Sunday, November 05, 2023

Automotif CDXXXII...

Unless you were a car nerd back then, it's hard to overstate the stylistic one-two punch of GM's Third Generation F-bodies in '81 and then Ford's 9th Generation Thunderbird in '82. I remember seeing my first one of these in the church parking lot, surrounded by the angular sheet metal of baroque '70s Detroit iron, and it looked like a bullet car from the future.

All through the '70s, Detroit had been obsessed with "the formal look". All sharp creases, straight lines, and vertical greenhouses, with bluff chrome grilles committing horrible crimes against the laws of aerodynamics. If you look at the Ford Granada, Dodge Diplomat, or Chevy Caprice Classic, you can't help but feel that the Big Three's engineering departments spent much of the Disco Era patiently explaining to the Styling Departments that square wheels were an impossibility.

Its replacement for the '83 model year, like the one in the photo (going by the grille, it's actually an '85 or '86) not only looked the business, it was more potent than its predecessor, too.

The top motor in the '82 T-bird had been the 115-horsepower 255cid 2bbl V-8. The 255 was a smaller-bore version of the 302. Back in 1980, on the heels of the second Fuel Crisis, Ford was supposedly planning on discontinuing the 302 altogether and replacing all V-8s with the then-new Essex V-6.

By the time the new '83 T-birds were revealed, however, Ford reversed course. The base Thunderbird motor was the 110-horse 3.8L Essex V-6, and the 302 was back as an option, with 140 SAE net horsepower. There was also a Turbo Coupe model, that came with a 144hp 2.3L OHC turbo four and a standard 5-speed manual, alloy wheels, and sports suspension. The '83 Turbo Coupe was easily the sportiest Thunderbird in a dozen years.