1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

A recent query about whether I had done a write-up on a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe compelled me to update this post written a few years ago, changing it enough to consider it a new entry.

“Ford presents a dramatic new balance of form and function.”

The aerodynamic styling of Ford’s 1983 Thunderbird was a breath of fresh air and a substantial change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components remained the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The Turbo Coupe featured Ford’s Lima 142 bhp 2.3 liter/140 cubic inch inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Road & Track recorded a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds in a Turbo Coupe that weighed 3,420 pounds as tested. Ford’s new coupe didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35. Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 21 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards). With an 18.0-gallon fuel tank, a Turbo Coupe owner could expect a range of between 330 and 435 miles with a 10% reserve—decent for a mid-size performance coupe in the early to mid-1980s.

The $11,790 Turbo Coupe is about $29,700 in today’s dollars and about what a 2018 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback (also with a turbocharged 2.3 liter inline four) costs. Standard exterior and mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, power mirrors, a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Marchal foglamps, and Goodyear Eagle HR 205/70R-14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch x 5.5-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Options included front cornering lamps ($68), tilt steering ($105), power door locks ($172), and a premium sound system ($179).

Two pages from the 1983 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Reviews were quite good—Road & Track‘s tagline was “An enthusiast’s Bird comes soaring back”—and the newly aerodynamic Thunderbird sold well. After dropping down below 50,000 sales for the 1982 model year with the last of the eighth-generation ‘birds, the ninth generation would not see sales of less than 120,000 per year.

EightiesFordThunderbirdSales

For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982 (they do track the related Lincoln Continental Mark VII). Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—you do see them more often on eBay Motors. Make mine Silver, please.

1983 Mercury Grand Marquis Sedan

As I walked to the train earlier the week, I saw an eighties Mercury Grand Marquis sedan idling on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It stood out because of its size (at 214 inches these cars are more than a foot longer than a 2018 Lincoln Continental) and its new for 1979 squareness. Reason enough to write a (rare) Mercury blog entry (my only other one so far is about the 1986 Mercury Capri).

“A Lesson In Luxury”

For 1983, Mercury renamed all versions of the full-size Marquis to Grand Marquis and moved the Marquis name to the mid-size Fox platform. Other than the name change, changes for the Grand Marquis were relatively modest: there were new full-width wraparound tail lamps and a modified grille. New options included a remote locking fuel filler door ($24), locking wire wheel covers ($168), and a Tripminder trip computer ($261) which showed month/day/time, elapsed time, average speed, average MPG, instantaneous MPG, and gallons of fuel used. In their annual “Charting the Changes” roundup, Car and Driver once again made the ritual complaint that there was still no de Sad package.

The standard engine in 1983 was Ford’s 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic. Somewhat strangely to our modern eyes, the optional power upgrade was a carburetted version of the same motor with 145 bhp. These were not fast cars—with an almost 3,800-pound curb weight, 0-60 came in about 12 seconds. Mileage with the standard powertrain was 17 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 18-gallon fuel tank, Grand Marquis drivers could expect a range of 275 to 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $1o,718 Grand Marquis (about $26,900 in today’s dollars) included a coach vinyl roof, coach lamps, halogen headlamps, power brakes (front disc and rear drum), power steering, and P215/75R14 steel-belted white sidewall radial tires on 14-inch wheels with deluxe wheel covers. Inside, cloth/vinyl Twin Comfort Lounge seats with dual front seat recliners, a four-spoke luxury (the Grand Marquis brochure mentioned luxury a lot) steering wheel, an analog quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were included. Standard items that Mercury proudly listed that do not impress in 2017 included a front stabilizer bar, seat belt warning chimes, and carpeted lower door trim panels.

Upgrading to the $11,273 LS added tinted glass, luxury cloth Twin Comfort Lounge seats, cloth-trimmed headrests, right-hand visor vanity mirror, map pockets in front seatback, luxury door trim with armrest woodtone inserts and courtesy lights, dual beam dome/map light, dual fold-down front center armrests, rear-seat folding center armrest, and the all-important LS badge on the rear decklid.

Exterior and mechanical options included the Traction-Lok differential ($95) and cast aluminum turbine spoke wheels ($361) which required P205/75R15 tires ($17). Interior options included manual air conditioning ($724), automatic air conditioning ($802), 6-way power driver’s seat ($210) or driver’s and passenger’s seats ($420), power door locks ($123), fingertip speed control ($170), and tilt steering wheel ($105). Audio options included a host of optional radios with 8-track or cassette player, a power antenna ($60), and Premium Sound System with two additional speakers in the front doors, upgraded rear speakers, and an extra power amplifier ($175 base/$145 LS). Leather seating surfaces ($418) were only available on the LS. All these options meant that a loaded Grand Marquis LS could quickly get close to the Lincoln Town Car’s pricing territory—I quickly priced one to $14,584 (about $36,700 in 2017 dollars).

The rear cover of the 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The Grand Marquis sold well for Mercury in 1983—72,207 sedans, 11,117 coupes, and 12,394 Colony Park wagons made it one of the division’s best sellers—23% of sales in a year when Mercury also offered the Capri, Cougar, LN7 (remember the LN7?), Lynx, Marquis, and Zephyr.

The first-generation Grand Marquis sometimes shows up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Make mine Midnight Blue Metallic, I think.

Save

Save

Save

Save

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had defined it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Guigiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3 inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it more than a foot shorter than a 2016 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected in-line four which VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918 pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/33 highway; a 10 gallon fuel tank gave a 265 mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $19,700 in 2015 dollars) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires mounted on 14 x 6 inch alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning, a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

1983 Rabbit GTIs sold like hot cakes when new and first-generation GTIs definitely have a following. Many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1 condition is $11,900, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $4,400. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine black, please.

1983 Ford Mustang Convertible

I was driving westbound on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia this morning and saw a Fox Mustang convertible (red exterior, black top). A good enough reason to write a blog entry about these attractive cars.

“It’s not just a convertible … it’s a Mustang.”

For 1983, the big news for the Ford Mustang was the return of the convertible for the first time since the 1973 model year. Introduced on November 5th, 1982, the convertible was available only in the luxury GLX trim and the performance GT trim—lower end L and GL trims remained with the notchback coupe (L and GL) and the hatchback coupe (GL). The GLX was also available only with V-6 and V-8 engines (no inline 4—turbo or not—would sully the droptop experience).

The V-6 engine choice for the GLX was the 112 bhp Essex 3.8 liter with two-barrel carburetor. Optional on the GLX ($595 additional) and standard on the GT was (of course) the 175 bhp Windsor 4.9 liter V-8 with four-barrel carburetor.

Starting at $9,449 (about $22,500 in today’s dollars) and rising significantly during the middle of the model year to a non-trivial $12,467 (about $29,600 in 2015 funds, which is almost exactly what a 2015 Mustang V6 starts at), the GLX did come fairly well equipped. Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, tinted glass, and an automatic transmission. Standard interior equipment included light group and AM radio.

The GT version of the convertible listed for $13,479 (about $32,000 in 2015 dollars). Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, power steering, rear spoiler, and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard interior equipment included an AM radio.

The Mustang option list was long. Inside, air conditioning ($724), speed control ($170), power locks ($160), tilt steering wheel ($105), and AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($199) were all available.

All 1983 Mustang convertibles came with a power top and all windows rolled down—an emphasis Ford frequently made in reference to the Chrysler K car convertibles.

Page from the 1983 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The 1983 Ford Mustang convertible sold fairly well considering its expense (the GT convertible stickered for 45% more than the GT hatchback). For that year, it probably saved total Mustang sales from dropping below 100,000—helping hold that off until 1991. Between 1983 and 1993, Ford would sell over a quarter of a million of the pony car convertibles.

FoxBodyMustangSales

There is strong club support for the 1983 Mustang, as there is for all Mustangs except the mid-seventies Mustang IIs. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Mustang GT convertible in #1 condition is $17,800, with a more normal number #3 condition car going for $6,700. 1983 Mustangs often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in February 2015, there’s a well equipped red V-6 GLX with a black top and a black vinyl interior with 11,000 miles available for $10,000.

Make mine Medium Red, please.

1983 Imperial

“A singular statement of car and driver.”

Brought to market in part to reassure buyers of Chrysler products that company would be staying around, the “bustleback” Imperial was introduced in 1981. By 1983, the Cordoba-based luxury coupe was in its final year, selling a mere 1,427 units as all rear-wheel drive Chryslers continued their decline.

For 1983, the powertrain continued to be the same: the 140 bhp LA electronic throttle-body fuel injected 5.2 liter (318 cubic inch) V8 paired with a three speed automatic transmission. Despite serious attempts at increasing quality (each Imperial went on a five-and-a-half mile test drive and had numerous other checks by technicians before it was shipped), the bleeding edge fuel injection continued to be stunningly unreliable—Chrysler frequently ended up replacing it with a carbureted system at a cost of $3,500 plus about 50 hours of labor.

Performance for the 3,900 pound coupe wasn’t very good: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 16 mpg, giving an unimpressive range of less than 300 miles with the 18 gallon gas tank.

Standard mechanical equipment for the loaded $18,688 Imperial (approximately $44,700 in today’s dollars or more than the list price of a loaded 2014 Chrysler 300C) included halogen headlights, power brakes, power steering, cruise control, and Goodyear Arriva P205/75R15 steel-belted radial whitewall tires (a size still easily available) on cast aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment included power heated mirrors, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear window defroster. Interior equipment included “semi-automatic” air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power seats, and a 30-watt AM/FM stereo with cassette and power antenna.

Unusual standard equipment for 1983 in any car included an electronic instrument cluster, a garage door opener, and a two year/30,000 mile warranty (a lot of warranty in those unreliable days). The only extra cost option was high altitude emissions ($75—why did Chrysler cheap out at this point?); no cost options included cloth and vinyl seats, Michelin tires, and wire wheel covers. There was no Frank Sinatra edition for 1983.

Page from the 1983 Imperial brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Especially from the rear, the Imperial looked a lot like Cadillac’s 1980 Seville redesign, but was evidently a separate idea—exterior design had actually begun in 1977.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Imperial in #1 condition is $10,500, with a more normal #3 condition car fetching $4,000. Imperials do show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—as I write this in September 2014, there’s a Pearl White 1981 with 29,000 miles available for $3,250.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the 1981-1983 Imperial—it is here. Make mine Black, please.

1983 Isuzu Impulse

“Follow Your Impulse”

1983 was the first model year that Isuzu’s Impulse (known as the Piazza in most other parts of the world) became available in the United States. The first-generation Impulse was built on a variant of the aging rear-drive T-body chassis used by the lowly Chevrolet Chevette, but was definitely aimed at a notably different market.

The Impulse came much better equipped than a Chevette: standard mechanical equipment for the $9,998 base price (about $23,700 in 2014 dollars) included alloy wheels and four wheel disc brakes. Inside, power steering, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, tinted glass, a tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were all included. Optional equipment was spare, with only an improved stereo and turbine wheels available.

For 1983, power for the 2,700 pound Impulse was provided by a 90 bhp 1.9 liter SOHC inline four with multi-point fuel injection (the turbocharged engine did not become available until 1985). Transmissions available were a standard five speed manual and an optional four speed automatic. Fuel economy with the manual transmission was 22 city/28 highway by the standards of the day (19/26 by 2014 standards). 0-60 took around 11 to 12 seconds, with a top speed of about 100 mph.

Of course, the Impulse’s absolute killer feature was its exterior styling, which was very close to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s 1979 “Ace Of Clubs” show car.

First-generation Isuzu Impulse, courtesy of Isuzu.
First-generation Isuzu Impulse, courtesy of Isuzu.

Isuzu gets real credit for messing as little as possible with Giugiaro’s excellent and differentiating design — few automakers were willing to leave as well enough alone as they did. They only did a few things, adding slightly larger bumpers to meet the 5 mph DOT requirement, shortening the windshield and lengthening the hood to allow for easier installation of the engine on the assembly line, and enlarging the overall dimensions a few inches to allow for more interior space. Make my Impulse black, please.

1983 Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer 512i

I live about a mile from a Ferrari dealership. As I walked nearby it earlier this week, I saw a trailer parked around the corner with a low-slung sports car inside. Getting a little closer showed that it was definitely a Berlinetta Boxer—possibly this one. “Now that’s a Ferrari!”, I said. The man unloading the car chuckled as I walked away.

For 1983, Ferrari’s lovely Pinanfarina-designed Berlinetta Boxer 512i received few if any changes. The Boxer’s engine was Ferrari’s 340 bhp 4.9 liter flat 12 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection – the BB512 had moved to fuel injection (and added the i) for the 1982 model year. When paired with the five-speed manual transmission, 0-60 came in about 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 170 mph or so—fast, fast, fast for 1983.

Ferraris had gotten more luxurious: standard equipment on the BB512i included air conditioning (often said to be inadequate), leather seats, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks driven from the key, a Nardi steering wheel, and a Pioneer AM/FM stereo cassette deck with 7-band graphic equalizer.

Although the Berlinetta Boxer was not legal in the U.S., some importers converted them to U.S. specifications with the addition of catalytic converters, side reflectors, and larger bumpers.

Of course, there’s a fairly famous eighties music video associated with this car.

Sammy Hagar may have his issues, but the Ferrari BB512i he drives in the video made for this song demonstrates exquisite taste. When interviewed by Motor Trend in 2008, he still owned it.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Berlinetta Boxer 512i in #1 condition is $185,000 (though recent auction results may make that seem low). A more “normal” #3 condition example is valued at $122,000. Berlinetta Boxers seem to come up for auction more than as standard sales—Auctions America has 1984 BB512i on the docket for August.

There’s some really excellent support for Berlinetta Boxers (and all Ferraris) from the folks on FerrariChat (who contributed to this post).

Make mine Rosso Corsa (red), please, though I’m quite tempted by how they look in Grigio (grey).