 Ford Mustang serial number 5F08F100001" only, with no further references to be made as to the "first Mustang built".
Captain Tucker and
Captain Fria and
In 1964, Ford manufacturing procedures were not all that different from what they are today. When an entirely new line of vehicles like the Mustang was to be produced, original edition prototype metal parts had to be manufactured from approved design drawings. These parts first came together as a recognizable chassis as they were hand assembled at the pilot plant. With Mustang these first few hand made vehicles were assembled at the Allen Park Pilot Plant. Parts and pieces that didn't fit or needed modification were changed until they met specifications. These cars were then used for whatever study or testing purposes were required. Some were destroyed in crash tests. Some may have never been completed as a drivable vehicle. Some were used for paint color studies, etc. It is presumed Ford destroyed most of these pilot cars after their test useage.
By the end of February, 1964, it became apparent that the initial dealer demand for the car coupled with the large introductory TV advertising campaign scheduled for April 16th would produce a demand for the cars that would be hard to accommodate. Word went out that it was imperative to get as many production cars completed as soon as possible. Considering parts shortages and slow assembly line start up procedures, the decision was made to use some of the undamaged prototype chassis, or pilot plant vehicles (as they were called), to be converted to actual production vehicles, with assigned VIN numbers.
The surviving pilot cars were shipped over from Allen Park to Dearborn where the chassis were stored on the second floor of the assembly building. A few of the pilot cars were yet to be built on the Dearborn line as the assembly of the first production cars started. As the new model was introduced to the workers on the Dearborn assembly line, the line had to be shut down for a period of time to convert line equipment and replace parts inventories for the new model. Only when all new parts were in place, spot welders and jigs ready to operate and assembly line technicians trained in the new procedures, could the first new production cars start down the line. There was a Launch Team assigned to that first vehicle, known as Job 1, to insure it moved down the assembly line efficiently throughout the assembly and build process.
Each member of that team was responsible for his area of expertise, ie the powertrain engineer would insure the engine goes into the car, fits properly and is connected correctly. Each launch team member operates in the same way. Should there be a problem with the assembly of the car, the assembly line must be stopped, the problem on Job 1 corrected, and then the line restarted. Due to these types of stoppages, it could not reasonably be predicted at what time of day Job 1 would actually roll off the line at completion, either by the hour or sometimes, as has happened, even by the day!
This assembly line information is germane to the question of whether the convertible was actually first off the line. In order for the assembly line technicians to become familiar with the new model, it is not now, nor has it ever been the practice to send a convertible down the line as Job 1. A complex vehicle, as in the White Convertible production car #1, can be described as one which is substantially different from the basic model to be built. The Blue "plain jane" Hardtop, production car #2, is such a basic car. Indeed the #1 car is a convertible and this car would have been way out of the norm for the first car coming down the line. In comparison, the most logical car to build as Job 1 would be a hardtop. This assembly line protocol information has been revealed first hand by a current Ford Mustang assembly line engineer and Mustang historian, who also states that after extensive research, not one person, alive or retired, can be found today who was either on the launch team or was actually on the line the day these two cars were built who can relate which car, if either, came off the line first, either by color, or let alone even by VIN number.
Additionally, research with a retired Mustang Project Engineer directly involved with the first prototype and production cars confirms this protocol and the lack of definitive information as to which car was Job 1.
To confuse matters further, we now had the Dearborn line starting the build with the stored second floor prototype or pilot plant semi-completed chassis, with the last of the few new prototypes interspersed and then the new production vehicles, not necessarily in that order!
First publicity is very important for the launch of a new vehicle line, and this was especially the case for the new mustang. It was built in total media secrecy, which would all lead up to an extensive worldwide public introduction of the car on April 17th, 1964. A photograph of the first new Mustang coming off the Dearborn assembly line would create great press. As was the usual case for introductory ceremonies, the end of the assembly line area was cleaned up, painted and proper backdrop issues addressed for the event and publicity. Company media personnel were given a date and exact time to be in place to witness the new Mustang coming off the line. Company executives were to attend the ceremony for the publicity photos.
As it was not possible to precisely predict when the first mass produced vehicle would actually roll off the line for the above mentioned reasons, the entire event had to be staged for the publicity shots. What that means is that the roll off event must use vehicles which were previously built, specially selected for color and equipment, and then placed in position on the end of the line so that it appears in the publicity shots the first cars coming off the line are doing so at the exact appointed time for the staged media event. In fact, both the serial #1 and serial #2 cars were probably completed prior to March 9th with the Convertible most probably being completed after the first Hardtop non sequentially. It seems a March 5th Convertible was pulled aside to be used on March 9th in the first-off ceremony. It would seem prudent to select a nicely optioned convertible to be the first car coming off for the publicity photos. And in fact, it has been reported that roll off photos of Job 1 were taken almost every hour on the hour for the publicity department after previous session photo proofs were developed and reviewed and the changes made to the roll off scene to include different dignitaries, different color and model cars, different lighting, etc. Even some of the "pilot units" were used in the roll off photos that day. As strange as it may seem, there is only one reported piece of film footage, as of yet to be located, which shows a Convertible coming off the line identified as the first production Mustang. No other photos, either from Ford Motor Company, private or public, marking the event are known to exist.
In fact , any photographs or film footage subsequently located in the future showing a white convertible, or any other Mustang coming off the line as "Job 1" for the ceremony were in fact of a staged event using a previously assembled car strategically placed at the end of the line! The photo's may show this serial #1 car, but in fact it was not the first mass produced car off the Dearborn assembly line.
Case in Point. The new SN95 body style 1994 Mustang assembly line roll off of Job 1 was also a documented staged media event using a previously built red convertible as the roll off #1 car. To date, Ford does not know or admit to the fate or the whereabouts of the '94 serial #1 car, most probably a hardtop also built prior to the official roll off date event.
Research with all of the Ford Motor Company historical offices, including the Technical Research Unit of the Customer Assistance Center, the Ford Motor Company Archives Department, the Photo Media Library and the FCN Resource Center have in fact to this date not been able to produce any photographic or written evidence proving which car was really the first production Mustang off the assembly line. All records of pre - 1968 Mustang production have been reported destroyed by Ford.
Additional private research including the National Automotive Historical Section of the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Historical Museum has not produced any documentation on which car was first off the line. No one at Ford Motor Company is willing to say that the white Convertible #1 can be proven to be the first Mustang off the line. Precise documentation of which car was actually the first Mustang off the Dearborn assembly line may never be found.
Based on the above and other facts, there is a strong probability that this newly found Caspian Blue Mustang hardtop, VIN Number 5FO7UlOOOO2, which is a proven prototype car, may have also been the first mass production Mustang off the Dearborn assembly line.
We know Mustang preproduction prototypes were built at the Allen Park remote location and on the "real" Dearborn assembly line, so it is difficult if not impossible to say exactly when the real first mass production "Job 1" came off the line, as there are no known records to prove the event. Mustang author and historian Jim Smart states " Job 1 is strictly a matter of perspective and it symbolizes the start of mass production. Maybe that's all Job 1 is an illusion."
One thing is for sure. The Wimbledon White Convertible with VIN #1 is the first Mustang convertible assigned a VIN number, and the Caspian Blue hardtop with VIN #2 is the first Mustang hardtop assigned a VIN number, making these two cars first-born "fraternal twins", the first in a long line of Mustang production that would run in excess of 35 years and millions of cars.