Junkyard Find: 1990 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Thunderbird got an independent rear suspension in the 1989 model year, and Ford added a supercharger to its 3.8 engine and created the Super Coupe. Motor Trend, probably still smarting from the Renault Alliance fiasco earlier in the decade, awarded its Car of the Year award to the Super Coupe, and we can assume that the buyer of today’s Junkyard Find believed that he or she was buying the best car of 1990.

With 210 horsepower on tap and big-for-the-time 16-inch aluminum wheels, the Super Coupe was quite sporty.

This one only made it to 143K on the clock, but I’m sure each mile was lived to the fullest.

Premium Sound! The Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox uses Ford Premium Sound 6×9 speakers, and they aren’t as premium as I’d hoped they’d be.

We’ve seen a few of these cars in 24 Hours of LeMons racing, which says a lot about depreciation for worn-out MN12s. They aren’t particularly quick on a road course— about on par with the 302-powered Fox T-Birds— and the engines tend to explode after a few hours of full-throttle abuse, but supercharging is always cool.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Bufguy Bufguy on Jul 08, 2012

    The Thunderbird was a great looking car...Ford's 6 series. Low beltline, airy greenhouse, slender roof pillars. I do remember Ford designers were chastised for missing their target weight by a few hundred pounds. The 3.8 liter engine was a dog and The 302 engine wouldn't fit because of the low hood..The heads were redesigned for the car and it spent a short time as an option until the SOHC 4.6 was available. Only 210hp from the supercharged engine while Buick was previously getting 245 using turbocharging.

    • Jayzwhiterabbit Jayzwhiterabbit on Aug 08, 2012

      Yeah, except the 6-series had attractive trim and the BMW designers paid some attention to detailing. As well as a decent interior. Ford tried, but could not escape the generic quality inherent in all of it's designs of that decade.

  • Red-TBird Red-TBird on Nov 17, 2012

    I have a 1990 Red SuperCoupe. Still own it. Has approx. 110,000. Currently garaged. Needs new interior. I have read all the blogs and a few notes. The radio is indeed very good. However, I blew it out twice because of playing it so loud, the caps melted. I replaced with a lincoln model. No more caps. works great. I put an auto-start in in it when no one know what that was. I have radar and air horns. Now the HP #'s. For all of you who think it only has 210 HP (as I have been reading) you are so wrong. That engine produces over 285 HP. Ford was playing games again just like in the 60's with the Cobra. I had it on the dyno. I drove the 8 cyl. version rated at 225 hp. My t-bird blows the doors off the car. When the mustang came out that year, I had the opportunity on a open road to see what the coupe had. Not sure what the Stang had but it was more than 210hp. Anyway, I was driving on an open highway and a Stang (convertible) was in front of as we were doing about 70 MPH. I was driving solo he had a girl in the car with and wanted to show off. He crept up to 85 and I stayed behind him. He noticed what was going on and stepped it up to 100. Again, I stayed right behind him. I now moved of to the right lane and started creaping up on him. We are doing about 110 now. I then see his exhaust burn and I step on it more. 2 hands on the wheel now. Upcoming car, slow roll to the shoulder and around him. 120 and (oops the speedo only goes to 120, don't ask me why) We are now even. He is bewildered and I punch it to the floor! He could not keep up with me. I was pulled away and the speedo was passing 6:00. I was finally running out of real estate and the car waas still creaping faster but I had to get off the highway. What a rush. He got off the exit as well. He pulled up next to me asked me, "What the hell do you have under the hood?". I told him a 6 banger and smiled. I asked him what speed we were doing because mine only goes to 120. He said he was going 146 and I was pulling away from him!!! That is not coming from 210HP people. I never did it again but the car rocks. Another thing you can't do with 210Hp. I could sit on those tires and burn them till there was no rubber left. Went thru my 1st set at 4,000 miles. 210HP my butt. The tourque is off the charts as well. Drives more like 300Hp And by the way, I also confirmed it with a techy at Ford. I told him my story and he was not surprised at all.

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...