The rollout of the original Ford Mustang was a little bit funky. The first Mustang Ford ever sold wasn’t even supposed to be for sale yet. A schoolteacher purchased it a few days before the official launch and still owns it to this day. However, a Ford dealership in Canada sold a Mustang a few days ahead of schedule, too. It wasn’t the first Mustang ever sold. However, it was the first one ever built, and it was never meant to be sold in the first place.
The very first Ford Mustang ever built was a pre-production model meant for display only. However, a dealer didn’t get the memo.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford wanted every single dealership in North America to have a Mustang on display when they announced its release. So, Ford began sending cars out ahead of time. In order to ensure Mustang examples got to dealers in time for the reveal, they shipped cars to the furthest away dealerships first. At the time, the furthest dealership was George G.R. Parsons Ford in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. So, Ford shipped the very first Mustang, VIN 5F08F100001, to St. John’s.
Harry Phillips, a salesman at the Newfoundland dealership, was the one to make the sale. He refers to it as the easiest sale he made in his life. The pre-production Mustang, a convertible dressed in white, sat outside close to the street to attract customers. That’s how it caught airline pilot Captain Stanley Tucker’s eye.
“It was probably the easiest sale I ever made in my life. I just happened to be standing by the door. Capt. Tucker said, ‘I want that car,’” recounts Phillips.
Though the Mustang was not intended to be sold, Phillips made a deal with Tucker. The dealer allowed Tucker to purchase the car a couple of days before sales began in April 1964 with the agreement that the vehicle would stay at the dealership for a few weeks for display.
A few months later, Ford wanted their car back
Phillips recalls that Ford called the dealership’s sales manager asking for the car back. Being that it was a pre-production model, it was never meant to be sold. Like most pre-production vehicles, it likely would have been destroyed upon its return to Ford. Given that the dealership had already done the deal, they told Ford to take it up with the vehicle’s new owner.
Captain Tucker’s thinking didn’t quite line up with Ford’s. It was his car, he bought it, and he didn’t want to get rid of it. Ultimately, it took Ford two years to convince Capt. Tucker to let it go. In 1966, Ford traded him a brand-new loaded 1966 Ford Mustang convertible for the return of their beloved Serial number one Mustang. The ’66 he received wasn’t just another Mustang, though. According to MotorTrend, it was the one-millionth Mustang ever built.
After receiving the car back, Ford donated the first Mustang to the Henry Ford Museum, where it has been on display for nearly six decades. Occasionally, Mustang serial number one gets taken out for special occasions like celebrating the ten-millionth Mustang.
Harry Phillips got to see the Mustang he sold over fifty years later
Capt. Tucker is widely known as the guy who bought the first Mustang. Phillips was largely left in the shadows. However, the Newfoundland and Labrador Mustang Club made him a guest of honor for a charity event. This brought the attention of the historic sale to Phillips’ granddaughter, Stephanie Mealey.
Mealey started an internet campaign to send her grandfather to the Henry Ford Museum and see the car he sold way back in 1964 once again. The campaign, titled “Send Harry to Henry,” was successful. In 2019, Phillips got a special tour of the Museum and was reunited with the car, cementing his place in history as the man who sold the first Ford Mustang ever built, even if he wasn’t supposed to.
Only three pre-production Mustangs are known to exist. The others were all destroyed upon returning to Ford. The second Mustang ever built sold at Auction for $175,000 in 2019. So, to be a part of this remarkable history is an honor. Quite frankly, if not for Harry Phillips and Captain Stanley Tucker, this piece of Mustang history may not still exist.