Bob Fria
May 13, 2015

Editor's Note: In the Apr. ’15 issue of Mustang Monthly, we dug deep into Bob Fria’s decades of research about how Mustang production began over 50 years ago. Since that story was published, Bob has found even more information about the elusive, actual Job One Mustang built that day in early March. This car, the very first production Mustang to roll off of the assembly line, is the “Holy Grail” when it comes to early Mustangs, and while it has yet to be found, Bob’s research has just made it identifiable. Now, the rest of the story.

New research has been released to assist in identifying the first Mustang to leave the Dearborn Assembly Plant assembly line on March 9, 1964, the first day of retail Mustang production for Ford Motor Company. Understanding the process to get to that elusive first production Mustang is a step-by-step journey. We must start at the very beginning, when the first clay mold of a Mustang was sculpted, turned into a wood buck, and then into a metal likeness.

Those first chassis produced were known as prototype Mustangs. The dictionary defines prototype as a one-of-a-kind item. From research, we believe about 25 prototype chassis were constructed. Each one of those cars were, in fact, one-of-a-kind, simply because they were all hand-constructed and assembled, each being different in its own way due to on-going changes and early construction irregularities. Although the main purpose of building these chassis’ was to confirm part compatibility, fit, and functionality, some of these cars were actually used for first-ever advertising clips. The one known surviving prototype chassis existing today is a hardtop that was converted into a convertible, originally identified as a Special Falcon II, more commonly known today as the 1963 Mustang II convertible owned by the Detroit Historical Society in Detroit, Michigan. Modifications to the Mustang II configuration were performed at Dearborn Steel Tubing, a Ford modification contractor in Dearborn. That Mustang has been a display car since its transition was completed. It is believed all other prototypes were destroyed, with the possible exception of one.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company.
Photo courtesy of Al Rogers. Shown here in both the Ford-produced publicity shot and Al Roger’s modern-day photo is the Special Falcon II, more commonly known as the 1963 Mustang II convertible.

As the Mustang build program moved on toward production of the first retail Mustang, the next phase started with the scheduled build and assembly of Mustangs known as Pilot Plant cars, all assembled at the Allen Park Pilot Plant facility in Allen Park, Michigan. It is believed one of the hardtop prototype cars was sent to the pilot plant for example use in understanding the part placement and build process for the to-be-built pilot cars, and had a VIN 4S07Xxxxxxx (“S” is the pilot plant designator). One photograph of this actual stamped VIN on an inner fender exists in the Ford archives but the numerical sequence numbers are not shown in the photo. Research pointers indicate the first actual, all hand-assembled pilot plant produced chassis had Allen Park Pilot Plant VIN 5S08F100000. We know at least 15 pilot cars were scheduled by Ford to be built, after this 100000 control chassis, known as the Batch A grouping. The first would be assigned a pilot plant Inventory Control Number of A1, the last known chassis being A15. Ultimate uses for most of those chassis have been accounted for, except for four. Their dispositions are unknown and may have been scrapped.

Photo courtesy of Bill Snyder. The only known pilot car to survive today as a pilot plant VIN identified chassis, 5S08F100009, exists as a Dearborn Steel Tube company project, which modified the convertible into a fastback configuration. Research shows two of the latter built pilot plant chassis were sent to the Dearborn Assembly Plant, where the new Mustang assembly line would be located. There they were inserted onto the assembly line at the start of the pre-production run and built into final completed Mustang cars for special use by Ford as indicated by their data plate DSO numbers. Those two cars have been positively identified as pilot plant Inventory Control Numbers A12 and A15, which also were administratively addressed as pilot plant VIN numbers 5S08F100012 and 5S07U100015, respectively.
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company.
Photo courtesy of Bob Fria. Chassis 5S08F100012 is known today as the first VIN numbered pre-production convertible, 5F08F100001, located at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Chassis 5S07U100015 is known as the first VIN-numbered pre-production hardtop, 5F07U100002, owned privately, is located in San Diego, California.

Current research shows approximately 180–210 total pre-production cars were built on or before March 5, 1964. There are no known pre-production cars built after March 5. As these cars were completed, they were driven into an indoor warehouse holding station and remained there until the entire run was completed, except for ones still needed to fill internal Ford engineering and testing requirements.

Plans were made for the Job 1 roll-off on March 9. When a new car line was started, for publicity purposes, the final assembly line roll-off station was prepared to be photogenic for the publicity pictures. The station was cleaned, painted, and spruced up so the Job 1 car could be photographed with Ford dignitaries. These photographs would be used by the Ford Photographic Department. Today, although there were assuredly many photographs taken of the event, there are no images known to exist depicting that Job 1 roll-off. Examination of images from the Ford Photographic library fails to produce any of these images. Neither does a survey of the Ford Archive Dept. or other company department files, or from the Benson Ford Research Library. No known personally owned photographs have been located. We do know, from personal interviews, some of the dignitaries that participated at the ceremony—Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, Hal Sperlich, and Gale Halderman were but some of those photographed at the event.

Now let’s address which identifiable Mustang was the first roll-off Job 1 car. From experience, Ford employees knew you could never have a “raw, unrehearsed” roll-off event that would be worthy of introduction PR photography. A designated time was used for all dignitaries to be in place at the roll-off station; however, no one could predict the exact time the actual Job 1 car would exit the line. First remember, the Mustang was built interspersed with Fairlane cars on the same line. So, for instance, at exactly 9 a.m. the car (or cars) coming off the line might be a Fairlane, not a Mustang. Additionally, the exact timing for Job 1 roll-off was a moving target, simply because assembly line abnormalities might cause the line to be stopped for a period of time, sometimes extended, due to some problem, thereby causing an undetermined delay. Another problem to be reckoned with was the color presentation for photographic composition of the Job 1 Mustang. The best photos would utilize a Mustang with eye pleasing color and body appeal, i.e. hardtop or convertible and visible exterior options.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company. While this is not the Job One car, perhaps the real one looks just like it?

So how were all of these potential issues addressed so as not to embarrass the VIPs in attendance? The answer was simple. Just pretend the roll-off Mustang was the actual Job 1 car. To accomplish this illusion for the photographers, a small group of Mustangs from the already built pre-production cars being stored at the holding bay were pre-chosen for that specific use. Those Mustangs were selected for their body styles, exterior and interior colors and their installed options. Some of those cars were pre-selected, exactly identical Mustangs, the twin to be used in place of the originally selected car should that car become damaged or unavailable during the staging process. The cars were driven to the Job 1 roll-off station, where the assembly line would be stopped, and they were selectively placed at the head of the line, ahead of the Mustangs being produced on that first day of retail production. Now the particular pre-selected Mustangs could be placed in proper sequence for the roll-off photos. Photographic predictability was certain, as was the event timing. Because of this staging process, we will probably never know the actual VIN of the first production Mustang built that 9th day of March 1964, as it was preceded by all the VIP publicity using pre-production Mustangs ahead of its actual roll-off. Even if the Job 1 Mustang had been photographed as the real “Job 1 Mustang,” it would be hard, if not impossible, to identify that car today as there would be no VIN number associated with the photograph. There are no known Ford Motor Company records revealing an actual VIN number for that Mustang. So its identity is lost. Well, maybe not.

Recently, researched and discovered radiator support coded markings applied during assembly reveal this car should have a radiator support painted Inventory Control Number of B1. Its VIN sequence number would fall between 5F0xx100180 and 5F0xx100210. That Inventory Control Number was hand painted on to the radiator support early in the assembly process, and was subsequently painted over with black engine bay paint, at which point it became invisible.

Photo courtesy of Bob Fria. To find the real Job One car, one must remove the factory black paint from the radiator support to find the marker outline of B1. This photo shows the author’s support from his car (VIN 100002) after it was stripped to bare steel. The top line of the four-line code here is A15, the inventory control code (also known as the rotation number).

The only way that code would be found today is if during a restoration, the radiator support was carefully stripped of its black paint by a nondestructive metal surface process and the code number, now chemically etched into the support metal from age, would become visible–and that magic number for Job 1 would be B1.

Let’s look at those pre-production cars used for the photographic session at Job 1 ceremonies. The only information able to be researched today from known sources comes from Gale Halderman, the Ford designer credited with the first Mustang designs. Mr. Halderman has related directly that he remembers events of the day well, some 50 years later. He was there to specifically watch for the placement of a black Mustang hardtop pre-designated to become Henry Ford’s personal car. That car was identified by VIN 5F07K100148 and was to be pre-positioned for roll-off as the fourth Mustang to roll out. And it was. As to the other cars preceding it, his memory is void of specifics. Now we’ve defined the first group of three Mustangs preceding the Henry Ford fourth car.

It seems probable there would have been a mix of hardtops and convertibles, selected for primarily color. Could the 5F08F100001 Wimbledon White convertible have been one of those cars? Could the 5F07U100002 Caspian Blue hardtop have been one of those cars? And if so, which one was presented first off the line? After all, they were the first two Dearborn Assembly Plant VIN-numbered Mustangs. It is possible these two Mustangs may have been the first photographed coming off the line. But so is it possible some of the other pre-production Mustangs were selected for use in those spots. They were looking for color presentation. So using a particular photogenic color would have been a large factor in the position selection criteria. Until a photograph taken that day at the roll-off ceremony is found, if ever, we will probably never know which of these pre-production cars were used for the session, or in what sequence. And then, the cars shown would not have been identified by VIN number, so it’s not possible to know exactly which one of those Mustangs were used.

We’ve identified two areas here that seemingly would produce the real identity of the “Holy Grail” first Mustang produced on Job 1 day, March 9, 1964. First, the real Job 1 Mustang we believe to be identified by its Inventory Control Number B1 was assembled first on the Dearborn assembly line that day. By definition, this car would be the Job 1 car. Second, we have to recognize the staged pre-production Mustangs as being the “first” roll-off Mustangs. Perception tells us the first car off the line was the real Job 1, but in fact it was not and only staged there for the photographers. Sometime later that morning that first day of production, Job 1 Mustang, B1, was rolled off the line. It may not have been photographed as the Job 1 Mustang, and today would only be identifiable by its Inventory Control Number B1 with a corresponding VIN in the range of 5F0xx100180 and 5F0xx100210.

Until someone finds and is able to identify the B1 Mustang, we will have to accept the first roll-off pre-production unit as the “Holy Grail” first 1965 Ford Mustang to roll off the Dearborn Assembly Plant assembly line, (roll-off being the key word here–not “built that day”) and reserve the real “built that day” Job 1 title for the B1 yet-to-be-found car.

The purported “first Job 1 1965 Mustang Dearborn Assembly Plant roll-off” car was photographically recorded for PR purposes only and was an illusion depicting the first Mustang built on March 9, 1964.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company