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Thread: Story time. Why do we love these cars?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Posts
    32

    Story time. Why do we love these cars?

    I'm new to these parts, but I'm not new to the badge. The first car I bought with my own money was a 1996 V6 LX. It was at a hometown used car dealer. You know the type. I was 19, a Marine reservist fresh out of MOS school, and I had two grand to burn for a car that would get me to my duty station once a month. Not particularly glamorous, I know, but such is the life I live. I was back home, and this was the coolest car they had. My mother was kind enough to call our family friend at his repair shop to get an in-depth once-over and it seemed fine, so I sprang for it and drove off. If memory serves it was somewhere approaching 190k. Not two weeks later the infamous head gasket issue reared its head. Miraculously, the dealer said they would pay for parts, and I paid my parents back for labor over the next couple months. Sometime in the next year, coming home from drill, I got my first speeding ticket - 95 in a 70. Then a tie rod blew, blessedly a block away from my parents' house. As if the never ending train of issues wasn't enough, while I was sitting in traffic waiting to go to a friend's house, I got low-speed T-boned. I was stuck in the line right in front of a McD's drivethru when someone decided they just couldn't wait to get some nuggets and turned left into me. Crunched up my door, threw the window off the track, messed up the trim... Sigh. So, of course, one night, hanging out with my buds, they suggest removing the door. So we do. And then we remove the passenger door for good measure. Bolted a truck mirror to the side for legal purposes and drove it for one glorious summer. I ended up leaving it at the summer camp that I worked at the year before I deployed overseas and that was the last I saw of it. I had so much fun driving it, despite how underpowered the plain jane V6 was, and the slushbox, and what seemed like endless mechanical problems. Maybe it was just youth, but maybe it was something about these cars. Last summer, I had a dream about the old bird, and got to craigslisting, and found what I always wanted, but never knew I did.

    Here is one of the only pictures I know to exist of my old girl, and one of my SC.





    Tell me your Thunderbird stories, whether you still have them, or if they're lost to time.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,500

    so here is my story

    I am at a car show with one of my boss mustangs in the summer of 1990. I go walking around the dealer lot and spy a 1990 sc in white sitting there. I look at it and like it but I don't pull the trigger. Fast forward seven months and the dealer sends out a flyer. On that flyer there sits the same white SC that I looked at last year. It is now a left over and they are moving it out. So I pack up the family and off we go. I wind up buying the car and keeping it until last year when I sold it to a guy in the club who just loves it.
    During all the years that I had it we never drove it during the winter so it was rust free. My wife would not let me mod it at all so I had to find another one to do that to. That lead to modding a bunch of them with all kinds of different engines and mods. I still have some modded birds as well as one super low mileage one that is box stock. The funny thing is they all are 35th's and all are auto's. Some are mild, some are wild, and two are over the top crazy.
    So this is my story and adding to this I guess you can blame me for getting my son into the SC mix.....rich
    Too many cars,too little time to drive them. Anything less than 500 cubes is a small block. If you slow down in life you will get run over..

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Blair, Nebr
    Posts
    3,291
    Easy, it was my first car - a base 1991 Thunderbird. My parents bought in 1993 and my mom drove it until 1999 when I turned 16. I've had a handful of Birds ever since and always on the lookout for another. Maybe someday I'll have a Cougar or Mark 8 too.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Brownsburg, IN
    Posts
    158
    In 1988, I bought a 1984 Turbo Coupe...my first T-Bird. Underpowered as it was, it was a fun car in excellent condition. It needed a turbo, but that was a quick fix, being so readily accessible. Then the SC came out in 89 and I fell in love. I had no money, and even worse, I lost my job due to an on-the-job injury and was out of work for a long time. Hope was going away fast until I read an article in Popular Mechanics. They listed 4 places where I could learn to be a race mechanic. Thanks to that article, I got a job at Skip Barber Racing School. I immediately packed my stuff and made the journey from little ol' Rhode Island to Sebring, Florida in my Turbo Coupe. Despite the insanely low pay at the time, my even lower expenses made it possible for me to buy my first new car. In July of 1994, I ordered my (first) 95 5-speed SC. I'll never forget that first drive home. I was pretty damn proud of it and my unlikely road to being able to afford it.
    I owned my prized Bird for 9 1/2 years...until I found a different kind of love. My SC had only 55,000 miles and, though far from being a show car, was in great shape (as seen in a single pic in my profile), but it took second place to a woman and her 2 kids. I sold the Bird (for much more than book value) to make room for a new family. Something tells me some of you may see what's coming. Yup, we broke up (permanently) just a month later. Gggrrrrr! What was I thinking???
    It took over 4 years, but one of my friends revived my interest when he saw a 93 SC listed in an estate auction. It had only 69,000 miles, but it was an automatic. I do NOT own cars with automatics. That's when I found the SCCoA. Thanks to the classifieds page, I found a very promising 95 5-speed, very much like my other one, but with more options...and a mere 29,000 miles!! I talked to the owner for quite a while and nearly (totally accidentally) talked him out of selling it when I told him of my portpartum regrets. The next morning he called me back to tell me the deal could be back on if I was still interested. I wasted no time. My buddy, his truck and trailer and I took the 7 hour drive down to the southern border of Tennessee. I was NOT disappointed. Again, this was not a show car, but it was in even better condition than my first. Most would say that I paid way too much for it, but I wasn't making a financial investment. I was buying an eleven year old car with two years worth of mileage. It was well worth it. I hate to say it this way because I want to take nothing away from how well the previous two owners took care of it, but it was a fantastic starting point to create a new show car.
    Over the past 12 years, I've had never-ending fun cleaning, modifying, modernizing and showing it all over the Midwest. There is always room for improvement. It will never be perfect, but that doesn't mean I can't make that my goal. Aim high, right? Even now, I'm in the middle of a few projects I'm hoping to complete before the outdoor show season starts.
    Quote me on this...I will NEVER, EVER sell this car. I won't make that mistake again. My best friend is like the daughter I never had. She already knows it'll be hers when I'm gone. She better take great care of it, or I will come back to haunt her. lol
    Why do I love these cars? For starters, the styling was ahead of its time. It also had a great balance of options, comfort and performance. I always say, it was not the best at any one thing but it was the best balance of everything I wanted in a car. I absolutely love being behind the wheel of this (now antique) machine. I've only racked on another 7000 miles since I bought it, but I will continue to drive it when the weather permits. I can't own something like this and not drive it. Someday...Tail of the Dragon.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Canton, GA
    Posts
    358
    I never was very interested in cars until I turned 18. At that point, I decided I wanted a sporty Ford with a manual transmission that I could someday use in a low-budget movie I was working on (I was heavily influenced by "Bullitt" and "Gone in 60 Seconds"). Thus, when I was looking for my first car in 2012, I was looking for any 1987-1998 Ford Mustang with a V8 engine that had a manual transmission and that didn't need much work for $4,000 or less. I found a couple V8 Mustangs in that price range, but upon closer inspection, they always needed something that ended up being a deal-breaker (accident damage, can't pass emissions, needs over $1,000 in repairs, etc.). While I was car searching, my uncle passed away and he had a Titanium 1990 SC 5-speed (he also had a second one as a parts car). Sadly, neither car was in good enough shape to warrant the effort to repair, so his family had both hauled off for scrap. However, I started looking up Ford Thunderbirds and Mercury Cougars with manual transmissions on Craigslist (I decided I would be happy with any RWD Ford with a manual gearbox). I found a White 1991 SC 5-speed nearby that was abused and driven hard by rednecks and it couldn't pass emissions... but it was only $1,000. I figured with all the money I was saving, I could restore the car with my remaining $3,000, so I bought it. I fell in love with the car (even though my mom hated it) and I quickly found out that it would require a lot more than $3,000 to fix the car.
    After a year, I had already poured maybe $2,000 into it and my dad figured it would need at least another $2,000 to make the car decent. I couldn't part with it, so I bought a white 1990 SC 5-speed for $3,000 that was actually in decent shape (I was particularly drawn to this car because I realized I could make one of my Thunderbirds a stunt-double for the other when I would someday be ready to film). Aside from the failing accumulator ball/brake system that almost got me killed less than a week after buying it, the car didn't need much. I had the brake booster sent off and repaired, bought new tires, and the harmonic balancer eventually gave out and needed replacing. I drove it regularly to college and around town pretty regularly while I slowly and patiently restored my 1991 (which I wanted to customize and make the "hero car" of my movie).

    I considered myself pretty lucky that I never had head-gaskets blow, but while I was restoring the 1991 and allowing it to run/idle every few months, I finally blew the head gaskets (the radiator fan didn't always come on and I overheated the car about 6 different times). With the help of my mechanic friend, I replaced the head gaskets and that car is now extremely close to being finished. Literally 2 months later, I noticed someone on the forums close to where I lived was selling a white 1993 SC 5-speed for just $1,000 because he figured the head gaskets had blown and the car had no oil pressure. I bought that car up because I figured it was worth it just for the parts. Upon closer inspection, I realized the car might not have blown gaskets and have been replacing parts on it ever since. I've driven it a few times, but it still leaks coolant somewhere, leaks power steering fluid (like all of it in just a couple days), and I'm still wary the head gaskets COULD blow at any point (I may decide to just have the head gaskets replaced before they blow since I'm planning on replacing my power steering pump and chasing down that mysterious coolant leak anyways).

    Long story, short, I'm trying to make 3 different white Super coupes look identical to each other because I had already determined in November of 2012 that this would be the hero car of my movie (now it'll be a series) and I'm too invested to turn back now. After years of going to junkyards to pull parts and having to keep track of the minute differences between the different years of MN12 Thunderbirds, I've become one with my cars and I feel like I am almost ready to push them to their limits.
    Last edited by Rick_Leuce; 02-04-2020 at 12:00 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Tinton Falls, NJ
    Posts
    1,660
    So in late 1991 my mother bought a new 91 Cougar LS with the 5.0. I was 9 years old at the time, and from then until I was 16, that was her everyday car. I had lots of good memories of riding in it, whether it was getting dropped off at school, or summer vacation road trips with my cousins, or driving to the beach with the sunroof opened and the radio blasting, and I always told her I wanted that car when I got my license. By summer of 98, the car had just over 200k miles, and it threw the serpentine belt, which my mom paid a shop to replace. About a month later, it throws the belt again, and she says she is done and she bought a new 98 Grand Marquis. She told me if I could get the car running, I could have it, so I checked it out and found that when the first belt failed, a piece of it got wrapped up in the power steering pulley and was cutting into the new belt. This led to buying the tool to pull the power steering pulley off, and so for about $60 invested, I had myself a car. When I turned 17, I got my license and started driving it everywhere! It had 206k on it when I got it, and in one year, I got that up to 235k. No matter how many burnouts or donuts I did with the car, or no matter how many miles at a time I drove with the speedo pegged, that car never missed a beat. Eventually I wanted to do a 5-speed swap, so I bought an 89SC with blown head gaskets for $400 as a donor car for the swap. My boss at the time convinced me that the SC was too clean to part out, so I fixed the head gaskets, only to find a split coolant line going to the oil cooler (probably why the HGís blew in the first place), then fixed that to find the clutch was blown, then fixed that and drove the SC for 2 glorious weeks before the ABS pump failed. After that I parted that car out, got my 5-speed swap that I wanted in the first place, and swore I would never own another SC. Well fast forward about 4 years, and I come across a deal on an 89 5-speed XR7. I bought it thinking it was cheap enough that I could make my money back parting it out, but the car ran great, and the first trip around the block reminded me of the fun of driving an SC, so I registered the car and started driving it, and while it wasnít perfect, this car was taken care of, not neglected like the last SC, and it was actually a fun and reliable car! I put about 40k miles on that car, then eventually the motor started knocking, and by that point the floors and rockers were pretty well rotted out, so that was the end of that, but I have had several other SCs since then, as well as countless V8 MN12s. I still have the original 91 Cougar, although it is off the road and in pieces right now. I tried getting into other cars, but nothing lives up to the expectations set by the MN12, so I always came back to them. At this point, I have had an MN12 as a daily driver for at least 18 of the last 20 years, and I currently have a 90XR7 5-speed, a 97 Tbird Sport with a 5-speed swap, and a 98 MarkVIII with a procharger and a 5-speed swap.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Roanoke, Virginia
    Posts
    3,371
    Grew up in a Ford family. If you didn't own a blue oval product, you were essentially shunned. Still rings true to this day. As a child my Dad owned an '88 Turbo Coupe 5spd that he bought new and you would have thought that would have given me the T-bird itch at a young age...but it didn't. I knew nothing about cars at that point and knew all I wanted was a Mustang when I turned 16. My parents ended up going car shopping to "surprise me" for my birthday with my first car and they went out with all intentions of buying an SN95 stang (as the New edge model just dropped). After driving a few Stangs they came to the conclusion that the MN12 had the same drive train, more room, better ride quality and probably the biggest kicker lower costs to insure. A Thunderbird was purchased and I've been here ever since.

    My first of now 35 or so of these cars was a 1990 BASE Model Thunderbird in the tan color called Sandlewood Frost. I had it for maybe 2 months when I blew the head gaskets. It was at that time I found Bird Cats (the original TCCoA), then SCCoA and I guess you could say the rest is history. I then wrecked the car my senior year of high school and determined I'd make a SC Clone. I met Jeff Bratton in KY who was parting cars out at the time. Convinced my parents to let me drive 6 hrs each way to get car parts from a stranger I met on the internet. We still get a laugh when we talk about that story as a family...how times have changed. Needless he sold me front and rear SC covers and the side gfxs. At this point it was really the first I had turned a wrench and with the help of these forums put the car together. An Earl Schieb paint job later, I thought I was pretty damn cool. It was a reliable and sporty looking Thunderbird...but it wasn't a SC, and now the forums convinced me I had to have the SC model. Ended up selling that car to a kid I went to high school with...never have asked how it ended up as I am sure he trashed what I considered my baby at the time.

    I purchased my first SC in 2003 off ebay with a winning bid of $2800 from someone in Long Island. A fully loaded black on black leather 1991 SC. The price felt like a steal and well there was a reason. Anything that could go wrong, did with that one in particular. Head gaskets, balancer, transmissions, brake failure. I was an 18 year old kid trying to live life on my own with a money pit of a car. I met some of my closest friends in this club because of that car, and built friendships in life I would have never thought would be possible because of it's ownership. I ended up parting that car out in attempts to keep life a float, I walked a lot and or bummed rides because of that car. Made a promise to myself at that point that I'd never be in that position again.

    As I matured so did my income of work. I was now able to afford the SC platform, and had taught myself how to do repairs because of the bumpy path. Craigslist was becoming a thing and I'd look daily for Thunderbird SCs for sale. For a few years I purchased every SC within a 250 mile radius that came up. People would call me when SC's were stumbled upon and for sale (this still happens to this day). I parted out many rotted and ragged SC's and made a good side hobby of that while doing so. I had 4 SCs registered and tagged but eventually came to the conclusion having 4 lightly modded SC's didn't mean as much as having the 1 SC built the way I always wanted. My 1995 SC with the AR setup now fits that bill, and well I have several "projects" waiting for when my son gets a little older (currently 3).

    Pretty much the only constant in my life for the last 22 years has been the MN12 platform.

    -Tim
    Current Collection
    1994 Thunderbird SC - Auto converted to 5spd

    1995 Thunderbird SC - Auto

    1994 Thunderbird SC - 5spd
    1989 Thunderbird SC - 5spd - Daily Driver
    1990 Thunder/Cougar XR7 - 5spd
    1994 Thunderbird SC - 3v Project

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