What’s the Word?: 42k-Mile 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe 5-Speed

  • April 07, 2021
The Rundown
  • 42k-Miles from New
  • Desirable 5-Speed Manual Transmission
  • Rare Two-Tone Leather Option
  • Seemingly in Mint Condition
  • Silver Paint Appears Shiny & Reflective
Why We Like It

When it debuted in 1983, Ford brought out Jackie Stewart to demonstrate the handling prowess of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, pitting it against a BMW 633CSi at Laguna Seca. He lapped Laguna shaving two seconds off the factory stock record with the Thunderbird, and ran the BMW so hard, the tires were rendered useless upon his return. And no, the BMW didn’t do better than the Ford, but finished a few seconds behind. The Turbo Coupe was a fabulous success at building an executive express that was conservative enough to be seen in the office parking structure, but fun enough to enjoy spirited driving on pretty much any road. This one seems to be a well-preserved specimen, and these Turbo Coupes and later Super Coupes are going up in value with quiet aggression. By the way, 1988 was the final year for the Turbo Coupe, the Super Coupe replacing it midyear, and from what we’ve read, this made 1988 the lowest production year for the Turbo, as well.

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whats-the-word-42k-mile-1988-ford-thunderbird-turbo-coupe-5-speed00A0A 5CzvufKnoEgz 0CI0t2 1200x900With just 42k miles on the odometer, and looking every bit inside and out, this Turbo T-Bird has a lot going for it. Finished in Bright Silver Metallic, the paint and panels are straight and clean, the panel gaps also showing uniformity all around. The 16” cast aluminum sport wheels are free of curb rash and blemishes, while the tires are said to be fresher than not. Turbo Coupes used a lot of black and matte-finished surfaces where otherwise there might have been brightwork, and it plays well against the silver. Inside, it’s beset with sporty leather bucket seats, which is rare – the majority of the Turbo Coupes came with the sport cloth. We’ve long loved the subtly aggressive, but handsome styling of the Turbo Coupe interior – black plastic replaces what most likely would have been wood applique, and bright trim is kept to a bare minimum. The instrument cluster was racy and inspiring, informative and useful, and it’s obvious Ford spent a good deal of time and money giving the Turbo Coupe an identity all its own. One didn’t look inside a Turbo Coupe and think, “Oh, it looks like a Thunderbird LX with custom two-tone upholstery.” No, it was an environment unique to the Turbo. Under the hood, the 2.3L intercooled and turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, which is where a lot of the magic of the Turbo Coupe comes from. Because this car is equipped with the manual transmission, the 2.3L is tuned to deliver 190hp (50 horses than the automatic), which is respectable for the day, especially from a 4-cylinder. More magic came from the chassis dynamics built into the Turbo Coupe, which includes MacPherson struts up front and a live axle with four shocks in the rear.

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Valuation Verdict

Looking at various examples that have sold in the past year at auction, it’s obvious these Turbo Coupes are commanding interest, and the better examples are obviously bringing even more money. This one, having just 42k miles on the odometer and showing likewise, complete with the rare optional leather interior package, and the more powerful engine, thanks to the 5-speed manual transmission, is a lot of car. It shows a lot of potential, given the way the market has been climbing in the past year. So, while there’s some blue sky involved, it allows some wiggle room for negotiation but also indicates the direction the market is headed, and we hope that with a little informed negotiation, it could be bought at 25% less than the advertised price.

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