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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Terry Jackson
The Miami Herald
July 24, 1997
Before we launch into a discussion of the 1997 Mustang GT convertible let me do some truth-telling. It probably would be fair to say that I am a Mustang fanatic. It started in my teenage years. In 1967, three weeks before my 16th birthday, my
parents -- who, to my great glee, spoiled me rotten -- bought me a 1965 Mustang convertible. It was red with a black top and interior. It had a three-speed automatic and a 260-cubic-inch V-8. The production tag said it was built in April 1964, making
it one of the earliest Mustangs. The odometer had less than 25,000 miles on it. My older brother recorded the car's delivery to my house in Baltimore on a Super 8 movie camera, and decades later I had that film converted to videotape. To this day, my
wife cringes in fear that I will whip out that tape and show the 90-second clip to whoever walks through our front door. Like most teenagers, I spent the next three years hot-rodding the Mustang and by the time that some thief -- undoubtedly craving
the four Cragar mag wheels -- stole it from in front of my house, it had been well used. More Mustangs came into my hands -- my mother's 1967 coupe; a 1972 convertible that was the first new car I bought with my own money; a 1975 V-8 Mustang II;
another 1965 convertible, which I bought in 1976 when I became disgusted with the Mustang II; a 1981 hatchback; a 1987 GT convertible, which I just sold this year; and my current passion, a 1965 Shelby Mustang vintage race car that I have had for four
years. So it's fair to say that I am partial to Mustangs. I think that gives me considerable expertise to say that the 1997 version is without a doubt the best Mustang ever. Start with something that even the classic Mustangs were never
strong on -- fit and finish. The chassis-body structure is very rigid and, even on the convertible, there is little or no cowl shake over the roughest of bumps. The interior is free of rattles and wind noise. With the lined cloth top up, it is very
low for a convertible. Body seams are uniform. The paint -- a gorgeous bronze on the test car in particular -- is deep with a flawless clear coat, and the leather interior seats and trim are well executed. The 4.6-liter, single overhead
camshaft V-8 is smooth and quiet -- except for the nice throaty rumble from the tailpipes. Its 215-horsepower rating is dwarfed by the 285-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 in the Camaro Z28, but in everyday driving the V-8 Mustang seems more balanced, more
like a sports car. The suspension also has been tuned more to the sports car side of the equation than the muscle car. It is taut without being rough -- though if you go from a Taurus to a Mustang you'll notice that the Mustang constantly tells you
about what's happening between the tires and the pavement. Purists will note that the Mustang still rides on much the same platform as did the 1980 model, with the same live rear-axle setup as did the 1965 version.
Having owned Mustangs from those two eras, I can conclusively say that the parts may be similar, but the result is very different. On the outside, the 1997 Mustang -- which has changed little since this new version appeared in 1994 -- comes close to
the classic '65 design, from the floating chrome horse logo in the grille, to the side scoops on the body, to the three-segment vertical tail lights. It is a nice blend of old and new that wears well. The interior carries on the old-new theme, as
well. The dash has two pod areas -- one in front of the driver, the other in front of the passenger, much like the original Mustang. But while the original Mustang had a dash with rectangular shapes, the new one has more of a semicircle theme, which makes
it look more like a 1965 Corvette in spots than a '65 Mustang. Nonetheless, the interior has all the right stuff -- full gauges, a floor console, bucket seats and the optional Mach 460 sound system, which is the best stereo available
a convertible. There is even enough room in the back seat to haul two adults for medium distances without risking muscle cramps. Enough of the raves. There are a few rants -- well, not rants, really. More like areas where improvements could be
made. The first is the seats. They are much better than past Mustang seats, but they could be improved, particularly in the lower and middle back region. Also, the seat adjustment track should be lengthened. It will cut down on room behind the
driver's seat, but long-legged drivers now tend to feel cramped with the seat all the way back. Then there are the radio buttons. The stereo controls are confusing and you often have to take your eyes off the road to make adjustments. Please, guys,
can we go back to good old knobs? Lastly, there is the price. I know we can never go back to the days when a new V-8 Mustang convertible cost less than $2,600, but the sticker price on this admittedly loaded 1997 Mustang GT convertible was just under
$30,000. That's creeping into BMW territory. So, better seats, retro stereo knobs, and take about $5,000 out of the price. That would make the Mustang just about perfect. Even without those changes, I was sorely tempted to make the GT convertible
my 10th Mustang. 1997 FORD MUSTANG GT CONVERTIBLE Base list price: $23,985 Price as tested: $29,535 Major options: Preferred equipment package, $2,185; Mach 460 sound system, $395; 17-inch wheels, $500; leather seats, $500; compact disc
player, $295 Engine: 4.6-liter single overhead camshaft V-8 Horsepower: 215 Transmission: Four-speed automatic Weight: 3,380 pounds 0-to-60 mph: 6.8 seconds Mileage: 17-24 mpg Safety: Dual front air bags, side-impact beams
Competitors: Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Pontiac Firebird Formula