Don’t trust the adage that it’s not over until the Fat Lady sings. At least don’t trust her management. So goes the “disappearance” of the great American Convertible due to rollover safety regulations at the end of the 1970’s. Cadillac, and General Motors in particular, made a healthy profit touting their full sized convertibles as the final new versions of open-air motoring in 1975 and 1976. The government ended up having the last laugh.
Chrysler, looking for each niche to gussy up their new K-Car variants, returned to the convertible market first with their LeBaron. Ford, still offering carefree Pony motoring, in the form of their Mustang, felt a patriotic duty to chop of the top of their newest sports machine for the everyday American.
The Fox Mustang convertible was possibly the most sophisticated version of the seminal pony car to date. It was also the best performing since the early 70’s. By the time the Convertible came online for the 1983 model year, many improvements had been made to the Fox chassis that had hosted the Mustang brand since 1979 after making its debut as the definitive Falcon chassis replacement for the majority of Ford North America’s unibody models. Gone finally was the hoary 3.3 liter Thriftmaster Six that offered little more than a torque bump for around town driving over the base 2.3 liter 4 cylinder.
Indeed, most early Fox Mustangs came with the 3.8 liter “Essex” V6. That engine was a copy of Buick’s aged “Fireball” V6 that had been in production almost as long as the Thriftmaster Six. However, it gave a wonderful 32 horse bump over either the old Falcon unit or the Lima Four cylinder that saw duty in base Mustang Coupes and Hatchbacks.
By the time we get to our 1985 subject car, even more styling tweaks and improvements were available for the ‘Stang. For those really wanting to relive their “Big Chill” days with the GT version of the Convertible could now step up to a 210 horse version of the Convertible, capable of blinding fast for the time 0-60 runs around 7 seconds or less. Many customers were satisfied with the fluffy torque curve of the V6 though.
In terms of a performance convertible of any stripe, the Mustang for 1985 had few peers. Chrysler had started to filter Turbo 2.2 offerings into their LeBaron and Dodge, but their 142 horse output combined with Turbo Lag put them closer to the 3.8 LX Mustang Convertibles instead of true firebreathers like the Mustang GT or an LX equipped with the Windsor V8.
General Motors wasn’t endowing their J-Car convertibles with V6 power to the tune of 125 horses yet. A Camaro Convertible competitor was still a few seasons away. Their Eldorado and Riviera convertibles were far too pricey and saddled with the economy + torque bias of their respective V8s, with the Eldorado in particular overmatching the HT4100 to be of any threat to the Mustang.
If you wanted a performance Convertible for the height of the Reagan Administration, truly, the Mustang stood far and above as the most savvy choice in the field. With a starting price of $12,237, 15,110 buyers decided to saddle up the Top down pony for fun in the sun 32 years ago.
Underappreciated now, these standard ‘Stang convertibles inspired a new generation of drivers to turn motoring into mobile tanning booths.