In April 1964, Gail Brown was 22 year old elementary school teacher and getting to work in her mother's '57 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible. She wanted a car of her own. It had to be cool and it had to be a convertible.
Gail went to Johnson Ford in Chicago on April 15th, 1964. After looking at all of cars in the showroom she told the sales representative that nothing appealed to her. With a grin, he said, "I've got something in the back that's really new." In a storeroom, still under a cover, was a brand-new Ford Mustang convertible in Skylight Blue, with a 260-cubic-inch V8 engine and Rally Pac instrumentation.
"That's what I want!" Gail said. It cost her $3,419. What makes Gail Brown unique is that she bought her Mustang on April 15th, two days before the car was set to go on sale, by chance becoming the first known retail buyer of an American icon.
Today, Gail recalls with a great deal of fondness those early days of Mustang ownership: "I was the coolest teacher in the school that year and the boys fawned over the Mustang" she said "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."
In 1966, Gail married longtime sweetheart Tom Wise. The Mustang first became the family car and was then it was relegated into being the backup car for the growing family. Fifteen years of Chicago winters and everything four kids could throw at it eventually started to catch up with the car. By 1979 the mudguards were rusting, the floors were giving way and mechanical gremlins were making it difficult to rely on . So it was pushed into the garage and spent the next 27 years there.
When Tom retired he began a restoration project and by 2007 all of the rust was cut out, a new top installed, the body repainted and all of the mechanicals repaired. Now their children have children, and as you can 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".
David Burrell is the editor of www.retroautos.com.au