SVO Alternative: 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

This is the universe talking to me. I just spent the day further documenting my favorite junkyard in Georgia when I decided to go look at a car I’ve been secretly eyeing for myself: a 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe with the preferred 5-speed manual. Then this shows up. It’s the same car, albeit in far better condition, but it’s still scratching my long-standing Fox Body itch. Find this clean survivor-grade example here on eBay with bids over $3K and no reserve.

For a guy who normally dances almost exclusively with German sedans and coupes, a turbocharged Ford is a significant outlier. Why do I like it? Turbo Fords in general are a desirable breed to me, as they usually integrated some Euro-influence in the overall package. The turbocharged and intercooled 2.3L mill in this car actually puts up respectable numbers, and although the 88s are more desirable for producing maximum boost in every gear, chances are you won’t notice it too much on a day-to-day basis.

The thickly-bolstered bucket seats are another feature often limited to the European brands but on full display here. Coupled with a driver-centric center console and of course, a smooth-shifting 5-speed paired to a limited-slip rear end, there’s little doubt Ford had drivers in mind when building this car. To me, the only worrisome area is that highly-advanced self-adjusting suspension: cool for its time, but spares are non-existent and off-the-shelf lowering kits have been extinct for years.

Original condition Turbo Coupes are not impossible to find, but as with all turbo cars, many of them have been modified in some way. This one remains stock and wears the less-often-seen shade of silver paint that looks quite clean here. The one I’ve got my eye on is the more typical black with red pinstriping (of course, most of the paint has been baked into a dull finish), but I think they look handsome – like a more stately Mustang SVO – in any color.

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Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero

    I loved these when they were new and they still look like a million bucks to me. I’ve always wanted one. That maroon interior seems to be the most common and holds up well. The silver looks great on this. I usually prefer the white, but this looks even better. I remember building a revell model kit car of one of these as a kid.

    Like 2
  2. Doug nelson

    Purchased an 88 new, one of best cars I have owned. 165 K on it with nothing touched other than brakes. Still had original clutch

    Like 2
  3. Todd Zuercher

    This is a beauty – and I’m with you, Jeff – I’ve always wanted one in my stable too.

    Like 2
  4. Digigo

    Put a “crate turbo four” in and you’d have a great sleeper…

  5. Neil

    Still looks fresh today. Classis design. Keeper!

    Like 2
  6. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Understandable appreciation for this model T-Bird-very reminiscent of the BMW 6 and 8 series of that era,Jay, and those were Teutonic artwork..

    Like 1
  7. Bill Bulpitt

    They are beautiful, but don’t expect reliability. I bought an 87 in 1993 with 50K miles on it. On THE FIRST DAY I owned it the catalytic muffler failed and jammed up the exhaust so that it would barely run and turned the entire exhaust system cherry red – kind of scary. Within a month the timing belt failed putting on the rollback a second time. Luckily it was not interference engine. Also had ignition module fail and alternator go, two more rollbacks, and also replaced a clutch. Sold it at 90K and was glad to see it go…but it looked good and was entertaining when it was running…

    • Miguel

      Bill, it sounds like the car you bought never had regular maintanence.

      That shouldn’t reflect on any other car.

  8. JimmyinTEXAS

    Yeah, Jeff, these do look good and from what I have heard they are good drivers when they are driveable. I wanted one a few years ago and found one with a blown motor, cheap. Looked at it and started a list of possible swaps. The ford 2.3 eco-boost was, of course, the first on the list, followed by the 3.5 of the era.
    Now the choice is even better. The 3.5 EcoBoost used in the Raptor! A quote from the Summit website: “These all-aluminum powerplants feature dual overhead camshafts with variable timing, 6-bolt press-fit main bearing caps with piston cooling jets, and dual water-cooled Honeywell/Garrett GT15 turbochargers. Ford engineers designed the high-pressure direct fuel injection system similar to diesels allowing 10:1 compression with the use of regular unleaded fuel–without risk of detonation. All told, this engine produces 365 hp at 5,000 rpm, a whopping 420 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2,500 rpm, and maintains 90 percent of its torque from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm.”
    I’m glad I didn’t get one back then because this is what I would want now… lol

  9. CanuckCarGuy

    Beautiful car, I had an ’87 5 speed in the late ’90s and absolutely loved the experience…upgrade to a 3″ downpipe, tweak the boost control and these can become far more assertive. Very nice cruiser, loads of torque and luxury…it’s one I’d definitely own again. I eventually replaced mine with an ’84 SVO…they were from the same gene pool, but had a much different personality. Great cars, the 2.3 intercooled turbo was a stout motor indeed.

  10. Alia

    I have a black 88 5 speed that I bought in 93. I get it out every couple summers to enjoy it but it’s been garage kept since it was a daily driver (never winters) in 98. I toy with selling it – had hoped to see the value climb a little more on these…

    • CJ

      What’s your T-Bird’s color and mileage?

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