If you were to think of 1980s cars that had a significant impact for their manufacturers, the 9th generation Ford Thunderbird would probably not come to mind first. But this was the first product of Ford’s aero-style design phase, which included hugely successful models like the Taurus and Sierra. It was also one of the first Fords of its time to be designed to compete with the European sporting coupes such as the VW Scirocco and BMW E30 3-series, as well as the developing flood of Japanese coupes including the Isuzu Impulse, Toyota Celica and Datsun 200SX. While most versions of the Thunderbird were the bland 3.8 liter 110hp V6 or the slightly livelier 140hp 5-liter V8, the hot version to have was the 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged Lima engine with a 5-speed manual, good for 155hp and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. Check out this 1986 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe for sale for $2000 in Santa Rosa, CA.
It’s hard to explain what a change this car was from the stodgy early 1980s Thunderbird, and the large floaty-boat 1970s personal luxury coupes. In dark red with charcoal trim, it still looks reasonably contemporary, and the torquey four should be fun in an early-turbo real-slow-because-there-some-lag-whoaaah-boost-here-we-go kind of way. On some level, it’s surprising the drifters haven’t picked up on this one since with rear-wheel-drive and a turbo, it’d be pretty fun.
The 8-year-owner is a mechanic, and it shows in what he prioritized on the car. Cobra wheels, new shocks and struts, ported exhaust manifold, new muffler and catalytic converter, and more are included in the upgrades to this car. It also has some parts that are in surprisingly good shape, including a crack-free dash, perfect headliner, and straight body, though the latter has lifting clearcoat. Everything is said to work on the car, including the original Marchal fog lights (perfect for leaving them on all day like E30 BMW drivers).
The raven-colored interior is in surprisingly good shape, the seller rating it 8 out of 10 with no visible splitting or seam separation in the upholstery. It’s far better than any super-depreciated mass-production coupe deserves to be, which shows true enthusiast ownership. The seats look comfortable and reasonably well bolstered, while the trunk looks equally clean.
While this car is said to have an upgraded turbo, there is no mention of the air-to-air intercooler found on later cars. If you choose to perform this upgrade, you could get up to a stout 190hp and 240 lb.-ft. of torque at a maximum 17psi of boost, which should leave many 1980s Mustangs (nevermind any of the above-mentioned competition) in the dust. The car is said to have no oil leaks, and be fully smogged and registered, so once you get some fresh tires on it you should be all set to show those mainstream E30 nuts what’s what.