Although my purchase of one the first of these 1983.5 Turbo Coupes in LA was rather impulsive, I had read the magazine’s reviews of it. I more distinctly remember Car & Driver’s review, but reading this one, part of hundreds of vintage R&Ts sent to me by a CC reader, brought it back to me. It clearly influenced my decision, one I might most likely not make again if I was reliving the spring of 1983. Nevertheless, I have quite a few fond memories of it.
R&T points out that this is their first review of a Thunderbird since 1959. R&T founder John R. Bond was quite fond of the original two-seater ‘bird, but once it went the way of a softly-sprung, heavy luxury coupe, it had no more interest to a magazine dedicated to cars that would appeal to enthusiasts. But the 1983 Thunderbird marked a major turning point, most of all the new Turbo Coupe.
R&T was very complimentary about the TBird’s new exterior styling, except for the too-chromey grille. I felt the same way. certainly, it was a pretty remarkable job coming out of Ford, after its Brougham-induced brush with near-death. 1983 was the year Ford really started to come back. Obviously, it still sat on the Fox platform, but there were worse things in life to start with, especially its light weight.
This was a whole new generation of Ford’s 2.3 L turbo four, the first one having been a dud. With genuine port fuel injection and Ford’s very advanced EEc-IV fully-integrated electronic engine management system, driveability, response, and performance were all considerably improved. yes, R&T noted it got noisy above 4500 rpm, but it ran cleanly to its 6200 rpm redline. R&T noted that it was a quiet and fine high-speed cruising car. Which was exactly my impression. The turbo four could be obnoxious in traffic, especially with four aboard and the a/c on, but once on the open road heading up across the high desert, it was very happy, relaxed, quiet with the cruise control set at 95. That was a revelation to me in 1983.
R&T rightfully knocked the Turbo Coupe’s interior, although the actual production TC did have a proper full-size tach, not that little one as in this pre-production prototype. But Ford was still coming out of its poor years, and didn’t have the budget for a new dash, which was a carry-over from the previous Box Top T Bird, except for the better instrumentation. But I wish that steering wheel had made it into the production version instead of the corporate wheel with that awful rectangular center section. Yuck.
As R&T said, if Ford had had the money to do a cheaper version of the BMW 6 series interior, the Turbo Coupe would really have been a game changer. Its interior was a very compromised aesthetically, but it was functional and the seats were comfortable, with one of the first applications of the blood-pressure pump-style lumbar support bladders.
The TC’s handling was not perfect, but quite a good compromise, given its prosaic Fairmont chassis.
That nifty steering wheel looks suspiciously like an early 80s Mustang GT steering wheel – maybe tarted up a bit with some nicer trim but probably just a standard part. I’d imagine Ford went with the rectangular “corporate” wheel to stay more in tune with the T-bird’s upscale image. Which didn’t work at all with the TC!
I think that wheel was used in the Escort GT and EXP as well.
The Ford dealer gave me a turbo T-bird as a loaner while they tried to sort out the fuel injection related issues on my V8 ’83 T-bird. (Nobody else wanted a “stick shift” loaner)
Compared to the mellow, smooth and quiet 302 FI engine, the 4 cylinder turbo felt quite crude, shaky and rude, making all of it’s power suddenly….usually too late to do any good in normal driving.
I was quite pleased to get my FI 302 V8 engine car back.
Compared to the mellow, smooth and quiet 302 FI engine, the 4 cylinder turbo felt quite crude, shaky and rude, making all of it’s power suddenly…
This was the problem for a lot of people who grew up in smooth, torquey, American V-8’s. Even our poor man’s cars had a V-8 (which was often the best part of the car). We weren’t used to high revving small engines with peaky power bands and thus noises and vibrations that might be perceived by a European as indicating lots of power being generated felt to us like a warning of something wrong – particularly in a car like a Thunderbird which had had a luxury car persona since 1960.
Personally, I always admired these cars, and felt that they indicated that Ford was on a roll. The styling was excellent, and conceptually, I thought Ford was on the right path towards the reinvention of the True American Car®. Had I the money at the time, I’d have considered one….but with the V8.
That’s the beauty of the car. Those of us used to the broad, smooth powerband of a V8 didn’t “get” how to drive a peaky turbocharged engine, especially when a turbocharged car was a “new” thing.
There is an art to driving small displacement turboed motors. What always worked well for me when I was driving my 1985 Cougar XR-7 with the 2.3T and 5 speed was to cruise along in 5th gear at say 60mph or so, and when someone would be going slow ahead of me that I wanted to pass, I’d downshift to third, double clutching it in order to get the revs up which would make the gear change smooth and start spinning the turbo faster, then, once in third I’d floor it, after about 1/2 a second, boost would be fully available and I could dart past whatever was in my way quickly, then go back to 5th.
In a V8, you simply give it gas and go, no muss, no fuss, gear changing was optional because of the low end torque. But the TC had less than half the displacement, half the cylinders, and not quite 2/3 the power of the similar V8 of those days. They got into their powerband very quickly IF you chose the right gear.
Not really a defect of the car, just not a driving style most Americans were used to at the time. Revving to 6200 RPM in a V8 of the era was still something you’d never think of.
The problem, I imagine, was when one of these turbos was mated to an automatic. The normal passing method (floor the pedal, let the tranny kick down) takes too long for the turbo to spool up. I imagine you would need to manually shift down at least one gear and wait for your chance before stabbing the throttle. All of which kind of cancels out the whole purpose of an automatic. A modern paddle shift automatic might work better with a turbo, but then the higher number of gears might make finding the right one a mite tricky. But then automatics were developed for engines with lots of low end torque and have not always been happy outside of that sandbox.
I had one of these. Great car, and I want another one, now, over 30 years later.. I liked the interior. I liked the grill. Too much chrome? WTF? The grill is not that big. Typical of whiney R&T reviews of American cars. They always need something to nit pick. My 83 had good accelation, looks, mpg, comfort. What more could R&T want? Oh I know, what they want, an overpriced gaudy European car, as always.
I agree, I think the grille fit the car perfectly. As a Thunderbird, the car needed a bit of “jewelry” and I think the chrome accents and grille were subtle, tasteful and gave the car character.
I’d be curious to see if R&T critiqued the aerodynamic W126 S-Class for having too much chrome on the grille–I somehow doubt it…
Well, the W126 Mercedes didn’t have much chrome on its grille, right? Nor did the BMW 6 Series Coupe. That may be lofty company to be compared to, but its also a reflection of what the T Bird was: an affordable version of those two.
I was thinking of the sedans. And it’s just as chrome laden as the T-Bird, but I don’t think it was critiqued as such.
The BMW may not have had chrome grille slats, but it did have plenty of chrome accents, including all around the windshield and greenhouse. The T-Bird wasn’t much more extravagant when it came to the shiny stuff…
I think Ford also had to consider that the main market for this car was still middle American personal luxury buyers, whose default choice was still GM. Given that balancing act, I thought they did a respectable job keeping the car’s American flavor while becoming far more internationally-oriented and restrained. Other than the awful optional wire wheel covers, and little Opera lights on the Heritage, the car was very far removed from past Thunderbird styling atrocities. Not a lick of landau, from Ford at that time, was a big accomplishment.
My point is that Ford might have come up with an alternate version of the beak/grille for the Turbo Coupe, given its mission. It wouldn’t have been expensive, and would have distinguished it more clearly in terms of its intent. Even a matte version would have helped.
Having seen many examples of the grille painted black by owners, I prefer the chrome.
Body color works nicely though
I can’t imagine what would have fit in that spot and looked better, maybe as PN says a matte grille, or chrome surround with flat black center?
Can’t argue with that–Ford could have/should have done a more monochromatic look for the Turbo. But it was still such a relief to have such a clean, striking ‘Bird overall that I guess I give them a pass.
I think leaving the surround chrome and blacking out the egg crate looks pretty good when combined with black out of the headlight surround areas that are silver and most of the rest of the trim of the car. That probably would have been a step too far for the buyers of the time so it was probably best that Ford did the bright work as they did.
I knew that something seemed off about the feature car, the argent inserts in the headlight buckets and grille. Every Turbo Coupe I’ve ever seen has those in black, even the brochures show it. That makes all the difference in the world.
Matt, awesome call! The production cars did have more blackout trim, as per this shot from the ’83 brochure.
GN: quite true about the black trim. But that brochure still shows the wrong dash configuration. It must have been a very last minute change to put in that proper tach. Good call. And there’s no shifter on the floor!
I put plastic aero headlight covers on mine, like the one below, but not with those stripes. That helped too.
I always think it is interesting to see the cobbled together prototypes used for the brochures and long-lead magazine testing. The additional blackout trim does look more appropriate for the Turbo as opposed to the Heritage model grille/headlamp bezels that seems to have been on the R&T test mule. Ford really was working the T-Bird details down to the last minute!
The headlamp covers you had helped the looks a lot–I was always surprised that Ford waited until ’87 to incorporate the flush headlamps along with the re-skin–they would have looked great on the pre-facelift version of the Aerobird as well, say for ’85.
Ford had no choice; they weren’t legal back then. The MkVII was the very fist to be able to use composite lamps, after years of lobbying.
Clearly they were designed with the intent that that would be legal.
Yep, that’s why I was thinking ’85 would have been the year for flush lamps on the T-Bird. Lincoln had them first for ’84, and then the Ford and Mercury could have been fast followers the next year–perfect for a 2 year mini-facelift on the design and very much in keeping with the aero styling direction. An increasing number of cars had flush lamps starting in ’85 and still more by ’86–automakers were ready to go with the new look once it was approved by the Feds.
Ford actually designed two headlamp setups for the ’83 Mark VII, one with the composite custom-shaped lamps that were used, and another with quad rectangular sealed beams in case the law wasn’t changed. One of the car mags ran photos of a Mark VII with sealed beams, which took up the area used by the composite single lamps and inboard parking lamps; the latter must have been moved elsewhere, I don’t recall the specifics.
It’s unfortunate all Ford cared about was appearance and aerodynamics, not good light quality. The newly approved lights looked like the ones used for decades in Europe and elsewhere, but the internals are different and plastic lenses usually used instead of glass, and awful bulbs like the 9004 rather than the Hx series used elsewhere in the world. Recent US-market cars that still use halogen headlights more often use the same bulbs as European lights and usually have better optics than those from the ’80s and ’90s.
I never understood why Detroit thought oodles of flat black paint looked European and sporty in the ’80s, often blacking out not just all or most of the chrome but also things that were normally body color like the B pillars and window frames. Real European cars rarely had so much flat black paint as pretenders like the LTD LX, Dodge 600ES, and Celebrity Eurosport. Likewise the eradication of wood (real or fake) from interiors of these same cars. Benzes and Jaguars had plenty of wood in them.
“…plastic lenses usually used instead of glass, and awful bulbs like the 9004 rather than the Hx series used elsewhere in the world…”
Unless I’m mistaken, Ford didn’t choose the inferior 9004 to pinch pennies; that bulb met the US regulations at the time.
US lighting regs used to change at a glacial pace: Approximately 18 years from single sealed beams to dual sealed beams, another 18 to rectangular sealed beams, and halogens didn’t arrive until 1979 or 1980.
That front and rear overhang tho…
I miss data like the R&T steering index.
Or the “tapley pull” and “wear index” .
Great cars! An ’83 Turbo Coupe was my “ensign mobile”, purchased right after I graduated college and was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy. Mine was black with gray interior, leather seats, TRX wheel/tires…the works. It was a real looker. Graduated, got commissioned, got married all w/in the span of two weeks, then my new wife and I took off in ‘Bird and drove across the county to my first duty station in Virginia. An effortless and comfortable hight-speed cruiser just as Paul described, even loaded to the gunwales with all our stuff. Fond memories of that beautiful black TC, my very first new car.
One of Ford’s best. There isn’t a bad line on these cars. The 83 Thunderbird instantly made almost everything that GM was building seem old. This car was a real game changer. I agree with Jack H above about the grill and Road & Track.
This car deserves a tremendous amount of credit for Ford’s turnaround, even though it is often overshadowed by the Taurus. In the Fall of ’82 when these were unveiled, the new looks were contemporary and exciting. Other than the W126 S-Class which had arrived stateside during 1980, the T-Bird was really the next car to hit the U.S. market with such rounded, aerodynamic styling. It was truly a breath of fresh air, and made other cars (including most others in FoMoCo showrooms) look instantly dated.
The other praise I’ll give Ford on this car was the speed with which they brought it to market. Early on, it was obvious the 1980 T-Bird was a dud, and Ford worked aggressively to craft a dramatically new and different car with record speed. Contrast that with GM a few years later when the E-Bodies bombed in 1986–the Eldo got fin-lets and peaked fenders for ’88, the Riv got a rump-bump for ’89 and the Toro got a roof-n-rump refresh for ’90. Nothing meaningful or dramatic, and slow as molasses. No wonder the E-body sales didn’t really recover.
The ’83 T-Bird, by contrast, soared and Ford’s bet paid off (which must have been a huge relief and built confidence in the direction the new Taurus would be taking). I’ll agree with other posters that the V8 was the best motor for this car, but overall I think Ford did an excellent job–especially given the fairly limited development dollars and the T-Bird’s reasonable price.
I remember reading at the time that the aero-Bird was the best selling car in California for at least one year in the mid-80’s. They certainly were popular and deservedly so, though I think it’s odd that one year, people will snap up a 2 door luxury coupe, the next year it’s all 4 door sedans (Taurus, Accord, Camry).
As I recall things the interior was improved a fair amount by 1985 when I test drove one. I sooooo wanted to love it. I loved the car’s look, I loved the size, I loved the fact that it came with a 5 speed. I loved everything about it but that rough, peaky turbo 4 (and the amazing amount of backlash in the drivetrain when you got on or off the gas, though maybe that was just on that particular car).
If I could have gotten the Turbo Coupe package with the 5.0 H.O. out of the Mustang GT I would have bought one. I liked the VW GTI I bought instead (with its smooth high-revving four) but I didn’t love it. I would have loved a V8 5 speed Bird.
I remember that Ford took the criticism of the tach location to heart, and by production time, had been moved to it’s proper place. This would have been unheard of in the old Ford company.
For my money, I’ll take an ’86, last year before the retrograde facelift, first year for the MPI 302, but unfortunately no Sport option yet. This was essentially
the Turbo Coupe except with a V8 instead.
To me the most interesting things about these cars is the vast departure from the ’79 model. You wonder if Henry the Deuce approved this just to spite Iacocca, as the ’83 Tbird wouldn’t have been a Henry the Deuce car but the ’79 was very much in the Iacocca/Henry the Deuce way of thinking. Begone, Lido, consider thyself banished as we are doing something as far away from what you wanted as possible!
What a radical change in just 4 years from the enormous yet cramped, wallowing, wheezy gunboat the ’79 was. I never cared for the aero design, and the lack of traditional luxury looks really hurt the Tbird alongside the GM G body competition (why didn’t R/T compare against those? They just seemed to throw together whatever they had on hand because who is shopping a tbird against a Peugeot or a Supra?) But the reasonable exterior size of the ’83 Tbird, the reasonable interior space and backseat leg room, a turbo four that was updated to run properly and drive properly, increased performance out of a smaller engine, all meant that the auto industry had a future which was not apparent in 1979.
Hank the Deuce retired as CEO in ’79 and Chairman in ’80 and was succeeded by Phil Caldwell. Caldwell, before returning to the States to become President of FoMoCo, ran Ford of Europe.
It was during this period, too, that Ford leaned heavily on Jackie Stewart during the development process of performance cars. There’s a bunch of footage in the Ford Archives of Jackie Stewart during development of this iteration of the Thunderbird.
I maintain Ford success through the ’80s and downfall in the late ’90s is a direct result of their leadership. Once they elevated Trotman to CEO, things started downhill for them. Caldwell, Petersen, and Poling, though, what a fantastic trio they had!
It was Ford that no doubt carefully picked those competitor vehicles to evaluate the sporty version of the T-Bird against. The Peugeot was the car that R&T currently had in their possession and the only reason it was mentioned was to give them a car to evaluate the Ford test facility against the place where R&T typically did performance tests. That is the reason for their “corrected” numbers. They obviously compared the test results of the Peugeot on the Ford track vs its results at their testing facility and then applied a “correction” factor.
The Turbo Coupe and the later Supercharged model were both great cars for the time. And Hertz (owned by Ford in the 80s and 90s) put a bunch of them in their West Coast fleets, so they became one of my favorites as a traveling reporter.
Looking at the R&T illustration that tops the article, though, if I were picking from that lineup of cars, the T-Bird would only beat the Firebird. I’d be struggling to choose between the BMW and the Supra, with the Z as a fallback.
SavageATL: Hertz in L.A. was renting Pugeot 505STIs at the time, too…and I rented a couple of those. While a typical T-Bird buyer might not have had the Pugeot on the list, they actually were very similar cars in intent. The Pugeot still tops my list of best seats.
See my comment above for the reason the Puegeot was mentioned in the article, it was not because they thought that anyone would compare the 505STI against the Turbo Coupe.
Scoutdude: Again, having driven both when new, they were more comparable than you might imagine.
Which has nothing to do with the subject at hand, which was the fact that they showed up in the Peugeot that they had for a completely unrelated reason. Had they shown up in a Civic that they had also ran at, or were planning on testing, at their own facility they most likely would have used it to compare the two testing facilities.
These cars were certainly a lot better and nicer than the 1980-82 bricks, which interestingly enough were also based on the Fox platform. Ford took a giant leap ahead with these cars; that interior is gorgeous. And I don’t have a problem with the grill, it looks perfect.
These days when I hear 2.3 Turbo engine from Ford, the Lima engine with turbo still comes into my mind sooner than the newer EcoBoost.
Funny you should mention that… I joked about that with a sales guy over at the Ford dealer while I was having my famously exploding Toccata airbag replace in my ’07 Mustang. The young guy saw me looking at the sticker of a 2017 EcoBoost Mustang on the lot and approached. When I saw the displacement of “2.3L”, I pointed at it and said, “So I suppose this is ‘not your father’s’ 2.3L Turbo Four Cylinder”…. At his age, I think the joke may’ve been lost on him. ;o)
“…with one of the first applications of the blood-pressure pump-style lumbar support bladders.”
Were these first used in the ’77 or ’78 Mark V?
Anyway, I like the 1987 restyle. It just adds more appeal, imo.
For the Turbo-Coupe, YES… but on my ’88 5.0L LX, that stupid skinny chrome grille never looked quite right to me. I liked the wife’s ’88 Turbo-Coupe beak MUCH better.
At the time my wife and I had a 1986 Turbo Coupe and a 1983 Mustang with the 5.0 HO. By 1986 the Thunderbird dash had been greatly improved and it was a beautiful car. I loved driving it, especially at higher speeds. But compared to the Mustang I had to be much more precise about my shift points (both had manual transmissions). There was just something about a torquey V8 that was more satisfying.
My wife and I bought a 1986 Turbo Coupe in the spring of ’86, not very long after we were married. It was her car but I did get to drive it enough to get a feel for it. For me, the car was outstanding on the highway but maybe not so much around town. Compared to the Mustang GT that I drove I thought that the T’bird had noticeable turbo lag; you had to learn to try and anticipate where you needed to be a couple of seconds down the road because it seemed to take that long for the turbo to get spooled up. Once you were into the boost it was okay but I still think it would have been a better car with the 5.0 V8. Kudos to Ford for trying this but the average customer for the Thunderbird was just not that interested in a small, high revving four cylinder engine.
I was fortunate enough to own all of the Fox/Aero-Bird drive trains over the years and liked the styling of the ’83 the best. Love the grille, and felt that it was a necessary chrome bit to brougham up the look just a touch… after all this is a Thunderbird!
I had and ’83 3.8L V6 (I test drove the Turbo Coupe, but as a 23 year old kid, went for the more affordable choice at the time). Later, I got an ’88 LX with the fuel injected 5.0L, and right around the same time, we got my wife an ’88 Turbo Coupe.
Of all of these, I liked the V8 the best. Overall, the road-ability on a trip was far superior to either of the other ‘Birds. The Turbo Coupe was a lot of fun to drive since it was a stick, but the NVH of that engine made it NOT the car to take on a trip. The Essex engine? Nuff said. Way too under powered, especially just coming out of the Malaise Era. (My ’97 Essex powered ‘Bird was much better, but the ’94 MN12 4.6L V8 that we had was probably the best of all of our ‘Birds, but we’re talking about the Fox ‘Birds here.)
Paul: I’ve never heard this car referred to as an “1983.5” until this post here, thus proving you learn something new every day here a CC. Maybe I never heard the term because by the time I finally test drove that Turbo Coupe, the ’84(s) were coming out. At the time, I was actually looking for a leftover ’83 to save my young self a few bucks.
What color was yours, Paul? My ’83 was that very light grey color that looked white until it started snowing. The Turbo Coupe that I test drove was also that color, and I think they may’ve even used that color on the FILA T-Bird in ’84. Oh, and for those that don’t like the chrome grill on the Thunderbird, that FILA had a body colored grille. Good luck finding one now though.
One more neat little tidbit. My ’88 LX V8 Thunderbird had the same wheels as the ’83 Turbo Coupe in the article. Leftover Parts Bin action, anyone? ;o) By then my ’88 Turbo Coupe had moved on to model specific 16″ wheels (225-60R-16).
I always liked the styling of those “Eight Holers” as I call ’em. Most folks complain about the Foxes having 4 lugs instead of 5 like on normal cars, but in this case, the symmetry is beautiful… 4 lugs, eight holes. A pet peeve of mine is when a rim just doesn’t match this up correctly, like a 5 pointed star and a 6 lug wheel for example. It just doesn’t look right to me geometrically.
Charcoal gray. Mine had the TRX wheels, and I put smoke gray plastic aero covers over the headlights. Exactly like this one, but no stripes on the headlight covers.
Very Sharp… and I always did like those TRX wheels. Cars that wore those always seemed to have a better looking “stance” when parked. My neighbor at the time I had my ’83 T-Bird had a nice ’84 G.T.350 Mustang adorned with TRX wheels, although a slightly different style.
The dash wasn’t actually completely carried over from the 82, only guts were. Everything visible but the vents were all new. The 83 LTD actually got the 82 Thunderbird dash unchanged. Didn’t match the car regardless, the 85 dash really completed the design.
Funny, my ’83 had a leftover steering wheel from the ’80 to ’82 Box Birds, but by ’84, Ford had designed a new steering wheel for the T-Bird. I actually liked the steering wheel in my ’79 Futura a little better. It was basic, cheap, but still kinda cool looking (to me anyway).
You’re right, it wasn’t a complete carry-over, but the basic shape and guts were. It was just a bit too much of a reminder of the Box Bird predecessor.
From the stats it seems awfully noisy for a PL coupe, given the low #s of the Continental featured earlier on CC.
72 dBA @ 50 MPH is what more modest cars were doing at 60 during that period. The Aries, Citation and Mercury Zephyr were charted at 71 dBA @ 60 in a Popular Science review, for example.
Beautiful car still. Unfortunate what was done to it by the end of the decade.
Steering wheel of the prototype “borrowed from the EXP/LN7” according to the text of the R/T article.
I think it’s kind of weird. I once had a 88 Thunderbird 5.0 LX, and that was a very quiet car. maybe not as quiet as a 1975 Continental (62 db @ 60 mph), but it was quiet as, say a B-body Caprice Brougham.
A buddy of mine had one back in the day. IIRC a 1984 model. He was so jazzed when he got the car and couldn’t wait to show it to me. Then we got on some winding Northeast Ohio country roads and got stuck behind a milk truck. These were narrow roads and the passing zones were very short.
I remember a couple of times where he tried to pass, but the boost was slow in coming; we’d pull back behind the truck. I swear I saw the driver laughing at us in his mirrors. His TC reminded me very much of the Capri turbo I used to own, the boost had a good amount of lag. Once it came up, it was great, but getting there was the issue.
Otherwise they were very nice cars. I preferred the 1987 TC refresh between the two models, though. If forced to choose from all of the cars in the photo, I think I’d go for the Firebird…
If your buddy couldn’t pass that milk truck, he didn’t know how to drive, period. This (w)hole thing about the turbo lag gets completely blown out of proportion. Depending on the speed of the truck, if he had it in the right gear before he pulled out there was no lag to speak of. Yes, if he tried to pass in 5th at 40-45 mph, but then that was just bad driving technique.
Read any of the reviews of the time; none of them mention objectionable lag. If the engine was spinning too low, then yes, it naturally took a moment for it to generate enough exhaust pressure to spin the turbine properly.
But then if you were driving a high-revving (non turbo) four cylinder at the time (or today), you’d have to shift down too. If you wanted lazy non-shifting V8 torque, you bought the wrong car.
I used to rip through the mountainous Angeles Crest Highway in LA, and as long as I shifted down in anticipation of a passing maneuver, there was essentially zero lag.
And FWIW, these actually weren’t peaky engines at all; peak hp came in at 5000rom, and torque built nicely above 2000 with the turbo on. No, they weren’t V8s, but then some folks were looking for something a bit different, for better or for worse.
I’ve got a lot of wheel time behind Fox bodies, turbo and V8. IIRC, which is difficult as it was 30+ years ago, he didn’t want to drive around in 2nd or 3rd gear for miles at a time. I had the same issue with my turbo Capri and my turbo Lancer. FWIW, all the turbo cars at the time had a fair amount of lag…
Everyone’s driving style and decisions are different, but I can’t say that I disagree with my buddy. It would have been annoying to keep that motor “on the boil” for long periods of time. If he had been able to anticipate every passing opportunity absolutely correctly, maybe keeping it in boost constantly would have been a good strategy and not needed for long.
I’ve not driven the Angeles Crest Highway, so I have no way to equate the two, but the rural roads in that part of Ohio are quite twisty and hilly, passing areas can be rather short. That was one of the advantages of the V8 pony cars, floor the accelerator and you were gone. One of the many reasons why I loved them…
I didn’t realise how much the Turbo Bird could keep up with the 82 Z/28. As much as the magazine praised the styling it wasn’t long before insults like jelly bean shaped appeared–I still like the styling and especially the 87 update. Some Mustang fans may remember this engine being offered in the Mustang GT for a couple of years but the take rate was very low–I seen one a few years ago at a Bestbuy and waited a while to see if the owner came out but I had to go–I would have asked if it was for sale.
Those Fuel injected non-SVO Turbo Mustang GTs are probably the rarest performance Mustangs ever built. The shame is that they perfected the turbo in the wake of the temperamental carbureted 79-81s just as the 5.0 H.O. was becoming a legend.
I’ve seen two, one at a cruise night a few summers ago, and one at a junkyard. The latter I nearly cried when I saw it.
R&T may have criticized the interior at the time, but I bet they would go gaga for a red interior today instead of the usual black, grey or tan.
Somewhere in the layout process, the engine bay picture in the upper left hand corner of Page 29 got flipped horizontally. The alternator should be mounted on the driver’s side of the engine, while the air cleaner mounts on the passenger side of the engine compartment.
Back then, the whole engine bay layout was new to all, but the motor’s intake “points” towards the passenger side of the car. Looking at it 35 years later, I saw this glitch immediately, and can even share this corrected image.
I have to agree on that grille being too much chrome. Sure, the Bimmers and Benzs brought up earlier probably have the same amount overall, but thin strips that accent a black grille are fine..they actually enhance the look a bit. But a big garish plate of it right smack on the front of the car…no thanks. Reminds me of people wearing those blingy ‘grills’ on their teeth. This car looked its best with the blacked out trim but still the four sealed beam/eggcrate grill pre-aero variant.
Its funny how perspective is everything. The older T-birds with the garish gingerbread are blatantly tacky…these are much cleaner and more modern. But compared to the other much sportier cars in the first photo, it looks stuffy and buttoned down. Like a rock band behind but their butler up front.
Interesting article, I wish that it had more info on that Turbo Z and BMW although. I know they were way quicker ( 7 sec ish to range for the Z from a prior comparo it was in) than this competition back then, but probably not as “Eco”!
I thought then, as I do today, that the turbo 4 cylinder engine/5 speed tranny powertrain was better off in a Mustang or Pinto than in the personal luxury model Thunderbird.
There was nothing wrong with this generation of T-Bird – given how moribund the industry had been to this point, this was truly a new direction for Ford and given that context, this product was spot on. The grill was not too chromey and the interior was as good as it could have been in that era. My preference for this generation of T-Bird was the reworked version that came later – just not the pseudo BMW barge that came after that.