(first posted 10/23/2014) What is a Thunderbird? Well, it has always been, or at least attempted to be, something special. Not your usual LTD, or Custom 300, or Torino. No. Something with a bit of flair, or great comfort, or great performance. But the Ford Thunderbird, despite a great start, fell down the ’70s luxury car rabbit hole and became a slightly sportier Mark IV. But in 1983, oh man! Things were looking up.
You all know the T-Bird story, so I won’t bore you with the fine details, but let’s just say the predecessor to the 1983 model was…uh, less than convivial? But after the painful presence of the über-Fairmont 1980-82 model, the Thunderbird came back into relevance, with a certain flair, beauty–and power!
Yes indeed. A turbocharged four-cylinder? In a Thunderbird? Yes, it was true. And while maybe a little hard to digest for traditional T-Bird customers used to wafting along in cool, air-conditioned V8 comfort and silence in their Flair Birds and Glamour Birds, the Turbo Coupe was the new top of the line ‘Bird. And very, very different! It was smooth and purposeful, with a 037 coefficient of drag. The boxy, Brougham-cue-laden 1980-82 model was nowhere to be seen.
Turbo Coupes had a 2.3L four cylinder. When at full boost, 145-hp was provided for motivation. Sure, that doesn’t sound like any great shakes today, with 300-hp Impala rental cars, but in the early ’80s, that rating bested many then-contemporary V8 domestics. And with the boost, it would scoot in short order.
Demonstrating the Turbo Coupe’s sporting intent, a five-speed manual transmission was fitted as standard. Oh, sure, an automatic was available as an option, but I imagine the stick was the one to have (says the author, who has only driven his aunt’s five-speed A4 once, badly).
I actually cannot remember seeing a Turbo Coupe ever. I am sure I did, as at about the time the Aero Birds debuted, I was already noticing cars as a novice gearhead, but I don’t specifically remember a Turbo Coupe vs. an élan vs. a standard coupe–though I DO remember seeing a ratty FILA edition in all its go-go ’80s hipness, back in about 1994.
In late September, I decided to go up to my folks’ cabin in northern IL, and attend the National LCOC (Lincoln and Continental Owners’ Club) meet in Rockford IL. There I was, enjoying a $5 giant margarita and a huge plate of Chicken George and American fries in the small city of Clinton, where I’d stopped for sustenance on my way up. Upon paying the tab and crossing the bridge across the Mississippi back into Illinois, I spotted a bunch of old cars behind a fence near the river, including a 1975-79 Seville. So of course I had to re-cross back into town and seek them out.
I didn’t find them. There were a lot of dead ends, and at one point I had to turn around at a Pepsi distribution plant, zipping out of the way just as a laden tractor trailer left the loading bay. I gave up trying to find the car cache and headed back to the main drag, when I saw a flash of red off to the right. Could it be?
Yes it was, a genuine Turbo Coupe. Wow! I leaped out of the wagon, camera in hand, full of chicken, potatoes, Margarita and excitement. What a find! I started snapping away, and then noticed there were folks in the yard of the house.
I waved and said “Nice car! OK to take pictures?” The guy, whose name I’m afraid I’ve forgotten, said sure, and came over to talk about the car, which was his brother’s. He said it was somewhere between an ’83 and ’86, but wasn’t positive of the year. His brother had rescued the car and now it was a well-loved toy. This is one of the things I love about writing for CC: Seeing a cool old car, and actually getting to hear about the car from its owner. I left my name, email, and CC’s web address for the owner, hoping to hear even more.
And I did! I returned from the lake on Sunday, and a couple days later heard from the Turbo Coupe’s lucky owner, Jeffrey. So here is this car’s story:
“It is a 1984 turbo coupe that I picked up in 2010. The car was brought up here from Arizona by the previous owner shortly before I acquired it. The heat of the southwest took its toll on the car. The previous owner told me that he blew both front tires on the way up here from Arizona because of dry rot and damaged one of the front wheels so I had to find one of them. The heat also cooked the dashboard and panel so badly that I had to find a new one. After literally 150 phone calls I finally found a dash in Osage, Iowa up near Mason City. I pulled the dash out of this donor car in 100° heat along side some sheep that were running loose in the yard to keep the grass down. The original owner tried to do a few things to the car but think he was a bit overwhelmed and lacked knowledge. He could not get the car to start and basically called a local body shop to just come and get it because he was sick of messing with it. The body shop owner was going to pull the engine out for a small sports car he was building and then scrap the car but my father in law whom was friends with him knew I liked T-Birds and told me about it since I already had many T-Birds. I have 4 total. I got a good deal on a rust free car with potential. The Arizona heat cooked the insulation off of the wires of the main harness going thru the firewall and the previous owner connected the wires back up with wire nuts instead of butt connectors like he should have. Well one of the wire nuts fell off, disconnected a starter wire and it would not start. Which is how I ended up with it.”
“They started that body style in 1983. The engine is a 2.3L turbo charged inline 4 cylinder. It is fuel injected. They had used that turbo charged engine in pintos and mustangs for years but to my knowledge in 83 was first to be fuel injected. It has a fox chassis under it. It has a 5 speed manual transmission that works well but will have to put a throwout bearing in it eventually because I can hear it. It has the original paint. All of the air conditioning components have been pulled out of it. Will replace eventually. These cars have 2 fuel pumps and had to replace the low pressure pump in the tank. Put new brakes and tires around it. Would like to start upgrading engine next. Intercooler and boost valve for turbo. It has been in a few car shows and made a few long distance trips with it. Just a fun car. Thanks for your interest in it. I am proud of it. Got lots more planned for it too. Let me know if you have any other questions. I like talking about it.”
Well, I have to tell you, reading that made my day. So many times a cool old car is purchased with the best of intentions, then things go wrong, the car is left to sit, and eventually scrapped. I applaud Jeffrey for saving this car.
Unlike the Fox Mustangs, the Fox T-Birds, specifically Turbo Coupes, just don’t seem to be widely collected. I’ve never seen one at a show. Maybe one of these days I’ll see this lovely example at a show, but I don’t get up to Clinton all that often. Usually just when I get a hankering for Chicken George and have to run up to the Candlelight Inn for some!
I hope these cars, along with their Cougar and Mark VII sisters become more collectible someday. They are great cars, and still look fresh today. Ford really was on a roll during this time, with cars like the Aero Birds, Mark VII LSC, Taurus and Fox Mustang. Looks to me like Jeffrey’s got a real keeper!
Paul Niedermeyer’s Auto-Biography: 1983 Thunderbird Turbo-Coupe – EcoBoosted EgoBooster
Nice find of my favorite era TBird. I had the chance to drive the later model with intercooling and came away impressed with the power and comfort in that car. A shame the IRS for the later SuperCoupe could not have been integrated in this model. I believe Ford had a market for the TBird Turbo Coupe and let it go with the introduction of the Supercharged and redesigned TBird.
Interesting to follow this series and the marked changes in the car which reflected exactly the times it existed in. For the mid to late 80’s, this was the perfect car for those times….
Had a friend who bought one of these after a steady diet of full size buicks and olds. He was amazed and refused to go back.
Beautiful car! The red paint really works on the Aero ‘Bird. I never got the chance to drive a Turbo Coupe, but I came within inches of buying a silver blue ’84 with the 302 V-8. That car was a wonderful cruiser, and I regret not purchasing it.
The only turbo ‘Bird I ever saw up close and in person belonged to the brother of a high school friend. It was the ubiquitous silver color that many “Fox” – Thunderbirds were painted. He was not a very responsible individual and managed to destroy it in a rollover accident that was all due to driver negligence.
Nice story. I have always liked the 83-88 T-Birds. Perhaps it was because while growing up in the 1980’s, they were all over and they looked like nothing else on the road at the time.
I had a 1987 T-Bird with the 3.8l very briefly until I sold it. it was very well optioned and had feature that auto dimmed your high beams when it sensed light. The former owner of the car said that feature never really worked for him and it was flaky but I found out the issue was simply that the sensor(looked like a camera lens attached to a black box) which mounted on the stalk of the rear view mirror was loose and wobbled, causing erratic operation. I tightened it up and it worked perfectly. I miss that feature a lot.
There is a 1987-1988 turbo Bird sitting forlornly while decaying in front of a bear and wine store in Lisbon Maryland that has been there for years.
I have never seen a Fila or Elan T-Bird in person.
Bear and wine store??? 🙂
Thats an interesting combo to say the least…..
The rear 3/4 view is this car’s best angle. Still a candidate for longest overhangs to wheelbase ratio, and the ’87-’89 refresh extended that beak ever further. But back in the mid 80s when I was a feckless teen, I would have gladly thrashed one around town.
These are among my favorite T-Birds. Something totally fresh for the time, and to be honest, they still look relatively modern today. There’s a T-Bird of this generation in the open garage of a seemingly uninhabited house about a mile away that I go running by. I’ve always wanted to stop and inspect it, but I have this fear of some 90-year old chasing me off with his rifle. To make this fantasy even more cliche, there is actually an old barn and silo on the property adjacent to it.
All you need is a gorgeous farmer’s daughter, and you’ve got yourself a potentially great story to tell.
Whew, yes what a relief we are here. These are the only T-birds I actually like.
One of the machinsts drove one where I worked in the early 90’s, I happened to be assigned as shop helper during an extremely cold winter and one morning it arrived, crunching through the parking lot snow with it swirling around I and I actually noticed it for the first time. I don’t know that I’ve seen once since then though..
Good catch, Tom! As a former owner of a new ’83 TC, I’ve been looking for one for years, but no luck. This brings back a flood of memories: the nice push in the back when the turbo kicked in, and the grating sound when the revs hit 4,000 or so. The five-speed stick was a pleasure to use, and the TC would lope along aver so happy across the Mojave desert at 90-95.
But with four adults on board and the A/C turned on, it was an utter embarrassment in city traffic.
Yes, it was far from perfect, but in 1983, it sure was a sight for sore eyes that had been looking to Detroit to do something new or different. This car was the great new American hope, and that’s what made me buy it.
I may be willing to part with mine,im the original owner of a 83 turbo that’s about to go back on the road after a 9 year Hiatus, I’ve lost interest,you still have any?
The first car that my wife and I bought after we were married was a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. This would have been in the spring of 1986 so I’m thinking the ‘bird was a 1986 model. We (that is my wife because this was going to be her car) wanted a Turbo Coupe in one specific color, sort of a burgundy. In those pre-internet days the only practical way to search for a specific car was to visit the dealer(s) in person. After spending several Sundays driving around to assorted Ford dealers we found one like we wanted in a town about 60 miles away.
Our Turbo Coupe had the AOD transmission and, at least in my opinion, it worked very well with the turbo. The automatic helped smooth out some of the peakiness from the turbocharger and the shifts were a lot smoother than most people could have managed with the five speed.
We only kept the TC for three years or so as we were leary of keeping it after the warranty expired. We never had any serious trouble with the car, other than the clutches in the limited slip rear end having to be replaced at about 10,000 miles. Apparently Ford had trouble with this component in quite a few vehicles in that era and ended up replacing a lot of the clutch packs. Other than that the car was reliable and was very comfortable and rewarding to drive. I drove it from Fort Hood, Texas to southwestern Indiana (about 14 hours) and was not overly fatigued.
I leased a black Turbo Coupe through my employer in 1984, and took over the lease when I got another job. Never again would I involve myself in a vehicle lease. Nice riding car, the turbo boost was cool, and the jellybean styling turned a lot of heads in the early years. The 5-Speed was fun, but the clutch couldn’t handle extended stop-and-go driving in L.A. on hot days.
I have seen probably 5 or 6 (at least) of these turbo coupes on the road and many more on the internet and it seems as though 90% were silver, so congrats on finding such a nice example and in a rare color. I’ve also seen at least 1….maybe 2 Fila birds and can only guess that most of what made them special was the interior.
I really like the looks of the 83-86 model but tell myself it’s not much more than a Mustang with a stretched body…mostly in that “beak”, so I haven’t really considered buying one unless it has a V8.
A mechanic friend of mine purchased a black 5-speed Turbo Coupe new in ’83. I haven’t seen him in a couple years, but last time I talked to him he still had it. When I last saw it you could eat off any part of it, if you were so inclined.
Nice find, Tom!
I believe I was 11 yrs old when this generation Thunderbird debuted. At the time, I thought it was the ugliest damn thing Ford offered to the public. I grew up seeing the 70s version, and I thought it was a nice looking car, and then this came out. At the time I thought “what were they thinking?” As time went on, though, I began to admire its rounded shape, and in fact, I actually liked it. The only thing I didn’t care for was the engine choices. A 2.3 litre 4 cylinder turbocharged engine?
2.3 liters does seem a bit much for a 4 cyl with no balance shaft. The general rule is 2 liters is as big as a 4 cyl gets without excessive NVH. I imagine this motor was pretty sketchy in the high revs.
For a car like this, I would’ve thought a 3.0 litre V6 engine or a 4.0 litre V8 engine would be more in line with its sportiness.
“2.3 liters does seem a bit much for a 4 cyl with no balance shaft.”
That was my reaction after driving one. The Turbo only came on some of the time. It was unpleasantly rough all of the time.
The turbo T-bird I test drove shook and sounded very much like my 2 litre Pinto of ten years earlier. Like too many turbo engines, it was bipolar on power.
My more complete story is wayyyyy down below.
A 3.8 V6 and the 302 V8 were also available on this generation T-Bird. The 2.3 was only used on the Turbo Coupe.
Downsized turbo fours were in response to the extreme jump in fuel prices then, as they are now again for CAFE purposes. But they’re smoother, more powerful and refined nowadays. But Ford’s 2.3 was one of the pioneers. And these were quite light cars, barely 3,000 lbs.
The 302 was initially unavailable in 1983, making the 3.8 standard and the Turbo Coupe the lone power upgrade. I believe the 302 was added midyear but the delayed release tells me these were probably intended to be sans V8 power from the start, much like the “new” for 83 Fox LTDs which were V6 only excluding police packages and the uber rare 84 LX.
I ate Pontiacs Firebirds for lunch that had their Gm 301 in them,probably the 305 as well
No mention of Bill Elliott standing NASCAR on its ear with a T-Bird in the 80s? Personally I like the next gen with a supercharger and intercooler.
Glad you took a wrong turn and found this car. I’m particularly impressed that it has the original paint, which looks to be in fine condition. I always liked these ‘Birds and felt they were such a breath of fresh air after the preceding generation, which was my least favorite of all. My son and I went to Hershey this year, and we did see a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe on display for judging. It was silver with the 5-speed, and was a sweet car. My 12-year-old really liked the car, and it was the first time he’d ever seen one in person. It’s interesting to think what cars will be interesting to his generation. Of course to his eyes, this 80’s relic was ancient (like me looking at a streamlined car of the 1930s), but still “really cool.” I think this T-Bird deserves to be seen as a collectible classic, in addition to the more expected cars like the Mustang.
You know I think if you parked a good condition 1987-1988 Thunderbird TC next to a bunch of 2008-2014 cars that it would look like it belonged in the same era. The nice thing about helping to start the aerodynamic car age is that the cars that started the trend(Taurus, T- Bird etc) still look like they belong to current era.
Great looking then – and great looking now. I always liked these T-birds.
This generation T-Bird looks beautiful still and the size is just right!
I always liked these T-Birds, even the plain V6 ones. Besides being easy on the eyes, it was Ford’s first “aero” car in North America. The Sierra (aka Merkur XR4ti in the US) had been launched in Europe.
After the T-Bird came the forgettable Tempo, them the Taurus. But the T-Bird marked a turning point for Ford, and the dawn of the post-malaise era for the Blue Oval.
At at time when Chrysler’s were K-car or cop car derivatives, and GM was coasting on it’s past, this car (and the 82 Mustang GT) gave hope to teenage car enthusiasts who wanted a “domestic” car.
Sadly, I was unable to convince my dad to make this his next new car to replace our ‘tin can’ (but good) Fairmont. He got an 85 LTD (Fox-platform) instead. Not a bad car–I thought the seats were comfy, and it was brisk compared to our Fairmont and 260 V8 Nova/Ventura.
But the T-Bird had character and looked 10x better.
Now we are talking. Those are the birds I care about: 83 to 97, Fox Body or MN12, drop the ones with automatic seat belts.
I had an ’86 T-bird a long time ago. What a wonderful car! Had to junk it at 171000 miles because of rust from Maine winter road salt. Would still have it if not for that. A really great car !!
I liked this car when it was new but it looks so old fashioned now. Like everyone said the last time, the wheelbase looks way too short for the length of the body. Our eyes have become used to much longer wheelbases.
I don’t remember a time when the ’63 Riviera looked old so I’m not sure this is a stage that all cars go through.
I think it’s more we’ve become accustomed to teeny tiny overhangs. But maybe that’s just me. 😉
I think it goes without saying I’m a big fan of these and their MN12 successors, in both Tbird and Cougar form, so seeing this mint example is a breath of fresh air after years of stumbling through junkyards finding these thrashed and ripped of their turbos for some half assed Honda build.
It should be noted the 83/84s essentially use a slightly retrimmed version of the flat 80-82 Dash which didn’t match the sleek exterior styling particularly well, the 85-87 dash was much much better with the oh so 80s binnacle layout, full instrumentation(for the analog and full digital cluster that is) and simulated brushed aluminum accents. Similarly the MN12s that followed were cursed with an outdated dash when they debuted too, only to be replaced midway through their run as well.
Ford seems to do this a lot. Frequently it seems they’ll redesign everything about a vehicle but the powertrain, and then a year or two later, introduce a new powertrain but not change much else about the vehicle.
Examples I can think of include the aero Panthers (which had the 5.0 for a year or two before switching to the 4.6), the SN95 Mustang (same), the just-about-to-be-replaced last steel F-150 and the 2010 Mustang. I’m sure there are others, and I feel like a few other Ford products also changed the interior a year or two after the introduction of a new model as well.
They also did this on the 2008 / 2009 Escape. The ’08s were mostly carry-over from the ’07s in terms of engines and transmission, while ’09 saw a host of changes to transmissions, engines, even the hybrid. It’s like they got halfway through the job and had to push out the ’08 come hell or highwater.
I had one of these as my management lease car in 85, and loved it. Like almost all of my cars in the 80s this one made a road trip out west for a backpacking trip, in this case to Idaho. I planned the routes for these trips to avoid the Interstates once we were out of the densely-populated areas and stick to the U.S. highways. The engine was willing, if a bit agricultural, the suspension was taut, the seats were extremely comfortable for a day behind the wheel. I didn’t call them the “brougham era” then, but driving this car I knew the 70s were over at Ford. I wouldn’t mind having mine back, and I’m glad to see this one is being cared for and driven.
I love this car. It’s aged so well. It’s still as beautiful as the day I first saw one. Oh Ford, when you do it right, it’s just amazing. This was the start of an amazing period for you and you had many others going back to the drawing board.
In the age of the boxy Fairmont/Zephyr, Granada/Cougar sedans, Thunderbird/Cougar coupes, you suddenly come out with this. Well done!
How time passes.
My best friend at the time, a car enthusiast like me, turned up in a brand new ’83 Tbird Coupe 5 speed one day. Bought on a whim. He was ecstatic. Me, well, as I had dusted off several Mustang turbos that Ford trotted out in 1979 or so with those crazy Michelin TRX tires and carburetor, I expected it to be a slug.
But the fuel injected Tbird had very decent midrange power indeed. I’d always thought a 50 to 70 mph time of less than 10 seconds defined a reasonably spritely car, with 7 seconds being very nice.
Being in Canada which went metric in 1977, 80 to 120 km/h times became the metric for passing power (50 to 73 mph). The Tbird did that over and over again in just over 5 seconds with two passengers.
Quick! I was mortified. It ran away from my Audi Coupe. Yes, it snatched and grumbled at low speeds, needing quite a bit of clutch slip to get it underway. But third gear was good to go all right, especially on the two lane roads we lived on.
My friend’s wife announced her first pregnancy a few months later, and he decided to sell the Tbird as almost new due to the upcoming expenses with just a single income.
First decent American car I’d been in since a ’68 Barracuda 340. Still wouldn’t mind one of those either – that was a little monster and quite refined for the time.
My grandparents bought a new midnite blue 302 ‘bird in either ’83 or ’84. Nice car, I remember liking it at the time…seemed like a muscle car compared to the ’76 Elite and the ’79 Olds 98 coupe that we had at the time.
That color is gorgeous. A kind of a reddish orange tomato color, my sis had a ’88 Ranger with the same paint. Only thing I liked about it, actually.
I go back and forth on liking this bodystyle or not. In my ‘mind’s eye’ it looks just right, but then when I actually see one of these or the contemporary Cougar, it hits me that its just a TAD long and narrow. A little width would go a long way, as well as maybe trimming the overhangs. This Rokar slot car I have in my collection actually gets the proportions just right, as its a short wheelbase chassis, and some longer bodies have to distort a bit to fit:
Never saw that slot car before, cool! I do have the Matchbox 1987-88 Turbo Coupe in tomato red. Still love it, after all these years.
…and youll never see another exactly like it. The bodystyle is plentiful. They were made first by Rokar and Amrac, later by LifeLike. Usually in NASCAR livery…but this one is my own creation. I stripped the paint, shot it in Duplicolor bronze wheel paint, detailed it, and added chrome wheels from Vincent of Germany. Ive always had slots as a hobby and customizing has been a main focus. Usually these little cars are way on the backburner but I still like the idea that while Ive owned 2 ‘real’ rides at different times, I can own and drive just about any car available…in HO scale!
And who can forget Captain GM himself, Burt Reynolds, driving one of these T-Birds in “Stroker Ace”? I swear that whole movie was sponsored by Ford Motorsport! Being a Ford guy I didn’t mind a bit…. 🙂
I haven’t seen that movie in years, but it was a scream! 🙂
There is an extremely clean 1986 XR7 Cougar Turbo on ebay right now, with the manual transmission too, going cheap, if you really want one of these, this had to be one of the nicest ones out there.
nice car, the style was definitely way ahead of its time, they can easily pass off as a mid/late 90’s car IMO, I thought these cars were a huge improvement over the ugly 1980-82 T-Bird’s (my least favorite era of the T-Bird’s)
These were my favourite T-Birds in the time since the last Flair Bird of 1966. It would be a great car to have today, but I’d prefer a 5.0 over the turbo six. There was an immaculate white Fila edition bird parked regularly at a job I was doing four years ago. Nice looking machine. I looked at it as the more comfortable and refined older brother to my Mustang LX that I was driving at the time.
Fabulous find, Tom. I also love talking with an owner who is really into his car.
I test drove a brand new black one in 1985. I loved everything about -except the engine. Likely due to CAFE, Ford did not offer the H.O. 302 with the 5 speed. If you wanted a V8, you got the LoPo with the AOD. I had also driven and passed on the Mustang GT. If Ford would have put the Mustang drivetrain in the TC package Bird, I would have bought one.
That aside, this always struck me as the car that turned the page on the Malaise era in Detroit.
Great find and that’s cool that the owner e-mailed you with the car’s story. I still see TCs somewhat regularly, but never early models (’83-’84) like this.
Looks exactly like the T-Bird TC I test drove back in 84 – was home from overseas assignment and had read the great reviews in MT/C&D – went to the dealer and headed out with the saleswomen – initial impression – great looking car, pretty nice interior, nice 5 spd tranny, engine fairly agricultural sounding but not bad pull. Had gotten about a half mile from the lot and car started sputtering – then missing badly, then it just died – pulled over to the shoulder and looked at the saleswomen – she was apologizing profusely. We decided to wait a fee minutes to see if it would re-start – low and behold it did – we started back and after a few feet, it died again. Finally managed to limp it back to the lot.
Only time that has happened to me in 40 years of test drives……and yes, I’m still a Ford guy…….
I had a unique cherry red ’84 elan with tan Leather, factory removable sunroof, Digital dash, alarm, air pump lumbar seats. Power everything. Rare options like turn out vent windows, chrome mirrors. It had the(three tear dropped shaped?). Mag wheels. (Which looked awesome on it.) TRX racing package.5.0 motor of course. It was cherry red with tan pin stripe to match the tan leather interior. Not all are super rare options but very rare to find them all on one car. I have never been able to find another like it. This car had every option you could find in an elan in 84.It was a great rust free Florida car too. I sold it for $2500 back in ’98. I should’ve kept it.
I had a white on with a burgendy interior. Tons of fun to drive rescued it when the rear main seal blew and the owner couldnt fix it paid 250.00 for it drove it for years fun car.
These are collectable and I’ve seen a few Turbo Coupes and other models of this generation pop up on Kijiji from time to time. Prices are reasonable, finding certain parts would be a challenge I’m sure. Especially interior pieces.
I wish I could have rescued the Turbo Coupe rusting away several blocks from my house a few years ago.
CC-in-scale doesn’t have an ’84, but here’s an ’87.
Nice! I built that one back in the day and it’s still on my shelf.
In the spring of 1983 I wanted (or thought I wanted) a turbo T-bird.
The local Ford dealer had the doppelganger of this article car in stock. I took it out for a test drive and was …. under-whelmed.
The noisy and shaky Pinto 4 cylinder was a slow dog from stop light to stop light. When I got on the entrance ramp to I-10 and floored it the car did pull strongly once the revs and the boost built up. A most bipolar engine! The rest of the car was quite pleasing to me.
Back at the dealership the salesman took one glance at the disappointed look on my face then said that he could suggest an alternative.
He led my to a 302 V8/Automatic overdrive T-bird in midnight blue exterior and lighter blue cloth interior.
The Town Car 302 engine, although not as strong as my sister’s Mustang GT 302, was still torquey and peppy on the above mentioned stoplight to stoplight test drive. The 4 speed automatic shifted smoothly up and down thru the gears. A Most Mellow powertrain!
I took the V8 model home with me and never thought about the turbo four again.
It would seem that 6 years ago, we were having Red T-Bird Week! The ‘60, then the ‘78, and finally this beauty.
I love these AeroFoxBirds and owned 3 of them!
A really light grey almost white ‘83 base V6 – all I could afford at 23, but I did test drive the Turbo Coupe…
The next ‘bird was an ‘88 5.0 LX with all the trimmings in black… it even had the featured car’s wheels…
And finally, my ex and I bought her an ‘88 TC in sapphire blue with the 5-speed.
I loved those cars.
Later both of us would end up with our own MN12 T-Birds, hers a ‘94 in that pearl opalescent color, mine a ‘97 in a dark teal.
Her son even got into the act with his own RED 5.0 Sport (1988 model if memory serves) and later, he got an ‘85 or ‘86 Turbo Coupe that he retrofitted with the intercooler from the ‘87-‘88 TC(s).
What I’d like to know is where have they all gone? 😢
My favorite of the lot…. no wonder my Mustang is the same color (or lack thereof)…
Six years later, it’s interesting to me how no one made note of the significance of this car. Not perhaps in and of itself, as the Thunderbird has always been a niche car, but how it paved the way for the introduction of the Taurus. I could put together an entire treatise on how the Taurus was possibly the single most significant change in the American family sedan since the Model T.
I agree, the Aero’Bird’s success surely gave Ford the confidence to go all in on the aero theme. I think you’d have to include the unloveable Tempo in that theory, too, though.
I bought a 84 Elan with about 12,000 miles on it. Darker red exterior and matching interior. 302 nice car. Unfortunately me and red vehicles don’t seem to get along. Involved in two accidents, the roof, drivers side 1/4 panel and drivers door was the only original sheet metal left. I reluctantly sold it to my son. I had warned him this was not a good winter car. He promptly spun it out several times, scared him bad enough to sell it.
My main complaint was the damn strut suspension. Apparently somebody at Ford prefers cramped engine compartments and lousing front suspension designs.
The MN12 chassis fixed that problem, could have been a little better looking, the front ends were kind of weird on the early MN12’s. But drop a new 5.0 Aluminator into to it and now you have something.
Arrest-me red with black trim on cars from the eighties just almost always work.