For as many years as there have been classic Mustang enthusiasts, there has always been someone who wants to prove they have the First Mustang. However - at this writing, it cannot be proven.
One thing that stands the hair up on the back of my neck faster than anything is Mustang owners claiming to have the first Mustang. News Flash - it cannot be proven, not even by Ford. Why? Because there are no surviving records (to date) that can prove in what order Mustangs physically rolled off assembly lines in three plants from coast to coast.
The six-digit consecutive unit number has always been a misconception with enthusiasts. It is not a consecutive unit number when it comes to the physical order Mustangs rolled off the assembly line. It cannot be proven what physical order Mustangs rolled off Dearborn, San Jose, and Metuchen assembly lines 45 years later. The six-digit consecutive unit number (100001) is an ORDER NUMBER. In other words, 5F08F100001 was the first Mustang ever ordered. Bob Fria's 5F07U100002 was the second Mustang ever ordered. The 5F08F100001 car, which is on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is the first Mustang convertible ever ordered. Bob Fria's 5F07U100002 is the first Mustang hardtop ever ordered.
And even these statements will get us into trouble. Why? Because there were Mustang pilot units with Pilot Plant serial numbers produced at the Allen Park, Michigan "Pilot Plant" that were ordered prior to pre-production unit start-up at Dearborn. There were also hand-built prototypes, some of which would not have been serialized at all. Ford would have ordered pilot units with an internal order - and we're not even sure this can be confirmed. There was a first Pilot Plant Mustang unit produced and undoubtedly destroyed once Ford was finished with it. We do know Pilot Plant serialized Mustang units were produced because we're seen engine compartment images with the VIN stamped into the shock tower - not the inner fender.
It was through Mustang historian Bob Fria's own efforts that we know approximately the first 150 to 180 serialized at Dearborn Mustang units were "pre-production" cars, confirming the 5F08F100001 on March 9, 1964 story is not true. And just because Ford insists 5F08F100001 was produced on March 9, 1964 doesn't mean it is true. And just because the Mustang Production Guide, Volume 1, says 5F08F100001 on March 9, 1964 doesn't mean it is true either. It is erroneous information published at a time when we didn't know any different than Ford's official version of what happened.
It is important to remember the consecutive unit number has little to do with what order Mustangs rolled off the assembly line. Sometimes a vehicle identification number is just a vehicle identification number and nothing more. Veicle identication numbers are Ford factory order numbers, which gives these cars identity. And this is all the VIN is.
One number you don't hear addressed much is the Rotation Number, which is the vehicle's physical order number on the line. The Dearborn Assembly Plant, as well as Metuchen and San Jose, used two means of finding Mustang units on the line. The VIN and the Rotation Number. Rotation numbers in 1964 were on the broadcast sheet (computer printout) and the radiator support (written by an acid pencil). If a Mustang's Rotation Number was 762, the Mustang or Fairlane number behind it on the line would have a Rotation Number of 763, then, 764, and so on. Fairlanes in early 1964 were numbered as 1964 model year units and were not consecutively VINed with Mustangs, which were 1965 model year units.
All this said, beware of claims by anyone who says they have the "First Mustang". Until legitimate factory documentation can be unearthed along with photographic proof, it will remain unknown if the first Mustang off the Dearborn line even survives. I invite your thoughts and feelings on this subject. Write to me at Jim.Smart@sorc.com.