Tom Wilson
June 1, 2005
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It bears repeating-the '05 Mustang is the first Mustang to be built from the ground up as a Mustang. It's also the first Mustang designed to be a convertible Mustang from the start. No tacked-on gussets and undercar trusses and girdles. No excuses for wind leaks or doors that barely close. This time, the engineers built the necessary Ford Tough right into the chassis.

Recently, Ford had the automotive press out to sample the new Mustang convertible, which should hit the streets about the same time this issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords does. While the weather was sloppy, we were able to shakedown the new drop-top, so we can say with authority that it is light-years ahead of the old one. Solid, and feeling like a coupe that folds its top, the new convertible will only add to the new Mustang's already homerun sales figures. But at a minimum of $29,995 in V-8 form, is the open-air rush worth the premium?

Ford says the new convertible works so well because the company could efficiently build the necessary chassis stiffness into the primary structure from day one, thus avoiding heavy after-thought steel plates, gussets, and braces. So it says the job was done light, and with a weight gain in the neighborhood of 120 pounds, it's a fair statement. We'll only remind everyone that the new car is no lightweight to begin with, so some of the usual 300-pound weight gain for a convertible is already in every new Mustang.

We're not complaining (much); we dig the new car's rigid chassis. We'll also interject that the new convertible looks much better than previous efforts. Four-seat drop-tops are not the easiest styling exercises, but the new car avoids previous awkwardness.

The stiff chassis called for a minimal number of changes to make it into a convertible. Underneath, there is a V-shaped brace and a straight strut connecting the two sides of the rear suspension together; the rest of the usual A-pillar and floorpan reinforcements are already built in.

Other changes include a 15 percent reduction in spring rate and less aggression from the shock valving. Two extra millimeters of rear stabilizer bar were added-it's now 20mm-to counteract the extra roll allowed by the softer spring/shock tune. This softer suspension helps deliver the touring ride a soft top might be expected to have, and it absorbs more road shocks before they turn into cowl shake.

Not that you're going to feel much cowl shake. We noted minimal shuddering during our drives. The wet and stone-strewn roads during our evaluation kept us from really tossing the new convertible around, but it's still obviously a new Mustang with the chill handling we're so giddy about in the coupe. Some said they could feel the slightly softer suspension tune-we did not, likely because we couldn't go to maximum attack due to conditions.

As a convertible, the new car continues to build the '05 Mustang's sterling reputation. Wind buffeting with the top down is minimal. We managed 70-plus mph and the cockpit remained remarkably still with minimal backwash or noise. The new car is definitely not a self-contained tornado. Ford says this is because of carefully designed seat backs and attention to the angle of the windshield header, enough so that a dedicated wind blocker was not required.

Top operation is as expected. A switch near the rearview mirror-yes, up on the windshield header-commands the power top up or down. A pair of easily operated header latches seal the front of the top, while the side glass mates tightly with sophisticated seals on the sides. Interestingly, from the driver seat, the small rear quarter windows are both operated by a single switch. Thanks to the double-lipped weather stripping, the power windows jump down a notch and automatically return whenever a door is opened or closed.