The Ford Mustang is an American icon. It's up there with baseball, apple pie and John Wayne. But it's even cooler. It's been the star of famous car chases in the movies, like in Bullitt. It's even been the star itself, like in Gone In 60 Seconds. It's 54 years old and Ford is celebrating the 10 millionth Mustang to be produced, one of only a handful of makers to reach that lofty number.

Imagine being the first of almost 10 million owners. Gail Wise can imagine it because she was the first. The very first owner of a Mustang, which she bought for $3,447.50 in 1964. Incredibly she still owns the car, all these years later and now, she knows what it is really worth.

Photo by Gail Wise

Gail bought the Mustang on April 15th, 1964, two days before Ford officially revealed the car at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. There were commercials hyping it for months, but no one had actually seen the car except for a few dealerships that got it in advance of the unveiling. One of those dealerships in Illinois sold the car to Gail a couple days early.

"I told the salesman I wanted a convertible, and he said, 'I have none on the floor. Come into the back room, I have something special to show you,'" Gail said. "There were two Mustangs, one was a hard top. And he didn't even bother to show me that one. He lifted the tarp, and I knew that convertible was for me."

Gail drove off the lot especially proud of her new convertible and from the first moment, she loved it. Its story was just getting started.

Photo by Gail Wise

For the next 15 years, Gail and Tom raised their 4 kids and the Mustang was the family car. Tom and Gail both drove it, with the kids all piling in the back. There is nothing on earth that would have made you a cooler family that owning a Mustang as the family truckster in 1964 and indeed through the rest of the '60s and into the '70s.

Finally, in 1978, the Mustang died. But its story wasn't over yet.

Tom insisted that they keep the car, even though it wasn't running. He told Gail that he wanted it as a retirement project and that one day he would get it running again. So it sat for years, undercover, in the garage, until Tom finally decided it was time to get the project going.

Photo by Gail Wise

Eventually, Tom did retire and he did get the Mustang completely restored and like new, but not altered from the original design. Gail has become sort of minor celebrity in the Mustang collecting world and she is still very proud of that convertible she bought in 1964 for just under 3500 bucks but today, with only 68,000 miles on it, is worth more than $350,000. Not that Gail is selling any time soon.

Photo by Gail Wise

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