Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
October 1, 2009
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

There has always been a certain fascination about early production Mustangs. We've all heard the story of 100001, a white convertible that was mistakenly sold to airline pilot Stanley Tucker and eventually returned to Ford, where it is now preserved by The Henry Ford museum. The hardtop with the earliest VIN, 100002, was found in Canada by Art Fria, who restored the car and now displays it at museums.

We also know that 12 of the earliest production Mustang convertibles, 100003 through 100014, were used on the Magic Skyway at the Ford Pavilion during the 1964 portion of the New York World's Fair. These cars were specially prepared by Carron & Company for the Magic Skyway's conveyor system and were used, along with 134 other Ford convertibles, to transport World's Fair visitors through the display. When they were replaced by '65 models for the 1965 portion of the fair, the '64 cars were returned to Ford, where they were overhauled before being sold through the company's used car program. Most were driven by their new owners, then discarded as mileage and usage took their tolls. Until recently, the only known '64 1/2 World's Fair convertible has been 100006, owned by Alan Shepley in Georgia. It's little more than a rusty hulk in need of a total restoration.

But while Mustang enthusiasts have eagerly kept their eyes open for surviving early production and World's Fair Mustangs, Pennsylvania's Dr. John Mansell didn't have to look far. He has owned 5F08F100004, a black convertible that was used at the World's Fair, since 1965. A true survivor, the car was recently pulled out of a 31-year storage for display at the All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It still has remnants of the brackets that attached the chassis to the Magic Skyway conveyor tracks.

All along, Dr. Mansell knew what he had. In fact, he has been collecting early production and special vehicles, not just Mustangs, for many years, starting out with a Ford Model As and '57-'59 Skyliner retractables. A family physician, Dr. Mansell recalls using one of his Model As to make house calls because it could transverse the ruts in the dirt roads in the Amish communities.

In 1965, a friend at Ford alerted John about a group of early production Mustangs that had just been returned from the New York World's Fair. "He mentioned a shipment of vehicles that came through from the World's Fair. They were in the parking lot next to the building where he worked," Dr. Mansell recalls. "He investigated and found this one."

However, at the time, Dr. Mansell was building his first home and couldn't afford the $2,475 price tag, so he convinced his father-in-law, Chester McCartney, to purchase the black convertible. "John LaPay, the fellow in charge of used car sales for Ford division, originally got the car for himself," Dr. Mansell says. "He used it for awhile and then put it up for sale. That's when we got it, on June 23, 1965."

Dr. Mansell and his father-in-law traveled to Dearborn to pick up the 6,100-mile (not including Magic Skyway use, of course) Mustang and drive it back to Pennsylvania. Before leaving town, they posed for photos at Ford. McCartney drove the car for several months, including a cross-country trip to California and back. On December 2, 1965, Dr. Mansell purchased the Mustang, with 20,237 miles, from his father-in-law for $2,200. "It hadn't depreciated much," he says now.

Unlike most of the cars in his collection, the Mustang was used as family transportation. Dr. Mansell's son, Lee, recalls, "I didn't get to drive it but my older sister did. Every time we took it out, we documented it. Due to the Pennsylvania potholes, we'd lose a hubcap every now and then, and we'd have to go out and search for it. It was an everyday driver but at the same time we were trying to keep track of every little thing."

Dr. Mansell points out that the car had standard spinner hubcaps during its tenure as a World's Fair car, but apparently they were replaced by spinner wire hubcaps during its ownership by John LaPay at Ford. "He also switched to a black top boot rather than a red one, for whatever reason," Dr. Mansell says. "His own personal taste, I suppose."

Chester McCartney started a logbook for the Mustang when he picked it up in Dearborn, noting the mileage for fuel stops and oil changes. When Dr. Mansell purchased the car, he continued the logbook by documenting every trip, gas stop, and repair. "We were able to get 19 miles to the gallon," he says. Along the way, the shocks were replaced and typical Pennsylvania rust forced Dr. Mansell to replace the front fenders in 1972. "We repainted the car with lacquer at that point," Dr. Mansell recalls. "Other than that, we didn't do anything other than just minor stuff. The engine and transmission never had to be overhauled."

One of six kids, Lee remembers riding in the car during its stint as a family driver. "We used to drive it to Lake Erie, three kids in front and three in back. I used to have to sit on the hump."

Dr. Mansell adds with a laugh, "A console would have been a deterrent. The carpeting over the hump gave him a little bit of comfort."

A local Ford dealership, Phil Fitts Ford, requested Dr. Mansell's Mustang for display during the Mustang's 10th anniversary in the summer of 1974. Lee adds, "It was also used in a lot of parades and stuff in town. It was one of the favorite cars that people wanted to use because it's a Mustang convertible."

We asked if anyone ever noticed the early VIN. "Not unless I pointed it out to them," says Dr. Mansell. "And people forgot about the World's Fair after it closed. It was ancient history."

In 1978, Dr. Mansell "retired" the convertible and placed it in his barn, with many of his other cars, for storage. Scanning his tattered log book, he notes, "The mileage was 76,935 when we last bought gas. By the time we put it in storage, it turned over 77,000."

So while Mustang enthusiasts searched for early-production and World's Fair Mustangs during the 1990s and 2000s, Dr. Mansell had one, a well-documented survivor and family heirloom, in his barn. A phone call from Lee to his brother-in-law Rich Downing, who works for Classic Design Concepts, set the ball in motion for pulling the car out of its 31-year storage.

"I wanted to get a copy of John Clor's book," Lee says. "I remembered that Rich had mentioned going to Alabama for the Mustang 45th Anniversary Celebration and I thought maybe he was going to the same meet that was listed on Clor's website. So I called Rich in Alabama and asked him to get the book and have it signed as a Father's Day gift. And I told him a little bit about Dad having the fourth Mustang and it was at the World's Fair. That's when Rich said, 'Your Dad has a car from the Magic Skyway?' Rich thought it was unbelievable, realizing the importance of the car."

Rich convinced Lee that the car should be pulled out of storage. "We all get into ruts," Dr. Mansell explains. "It sounded like a good idea when Lee decided to give this a try."

Getting the car out of its 31-year sleep proved challenging. Rich traveled from Detroit to Pennsylvania to help. Lee came in from his home in Columbus, Ohio. First, the Mustang was buried behind a number of other cars, which had to be moved. After installing new spark plugs and adding fresh fuel, the 260 fired up and "purred like a kitten," according to Rich. After "pounding on the hubs" to loosen the brakes, the car rolled into the sunlight for the first time since 1978. Amazingly, the replacement tires still had air in them. However, the generator died not long afterwards.

For the most part, the car was displayed at Carlisle just as it was pulled from Dr. Mansell's barn. "We did clean up the engine," Lee says. "We found mouse nests in the air cleaner. When we pulled off the air cleaner, hickory nuts rolled out of it. Luckily, the raccoons didn't get to it like they did some of Dad's cars, although one of raccoons did chase Rich out of the barn."

For Dr. Mansell, the revival of 100004 also brought his family together. He says, "It was nice to have that opportunity, not only when we started the project but all the way through this weekend (at Carlisle)."

As you'd expect from a car that has spent its entire life in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the undercarraige is somewhat corroded, although thankfully Dr. Mansell avoided driving the Mustang in the winter so most is surface rust. However, you can still see what's left of the brackets that attached the car to the Magic Skyway. The main parts were simply torched off to prepare the car for sale.

After the "coming party" at Carlisle, we asked Dr. Mansell what he plans to do with his early-production, World's Fair convertible. "Besides getting it into running shape with a new generator and brakes, we're going to steam clean the undercarriage and work it over with a wire brush, then we'll apply some sealer under there. I wouldn't want to put it back into storage without protecting it with some kind of sealer."

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Lee adds, "We're still waiting for the next part to be written. Once we get it cleaned up, it would be nice to get it into a museum, somewhere secure where people can see it and appreciate it."

So if you're out there checking VINs for early production and World's Fair Mustangs, you can check 100004 off your list. Dr. Mansell and his family have that one covered.

The "O5C" Pre-Production Cars
For years, it was generally accepted that 5F08F100001, a Wimbledon White convertible, rolled off the Dearborn assembly line as the first production Mustang on Monday, March 9, 1964. However, early Mustang historian Bob Fria, who owns 5F07U100002, has confirmed that this old story simply isn't true. Bob has been able to verify that 100001 was one of 150-180 pre-production Mustangs produced prior to the official March 9 mass production start-up date. The exact number is not known.

According to the February 1964 issue of Ford World, a Ford employee publication, approximately 150 pre-production Mustang units had already been produced at the Dearborn Assembly Plant prior to the March 9 production start-up date. Based on data taken from low vehicle identification number cars, Bob has confirmed that any '64 1/2 Mustang with an "05C" date code is a pre-production unit, meaning it was produced before March 9, 1964. This does not mean it was produced on March 5; the 05C date code is an arbitrary "flag" code intended for Ford use only.

Between Bob's efforts and what we've read in the Mustang Production Guide, Volume 1, '65-'66, we've been able to confirm that most of the pre-production units were either export units or cars kept by Ford for sales promotions or crash testing.

VINs 5F08F100003 through 5F08F100014 were designated as World's Fair Magic Skyway units. After the Fair, they were sold to the public from the Ford Employee Resale lot in Dearborn. Others were used for different purposes. For example, 5F07F100025, 100026, 100027, 100030, and 100055-all with the "05C" date code-were sold to Alan Mann Racing in England for Monte Carlo Rally competition. Units 5F07F100022, 5F07F100023, and 5F07F100024 were retained by Ford for promotional programs. Holman & Moody got 5F07F100034 for racing development. Hollywood car builder George Barris got 5F08F100036 for one of his custom projects.

If you find an 05C" date code '64 1/2 Mustang, you've found a pre-production unit built during January-February of 1964 at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. Some may have been bucked (body welded together) at Ford's Allen Park pilot plant and assembled at Dearborn. Pilot plant units received a plant code of "S," such as 5S08F100000 or 4S08F100000 based on factory images we've seen.

According to the Mustang Production Guide, the earliest known mass production unit, with date code 09C, is 5F08F100212. This does not mean it is Job 1 or the first mass production Mustang. Until factory paperwork is found or a Job 1 photograph surfaces, the real Job 1 remains unknown. -Jim Smart

The World's Fair Mustangs
Ford's new Mustang was officially introduced on April 17, 1964, at the start of the New York World's Fair. In fact, the World's Fair introduction was one of the reasons the Mustang debuted as a mid-1964 model. "Where else could you introduce a car at such a world-class event?" former Ford president Lee Iacocca told Mustang Monthly in a 2004 interview. "We had the Mustang introduction planned for the World's Fair on opening day. The Ford exhibit was so beautiful. We featured the Mustang corral and it was unbelievable! Walt Disney and Henry Ford were there"

Ford's Rotunda exhibit, credited as the largest pavilion at the Fair, incorporated a Magic Skyway ride through a Disney-created fantasy world, which took visitors through time, from pre-historic dinosaurs to futuristic flying cars. Unlike typical rides, the Magic Skyway transported visitors in brand-new '64 Ford convertibles, which were prepared for the unique conveyor system by Carron & Company in Inkster, Michigan. According to a Ford press release, 146 Ford convertibles were used, including 12 new Mustangs.

The timing for the Mustangs was tight. Regular '64 1/2 Mustang production was scheduled to start on March 9, leaving only five weeks for the Magic Skyway Mustangs to be prepared, shipped, and installed on the Skyway conveyor. Instead, Ford issued DSO 840027 in January to have 12 pre-production convertibles, 100003 through 100014, built for the Magic Skyway. Our feature car, 100004, was one of four convertibles, two Raven Black and two Wimbledon White, prepared by Carron & Company for shipment to the World's Fair site on April 1, 1964. Like the other World's Fair Mustangs, it was equipped with a 260 V-8, automatic transmission, spinner wheel covers, a single-key lock set (all of the World's Fair convertibles were keyed alike), and Show Car Treatment.

The '64 1/2 World's Fair convertibles were produced in four colors - Raven Black, Wimbledon White, Guardsman Blue, and Rangoon Red. There were three in each color.

According to an invoice obtained by Dr. Mansell, Carron & Company charged Ford $1,010 to prepare each car for the Magic Skyway. The modifications included adding special brackets and straps to the chassis, disconnecting the steering linkage, disabling the brakes, removing the fuel tanks (per fire code), and adjusting the ground clearance to 2 5/16 inches. While the engines and drivetrains were removed from the larger vehicles (Galaxies, Lincolns, etc.), this was not the case for the Mustangs and other small cars.

A four-track tape player was also installed in the trunk to provide the ride's narration, which played through the AM radio. Riders used the radio push-buttons to select one of four different languages. Friction alternators mounted in the right-rear wheel charged a 12-volt battery, also in the trunk, to power the tape player, radio, and other operational electrical systems.

Shortly after the six-month 1964 portion of the World's Fair closed on October 18, the '64 Fords were removed from the Magic Skyway in preparation for replacement by '65 models over the winter. According to Ford's press release, "This year's convertibles will be returned to Ford for reconditioning. With unused brakes, lights, and steering mechanisms reconnected, they will be offered for sale as used cars through Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers."

The press release also provided some numbers: "Convertibles cruising the Magic Skyway have traveled a combined distance equal to 34 times around the world. The 146 Ford-built Ford convertibles are still going strong after 806,400 miles. Their doors still close with a solid click after 3,276,000 slams. Their seats still spring back after more than 6,500,000 passengers."

Twelve '65 Mustang convertibles, with six-cylinder engines instead of V-8s, replaced the '64 1/2 models for the 1965 portion of the World's Fair. One of the '65 models has survived, 5F08T383386, and is currently undergoing a full restoration. The rebuild of its engine can be found elsewhere in this issue. - Donald Farr

Other Sources Search for "Magic Skyway" to find a 1964 promotional film about the Ford pavilion, narrated by Henry Ford and Walt Disney. Photo gallery of Mustangs at the World's Fair. Look for it in the "gallery" section. Photo gallery of the Ford pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Article from the Mustang Club of America's Mustang Times about the World's Fair Mustangs.