1980 Ford Thunderbird

“New Thunderbird elegance in a new size …”

To me, the 1980 Ford Thunderbird was one of those “why?” cars, though the competitive drivers were obvious. The third Ford based on the “Fox” platform (the Fairmont and the Mustang had come first), the eighth generation ‘bird was of one of the most radically downsized automobiles in the North American auto industry. In comparison to its 1979 predecessor, the base 1980 Thunderbird was 17 inches shorter and 900 pounds lighter.

Standard power for 1980 was a Windsor 118 bhp 4.2 liter/255 cubic inch V8 with a Motorcraft two-barrel carburetor paired with a SelectShift three-speed automatic transmission. Powertrain upgrades were available: buyers could specify a $150 131 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with a two-barrel carburetor and could then add a $133 automatic overdrive transmission (with that engine only).

With the standard powertrain, 0-60 took about 15 seconds in the 3,100-pound car—the best powertrain combination dropped that time to a far more respectable 12 seconds. Mileage was 18 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—with a 17.5-gallon gas tank, a Thunderbird owner could expect a range of about 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $6,816 base Thunderbird (about $22,400 in today’s dollars) included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, Thunderbird hood ornament with color-coordinated insert, full wheel covers, and P185/75R x 14 black sidewall tires. Inside, a tweed cloth-and-vinyl Flight Bench seat, a day/night inside mirror, an electric clock, and an AM radio were all standard.

Moving up to the $10,424 Town Landau (approximately $34,200 now) added a lot of equipment, including cast aluminum wheels, dual remote control mirrors, interval windshield wipers, velour cloth split front bench seat, six-way power driver’s seat, SelectAire air conditioning, power windows, power lock group, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The top of the line Silver Anniversary edition ($12,172 then, $39,900 now) added the 4.9 liter engine, the automatic overdrive transmission, Keyless Entry System, a patterned luxury cloth split front bench seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fingertip speed control, a power antenna, and turbine-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

Options included a power-operated moonroof ($219), electronic information cluster ($275-$313), and leather upholstery ($349).

Two pages from the 1980 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

To say the market was not ready for the 1980 Thunderbird is a distinct understatement. Despite a much better level of standard equipment, the Thunderbird was only five inches longer than the plebian Fairmont. Sales of Ford’s halo model collapsed: dropping from 284,141 in 1979 to 156,803 in 1979, and losing almost a full percentage point of sales during a year when none of the main General Motors competitors in the personal luxury coupe market had more than a facelift.

It would get worse in the following two years: 86,693 in 1981 and 45,142 in 1982. By 1982, the Thunderbird was being handily outsold by all four of the mid-size GM coupes: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. It would take the next Thunderbird design in 1983 to redress this balance.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Thunderbird Silver Anniversary in #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $5,000. This generation of Thunderbirds maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in November 2017, there’s a black/silver two-tone 1980 with 85,000 miles for sale in Germany. The price: $12,800.

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.

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1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe

It was a beautiful weekend in the Philadelphia area. Lots of people had their old cars out—one that caught my eye was an eighties Monte Carlo. However, it wasn’t the relatively glamorous SS of the mid-eighties; just a “normal” coupe.

“A matter of personal pride.”

For the 1981 model, the Monte Carlo that had been downsized in 1978 was significantly restyled, both to improve aerodynamics and modernize its looks. Much of the sculpting on the sides (which the middle-school aged me found appealing) was flattened, the hood was lowered, and the trunk slightly raised.

The standard engine continued to be an LC3 110 bhp 3.8 liter/229 cubic inch V6 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. Optional power included a $750 (!) Buick-built LC8 170 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch V6 with a turbocharger and a Rochester E4ME 4-barrel carburetor and a $50 L39 115 bhp 4.4 liter/267 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. California got an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 4ME 4-barrel carburetor as an option replacing the 4.4 liter V8. All engines were paired with a Turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic transmission.

Mileage for the standard engine was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by today’s standards). With an 18.1-gallon fuel tank, a Monte Carlo driver could reasonably expect 310 to 365 miles of range with a 10% fuel reserve. Performance wasn’t exactly sparkling: 0-60 mph came in about 14.5 seconds with the standard V6 and 14 seconds for the 4.4 liter V8. The rare (about 2% of 1981 sales) turbo V6 was much faster—about 9 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 Sport Coupe (approximately $21,300 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2017 Chevrolet Malibu costs—the Monte Carlo disappeared after the 2007 model year) included Computer Command Control, Delco Freedom II battery, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 steel-belted radial tires. Inside a split cloth front bench seat, cut pile carpeting, and an electric clock were standard.

Exterior and mechanical options for the Sport Coupe (there was also a higher-content Landau Coupe) included halogen high beam headlamps ($27), removable glass roof panels ($695), F41 Sport Suspension ($43), limited slip differential ($67), Rally wheels ($49), and attractive new aluminum wheels ($319). Inside, there were many options: air conditioning ($585), automatic speed control ($132), Comfortilt steering wheel ($81), power windows ($140), power door locks ($93), bucket seats ($118), gauge package ($55), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape ($264) were all available.

Back cover of the 1981 Monte Carlo brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

1981 Monte Carlo sales were astounding by modern standards for auto sales—Chevrolet sold 149,659 Sport Coupes along with another 38,191 Landau Coupes. For context, the combined Monte Carlo numbers would be enough to make it the 12th most popular car in 2016; and Chevrolet had four model lines that sold better in 1981 (Chevette, Citation, Malibu, and Impala/Caprice). Chevrolet was probably happy with the increased sales over 1980, but this would not last—1981 turned out to be the eighties high water mark for Chevrolet’s mid-size coupe.

Third-generation Monte Carlos have a following, though most of the interest is in the aforementioned SS, which is the only eighties Monte rated in Hagerty’s valuation tools. A 1986 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe with a maroon interior and cloth bucket seats, an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 60,000 miles sold for $9,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Las Vegas auction.

These Monte Carlos do show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this, Hemmings is listing a 1985 Monte Carlo with a light brown metallic exterior, saddle cloth seats, an LG4 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 68,000 miles for $8,250.

Make mine Green Light Jade Metallic, please. Those GM light greens from the early eighties have aged very well.

Other rear-wheel drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have written about include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am.

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1982 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

Barrett-Jackson’s second Northeast auction at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut in late June 2017 included a 1982 black Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham coupe with a tan interior, a 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8, an automatic, and 12,000 miles. It sold for $10,000. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen an eighties Toronado up for auction, though the “sister” Buick Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado are often present. Time to write a blog entry, methinks.

“Nothing ordinary”

For 1982, Oldsmobile gave up on the (slightly) sportier XSC variant that they had offered for two years and made the Brougham the only available version. Changes included a new chrome/argent grille with more horizontal bars, a new memory seat option with two memory positions, a revised instrument panel, and a new optional radio.

The standard engine was a 125 bhp 4.1 liter/252 cubic inch V6 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor. Optional power included the 140 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor at no additional charge and the (don’t do it!) 105 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch diesel V8 ($825). A four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive was standard with all three engines. The Toronado was not light—curb weight was 3,705 pounds—so even with the more powerful V8, 0-60 mph took about 13 seconds. With the gasoline V8, mileage was rated at 16 city/27 highway by the standards of the day; with the 21.1-gallon fuel tank, Toronado owners could expect to travel about 400 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included in $14,462 base price (about $38,000 in today’s dollars) included power disc brakes and P205/75R15 tires (still easily available) on 15 by 6-inch steel wheels. Inside, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and divided cloth seats were standard. Options included Twilight Sentinel ($57), Tempmatic air conditioning ($50), power Astro Roof with sliding glass panel, and leather seats.

Oldsmobile sold 33,928 1982 Toronado Broughams, down from over 42,000 the previous year. In 1982, Buick sold 42,823 Riviera coupes along with another 1,246 convertibles while Cadillac sold 52,018 Eldorado coupes, so the Toronado was not holding up its end of the E-body platform bargain.

1982 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham page from the 1982 Oldsmobile full-line brochure

Third-generation Toronados have a following, though models after 1980 are not rated in Hagerty’s valuation tools. These Toronados sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this, Hemmings is listing a 1983 Toronado Brougham with a champagne exterior and red cloth seats for $9,900.

I like these big coupes, though I think the Toronado may have too closely resembled the Eldorado for its own good. Make mine Medium Slate Firemist, please.

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1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Soul Survivor

1981 was the last year for the second-generation Firebird and thus also the last year for the second-generation Trans Am. With the third-generation cars on the way, Pontiac’s eleven-year-old F-car got only minor changes. The “screaming chicken” decal on the hood was now two colors, compared to the four color decal from 1979 and 1980. Not much could be done about the general lack of space efficiency (the EPA rated the Firebird as a subcompact car), the relatively high weight (about 3,300 pounds when the Mustang weighed about 2,800), and the fairly primitive technology.

The standard Trans Am powertrain was the L37 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor matched with an automatic. The only choice for Trans Am purchasers who wanted a manual transmission was the Chevrolet-built LG4 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, but you did get a $147 credit.

The top engine was the $437 LU8 200 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor and turbocharger, which included a new hood-mounted boost gauge. A Turbo Trans Am would accelerate from 0-60 in a little over eight seconds. Fuel mileage was predictably bad—14 mpg by the standards of the day for the combination of the turbo engine and the automatic. With a 21-gallon fuel tank, Trans Am owners could expect to travel about 260 miles before refueling.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included in the $8,322 base price of the Trans Am (about $24,300 in today’s dollars) included black accent grille and headlamp bezels, dual rectangular headlamps, wheel opening air deflectors, side-split tailpipe extensions, shaker hood, power brakes, and P225/70R15 blackwall tires on Rally II wheels. Inside, power steering, air conditioning, console, bright engine-turned dash plate, and rally gauges with tachometer were standard.

The Trans Am Special Edition package cost $735 additional—$1,430 bundled with t-tops. There was also a special edition of the Special Edition—the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car, resplendent in oyster white with a black and red interior. It included the LU8 turbocharged engine, the WS6 special performance package, four wheel power disc brakes, and limited slip differential. Inside, the most notable upgrade from other Trans Ams was Recaro seats—among the best available from any manufacturer in 1981. All this extra content was a good thing, because the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car listed for $12,257; about $35,700 in 2017 dollars.

Options available for included WS6 special performance package, limited slip differential, tungsten quartz halogen headlamps, white-lettered tires, cast aluminum wheels, four wheel power disc brakes, power antenna, electric rear window defroster, and custom bucket seats.

Firebird pages of the 1981 Pontiac brochure, linked for the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Long neglected by the collector market and with most now used up, late second-generation Trans Ams in good or great shape are starting to get interesting numbers at auctions. A black and gold 1981 Trans Am went for $19,000 at Mecum’s May 2017 auction in Indianapolis. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 Trans Am in #1 condition is $38,200. A more normal #3 condition version is valued at $13,600.

Make mine the black and gold Special Edition, of course. The NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car is tempting, if only for those Recaro seats.

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1985 Ford LTD LX

“Because Mr. Bondurant shouldn’t have all the fun.”

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the LTD line. The LX was loosely based on a few sedans that Bob Bondurant had cobbled together for use at his high performance driving school.

The engine was Ford’s 165 bhp 302 cubic inch Windsor V8 with electronic fuel injection. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a respectable 9 seconds—faster than the Dodge 600ES and competitive with the Pontiac 6000 STE. Mileage was 19 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 16 gallon fuel tank, range was about 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

For 1985, the LX wore the updated nose and tail that came along with all 1985 LTDs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $11,421 LX (about $26,500 in 2016 dollars) included quad rectangular halogen headlamps, power brakes, a Traction-Lok rear axle, a rear stabilizer bar, and P205/70HR Goodyear Eagle tires on 14-inch styled road wheels. Inside, dual power mirrors, lumbar-support bucket seats, a center console with a floor shifter for the transmission, brushed aluminum trim on the dash bezels, a special instrument cluster with tachometer, a Tripminder computer, and an AM radio with dual front speakers (ah, the glamor!) were included.

Options included cast aluminum wheels ($224), air conditioning ($743), power windows ($272), power locks ($213), and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($409).

Page from the 1985 LTD brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure pages.

Like some other interesting Ford performance cars from the 1980s, LTD LX’s did not sell well, with only 3,260 sold over the 1984 and 1985 model years (there would be no 1986 LX). Likely because of the limited production numbers, you rarely see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Make mine Medium Charcoal Metallic, please.

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