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DEARBORN - With what’s known in the collector car world as Arizona Auctions Week upon us, Ford fans are again looking for notable Mustangs that are scheduled to cross the block. This time of year, several of the major auction houses host collector car events in and around Scottsdale, headlined by the annual Barrett-Jackson auction. Last year’s auctions raked in almost $260 million in combined overall sales. True to form, an online promo for this year’s Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction teased that a “special new Ford Mustang” will be going across the block on Friday, January 19, 2018.

While many super rare Mustangs have gone up for bids at these auctions over the past few years, few had drawn more interest among collectors than an auction for one of only three known existing 1963 pre-production Mustangs which went up for sale May 20, 2017, at the Mecum Auto Auction in Indianapolis. Dubbed the “First Mustang Hardtop” to be assigned a Dearborn VIN, it was the first time this historic car has been offered for sale after 18 years of ownership, and the discovery of its true identity, by retired airline pilot and automobile historian Bob Fria.

The Mecum catalog listed “Lot S125 Indy 2017” as a 1965 Ford Mustang Serial No. 00002, with an estimated price tag of $450,000 – $650,000. Their listing noted that: “In the rarified air of top collector cars, no description raises eyebrows quicker than ‘first.’ For Mustang, a car line that has been produced for 53 consecutive model years with more than 9 million sold, there is only one ‘first’ hardtop. Amazingly, through fate or perhaps sheer luck, #F07U100002 survives today.

“On Monday, February 10, 1964 – the day after watching the Beatles’ debut on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ – Ford workers returned to the Dearborn Assembly Plant to find a new vehicle interspersed among the 1964 Fairlanes. It was the 1965 Mustang, a sporty compact championed by Ford General Manager Lee Iacocca. As part of the pre-production preparation, the plant needed to train workers as well as build Mustangs for important PR duties, including a dozen convertibles for the Magic Skyway at the soon-to-open New York World’s Fair. However, the first two orders, convertible 5F08F100001 and hardtop 5F07U100002, were destined for the long trip to east- and west-coast Canadian Ford dealers so they would have a new Mustang in their showrooms for introduction day, April 17.

“For two decades, Fria has been unraveling the tale of 5F07U100002, a Caspian Blue 1965 Mustang hardtop. The early VIN piqued Fria’s interest. During the restoration disassembly, Fria discovered production oddities, including prototype sheetmetal stampings and welds unlike those found on later Mustangs. As Fria dug into the car’s history by interviewing former Ford employees and becoming friends with Iacocca along the way, he became the foremost authority on early Mustang development, especially the hectic early months of 1964 as Ford prepared its new car for production. Fria eventually put his research into a book, ‘Mustang Genesis.’

“Fria’s digging revealed that between 150 and 180 pre-production Mustangs were built between February 10 and March 5, 1964, all with a pre-assigned 05C (March 5) build date stamped in their data plates. Some came from the Allen Park Pilot Plant where they had been used to develop the assembly-line build processes. These partially completed pilot Mustangs were trucked to the Dearborn Assembly Plant for the pre-production assembly-line startup on February 10th.

“Among these Pilot Plant chassis was the Mustang that would be assigned VIN 5F07U100002, the first VIN assigned to a hardtop. However, the consecutive unit number didn’t necessarily determine the order off the assembly line. Then, like today, Ford didn’t necessarily build cars consecutively by VIN. Despite Fria’s efforts, he has been unable to determine which Mustang was the first off the line.

“Fria did learn that 100002 was scheduled for early assembly to allow time for shipping by rail to Brown Brothers Ford in Vancouver on Canada’s western coast. However, the Caspian Blue hardtop was somehow misrouted, eventually ending up at Whitehorse Motors in the Yukon Territory in May and totally missing the Mustang’s April 17 introduction. There was never a more unlikely car for the cold, rugged Yukon than a Mustang with a 6-cylinder engine, 3-speed stick and 13-inch tires. Whitehorse Motors installed a block heater, then used the car as a demonstrator until it was finally sold in the spring of 1965.

“Only a handful of the pre-production 1965 Mustangs survive today, including the first two serialized 1965 cars. The convertible, #100001, is owned by Ford Motor Company and displayed at The Henry Ford Museum. Fria rescued #100002 in 1997 after 13 previous owners. A two-year restoration returned the hardtop to its 1964 condition, complete with a date-coded 170 CI 6-cylinder engine. The historic first-serialized Mustang hardtop was displayed at Ford World Headquarters during Ford’s 100th anniversary and has been photographed with Lee Iacocca.

“There is only one ‘first.’ This Mustang goes down in pony-car history as the first hardtop to receive a serial number.”

On auction day, this historic Mustang went on the block. Original Mustang designer Gale Halderman was in attendance. But he later told Ford Performance that ownership of the car did not change hands. After a high bid of $400,000, the car failed to meet reserve, so it went back home to California with Fria. We are yet to receive a response from Fria after asking if the car will return to a collector car auction in the near future. But if this or any other notable Mustang happens to find its way to an auction in the upcoming months, you can look for the results in an upcoming installment of “Quick Look” in the Enthusiasts section of FordPerformance.com.