More stories related to 2005 Greater L.A. Auto Show LOS ANGELES – For many, a convertible is simply a car with a folding top.

However, for the majority of people who own them, a convertible is the equivalent of motorized Elvis Presley – plenty of shake, rattle and roll to go along with the sex appeal.

Ford Motor Co. looks to leave the Elvis principle behind with its latest drop top – the ’05 Mustang convertible, unveiled at the Greater L.A. Auto Show here.

“We built this car with the convertible in mind,” says Barb Samardzich, executive director small front- and rear-wheel drive cars. “Because the convertible was designed alongside the coupe and not as an afterthought, it avoids pitfalls that have compromised coupe-derived convertibles in the past.”

Ford Mustang convertible

The auto maker exceeded its targets for bending and stiffness and the work shines through during a test drive here prior to the auto show.

In taking the car from coupe to convertible, Ford’s development team paid special attention to toughening up the chassis and body structure without adding weight. The convertible version adds between 120 and 150 lbs. (54 -68 kg) to the Mustang, mostly coming from metal added to brace the structure.

Ford estimates typical conversions rack up as much as 300 lbs. (136 kg), without offering the same torsional stiffness of the ’05 Mustang convertible.

Some 30% of Mustang’s 2005 volume, estimated at more than 150,000 units, is earmarked for convertible build. The drop-top joins the mix at Ford and Mazda Motor Corp. Auto Alliance International Inc. joint venture assembly plant in Flat Rock, MI, this spring and completes the ’05 launch of the car on its new platform.

Ford holds to its affordable pricing promise that has played a significant role in the Mustang’s launch. Versions carrying a V-6 start at $24,495, while V-8 GTs bow at $29,995.

The vehicle’s revision includes a new 3-way Z-fold top that does away with the need for awkward and difficult-to-use tonneau covers for the rear boot, where the top traditionally folds into.

Samardzich says the development team spent considerable time preparing the top to resist leaks. The implementation of a more steeply raked windshield than the coupe and modified rear seatbacks better block the wind from vehicle occupants.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com