When Ford Chief Engineer for Safety Systems Steve Kozak decided to give a new car to his teenage daughter as a graduation gift only one model would do: the 2008 Ford Mustang GT convertible, the No. 1-selling and top safety-rated drop-top in the U.S.

The 2008 Mustang GT is the only convertible to earn a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for frontal crash, side impact and rollover tests. It is one of six Ford vehicles since 2000 to merit a NHTSA five-star rating - more than any other automaker. In addition, the Mustang convertible earned the highest side-impact performance rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

"Having a Mustang convertible as her first car is something my daughter will remember for the rest of her life," said Kozak. "And my wife and I are happy knowing that, while she's having the time of her life, she'll be driving the top safety-rated convertible on the market."

The Mustang - be it a coupe or convertible - is a popular graduation present, confirmed Steve Watts, president of Town & Country Ford in Bessemer, Ala, one of the top Mustang dealerships in the country. "Mustangs are a popular gift for many occasions, because they're such desirable cars," said Watts, whose first car was a 1966 Mustang. "Everyone loves them - young and old. The fact that they're sporty and safe only adds to their appeal."

Mustang Convertible (2008) - picture 1 of 2
Mustang Convertible (2008) - picture 2 of 2

The Mustang's considerable body stiffness contributes to the convertible's driving performance and has a parallel benefit in accident protection. While the coupe's body structure is 31 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity than its predecessor, the convertible's is more than twice as stiff - creating a "safety cage" that helps protect the cabin from deformation and intrusion during an impact.

The front structure is designed to absorb energy in a controlled manner and help dissipate it before it can reach the passenger compartment. The Mustang's front rails have an octagonal shape designed to spread forces evenly at the firewall and progressively deform for increased protection in demanding, offset frontal crashes.
"The Mustang convertible is another example of working at all levels to offer a vehicle that is both sporty and safe," said Jim Vondale, director, Ford's Automotive Safety Office. "It was developed with a dedicated focus on safety, making it the highest-rated Mustang ever built."

Ford added standard seat-mounted head and chest side air bags to the 2008 Mustang GT's already comprehensive safety package that includes all-speed traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the Personal Safety System - a suite of restraint technologies designed to tailor their response to the severity of the crash and other factors. The system includes dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags and safety belt pretensioners.

In addition, Ford's industry-leading technology, Beltminder®, reminds the driver and front-seat passenger to buckle up. The technology has been installed in more than 20 million vehicles. Both NHTSA and IIHS have noted the effectiveness of Beltminder as a significant life-saving technology.

Sun Safety

While safety is important, sun-soaked cruising is the Mustang convertible's top appeal factor. Scientific studies show that increased exposure to sunshine or bright light is therapeutic because it regulates the body's synthesis of melatonin, a mood-regulating hormone that modulates the circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Sunshine also triggers the body's conversion to active vitamin D, which is considered to be an effective natural remedy for "the blues."

"I recommend light therapy - be it natural or artificial - to all of my patients, because it helps elevate mood and energy," said Dr. Douglas J. Arends, a psychiatrist practicing in Royal Oak, Mich. "Driving or riding in a convertible certainly is one way to enjoy the health benefits of sunshine."

Health experts caution that cool breezes in convertibles can misleadingly mask the sun's harmful rays as occupants may not feel as hot as when they're stationary under the sun. Therefore, dermatologists recommend the use of sun-block lotion or moisturizer with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher prior for top-down drives.

"If you're going to spend time in a convertible, keep the sun-block on and keep some in the glove compartment," said Dr. David V. Spurlin, of Pinnacle Dermatology & Aesthetics in Birmingham, Mich. "I recommend putting it on a half hour before going outdoors, putting enough of it on and repeating every two hours."