Ever since its redesign, in 2005, the Ford Mustang has been a roaring success for the Blue Oval.
Ford has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but the Mustang hit the nail on the head from the get-go, possibly because, all along, it's been fairly priced and entertaining to drive.
The convertible, in particular, is a lot of car for the dollar. Introduced for 2006, it was one of the few four-passenger ragtops on the market, with a robust V6 engine that actually offered more power than the original 1960s-era 260-cubic-inch pushrod V-8. Even in base form, the revised Mustang convertible was well-equipped, and the GT was a bona fide hot rod.
In 2008, the GT pumped out 300 horsepower, and could be had with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. There was also a limited-edition Shelby GT500 model, but it was sold in small numbers for this year.
Enthusiastic GT drivers tended to choose the manual gearbox, which was also less expensive. Either way, the 4.6-litre V-8 engine was a lusty performer and, in combination with the GT's special exhaust system, transformed an already lively-performing automobile into a bit of a pavement-scorcher. This engine was good for 65 horsepower per litre and, best of all, ran contentedly on regular grade 87-octane gasoline.
The convertible top was of the cloth variety, and activated via an overhead button located on the windshield frame. It took about 15-20 seconds to deploy. When down, the whole apparatus stashed itself neatly behind the back seat. One note here: the two overhead release catches that lock/unlock the top could be awkward.
All GT models came with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and the suspension was MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front, and coil springs with a Panhard rod and stabilizer bar in back. When Ford redesigned this iteration of the Mustang, it agonized over whether to have independent rear suspension, but in the end stayed with the traditional live axle, because clinic after clinic demonstrated that the typical Mustang customer wanted it that way. All GTs featured a slightly thicker front stabilizer bar than the garden-variety Mustang, and a traction control system was standard issue.
The GT Convertible also had a higher equipment level than the V-6 model. Power driver's seat, one-touch-down power windows, heated rear window, air conditioning, CD player, keyless entry and cruise control were all included. Interestingly, the key only unlocked the driver's side door. Options included an interior upgrade package with illuminated cup holders and brushed aluminum trim and accents, and a touch-screen navigation system.
The GT Convertible was a little rougher around the edges than the base V-6 version. It rode harder, and could be a bit of a handful in traffic. On the other hand, if you wanted that extra bit of old-fashioned performance to make things interesting, it had few peers.
There are three recalls on file, and they apply to both soft-top and hard-top GT models. The most notable is a safety alert aimed at females of "small stature" who haven't buckled up. If this is the case and there is a front-ender, there could be a greater possibility for neck injury (duh!). This affects more than 450,000 Mustangs manufactured from 2005 to 2008. The other two are relatively minor issues involving front light assemblies that may not conform completely to federal requirements. Both can be easily rectified by dealers.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 17 technical service bulletins on file for 2008 Mustangs - convertible and otherwise. They range from clutch issues for the Shelby models, to mysterious and "hard to diagnose" water leaks, to various exterior lighting problems, to manual transmission shifting issues in cold weather.
Consumer Reports doesn't have a lot to say about the GT Convertible, but the '08 Mustang garners a "better than average" overall used-car prediction rating, and is considered a "good bet" by this organization. Problem areas seem to include the drivetrain and paint and, because of its tighter suspension, potential owners can expect more than usual in the way of squeaks and rattles. Comments from owners include: "tall drinks behind stick shift are a nuisance" and "power top works well." Worse-than-expected fuel economy seems to be a common refrain.
Expect to pay somewhere in the mid-$20,000 neighbourhood for a 2008 Mustang GT Convertible these days - about $5,000 more than the base V-6 and well below the limited-edition Shelby GT500.
2008 Mustang GT Convertible
Original Base Price: $38,099; Black Book: $25,150; Red Book: $24,125
Engine: 4.6-litre V-8
Horsepower/Torque: 300 hp/320 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual/five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 13.7 city/9.2 highway (automatic); regular gas
Alternatives: Dodge Sebring, Pontiac G6, Volkswagen Eos, Toyota Solara