At $6,500, Will This 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe Prove To Be A 'Bird In the Hand?

Nice Price or No Dice: 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or No DiceIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Turbo Coupe carries the only four-cylinder engine ever to sit behind Ford’s iconic Thunderbird badge. Fortunately, that four was shared with the SVO Mustang, so it brings some heat. Let’s see if this old coupe can get you hot and bothered over its price.

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Sir Mix-A-Lot likes big butts and he cannot lie, both admirable but oddly disassociate attributes. Yesterday we looked at a 2011 BMW 535i GT with a butt so big it probably could have hired the “Baby Got Back” rapper to be its spokesperson. That might not have been necessary. because while few of you liked the Bimmer’s chonkiness, more than enough of you liked its $11,995 price. That earned the odd-duck 5 Series a narrow 53 percent Nice Price win.

Have you ever heard of the “Wonder Dress?” It’s a dress that is advertised as being so versatile it can “be worn 20 different ways.” Now, not being a dress wearer, I cannot attest to the veracity of that astounding claim. I can, however, appreciate the automotive world’s version of that uber-adaptable dress, the Ford Fox platform.

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The Fox platform originated out of the 1970s and carried on until almost half a decade into the new century. Over the course of that run, it underpinned almost a dozen model names and literally dozens of different body styles.

One of those was the Thunderbird, which took advantage of the Fox platform from 1980 to 1988 across two distinct body styles. The first of those was a weirdly proportioned coupe with hidden headlamps that attempted to mimic the Thunderbird’s earlier baroque styling in a substantially smaller package. It was alarmingly unattractive and is pretty rare these days because of its limited appeal. That was followed by the first “Aero-bird,as handsome and slippery as its immediate predecessor was boxy and brick-like.

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The new, aerodynamic 1983 Thunderbird rode on the same Fox platform as did the short-lived 1980-82 car, and it shared the same dashboard. But for car shoppers, it was like an entirely new car. It was also the first Thunderbird in history to offer four-cylinder power. That was a turbocharged edition of the Lima, or Pinto, 2.3-liter four, and that boosted output by more than 50 percent over the naturally aspirated edition. The Turbo Coupe was even made available with a five-speed manual transmission, which was the first stick shift offered in the T-bird in decades.

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The Aero-bird had one restyle, late in the game, with a pointier nose and flush headlamps as well as bigger taillamps. Between those, the greenhouse gained slightly larger side windows for better visibility. Another, more practical change was the addition of an intercooler to the Turbo Coupe, giving the car essentially the same mill as the SVO Mustang.

This 1987 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe is one of more than 127,000 T-birds sold that year. That should make parts availability a snap. Also, that Fox platform will make for easy-as-pie updates and upgrades.

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The ad notes that the car comes with a clean title and 127,000 miles of experience. It’s claimed to be part of a T-bird collection that is now being culled. The seller claims the car to be in “great shape” and to be just three owners deep into life. It rides on aftermarket wheels and mismatched tires front and rear, but it does come with its factory wheels as well. The bodywork is rated by the seller as 7/10, noting some small dings here and there as well as some peppering on the nose. The gray paint does seem to shine up reasonably well and all the trim appears intact. That latter includes not one, but two Thunderbird badges on the back end. Fancy!

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The interior gets an 8/10 rating from the seller, dropping points for some worn stereo speakers and bad window tint that will require removal. Other than that, it seems like a pretty nice place to hang out, with sport bucket seats up front and a three-spoke steering wheel.

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The turbo four made 190 horsepower with the intercooler and the five-speed. Automatics made less, but that’s not a concern here considering this car’s three pedals and DIY gearshift. The seller claims the car to have an adjustable suspension but says it would benefit from some coilovers. Recent maintenance work is described as a fuel system flush, oil change, plugs and a new temperature gauge.

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Big coupes like this have long fallen out of favor, and that makes for less clamor for such cars on the used car market. That, of course, brings us to the price, which is $6,500. That’s a lot for a car that’s not particularly quick by modern standards and was built in substantial numbers a couple of decades back. Still, there’s a lot to like here, and for other T-bird collectors, this car might be a cherry example one might be keen to snap up. What do you think, is $6,500 a deal to do that snapping? Or, in your mind, does that price clip this Thunderbird’s wings?

You decide!

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Orange County, California, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to FauxShizzle for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOND. Hit me up at rob@jalopnik.com and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.

DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

Like five years ago, I thought I wanted one of these. The theory was, it would be a perfect Radwood type of car. At the time, I wanted a cool “local car” because I was living in East Nashville, and most of my trips were only like 3-4 miles, at the most. Sometimes I’d get wild and drive like 20 miles to the ‘Boro, but usually... just around town. (And if I needed a road trip car, I’d just rent something, because it’s never fun to take these old cars on 1,000 mile road trips. You’re always worried something might break.)

My luck finally came along when I found a “retiree special” in Atlanta. It was one of those rare babied examples, like 50,000 original miles, and then only modification was some Fox-body Cobra wheels. I made the drive down to take a look at it, drive it, etc.

Let me explain something: The Fox body Mustang of the era weighed about 2,700 lbs. The Thunderbird weighed 3,300 lbs. That extra 500 lbs makes a huge difference. Adding a full 20% to the weight of this platform, and asking an anemic 190 horsepower modified Pinto engine to pull it is... not ideal.

So when I finally drove it, it was moment of disappointment. It was slow, floaty, uncomfortable, and didn’t communicate anything through the steering wheel. There are cars from the 80s (like a Fox body Mustang) that are tossable and cool, and I thought because it shared a platform with the Mustang, the Thunderbird would feel similar... but it doesn’t. It’s a different car, with totally different characteristics, and it... sucks.

It’s like driving a Mustang, but with thick winter gloves, and everything is dulled. I can’t blame the example I drove because it was as perfect as it could be. The car itself just feels like a Ford Mustang stopped going to the gym and started popping Xanax in the evening. It’s a sleepy, bloated, boring car with interesting styling and a cool name.

On paper, it seems like it would be cool, but those 80s turbos were not ideal for this car. It’s not like a modern small displacement turbo where it’s fairly linear. In reality, when this car isn’t on boost, it’s a Pinto engine with no torque, pushing 3,200 pounds of floaty, numb American steel.

Oh yeah... the guy wanted $8,000. I would have paid it, but the car just never would have made me happy. Was it worth $8,000? Sure. If you love these cars, by all means, get a nice example and enjoy it. I just don’t get the draw behind these ‘Birds. What’s the upside? Just the look?