View Full Version : Looking at an 1989 SuperCoupe

04-26-2003, 04:31 PM
And i'm not really sure what to look out for. Can you guys give me a list of what to look out for when looking at the car. Thanks.

(i'm not sure if this should be here, i'm new to the board)

04-26-2003, 05:45 PM
First, these are in my own opinion the MAJOR things that need to be looked at before you should consider buying a SC of any year.

1. Overall engine condition and mileage- Unless the engine has been replaced or rebuilt, I wouldn't buy an SC with more than 150k miles on the clock. Take someone with you who knows what noises are normal and what ones are bad that an engine can make. If it is knocking or clattering, don't buy it, regardless of price. Look for leaks, especially coolant and oil. Check the coolant in the radiator for oil contamination, and check the oil dipstick for signs of water/coolant contamination (milky looking oil). Maintenance records would be nice, but not necessary. When the engine is running, look at the belts and pulley's for "wobble", especially the crank pulley. If it is wobbling, even a little, chances are the harmonic balancer needs to be changed. Not really a hard job unless it breaks off the car, then it becomes a pain in the A$$. Of course, ask for a test drive and check the gauges, especially the coolant temp gauge. If it is overheating, don't waste your money, there are plenty of SC's out there that run properly.

2. Overall Driveline (tranny and rear end) condition- Make sure that the trans functions normally. For a stick car, the gears may be sort of notchy, that is the nature of the beast with the Mazda sourced M5R2 5speed tranny. After all, it did come from a truck originally. If the car needs a new clutch and you have someone that can change it, go for it. This job is not really that hard. If the clutch pedal feels spongy or make wierd popping noises when you are pushing it in, it is probably the clutch master cylinder going bad. Not that hard of a job to fix, and not too expensive.

Automatic transmission cars. Make sure that the car shift into all gears (including overdrive) with no problems. If the transmission "slips" or has an abnormally long engagement time between gears, don't buy it. The AOD trans is notorious for burning out the Overdrive band and losing 3rd and OD gears. Check the tranny fluid for color. Brown means the tranny is on its last legs and the clutches are ready to lunch themselves. Red is what you are shooting for. Drive the car, then check the fluid with the engine running. Since most of us don't carry a transmission oil temp gauge in our pockets, feel the oil dipstick when removed for excessive heat. Heat is the primary killer of the auto transmission. If I had an auto SC, the first thing I would change would be to add a tranny oil cooler with a small cooling fan on it. Again, maintenance records on the transmission would be great (oil & filter change mileage, etc).

Rear end- Not much here, pretty much the most wearable part is the bushings that keep the differential housing in place. If they are bad, they are pretty inexpensive to buy and easy to replace. You would feel a huge "clunk" under acceleration and upon letting off the gas, coming from the rear of the car.

Brakes- Well, cannot seem to find too many Ford's that don't warp the front rotors. Check all the wheels for signs of leakage of brake fluid. If there is, try to find out from where. Not a deal breaker, but a good bargaining chip to get the price down, if you are willing to do some brake work.

Suspension- The higher the mileage, the more wear and tear on the suspension. Also, a driver that like to drive the car hard and corner alot will wear out things even faster. The most common wear points are the front upper control arms, lower front ball joints, sway bar end links, end rack/pinion mounting bushings. These are not that hard to replace and remember that our SC's are getting old and unless the previous owner replaced anything, chances are you may hear a "pop, clunk, or thunk" from the front of your car at some point and time. Best rule of thumb, especially for those on a budget, deal with the problems as they come. But, say a upper control arm goes out on the driver's side and the other side seems ok, replace both sides, chances are the other side is right behind it in the failure department.

There are many things to list, but I would think that the most important ones to look for would be engine and transmission performance. Everything else is simple by comparison. If you have a good engine and driveline, you have a good basis for a reliable SC. Not to say they won't fail down the road, that depends on the same factors that every other car faces. I can say that you would probably want to avoid an SC driven by a really young driver. Stereotypically speaking, they drive cars hard, especially young men, I know I did!! Avoid excessive mileage and an SC that overheats. Overheating could be something as simple as a bad radiator cap, or as depressing as the notorious head gasket failures. One of the other major issues with our SC's are the cheap factory fluid-filled engine mounts. Some people think that engine vibration is always caused by something in the rotating assembly, but little attention is paid to the engine mounts. Solid rubber ones can be had for about $25.00 each but are a pain in the rear to install unless you have done it before.

In any event, it pays to know someone who is mechanically inclined and will work with you without spending unGodly amounts of $$ for labor cost.

If you have any questions or if I can help in any way, feel free to Private Message or Email me.

Phil Stocker

04-26-2003, 11:50 PM
If you don't currently have a "beater" car, you might want one first. If this is going to be your only vehicle, you want to make sure you have other means of transportation for when you need to work on the SC. It's a complex car, and was ahead of it's time in '89. Now it is 14 years old. It will break if it has miles on it.

If you think the car is too complex to work on yourself, look for a low-mile one unless you have a big pocket book. You can spend twice as much in labor as you paid for the car within 2 weeks if it has high miles and hasn't been well maintained.

check the headlamps, the switch loves to go out. When you test drive it turn on the headlamps, when you're about ready to park it, get out before you shut it off and watch the headlamps for a few minutes. Once the circuit gets warm they start to flicker. Good selling point. Don't know the price tag on the switch, haven't had to do it.

Also watch the temperature guage. Should sit a little below center of guage when fully warm, and SHOULD NOT move around.

Good luck!


04-27-2003, 12:17 AM
there's been so many posts about the temp gauge. many have said that it IS normal to move around. for my SC is moves all up to the m in "norm" and then the fan kicks on, and moves it back to the "r". thats how these cars are
"rigged". lol I dont like it,. in fact i hate it and it makes me worry.. i just never boost it when it's that high

04-27-2003, 01:18 AM
A few other things:

1. When you arrange to see the car, tell them that you want the car to be cold when you get there (hasn't run in a few hours). This way you will be able to see how it starts cold and gets up to temp.

2. Take your time when you're looking at the car. Don't start the car when you first get there. Check every single piece of the body individually, and stand back to look at the whole car. Try to read up on some things about the car before you go - if you sound like you know what you're talking about, you're less likely to be fed a bunch of crap.

3. When you do start the car, let it warm up for a few minutes before you drive it. Start it with the hood open so you can hear/see any problems easily. Inside, check to make sure everything works. Obviously you can judge what items you can live without, and I'm certainly not saying that everything needs to work (not a whole lot worked in my '89 when I bought it). Just make sure you know what you're getting into.

Oh, and like ponysc said, you're probably going to want to have another car to drive in the mean time. It took me a over a month to get my SC on the road, and I'm sure glad I had another vehicle to drive all that time.

Good luck with the purchase. Glad to see you joining the community,


04-27-2003, 01:51 AM
check the last two digits on the part # on the crank pulley
ca means a cast crank (the weak one) and cb is a forged one (nicer one)

you prob. want a forged crank
cast was only used for about 6 mo.
in 89 then it went to forged


Kevin Varnes
04-27-2003, 02:11 AM
Not much more to add, but I do see that you are from Ohio. If it is an older vehicle with high miles (which do not really scare me with these cars) then I would try to look at the car underneath on a lift if possible. If not possible, do your best to crawl underneath and look for rust. Biggest area of concern and most difficult and expensive to fix is the rocker panels (which are conveniently hidden by the ground effects on the SC's. It seems that Ford practically designed these things to rust out there. The best way to check them when the GFX are still on the car is to reach up under the car and get as far up under the GFX as you can and feel for anything crunchy or not solid. Side ground effects that are sagging can also be a sign, but is not a guarantee that they are rotted. If it were me, I would look for a southern car that has not been exposed to road salt and the like. Although I have seen some cars from down south with the same problem. Best bet (and unfortunately most difficult to verify) is one that has never been in the snow.

04-27-2003, 07:08 AM
Check the rockers (under the doors) for rust.... Avoid a rusty car if you can..

I bought an 92 with 83,000 miles on it with blown head gaskets and NO RUST for about 800.00 bucks.... I would recomend looking for one like this.... if you can do the work yourself you can have a really nice car at a great price....

Most of all keep looking and when you find one, enjoy it....
They are alot of fun


04-27-2003, 10:26 AM
I do have another car, and the reason I'm buying the supercoupe is because I need another car. The 1989 Prelude that I have was parked in my parking lot the other night, I woke up in the morning, took my dog outside and saw my car on cinder blocks, with no tires/wheels. I was quite pissed. It shouldn't take too long to get new wheels/tires for it, so I will have that to drive when I work on the supercoupe.

So far what I know about the SC:

1989, Blue w/ Grey Leather interior, 5-speed, 151k miles :( for $1300. He says it runs great and looks good.

I've wanted a SC for a few years now, and have been studying them for a while, so has my friend. Both of us are going to see it next week, so we'll be able to find all the things you have told us to look for. Thanks guys.