By their very nature, pre-production vehicles are born to die. They’re automotive ephemera — cars created to help validate assembly procedures and serve as test beds, before being sacrificed to the crusher.
Theirs are lives typically measured in months, and when it came to Ford’s genre-establishing Mustang, in the spring of 1964, approximately 180 pre-production pony cars were constructed. Not all were scrapped, however. At least fifteen are known to have slipped past the crusher, surviving to illustrate a number unique and distinctive differences compared with the regular production models that started rolling off the Dearborn assembly line in March 1964.
All of the pre-production models carried an arbitrary “05C” production date, for March 5, 1964. They weren’t all constructed that day, as each involved a slower process that included a number of hand-assembly methods. In fact, the known pre-production models that have been tracked and studied show many signs of hand-formed or hand-trimmed components. The cars have also demonstrated a number of variances in the chassis/suspension components, as well as the trim, which were changed by the start of regular production.
At a glance, the pre-production Mustangs wore gunmetal grey-painted grilles rather than the darker gunmetal blue grilles of the production models. Also: The running horse emblem in the grille had an eye on the pre-production models, but it disappeared for the cars made for paying customers. A handful of the early cars were even fitted with silver-painted engines that reportedly made it easier to spot leaks on test vehicles, compared to the production black-painted engines.
With only 15 pre-production Mustangs known across the globe, they’re exceedingly rare, but an Arizona collector not only has two of them, they carry consecutive VINs: 5F08F100139 and 5F08100140. They’re convertibles, and while one has a black top and the other a white one, they’re otherwise identically equipped, with F-code 260 V-8 engines, C-4 three-speed automatic transmissions, 1-code 3.00-geared rear axles and black vinyl interiors.
That collector has decided to part with these historic cars and they’re offered right now on Hemmings Auctions, where the pair is being sold as a lot. He notes a concours-level restoration was completed on car 0139 in 2019, and it earned multiple awards after that, while car 0140 was reportedly restored in 2009. It, too, has won a number of awards, including two Mustang Club of America Gold awards, and it has appeared in three magazines. A Web site outlining the restoration of 0139 can be found at pony139resto.com.