Full Disclosure: 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

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I have a friend with one of these Thunderbird Turbo Coupes that has kept it up fanatically since he became the second owner many years ago, and I have logged a lot of time in the passenger seat. It really does feel like a Mustang with long overhangs, which makes sense since it’s based on the Fox platform. This 1988 model with a very informative description is available in Kansas City, Missouri and is listed here on eBay where bidding is less than $1,000 with no reserve as I write. Thanks to frequent finder Jim S. for alerting us to this neat listing!

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Generally, I like the exterior design of the previous Thunderbird generation better, but this one is the same color as my friend’s car so it wins some points with me! I particularly like the factory wheels on this generation, though, with the small fins visible through the holes evocative of aluminum finned drum brakes of old. This car has it’s original paint, with the worst spot in the finish being the crack and resulting rust you can see on the C-pillar in this picture. There’s a close up of it in the auction listing.

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The other obvious area needing touch up is the front bumper. The seller says the car was very dirty for these pictures (except the first one, which was taken about 6 months ago) but given that my friend has had a lot of difficulty with the clear coat on his car, I would examine the paint carefully if I could see the car in person. The owner tells a sad story about his attempt to wash the car before these pictures that resulted in a traffic ticket and no wash.

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The seats and interior look remarkably good (not perfect, but really nice) and lend a lot of credence that the indicated 68,252 miles are real (the fact that it’s a six-digit odometer doesn’t hurt either!) and the owner has done a lot of work trying to keep the car operating properly, including completely disassembling the dash to fit a new OEM Ford heater core. It’s obvious from reading the extensive text in the listing that the owner regrets having to sell the car. The sale even includes the original window sticker, keys and some other documentation.

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The heart of the Turbo Coupe is of course, the 2.3 turbo four shared to a large extent with the Merkur XR4TI and the SVO Mustang. This one is said to run very well without problems and even started easily after being stored for a while. Given the seller’s apparent honesty and full description in the listing, this seems like a good candidate if you enjoy this kind of car like I do. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. ydnar

    Very Blah.

    • Jason Houston

      Yep – that’s the COLOR!

  2. Jim B

    My brother-in-law had one of these back in the 80s and it was a solid, dependable car. He had the four-button “keycode entry” thing above the door handle and lock, which he used religiously. I always asked, “what’s the code?” and he’d never tell me LOL.

  3. AMC STEVE

    Needs some work but it’s a cool example with that 5-spd. A buddy of mine had a red one and he wanted to race me in my GN. I smoked him of course but when we parked we smelled something burning from his car.

    Inspected the whole car and then looked underneath it and discovered the cat converter was white hot. He traded it infor an 88 vetted which was a dog.

    I liked the T-Bird better

  4. Jason Houston

    Here’s a beautiful example of how an ordinary, but well-maintained car can keep its new-car appeal after three decades. And it doesn’t even need Circus Wheels, either.

    • Al8apex

      well stated, especially the wheel part

    • krash

      …once again, Jason, you have made my day..

      Circus Wheels..!!

      Very Funny!!

  5. Joe

    Purchased new and drove a non-turbo version for several years. Car was solid, handled well, and very dependable.

  6. Mr. TKD

    I’ve always wanted one of these.

  7. HeadMaster1

    Pretty nice example, the hard question is what to do with it. It’s almost too nice to part out, but if the price goes over $1,500 you’re into too much to not restore it……I’ve parted out a few of these, you HAVE to get the 5-speed, as it’s a 190hp, vs the auto boxes 150hp. The hydro brake system is a very common failure and usually very expensive to fix, so watch out for that…..The engine, trans, rear end is the best Ford had to offer in th 80’s early 90’s, great car for a driver when new, sleek, fast (for the day), and decent quality…I’l be watching and might bid as it gets closer

  8. Wayne Thomas

    If the engine died, then an EcoBoost swap would be more than reasonable.

  9. Todd Zuercher

    I don’t like the rust but otherwise it looks pretty good – particularly the interior – they weren’t very durable over the years. My dream garage would include one of these, an XR4ti, and the ’86 SVO featured a few days ago. I like the previous body style just a bit better but I really like the higher hp of the ’87-’88s along with the rear discs.

  10. bowmade

    I had an 88 turbo-coupe back in the early 90’s. The turbo had been replaced with the paperwork to prove it just before my purchase. I could put the skinny peddle on the floor all day long and just like a pro athlete, with proper cool down, I didn’t have any issues with the turbo for the 2-3 years I owned it. I’d be leery of this one although the 5-speed and should be dual exhaust would intrigue me. Mine was an automatic.

  11. Metalted

    This year had an inter cooler,
    Water to air. Inter cooler.
    These were great. Tremic 5 speed, 8.8 posi, rear end. 4 wheel disc brake, sway bar for handling.
    Plus it was loaded with options.
    Great , quick , comfy, car.
    Your wife Could drive everyday.
    Then you could have fun with.
    On weekends!!!
    Way cool car.
    I want another one.
    👍

  12. roger

    COOL!
    That is the body style thunderbird that bill elliot set speed record with at talladega.
    The coors number 9
    They have one in the museum at Darlington speedway.
    It is the one he won winston million with.
    Nice cars

  13. AMCFAN

    Can’t help not to think why Ford didn’t develop this engine and transmission for the Escort GT and EXP? Doing so would certainly have had a heads up on the competition the Civic.
    As always Detroit went the wrong way. A turbo 4 cyl. in a Mustang was instant failure. SVO a huge waste of time and development. A real head scratcher or WTF moment is the five lug wheels exclusive to the SVO. The 5.0 was an unbeatable combination. This is like GM developing a 4 cyl. for the Corvette.
    The Turbo Coupe was a nice driver. It wasn’t a performance car. It was never intended as a High performance car, It made you think so by the little dash light coming on when it would spool as the car would slowly accelerate. Honey! Look it is doing something! Too heavy. The cars all but disappeared by the mid 1990’s.
    Lastly the Merkur might have had a chance however had too many going on that doomed it from the start. It was sold through Mercury dealerships. It is apparent Ford was trying to kill off Mercury starting in the 1980.s. It was expensive and timing was wrong. It was on the market 10 years too early.

    • MikeW

      You have to remember when the SVO was developed gas was high and going higher. The 5.0 was scheduled to be dropped and the SVO with it’s 2.3 turbo was it’s replacement and in ’89 it was going to front wheel drive (Probe). The SVO even had 5 more horsepower than the GT. To be fair the SVO would leave the 5.0 behind on the track and with it’s 3.73 gearing would stay up with it on the dragstrip. When I got a Turbocoupe, the thing I liked was the cruise control, not available in the SVO. It’s weird driving a 5 speed with CC and come to a hill and the turbo kicks in. I don’t know of any other car that offers it with a stick. Oh and the odo only has 5 digits, so it could have lots more miles on it.

  14. Billy Bob

    I recall that Car and Driver had an article comparing the Thunderbird to the BMW 6 Series suggesting that Ford copied the design concepts from BMW.

  15. jim s

    sold for $ 2752.

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