Keepers: Thunderbird Turbo Coupe—Shopping

By Christopher Smith

September 08, 2009

Folks who’ve been considering a Turbo Coupe purchase—especially those with some mechanical know-how—will find prices are surprisingly affordable, with fixer-uppers generally available for under $1000. Be warned though; while these cars have longevity and reliability on their side (more than a few TC owners attest to topping 200,000 miles with just basic maintenance), bringing one back from the dead can become a pricey endeavor.

Typical used car shopping guidelines apply, but also be acutely aware of items unique to the 1987-1988 Turbo Coupe, such as hoods, front clips, rear brake calipers, red-trimmed molding, and the like. The rear calipers especially can be a bit finicky, and replacing these items is an experience more akin to restoring a classic car than fixing up an older, used one. Even small TC-specific sensors can cost a bundle, so don’t automatically sign on to a cheap sale without first checking some of the restoration costs.


Or, you can just dig around for a car that’s already in good shape. They’re not exactly common, but a patient shopper will have options and the pricing still won’t break the bank, such as this good looking eBay ‘bird with just over 100,000 miles (pictured above in our gallery.) Whether purchasing a restored example or a fixer-upper, learn about the vehicle history if at all possible. Following cool-down procedures such as letting the car idle for a minute or so before shutting it off are vital to the health of the turbo, and a compression check can help determine whether or not a previous owner upped the boost enough to pop the head gasket, both of which occur more often than not. Should you come across a perfect, turn-key Turbo Coupe, it may be possible to drive it home for just $5000, making these cars one of the best kept, inexpensive motoring secrets around. In fact, now may be the time for TC fans to snatch these cars up, because there’s at least a decent possibility that prices will go up in a hurry in the next few years, as 1987-1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupes inch ever closer to the magic 25-year mark; the official age at which a vehicle becomes a classic.