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.

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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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.

1984 Ford Mustang SVO

Yesterday’s Hemmings Daily blog had an entry on the Mustang SVO, titled “Was this America’s most misunderstood sports car?” I’ve updated on of my early posts to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“Sophisticated performance for the knowledgeable driver.”

With the announcement of the 2015 Mustang and its available EcoBoost turbocharged inline 4 cylinder engine, my mind turned back to the 1984 to 1986 Mustang SVO.

Created by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations department, the SVO was an admirable attempt to take a different and more advanced approach to the pony car market. This version of the Fox-body Mustang was built around the Lima turbocharged and fuel injected 2.3 liter inline 4 cylinder engine making 175 bhp paired with a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed manual transmission. By the standards of the day, this combination yielded a reasonable 19 city/26 highway (it would be 17/24  by current standards) and a respectable 7.5 second 0-60 time.

Other modifications over the standard Mustang included ventilated 4-wheel power disc brakes (replacing the Mustang GT’s disc/drum setup), and a Koni suspension system featuring adjustable struts and shocks. 16 × 7 inch aluminum wheels with 225/50VR16 Goodyear NCT tires were standard for the first year—Gatorbacks didn’t become available until 1985.

You could have the interior in any color you wanted as long as that was Charcoal, but you did get to choose from the standard cloth or optional leather seats. Standard features included adjustable sport seats with lumbar support and a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. Air conditioning ($743), a cassette player ($222), power door locks ($177), and power windows ($198) all remained optional—this was 1984, after all.

The exterior featured a SVO-specific front grille, a hood with a functional scoop, and a “dual wing” spoiler that was also unique to the SVO.

Mustang SVO page from the 1984 Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

With a base price of $15,596 (about $35,800 in 2014 dollars), sales did not come close to meeting Ford’s hopes—less than 10,000 buyers took home a Mustang SVO over its three years of production. The reasons for its relative failure where many, but I think the biggest problems were:

  • The average Mustang buyer was happier with a Mustang GT, which, with a base price of $9,578, cost substantially less.
  • The potential buyer of a vehicle with turbocharged and intercooled 4 cylinder engine, 4 wheel disc brakes, and an adjustable suspension wasn’t looking to Ford for this car.

It is interesting to note that Ford was much more successful in the 1990s and 2000s in selling high end Mustangs. We’ll see how they do with the 2.3 liter (there’s a coincidence!) 310 bhp EcoBoost turbocharged inline 4 cylinder engine in 2015.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1984 Mustang SVO in #1 condition is $19,900. Make my SVO Silver Metallic, please.

1982 Ford Mustang GT

This was one of my early posts in this blog. I’ve updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“If excitement is your master key, this one opens all the doors.”

The 1982 Ford Mustang GT marked the return to form of America’s definitive pony car and ignited a second round of the power wars with the then brand new third generation Camaro and Firebird. Along with the new GT trim level, the new high output (H.O.) version of the venerable 302 was up to 157 bhp—quite an upgrade from 1981’s 4.2 liter engine.

Mustang GT page from the 1982 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

157 bhp feels quaint in 2014 (the lowest horsepower engine for the 2015 Mustang is the 300 bhp 3.7 liter V6), but the 1981 Mustang had topped out at (oog…) 115 bhp and as tested 0-60 times in the 2,600 pound GT dropped by over 3 seconds for 1982.

You could get the H.O. engine with any Mustang, but the hot setup was with the GT, which offered a four-speed manual transmission and a 3.08:1 rear axle ratio with Traction-Lok limited slip differential. Other options that were standard with the $8,308 GT (about $20,500 in today’s dollars) with the 302 were power steering and traction bars. The GT also received cast aluminum wheels, dual fog lamps, a forward-facing hood scoop, and the same spoiler originally featured on the first-year for the Fox-body Mustang 1979 Pace Car.

Options for the Mustang GT included air conditioning ($676), snazzy Recaro high-back bucket seats ($834), power windows ($165), and an AM/FM stereo with either 8-track or cassette player ($178)—it seems that 1982 was Ford’s crossover year for 8-track versus cassette.

The Mustang GT shows up often in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds.  As I write this in August 2014, there are no 1982s, but there is a white 1985 with 28,000 miles on sale for $11,500. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1982 Ford Mustang GT in #1 condition is $14,700, with values sliding up.

I only have four exterior color choices with a 1982 Mustang GT – make mine Bright Red, please.

1986 Ford Taurus

“An automobile that evolved from a new way of thinking.”

Ford’s 1986 Taurus marked an almost unbelievable change from the Fox-platform LTD that it replaced. Gone was the rear wheel drive and squarish looks, replaced by something front wheel drive with Jack Telnack’s completely different design.

The Taurus definitely looked different on the road, especially for a Ford. Getting beyond the looks, the base engine on the Taurus was the central fuel injected (CFI—otherwise known as throttle-body injection) 90 bhp HSC 2.5 liter inline four cylinder. Optional was the fuel injected 140 bhp Vulcan 3.0 liter V6. Mileage with the base engine and the standard three speed automatic transmission was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/24 by 2014 standards). Mileage with the top of the line V6 and four speed automatic transmission combination was rated at 20 city/28 highway.

Standard equipment on the $9,645 (about $20,700 in today’s dollars) base Taurus L was … fairly basic. Mechanical features include halogen headlamps, power steering, and power brakes. Inside, cloth seats (either bench or bucket) were standard, along with a rear window defroster and an AM radio with two speakers.

Intended to be the sportiest Taurus, the Taurus MT5 ended up being quite rare. It added a five speed manual transmission with a floor console but paired that with the base engine. Power mirrors, intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, bucket seats, a tachometer, and AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were also included.

The Taurus GL was the usual step up from the L and included the Vulcan V6 and the four speed automatic as standard equipment. With a GL, you also got power mirrors, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers.

The top of the line for 1986 was the Taurus LX (there was as yet no SHO). Beyond all the GL features, every LX included lower body cladding (you’ll have to believe me that it was at least a little hip at the time) and front cornering lamps. Inside, the LX came with air conditioning, power windows, and tilt steering wheel.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment available for every Taurus included 15-inch aluminum wheels, power antenna, power moonroof, keyless entry system, and an engine block heater. Inside, you could upgrade to six way power seats, cruise control, and the Premium Sound System. An interesting option was the extended range fuel tank, which added 2.5 gallons to the standard 13.3 gallon tank—perhaps another 55 miles of range in the real world.

Options only available on the upmarket GL and LX models included an electronic air conditioner and leather seating surfaces (LX only).

A car that could have killed (or at least badly wounded) Ford if it had failed, the first generation Taurus was instead very successful. Over 230,000 were sold in the 1986 model year alone and the Taurus made Car and Driver‘s “10 Best” in 1986 in addition to being Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” (one of the few choices that MT made in the 1980s that hasn’t  ended up being embarrassing).

Make mine Silver Clearcoat Metallic, please. If (as many claimed) the Taurus was imitating the Audi 5000, we might as well go all the way and use a proper German color.