Back in 1964, Gail Brown was just starting out in the world at 22 years old as an elementary school teacher. Gail lived with her parents and drove her mother’s ’57 Fairlane 500 convertible. Desiring her own car in the mid-60s, with car culture in full swing, Gail wanted something cool and it had to be a convertible.
Gail’s parents accompanied her to Johnson Ford in Chicago, a dealer that her family has been doing business with for years. Nothing on the floor really sparked her interest. With a sly grin, the salesman said that he had something in the back that was “really new.” In the storeroom under a cover sat a brand-new 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible in Skylight Blue fully loaded with a 260 cubic-inch V-8 engine and Rally Pac instrumentation.
“That’s me,” said Gail. “That’s what I want!”
Gail brought in a friend’s ’58 Chevy that had seen better days, which put $400 toward her purchase and then borrowed some money from her parents to cover the rest with a grand total of $3,419. What makes Gail Brown stand out from the rest of the first Mustang purchase stories is that she picked hers up two days before the car was set to go on sale. Little did she know that she would be the first known retail buyer of the Ford Mustang.
Gail recalls those early days of Mustang ownership. “There was a middle school attached to our elementary, and the boys fawned over the Mustang. “I was the coolest teacher in the school that year,” she said. “Our custodian told me if he had a nickel for every time those boys stared at my Mustang, he could retire.”
“From the first days it went on sale in 1964, Mustang has appealed to a broad range of customers, including both women and men of all ages, thanks to its blend of style, performance and affordability,” said Melanie Banker, Ford Mustang marketing manager. “Those attributes remain a part of the Mustang formula to this day.”
The car seemed to grab attention everywhere she went. People stared at her and the car. “I felt like a movie star everywhere I went for the first few months,” said Gail. “I remember everyone waving and flagging me down and giving me high-fives.”
Gail married her longtime sweetheart Tom Wise while he was home from the Navy. That following year they moved to the suburbs and started a family. The Mustang became Tom’s daily driver in ’74 and soon started to show its age.
Fifteen years of Chicago winters and four kids, the fenders were starting to rust, the floor was giving out, and small mechanical issues started popping up. During one particular rough winter storm, the Mustang was parked in the street and when Tom went to take the car to work, he found out that the battery had been stolen.
That’s when the Mustang was pushed into the garage, and corroded throttle linkage didn’t help the Mustang’s case. With everything adding up and life getting in the way, the car spent the next 27 years in the garage.
Over time Gail had thoughts of getting rid of it, but Tom had bigger dreams for this Mustang. He wanted to restore it to its former glory, so there it sat under growing piles of garage junk through the ‘80s and ‘90s until the kids flew the coop and Tom was able to retire. In 2007, Tom decided it was time to get the plan moving.
Fast forward three years and the body was fixed, rid of rust and repainted. It sported a brand-new top and all of the mechanical issues were fixed. The Wise Mustang was back on the road again.
“I’m a car guy, but not one of those restomod types. This car is bone stock, exactly as it came from the factory,” says Tom.
The funny thing is that even though Gail bought it, she doesn’t really drive the Mustang anymore. “Tom put so much work into it that I’d be scared to scratch it. I’m happy to sit in the passenger’s seat these days,” Gail says.
This Mustang gets its share of driving like any normal car. Since the restoration completion, the Wises enter it in many car shows and toured nearby cities. People are amazed with the story with all of the documentation to back it up.
Now, their children have children, and as one would imagine the car is very popular in the family. “The grandkids love it, everybody loves it,” says Gail. “We all go for rides around town, but of course we don’t go too far with them in tow since it doesn’t have seat belts, but it’s great fun.”
Tom mentions in passing that one of his youngest granddaughters is already enamored with the Mustang, asking, “Grandpa, can I have this car when I’m 16?”