Weekend Edition – A 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe; Can this car really be called an Antique?


Welcome to the Sunday Edition of the Hooniverse Weekend. I thought I would continue with cars from 1988 that are for sale on the Bay that is E, because the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) now classifies cars and trucks built during the 1988 model year (and before) as antiques, and would be eligible to compete in AACA judging events throughout the country. Remember the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe? Yea, that is now considered an Antique…


This is a 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe that is currently for sale at a Texas Dealer, and is apparently shows only 4,500 miles on the odometer. These were spectacular cars for their time period, with a 2.3L Turbocharged four that produced only 150HP, because this car is equipped with a 4-speed automatic. The 5-speed manual version produced 190HP, and at the time, the lower horsepower ratings for the slushbox was to preserve the transmission.


Otherwise, this car is a timecapsule, with a brand-new looking interior, snowflake patterned alloy wheels, and it looks like the original Uniroyal Tiger-Paws are still on the car. The car seems to be loaded with equipment, but if I recall correctly, all Turbo Coupes were equipped this way.


This is a car that is a look back to see the re-birth of the performance car in the states, and how Ford expiremented with Turbocharged 4-cylinder engines for their top spec coupe instead of v-8 power. The automatic seems to be a letdown, but the rest of the car seems to be OK. Top bid on this car so far is $4,150 with an unmet reserve. What do you think it will take to mark this car sold? See the listing here: [sc:ebay itemid=”360560120119″ linktext=”1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe” ]

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25 responses to “Weekend Edition – A 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe; Can this car really be called an Antique?”

  1. julkinen Avatar

    Very cheap for the condition and miles. I love it.

  2. 1slowvw Avatar

    I have often thought about finding one of these or a mustang with the 2.3T to swap into my b2300. I think it would make it a much more entertaining winter drift machine/small parts hauler.

    1. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

      Guy I was acquainted with had a 1988 Ranger with a mildly worked over 2.3T (Holset HX35 on a custom manifold, front mount IC, bigger injectors, MS2 for management), and that thing was an absolute blast. He was making around 340 whp and all for about $4000 in outlay, including the truck. You should do it!

  3. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Big fan of the Aerobird. I love how the front apron of the Turbo looked so different to the LX etc. In fact, a real man would have a Turbo Coupe and a highline 5.0 LX. That's baller.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      No, not a highline 5.0 LX, a Lincoln Mk VII LSC. My dad had a Mk VII LSC for several years, probably the best car he's ever had. I've heard that Lincoln got the 5.0 engines that measured closest to nominal, Mercury and Ford got the rest.
      Only one more year until the much better and faster T-Bird S/C becomes a antique.

  4. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Seems like a pretty high ask for bottom of the depreciation cycle. Especially since it's not the most desirable spec. That said, this was a legitimate, big performance coupe when it came out. But these days, when I wonder if I'd rather have one of these, or a GNX, my mind wanders to wondering if the mac and cheese is done yet?

  5. TheGreatGazoo Avatar

    I had a 1987 Turbocoupe that was stolen and written off after it was crashed. It was a wonderful car and Motor Trend thought so too making this car of the year in 1987. Mine was the 5-speed of course. This was truely a car ahead of its time and if you ever owned one, you would know what I mean. It handled extremely well when the suspension was switched to sport mode which stiffened the shocks. It was agreat driver's car and I miss it still after all the years that have gone by. My '13 Focus ST oddly reminds me of the drivin experience the T-coupe had.

  6. Steven in St. Louis Avatar
    Steven in St. Louis

    My dad had that same model Turbo Coupe with the 5-speed and the premium audio system with the equilalizer panel. It was a great car with a ton of low end torque and a great ride. When I turned 16 I got to drive it a lot and loved it! Nearly burned up the engine a few times with that turbo. He held onto for 15 years keeping it looking like the day he brought it home from the dealer. I definitely say its a classic!

  7. lilpoindexter Avatar

    A good candidate to swap the engine into a pinto.

  8. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Wow! 7 gauges in the dash. Nice.
    Can it be called an 'antique'? Technically, in most states, yes, but then, you'd also have to refer to a Yugo GV that way.
    Personally, I'd much rather have a Buick Regal T-type which has been tweaked a bit closer to GNX performance levels. Not black, however…silver, maybe…or even white.

  9. skitter Avatar

    Wow, I was not expecting to see a swoopy Thunderbird becoming an antique.

  10. dukeisduke Avatar

    A friend of mine had an '85 Turbo Coupe with the 5-speed, and it was an entertaining car, but after 40k, it needed a rebuilt turbo (rebuilt by Garrett), which cost about a grand with exchange. It had leaking center seals, with the telltale being oil in the tube between the air cleaner and the turbine inlet.

    1. Metric Wrench Avatar
      Metric Wrench

      Yeah, back in the day the turbos were not very long legged. Anybody remember turbo timers, devices that automated the task of letting the motor run at idle for a few minutes after you left the car to cool the turbo and the oil in it? Even though the new turbos are much better cooled and have better materials inside, I always consider a turbo to be like a clutch – expendable, meant to be replaced several times in the car's service life.

      1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
        C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        Actually, for turbo-diesels, timers are still occasionally seen.
        For the ISB in our motorcoach, I'll sit sometimes two minutes while the EGT drops to 300F, so as not to cook anything.
        Then again, it has 125K miles on it, too, many of them at WOT/full boost.

    2. Vyk Avatar

      40k? That's surprising. My '84 Turbo Coupe (bought new by my parents when I was 7 years old) is still on the original turbo at 128k. Engine was rebuilt at 91k miles–my dad blew a hole in a piston going WOT up a steep hill on a hot day–but the turbo is original. The later Turbo Coupes had water-cooled turbos, but early ones like mine were oil-cooled, which made proper care and feeding even more essential. As C3 noted, we'd always take it easy for the last few minutes of driving and idle for 30 seconds or so after parking. Between that and the 15 seconds of idle after startup for the early EEC-IV to sort itself out, I picked up some habits to kill time, and I'm not completely rid of them 19 years later.

  11. dukeisduke Avatar

    This is Bonham Chrysler in Bonham (hometown of former House speaker Sam Rayburn). They get a lot of weird cars like this. I wonder what the reserve is?

  12. Rover1 Avatar

    Dammit, first all the policemen start looking too young, then cars that I can remember being new are antiques. What can this mean? Get off my lawn!!!

  13. TheTurboFridge Avatar

    When I was younger (I'm 31 now), I remember really disliking these. I like them now, and this one looks very clean, although I'd want a manual.
    My grandmother had an 80's T-bird (looked like this car does, but with quad rectangular headlamps) with the V8, digital dash, leather, and two tone gray/dark blue exterior. I hated it too, at first, (I was 18 or so at the time), but really missed it when she traded it in on a Corolla.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      I'm also 31 but I loved the '83-'88 T-birds when they were new. I've always liked Thunderbirds, though I don't remember why. My uncle had an '83-'86 but I don't recall ever seeing that car.

  14. Pinkerton1 Avatar

    Reminds me of the posh girls at my high school in suburban Detroit in the late 80s – early 90s.
    There's a clean Mercury counterpart with only 62,000 miles in Escanaba, Michigan of all places for $2500. http://up.craigslist.org/cto/3527921156.html

  15. Paul E Avatar
    Paul E

    I managed to talk my then-girlfriend/then-fiancee/then-spouse/now long ago ex-spouse into buying an '87 Turbo Coupe (in early '88). It was that… or an Olds Trofeo or another RWD Cutlass. Spec-wise, this one's a pretty basic Turbo Coupe (base stereo, cloth seats) , as mine was. The ABS on the car was a big deal back then, and the adjustable shocks were gimmicky.
    My TC turned out to be a good car for several years, although it was positively scary to drive on snow or ice. Original spec tires on these were the Goodyear Gatorback VR50s, for what little it's worth. Given the chance, I'd consider owning one of these again, but with the manual gearbox.

  16. HTWHLS Avatar

    I liked these cars a lot when they were introduced. Got to drive a few of them. One that I drove had the automatic. Buzzkill, especially after driving the 5 speed. For the price, this would be a great car to motor over to Caffeine and Octane/Cars and Coffee for a chat session.


    Always lusted after one of these, especially in the Midnight Blue like this one or the dark gray metallic they had. Almost bought one exactly like this (same colors, same drivetrain, hell almost the same condition), but the guy wouldn't move off his price, which I thought was high at the time. I wanted him to go lower for the slushbox, because I was going to swap in a Mustang 5.0 T-5 I had lying around. Still wonder if it was the right choice to pass on it just for $500 difference in what we thought it was worth.

  18. TurboBrick Avatar

    One of my all time favorites. I'd have to have a stick shift though.

  19. Fasteddy87 Avatar

    In order to keep a turbo healthy you need to know how to treat it. They will last a fairly long time if taken care of. The main thing is clean oil (regular oil changes) next is clean air and letting the engine idle for a few minutes before shutting down and definitely don't rev up when cold, wait for engine oil to reach normal operating temperature. I had one and put over 300,000 km (200,000mi) without replacing the turbo. They can't be treated the same as a naturally aspirated engine. I have owned 3 T/C, 1983, 1985 and 1987. I also drove a fair bit of highway at approx. 200kph (120mph). I wouldn't recommend that to anyone especially nowadays.