February 4, 1997
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The famous Ford Thunderbird nameplate has been around since 1955. The early T-birds are classic, highly collectible automobiles and icons of that period of American history.
Like most American cars in the sixties, the T-Bird grew in size and then got smaller again following the early seventies oil crisis. The last generation T-Bird came out in 1989 and lasted through ’97 model year. Although there’s a link to NASCAR racing, and the super-charged SC (Super Coupe) version is certainly a quick machine, the T-Bird is at heart a mid-sized American touring coupe. With room for five, drive to the rear wheels, and an independent rear suspension, the T-Bird is a comfortable highway cruiser that loves the long drive.
The good-looking, nicely proportioned and mildly re-designed ’94 T-Bird had a new hood, headlamps and the front and rear fascias. The interior makeover was more extensive and the new wrap-around dash included cup-holders and air bags for both the driver and front passenger. This safety upgrade also improved the already-good crash test rating on the T-Bird to the ultimate five-star status.
A basic LX version came with a 3.8 litre V6 engine and a new electronic 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive lockout feature. A new high-output 4.6 litre V8 engine was also a popular option. The SC (Super Coupe) came with a supercharged 3.8 litre V6, a 5-speed manual transmission, anti-lock brakes and a limited-slip differential.
Even the base T-Bird is a fairly thirsty bird and has a Transport Canada fuel consumption rating of 12.3 L/100 km city and 8.5 L/100 km highway. The V8 and super-charged V6 engines are only slightly worse, although the SC needs premium (92 octane) fuel.
Speed-sensitive steering was combined with the 4.6 V8 option in ’95 and this was also the last production year of the Super Coupe. The ’96 came with another mild re-design centre-mounted T-Bird ornament on a honeycomb grille, a sleek new hood and front bumper facing and new halogen headlights and park/turn lights.
T-Bird has a generally sound record for reliability and is easy and less costly to fix than most. The ’96 may have a faulty temperature control module that can cause erratic or no blower operation and/or faulty driver door latches.
The limited-slip differential is a good option to have on this rear-drive coupe in slippery winter driving conditions. The Ford Thunderbird is big on style and comfort and is still an affordable piece of ‘Automobile Americana’ that may someday be a classic.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.