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.

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe

For unclear reasons, this my most popular post on this blog. Because of this, I recently updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“… the personal flair of a distinctive coupe.”

1987 was the last year for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic Coupe, with only 3,110 made. Beginning in 1988, the Caprice would soldier on with only the sedan and wagon, as the once very popular big American coupes continued to lose favor.

ChevroletCoupeSales

The standard power team on the Coupe (and Sedan) was the 140 bhp LB4 4.3 liter/262 cubic inch V6 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was rated at 18 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards).

Optional power was the 165 bhp LG4 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor paired with a fourspeed automatic transmission (I see what you did there, Chevrolet). In 1987, mileage was rated at 18 city/25 highway (16/23 by 2014 standards). With a 25-gallon fuel tank, you could reasonably expect a comfortable range of about 440 to 480 miles—impressive for a 3,600-pound full-size car back then. Even with the V8, these cars were not fast—0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds.

Standard equipment for the $11,392 Coupe (about $25,300 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power brakes, halogen headlights, and all-season radial tires. Inside, a cloth bench seat, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM radio were standard.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($775), cruise control, power door locks, power windows, power seats, power trunk opener, a 50/50 split-front seat, and AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer.

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

I have fun sometimes (often?) building a “unicorn” configuration for these old cars. When I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership in the mid eighties, I dreamed up a “Caprice S.” Here’s what optional equipment it would have required, all still available in 1987:

  • F41 Sport Suspension (includes rear stabilizer bar, 15-inch by 7-inch wheels, sportier shock absorbers)
  • LG4 5.0 liter V8
  • P225/70R-15 tires
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Performance axle ratio
  • Heavy duty cooling
  • Dual power Sport mirrors
  • Special instrumentation/gauge package

So, a “John-configured” Coupe would have listed for at least $15,096—real money in 1987 and about $33,600 in 2017 dollars. A desperate product planner might have tried to get the leather seats from the Brougham available in the Coupe and maybe scored some blackwall tires, but that’s another story …

These big and (I think) handsome Coupes show up occasionally in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track Caprice Classic values past 1975. As I write this in August 2017, there’s a Light Brown Metallic/Medium Brown Metallic two-tone 1985 Coupe with Saddle velour seats and 60,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors with a starting bid of $8,500. Make mine Silver Metallic, please, though I’m tempted by the Black/Medium Gray Metallic Two-Tone.

Another Caprice that I’ve written about is the 1985 Caprice Classic station wagon.

Save