What do Tom & Ray think about a '68 Ford Mustang for a teenage driver?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2005

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am 16 years old, and right now I drive a 2002 New Beetle. It's a great car that gets awesome gas mileage, is really fun to drive and is so cute. But ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted a '68 Mustang convertible. My dad has always loved the idea. My mom, on the other hand, does not think they're very safe, because they don't have air bags, and some don't even have seat belts. So I was wondering if you could help me out a bit by saying that you CAN install seat belts and air bags in an old car like that. -- Alex

RAY: Well, we have to say, your mom is right, Alex. While it did have lap belts, by today's standards the '68 Mustang is a terribly unsafe car. It handles horribly, brakes poorly, rides like a buckboard, has almost no structural crash protection and has none of the safety equipment that your 2002 VW has. It also drinks gas like my brother drinks espresso macchiatos.

TOM: In fact, the only thing it has going for it is, it's cute. Kind of like me.

RAY: Yeah. But with less corrosion and body damage.

TOM: Can you retrofit air bags and shoulder belts into a '68 Mustang convertible? I suppose anything is possible. But it's completely impractical, and would be enormously expensive. It's not just air bags you'd need; you'd need a new steering column, new electronics, an SRS computer and who knows what else? And you'd have to integrate all that stuff into the framework of a car that was never designed for it.

RAY: And there's no place to anchor the tops of the shoulder belts. So, you'd really need all new seats, with the seat-belt mechanisms built in. And you'd probably need to structurally strengthen the floor to secure them.

TOM: So, you can see that you're in for quite a project. Just for fun, we calculated the cost of installing all this safety equipment, and the total came to $23,890, which happens to be the base price of a 2005 Mustang Convertible. So, do whatever you think is best, Alex.

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