By ANNE LUNDE Journal & Topics Reporter
Original Article: http://www.journal-topics.com/news/article_4a41b484-7dbd-11e5-ab2c-d75e885c260f.html
A Park Ridge couple, Gail and Tom Wise, shared a bit of their special history with the Park Ridge Historical Society on Sunday, Oct. 18.
The excitement of a new teaching job and the need to have a dependable car to commute from Chicago into the suburbs led Gail and her parents to go car shopping in April 1964.
She was used to driving her folks’ convertible and wanted one of her own, she told the audience at the Historical Society’s annual meeting, but Johnson Ford on Cicero Avenue in Chicago had none left in the showroom.
The salesman took pity on her, and agreed to sell her one in the back room. It was a sky blue Mustang, a new kind of car which Lee Iacocca was to officially unveil two days later to the world in New York.
Gail is officially recognized as the first purchaser of a Mustang convertible, the 1965 model, on April 15, 1964.
She remembers the impressive reactions she got, driving it home, and from the junior high boys at her new teaching job. The bucket seats were a popular attraction.
“I felt like a movie star,” Gail remembers.
The Mustang became an iconic symbol of its era.
She and Tom, who married two years later, raised their four kids in Park Ridge, where it got a workout as a family car. Then Tom drove it, until in 1979 when its mechanical problems became too much of a challenge.
Rather than sell it, it was shoved into the garage where it sat for 27 years until Tom retired and had time to do something about it.
In 2006 he decided to try to restore it. It was a labor of love for over a year as it was taken apart, rebuilt to remove rust, carefully repainted, and completed in 2007.
They still take it out for fun, on shorter drives, and they brought it to the Park Ridge Country Club on Oct. 18, complete with the plaque Tom made to explain the car’s provenance. He also demonstrated the car horn, which whinnies as any good Mustang should.
When the Mustang’s 50th anniversary celebration began last year, the Wises were invited to all kinds of special events: Ford celebrations, auto shows.
One of their favorite experiences was when they visited a car show in Indiana and were invited to drive three laps around the Indianapolis Speedway. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
To round off the year, they were invited to the Historical Society’s annual meeting.
Historical Society Vice President John Murphy presented the Wises with a “History Makers Award,” an honor for not only owning but preserving the first Mustang for the future.
The Wises presented a plaque in return. Tom had found an authentic 1964 Illinois license plate (not original to this car) and framed it with a photo of the restored car. This will become part of the society’s permanent collection.