Dealer Trade: 50k Mile 1990 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe

For some reason, I’m always drawn to trade-ins at new car dealerships of collector vehicles. It’s almost as if the owner just never did anything other than enjoy their purchase: they weren’t wrapping it in a cocoon for some eventual payday; they weren’t checking eBay daily to see if prices were rising; they simply used it as they intended and swapped it for a new ride when the time was right. This attractive 1990 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe has just shy of 50,000 original miles and ended up here on the Bob Gillingham Ford website in Parma, Ohio, with a listed price of $10,500. It’s not often you can buy a collector car with dealer financing, but here’s your chance.

The Super Coupe was a decent package when new, offering spirited performance out of the box with more-than-decent road manners, especially compared to similar offerings from its competitors. Packing a supercharged V6, electronically-controlled Tokico suspension, four wheel disc brakes, and a limited slip differential, the Super Coupe certainly had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it. Owners report that the cars are very well built, almost over-engineered, and given how many you still see running around (and being traded into Ford dealerships), they must have been well-built. This example has evenly-matched paint and original features throughout, including the factory alloy wheels.

You could get a five-speed manual transmission, but most were seemingly fitted with the optional automatic transmission. The interior wasn’t necessarily all that enticing, as Ford didn’t spend nearly as much time spicing up the cabin as it did the drivetrain. This gets no complaints from me, as that’s where most enthusiasts would prefer the manufacturer focused their attention. The seats wear cloth upholstery, and while the optional black leather trimmings would look far nicer, at least the gray fuzz is in good shape. Given the driver’s seat shows nominal use, I’m guessing the other seats were barely used.

The supercharged drivetrain shows no signs of modifications, which is perhaps is the most appealing aspect of this example besides the low mileage. Of course, the biggest question for me with examples found at a dealer like this is: what did they trade it in on? A new Ecoboost Mustang or F150? A ST-badged Explorer? Who knows, but there’s not much in the current SUV-heavy lineup I’d want over an appreciating classic like this that offers four-passenger comfort, supercharged performance, and excellent handling quality right out of the box.

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  1. Oldog4tz Member

    The factory head gasket blows – hopefully it’s been replaced – also try to get the dealer to do a tune – up, you don’t want to change the plugs – very hard to get to

    Like 9
    • Eric Aull

      Yup…100,000 head gaskets. My plugs lasted 80,000 miles!

    • mustang86svo

      You don’t usually have trouble until after 100k miles, I loved mine all except the premium fuel only!

      Like 2
      • Eric Aull

        Premium fuel in NY was 93 octane….I got 17 local/20 highway…fine with me. I have a 67 GTO that gets 7!

        Like 2
  2. Bob_in_TN Member

    I’ve heard these were bad about head gaskets. That said, I’ve always liked them. In my eye, they have a clean, sleek look. Seems like lots of them were in this smoky silver color. Nice example, though I would prefer a manual transmission.

    Let’s see…. the car suggests an older owner. Maybe purchased in their 40’s as a fun car, lightly used but well-maintained. Now the 70-something owner, simplifying things, decided to make it easy and traded it in on their new Edge (or whatever).

    Like 11
    • Jonny

      Actually, you’d really want one with the automatic instead of the manual. The automatic cars had like a 3.50 rear axle in them, while the 5 speeds were equipped with something like a 2.85 in them. I had 3 Super Coupes as company cars, and as much as I loved a 5 speed, I ordered all of them with automatics because they were quicker.

      Like 13
      • Weasel

        Where you an estimator for Hunt Electric?

      • Mr.BZ

        3 SCs for company cars, that sounds like a pretty cool company, Jonny! I was lucky enough to get my new 05 Wrangler as a company car, bought it from my employer and plan to be buried in it!

        Like 2
      • Motorsport Whse

        Ive got an auto SC that will be for sale soon. Az car no rust. Needs a trans and some restoration :)

        Like 2
      • z28th1s

        3.27 gears in the automatic, 2.73’s in the stick cars.

        Like 2
      • Miguel

        z28th1s The rear end gear ratio can be changed.

    • Jaydawg7 Member

      I have a 1995 LX 4.6 (auto) I love it. I will have to take a picture later & post it.

      Like 3
      • Tommy Boy

        I had a 95 LX V8 that I bought new. Black with gray interior and some modest performance mod’s. Really regret selling it. Great car!!!

        Like 2
  3. Dave

    A 1990 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe is a collector vehicle? Really? Not every car that is old is a collector car. Many of them are simply old cars.

    Like 2
  4. Miguel

    That sounds like a lot even for a low mile car.

    These really don’t bring good money no matter the condition.

    I bet they were paid $2000.00 or less on trade in, after all it is a 30 year old car.

    Like 7
    • Superdessucke

      You’re always going to leave money on the table trading in. But the general rule is the more unique the car, the less sense trading in makes, and the more common the car is, the more sense it makes.

      If you’re trying to sell a 2017 Toyota RAV4, for example, you’re going to have a difficult time because there’s going to be so much competition. Competition that can offer an extended warranty, “CPO Certification,” and low interest financing right in house. So you will probably have to discount the price to the point where you might as well just trade it in.

      But I would think this would be one that would fall firmly into the former category. There’s not many of these left, and this is the kind of car people expect to buy from a private person. We don’t know the circumstances of course but it seems odd that it would be a trade-in.

      Like 6
    • Superdessucke

      Relatedly, if it is a trade-in, the last owner almost definitely didn’t get much for it. Dealers don’t like uncertainty, and this car would have a very uncertain market value, which they’ll compensate for with a low offer. By contrast, with our RAV4, the dealer pretty much knows exactly what they’re going to be able to resell it for. So you’re going to be able to negotiate a better price.

      Like 3
  5. Maestro1 Member

    It’s a damn nice car, I’m suspicious of turbos, someone near it take a look and if it’s as decent as it sounds jump on it. Do the head gasket. Give it what it needs.

    Like 1
    • Miguel

      There are no turbos on this car.

      Like 14
    • Chas

      Like Miguel said, the SC came with a supercharger. You might be thinking about the TC, which was turbocharged and the engine was also used in the SVO Mustang. By the way, I have 4 turbocharged cars, 3 with over 100K miles, never had a problem with the turbo. Now I will admit, the one supercharged car I own, the bearings are going out, but the supercharger does have over 170K miles on it…

      Like 2
  6. Kevin

    I think this generation (’89-’97) was a disappointment compared to the ’83-’88s. The back end styling being the most disappointing. I had one as a company car with the 5.0 which was prone to warping front rotors. Had decent acceleration for the time, but always felt heavy.

    Like 5
    • Fitz

      I had a ‘96 4.6. The significant other drove it with the theory that God Gave you 2 feet, one should be on the floor at all times. Pads/Rotors were a frequent issue, until she started buying parts…..

      Like 4
    • Larry L.

      Kevin, they only made the SC trim-line from 89-95, with very few made in 95 because it was hindering sales of the new body style 94 Mustang GT. And your right, the V8 T-birds of these years were garbage, when compared to the SC.

  7. JoeNYWF64

    Well, they must have sold plenty, being around that many years.
    Would you rather have had the much lighter 1980 model? lol
    Roof could be lower.
    Wasn’t the independent rear suspension/handling/ride this car’s big selling point? Only other domestic car choices with IRS was corvette & sister car cougar – i think – in ’89.

    Like 3
  8. Dave

    20-25 years ago, my mechanic was selling the exact same car for his daughter. Same year, same engine, except green. But he refused to sell it to me because he didn’t want me bringing it back for him to fix.

    Like 1
  9. Chuck

    Loved my 90 SC. Yes, head gaskets on the 3.8 were/are weak. My SC was soooo much fun..esp when the Bendix brake system went out, or the dist cam modulator went bad and Im stuck on the freeway at 35 mph.
    When it ran and stopped like it was supposed to…this was a fun car!!!

    Like 1
  10. Eric Aull

    I bought a 1990 T-Bird SC brand new. I loved that car. I had the 5-speed manual transmission and leather interior. I drove the car for 10 years and at 110,000 it blew a head gasket. I put in a re-manufactured motor and drove it to 140,000 miles at which point I sold it for $5000 …..not bad since I paid around $19,000 new. This example has evenly-matched paint would make me leery. What does that mean? The only complaint I have about the quality of the Ford build is the very cheesy ABS plastic dash. A couple years later they changed it. If this had a stick and leather gut, I’d buy it.

    Like 1
  11. Motorsport Whse

    I own a 93 5spd car, love it. Car is still as amazing to drive today as it was in the 90s. Handles great too. Sexy just driving down the road. I did put Eibachs on it ..only mod.

    Like 2
  12. Chas

    That is a nice car, they may get the asking price. A car like that, someone should buy it to drive and enjoy. However, I draw the line on it being a ‘collector car’ anytime in the next 20+ years…

    • Mike Hawke

      It’s a collector car.

  13. PatrickM

    That supercharger is on a four cylinder engine. Hard to get up hills without kicking in the supercharger.

    • z28th1s

      This is a 3.8 liter V6 engine, not a 4 cylinder.

      Like 2
  14. chrlsful

    I think its the opposite: the turbo is on the SHO a 4 cyl
    THAT is inter cooled, no?
    This is “super coup”…
    (Ahh, what the heck, its all ford, no diff)

  15. Anthony Vincequerra

    I am so tempted to go down this road again….loved mine!

  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    This car was not traded in at this dealership – the Carfax that is provided shows it’s trail from one dealership that couldn’t sell it in WV to another in OH that is giving it a try.

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