By on October 27, 2015


Let’s make up a phrase, shall we? Come on, it will be fun. We are going to associate a celebrity name with a known phenomenon in human society. Think of “Streisand effect”. That sort of thing. What we’re looking for is a celebrity who was critically popular when he or she was new, fell into disrepute for a while, then experienced a renaissance of renown. Maybe John Travolta would be an example of this. Or Paul McCartney. Run-DMC. Who knows.

But make it up fast, so I can put it in this next sentence: “The 1977 GM B-body is experiencing a XXXXXX Effect lately.” It’s true. That platform was basically the best-selling full-size vehicle for every one of the 25-ish years it was available for sale. But only now, as the Panther falls into history and we start judging it on the merits rather than the singular merit of remaining on sale in showrooms, do we see how well-conceived that “downsized” car was. There’s a rising tide of B-body nostalgia, restoration interest, and classic-car cred.

And it’s interesting just how often a paean to the B-body will be followed by a coda expressing disdain for the A-body (later, when a front-wheel drive A-body arrived, reclassified as G-body) midsize sibling. Due mention will then be made of things like fixed rear windows on the sedans, the ungainly Aerobacks and the unnecessarily Baroque style of the coupes. If the writer really wants to hammer his point home, he’ll simply ask you, the reader, to compare the proportions of the two platforms. The B is sleek and elegant, whether in Caprice glassback coupe or faux-wood Pontiac Safari battlewagon form. The A/G, on the other hand, is ungainly and upright.

No man who could have driven a B of any badge should have settled for an A. But settle they did, and in numbers that increased as the late ’70s turned into the early ’80s. In fact, the shift from “B” to “A” wasn’t just massive; it was permanent and relevant even today. Hold on: I’ll show you.

As a child, I primarily experienced the A-car in three forms. Daddies drove A-sedans, formal and somewhat stilted-looking. Mommies drove A-wagons. Daddy’s Secretary From Work drove an A-coupe or a two-door Aeroback. Truly, the A was best as a wagon, a fact that was most apparent after it was replaced by the front-wheel drive Celebrity wagon and its siblings and everybody learned that it was possible to put too much in the fragile new GM estate cars.

These are the critical dimensions of an averaged A-wagon, trying to remove the outlier dimensions from the Century sport wagon wing and the protruding nose of the Pontiac:

  • Wheelbase: 108.1
  • Length: 193.4
  • Width: 71.2
  • Height: 54.5
  • Cargo capacity with rear seats down: 72.4 cubic feet

This worked remarkably well for most two- and even three-child families. It wasn’t terribly spacious, but it was enough. For that reason, well-maintained A-wagons kept some value into the early ’90s.

The A-wagon was nominally replaced by the front-wheel drive A-wagon, but in reality it yielded to the minivan. The much-heralded ascension of the Voyager and its competitors to the top step in the family market was, in retrospect, short-lived. Say eight years, because by 1994 the Ford Explorer was already outselling the Chrysler minivan and the other SUVs to follow its four-door, midsized pattern were already appearing on the market.

The 1995 Explorer would set a new SUV sales record and eclipse the Taurus within the company from that time on. It was aerodynamic but rugged, capable but luxurious, affordable but not too much so. American families traded in their front-wheel drive sedans by the hundreds of thousands, thrilled to get into this new size of vehicle. Here are the dimensions from a 1995 Explorer:

  • Wheelbase 111.5
  • Length 188.5
  • Width 70.2
  • Height 67
  • Cargo capacity: 81.6 cu.ft.

You get it, right? The Explorer only slightly varies from an A-wagon in size and capacity. The difference is height. Ford sold millions of them. It’s only really tragic when you think about how good a rear-wheel drive 1996 A-car would have been had it received the kind of funding that the dismal-failure front-wheel drive family cars got over the previous decade.

Eventually, the tide turned on the Explorer. People got tired of its unassuming looks, its prestige-free interior fittings, the dismal fuel economy, and so on. They voted with their feet and their money for the family cars of the 2010s — the CUVs. Here are the dimensions of a popular and well-regarded CUV, the Equinox/Terrain:

  • Wheelbase 112.5
  • Length 187.8
  • Width 72.5
  • Height 66.3
  • Cargo capacity: 63.7 cu.ft.

So compare the average family sedan of 1978 to the average family vehicle of 2015. Just how much progress have we made in almost forty years? And if it’s been in areas besides actual downsizing, what has that progress been? If you’re feeling particularly inquisitive, take a look at the dimensions of a 1957 Chevrolet wagon, too.

Later on this week we’re going to talk about why the standard size of a family vehicle hasn’t really changed very much since the Korean War. But now is the time for you to disagree with my premise: that we’ve seen the same capacity, in different wrappers, without fail since before the birth of Generation X. Discuss.

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70 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Give Us Something Familiar, Something Similar...”

  • avatar

    The K variants are close to those numbers, too.

  • avatar

    Jack, your article is the only one I clicked thru for today. Why? Because someone at TTAC stripped my RSS feed down to just titles and two sentences of text. Not even a token picture to entice me to come join the discussion. I know who writes No Fixed Abode, however, so your clicks are safe.

    That said, I will of course throw my hat into the pile of those lamenting the severe lack of good wagons in the US. Mazda6 Wagon? Fusion Wagon? Levorg? I guess I’ll just have to find a good used Flex…

    • 0 avatar

      You think you want a Fusion wagon, but I am here to tell you that you want the idea of the Fusion wagon. I have driven the current Mondeo Estate (Fusion wagon). It is a fine vehicle. However, the Edge is better, and it isn’t even close.

      The Edge rides better, has better engines, has more storage capacity, and is cheaper. The Fusion wagon is three inches longer than the Edge, has the same wheelbase, but has only 60% of the storage capacity of the Edge behind the second row. There is a very good reason why we don’t get the Fusion wagon here.

      • 0 avatar

        Better ride? More cargo room? Of course, it’s tall and ungainly. Better motor? Not fair, no reason Ford couldn’t put good motors in the Fusion. Cheaper? Actually, wow, I looked into it and a 2.0eb Edge is about the same price as a 2.0eb Fusion before comparing equipment….

        • 0 avatar

          You should see the 2.7TT (or 2.3T) in a Fusion ST after the refresh. No idea on pricing though. I’d expect it to be pretty close to the Focus RS.

          Ford isn’t going to tool up Hermosillo or Flat Rock for a Fusion wagon. It would have to come from Europe and would be more expensive than an equivalent Canadian made Edge. I doubt there is much of a demand for that vehicle either. Heck, I want the Fusion liftback but I know I’m not going to get it.

          And when I say Edge > Fusion wagon, I mean for the average American consumer, and me comparing the two current top trim versions. A Fusion wagon with the 2.7TT would be a glorious thing.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The big difference between the ’79-on A-body wagon, Explorer and Equinox is that a large dog can stand up in the later two.

    I do agree with you that GM should have built a G- (née A-) body tall wagon/SUV, but hindsight is always 20/20 with GM.

  • avatar

    “No man who could have driven a B of any badge should have settled for an A.”

    Internet spectrum disorder requires me to mention the later G-body Monte Carlo, Cutlass/Hurst/442, and turbo Regal.

  • avatar

    Without fail? What about the eight years you mentioned that minivans ruled the family driveway? And weren’t the dominant B-bodies of forty-five years ago bigger in every way than Malibus, Explorers, and Equinoxes? They were the family rides when this Gen-Xer was in kindergarten, and they had three rows plus luggage space, unlike the lousy B-wagons of 1977.

    • 0 avatar

      Lousy B-Body wagon of 1977!? HOW DARE YOU!
      So much nostalgia for those heaps, from riding in the 3rd row and hucking stuff out the back window to trying to get truckers to hit the air horns. I also barfed out of the back window of one in freeway traffic (as a child) which I’m sure was interesting for those following.
      Seatbelts were optional, I rode in the cargo space sleeping on a shag rug remnant.
      Good times.

      • 0 avatar

        From a little kid perspective, the clamshells were the stuff of dreams. The forward facing third row seats didn’t cause nausea too.

        • 0 avatar

          Something that just occurred to me. The GM Lamda platform is the spiritual successor to the clam-shell wagons. All three rows face forward and there is actually some cargo room even with all three rows in use.

          • 0 avatar

            And both look rather bloated and bulbous (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing IMO).

            Acadia=Custom Cruiser

  • avatar

    You had me until you put Equinox/Terrain and “well-regarded” in the same sentence.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t care for them either, but they’re not that bad. They’re honest family transportation and they got good scores on the small overlap crash test so if nothing else they’re reasonably safe if not very exciting.
      However, when you talk about a Cadillac SRX which is (to borrow the phrase) a jerked-off Equinox, now that’s not something I would say is well-regarded.

      • 0 avatar

        They’re perfectly functional, but they desperately need an interior refresh. The fit and finish was already dated when they debuted in ’09.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think the Equinox and Terrain have too much hard plastic and are somewhat overpriced, but they have the most room in the class (borderline mid-sized), and the high transaction prices suggest that people do regard them well. And the SRX definitely is well-regarded. It’s been the best-selling car in Cadillac’s lineup, holds its own against the RX 350, and is generally a trouble-free luxury car (I don’t think it even requires premium fuel). It was the right product at the right time, and sales have reflected that. My only complaint with the SRX is CUE.

    • 0 avatar

      They are as well regarded as anything else in there class judging by comments from multiple owners I have asked.

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer has asserted as much both here and since 2010, over at Curbside Classic. And it makes sense.

    We sat more upright in a Tri-Five (wheelbase 115″) than in the lower-slung full-sizers that followed. Never lacked for room.

    The original ’64 GM A-Bodies returned to dimensions similar to the Tri-Fives, only on a lower chassis. The 1978 reboot made them a little smaller than the 1964 originals but with plenty of room inside. And if anything, SUVs and crossovers restored the more upright seating positions of the mid-50s and before.

    It’s certainly a good explanation for the success of mid-size CUVs today.

  • avatar

    We literally went from A-to-Z with GM:

    (A-body) ’81 Malibu Classic Wagon (used)
    (A-body) ’87 Pontiac Safari (new)
    (B-body) ’78 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale (free)
    (B-body) ’95 Chevy Caprice Classic Wagon (new)
    (Z-body) ’96 Saturn SL (new)

    After the Saturn, it was all imports:

    ’04 Honda Accord (new)*
    ’87 Honda Accord (free)
    ’91 Honda Accord (used)
    ’10 Honda CR-V (new)*
    ’00 Honda Civic (used)
    ’98 Honda Civic (used)
    ’00 Toyota Camry (used)
    ’01 Toyota RAV4 (new)
    ’02 Toyota Camry (new)*
    ’06 Scion tC (new)*
    ’09 Honda Civic (used)*
    ’15 Audi A6 (new)*

    * – present fleet

  • avatar

    Man, my Village is awesome! I’m home watching a big-ass Massey-Ferguson 2200 tractor/baler snork up all the leaves at the curbs followed by a big Volvo front-loader crumbing behind it followed by a dump truck to take the baled leaves followed by a street sweeper to tidy up.

    We still haz tax base!

    Just like 35-odd years ago when all this GM stuff went down. But now we also have nice, tall FWD/AWD CUVs so who cares about that old, low, traction-challenged junk?

  • avatar

    Every time I hear about how A/B/G bodies are becoming desirable as projects for people I wonder why the C4 Corvette has dropped in price so much. What a way better starting point for a GM based, Chevy V8 project than any of these.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally, I like the look of the G-body cars. Well done Cutlasses, Regals, and Monte Carlos look way cooler than most C4 Vettes. It’s not just about performance. It’s the look.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, except Id rather have a Grand Prix than a Monte Carlo.

        My RWD G body choices in order (1-2 are basically a tie):

        Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
        Buick Regal
        Pontiac Grand Prix
        Chevrolet Monte Carlo

        Id probably take a Pontiac 6000 over a “Euro” Monte Carlo LS. They were just ugly, even factory-fresh, they looked like two junkyard cars (different models) made into one hoopty. The Euro Cut never looked like that to me.

        The 6000 was by far my favorite (actually, the only one I sorta liked) of the Celeb/Ciera/Century/6000 cars. I tried to talk the band teacher in high school into selling me his 6000, but he refused. Another teacher refused to sell me his 1990 Civic sedan, instead he gave it to a scrap hauler when he bought a new Saturn SL. I was quite desperate for a car as you mightve guessed lol. I even talked to my horticulture teacher about her old Iron Duke-powered S15 pickup, but she said she would never sell it (had like 250k miles lol).

        • 0 avatar

          As I’ve stated ad nauseum around here, if I could find an un-donked, unmolested, rust-free 1987 Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan with every option checked, including the 307 and 4AOD, it’d be a nice summer weekend toy, just to drive around, or something to chill next to at an Olds meet while working on my tan, cooler full of suds at the ready.

          Again, as I say, though, the majority of these are long recycled into Chinese appliances, and if they’ve not been donked, they’ve been monster-truck fodder or demo-derby participants (though I understand that the ’77+ B-Body wagons are almost as good for the latter use as their immediate predecessors).

      • 0 avatar

        The C4 was undoubtedly the low point in Vette history. At least until now…the heat-soak Vettes are threatening to set a new standard.

    • 0 avatar

      In a C4 with the digital dash, when the speedometer goes, it was a $2K repair in about 1990 or so. So what are often eventually a routine repair are disproportionately expensive in this early attempt at digital autos.

      Never did like the styling, either. And that even though when I was a kid, I thought Zora Arkus-Duntov was the greatest man who had ever set foot in Detroit.

      I have to think he must have been deeply disappointed with some of the compromises the platform has had to endure.

  • avatar

    I owned two B-bodies: a ’91 Caprice and a ’94 Roadmaster. I’ve also owned two G-bodies, a ’81 Malibu station wagon and a ’86 Monte Carlo SS.

    The Roadmaster was by far my favorite of all of them – best riding, best power, and most “presence” on the road. But the Monte Carlo was also fun and easy to work on. The 305 – 180hp! – was eventually scrapped for a 355 with a ZZ4 roller cam and Vortec heads.

    If it was possible to buy an updated Roadmaster – full-framed, turbocharged V6 or V8 – I would be the first in line.

  • avatar

    I’d love me a Malibu coupe with a 305 SBC, but almost anyone you see today has been modified more heavily than an GTI on its 3rd owner.

    My dad had B-body wagons as work vehicles for 10 plus years (employer provided) and I did love their spaciousness and general ruggedness. Plus it wasn’t hard to bury the needle on a “box” Caprice Estate. Those suckers were scarily stable and quiet at extra legal speeds.

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque

    I’m sorry, I almost stopped reading halfway through. WTF is an A/B/G body, and why is it relavent to this article? Why would anyone outside North America read this? This is an article that demands your second-final sentence be placed at the beginning. Too much exposition makes this harder than it needs to to bring your point across.

  • avatar

    Carefully chosen metrics will always only tell a small part of the story. But even within them there are things to glean. Look at the length to wheelbase ratios. Cars got more space efficient with time. SUVs vs wagons is a little unfair, but sedan to sedan the improvements are obvious. My newish Civic has as roomy an interior and trunk than an old Accord, despite being close to a foot shorter. I would even go as far as to say its rear legroom is close to or not far off from a SWB Panther, at least in my experience in NYC gypsy cabs. Not to mention the huge strides in fuel economy, performance, safety, inflation adjusted value etc. etc.

    And of course there is the issue of how fat Americans have become. Even if dimensions haven’t changed much there is progress in space efficiency as cars today are roomier for our fat assets. But yea humans have not changed that significantly so it makes sense that devices built around our dimensions wouldn’t either.

    • 0 avatar

      Rear legroom is not a regular-wheelbase strong point. Id venture that my (much smaller, 2nd gen) Taurus has more rear room than a Panther. My parents 2012 Taurus has a lot more usable space compared to the 2008 Grand Marquis it replaced. Its also about a thousand times better to drive, not to mention having a lot more power with significantly improved mpg. Aside from its ability to do one-tire-fire burnouts, there was nothing about the Grand Marquis that I found appealing.

      As much as I love FoMoCo, the panther is not something Id buy, unless it was to convert an old P71 to a manual 5 speed to make it sorta like a modern version of base-model 1960s cars. That would make it interesting. Otherwise, and aside from the 95-97 Town Car, Id probably take a 5spd Aspire over a Panther. Thats how much I dislike them (I should mention that I dont hate the Aspire, I kinda enjoyed driving one and I loved my 90 Festiva L).

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        “I loved my 90 Festiva L”

        Walking downtown in the late 1990’s. Car toots its horn, it’s a tech I know, and he’s grinning from ear to ear. Tells me to get in, we’re going for a ride.

        He’s test-driving a 1st Gen Festiva (and picking-up lunch), and he can’t believe how much fun he’s having. Squealing away from every stop light, flicking it around corners like a rally driver, taking spots that don’t look like they’re big enough.

        Drops-me back at the same spot, after doing a lap of the city. “They should’ve called it Fastiva.”

  • avatar

    “So compare the average family sedan of 1978 to the average family vehicle of 2015.”

    I did. Today’s versions are taller and much more practical, albeit less fuel efficient than the 1978 Malibu, but at least the windows roll down!

    Just give us the equivalent of a 1955 Chevy – tall and roomy, and call it done.

    • 0 avatar

      When you consider how much more power the modern vehicle’s engine has compared to the old ‘Bu, they are much more efficient.

      90 hp and 28 mpg is terrible when compared to
      260 hp and 27 mpg.
      (I made these figures up, just to show what I mean)

      Also, consider how much weight modern safety and convinence features add. The old car had no airbags, no ABS, no traction control, probably hand-crank windows, and an AM/FM if you were lucky. The modern car also has improved sound insulation and nicer interior materials, all of which add weight. Quite a few back then also had no A/C, which is pretty much unheard of today.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’78 Malibu wasn’t as efficient as it seems. The EPA test numbers back then were a bit optimistic.

      • 0 avatar

        I once got 29 mpg on a highway slog between OH and MA in my 80 Malibu wagon with the 267 V8. It surprised the heck out of me.

      • 0 avatar

        This – I’m going to go ahead and assume that a Monte Carlo was about as economical as a Malibu, since adjusted EPA numbers only go back as far as ’84, and you’re probably looking about 17/22 at best (yes, it’ll do slightly better in the real world). These days, that’s V6 crossover economy, never mind what your typical family sedan (one that’s significantly quicker) will do.

    • 0 avatar

      They tried, man. It was called the Ford Five Hundred and Ford Freestyle. (Seriously, check the dimensions.) And then they put a better drivetrain in them, and called them the Taurus and Taurus X.

      Didn’t really work out that well, although I do appreciate my Taurus.

  • avatar

    On the topic of 77-90 “Box” B-bodies, I still see loads of them near my house in various states of repair and modification. The elderly black lady across the block has a totally mint base model Parisienne that seems to be parked for good in her driveway, working my way west through the neighborhood it turns decidedly more hood-ride with missing hubcaps and busted out windows repaired with tape. I really want one of my own, especially after seeing a 1984 F41 equipped Impala thoroughly dust a similar vintage Panther in the excellent chase scene in “To Live and Die in LA”

    I think we’re on the cusp of box B-bodies starting the seriously appreciate in value, but at the moment craigslist is still full of these in different condition and prices to fit every budget, and many times not too rusty as the Box Chevy is perhaps the most corrosion resistant American car ever made.

    • 0 avatar

      B > G/A RWD.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d love a clean late 80s Cutlass Supreme with the optional rallye wheels as much as an early 80s Impala, I like them all I guess. Doesn’t hurt that I live in a “GM corridor” of Indy, Anderson, Muncie, Ft Wayne all up I-69. GM runs deep out here, and as an East coast transplant, it’s starting to rub off on me despite my predisposition towards Japanese makes.

  • avatar

    The late-70’s GM mid-sizers had a lot in common with Donny Osmond: shiny and new and fairly popular at first, mediocre through and through, any attempt at a comeback resulted in very little success, now occasionally available at yard sales for a pittance, mostly forgotten by almost everyone, but still has a few die-hard fans.

    • 0 avatar

      There far more popular than you think and maybe mediocre by today’s standards but in the day were better at what they did than anything Ford or Chrysler were putting out. They generally were rated tops by CR and Consumer Guide auto with much superior ride and handling and better space utilization as far as coupes went. They were also lighter and more efficient with fuel and certain versions came with more features than some competitors, especially the Olds and Buick versions.

      A perfect example being my 1979 Fairmont vs our neighbor’s 79 Malibu Classic. They were not dissimilar in size, price and mission. The Malibu drove like a Cadillac compared to our Fairmont which drove like a cheap noisy economy car. The Malibu started right up and ran perfect every day, even in cold weather. The Fairmont with the 200 six often stalled and hesitated until warmed up. The 305 in the Malibu was silky smooth, blew the Fairmont out of the water in every performance category and averaged about the same MPG 20 overall despite having 500 LBS more weight and 60 more hp. It was also far superior on long trips despite the rear window not going down. The A/C worked so well we often didn’t notice. The Fairmont had A/C also but it didn’t work as well and quit working all together after 5 years of ownership. After that 5 years the Ford was showing surface rust in several areas out back. The Malibu was rust free still despite the fact the lady owner didn’t wash her car as frequently as we did ours. In 1989 I got the Ford after graduating from high school and surprise the same Malibu was still in service next door. Hers had 69K miles and mine had 66K. Dad had the Ford re-painted twice during that time, the front end was worked on with new ball joints, the valve cover gasket was pouring out oil on our driveway, the muffler was shot and the carburetor was badly due for an overhaul.
      Her Malibu still started up and ran beautiful but by this point started showing signs of rust on the lower portions of the door and the rear frame was a bit surface rusted but still solid. And other than a few light bulbs, tires, brakes and exhaust suffered no other mechanical ills.
      I would pick the Malibu or LeMans any day of the week over a Fairmont or Granada or any Volare’.

  • avatar

    This is truth about the US car market. The sweetspot is wheelbase 108-112, overall length 185-195. In addition to family cars and smaller SUV/CUVs, it’s about where many generations of Mercedes E-class and BMW 5er have sat. And just about every non-P series Volvo 1968-1998.

    Make it too much shorter and people complain about legroom. Make it too much longer and people talk about barges and tanks. I’d speculate the reason that A/G hasn’t seen the love that B/C have seen is that the A/G cars corner ok but have difficult braking and high-speed stability–somewhat boaty, if you will. If you’re going to drive a boat, why run a Regal sloop when you could captain an old (but downsized) Ninety-Eight with the 403?

  • avatar

    Not too long from now, the MINI will be about as capacious as that Ford Explorer.

  • avatar

    Bit of a muddled post, I’d say.

    Boiling it all down after a first read, because a second’s not worth it, I get the gist. Americans like vehicles in the 180 to 195 inch overall length.

    Uh, huh. Yup.

  • avatar

    Hey everybody….Volvo has the new funny looking thing coming out soon, called the V90. Yea it’s true. It has 4 doors, and this square-ish space in back, just like a CUV. They call it a WAGON. YES!!! The V90 Wagon and it looks great. Who knows…they just might sell a few. And yes…they’re made in Sweden…or so I’ve heard.
    If it looks as good in person, I just might be driving one soon.
    Other Manufacturers should follow suit.

  • avatar

    For a comparo-I would suggest Ice Cube. Big twenty five years ago, plus or minus, considered passe and old fashioned after that, then resurrected as a popular figure once again.

    Not sure those vehicles measure up, though. But I am still a Panther troglodyte. And at my age, there is a good chance that there will still be ones in good condition at affordable prices for the rest of my life, even if I somehow manage to hit the big 100.

    There are four vehicles I wish I could have stockpiled a spare of. None of them are these vehicles. They are a 61 Mk II 3.8L Jag coupe, an 88 Thunderbird Supercoupe with the V8/AOD, a 77/78 Harley XLCR Cafe Racer, and a mint condition Panther, probably a Marauder if I could have any one I wanted.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, the portion of my life that I wasn’t working on my career, I was “investing” in wine, women and song, for the first half, and finally settling down to become a happily-married family man in the second half.

    Saving cars for retirement is a relatively newly found concept for me. But I just don’t feel the love for the genre of cars you are praising here. Could be me, but to each his own.

    You can have my B car, wherever it is.

    • 0 avatar

      “an 88 Thunderbird Supercoupe with the V8/AOD”

      Good luck finding one of those, I hear they’re popular with unicorns.

      (Supercoupe was ’89+; Turbo Coupe was through ’88, and neither of them was available with a V8.)

      • 0 avatar

        I went through this same thing several months ago. Someone said that the designation was an SC, which many people, including Ford salespeople and other owners of 88 Birds (both turbocoupe and V8) frequently referred to as Supercoupes.

        Someone piped in that they were never officially called Supercoupes, just SC’s. But they most assuredly came with the 5.0L V8 and the AOD tranny with a console shifter. I know, I owned one. And they were somewhat rare even during their model year. They were over the target CAFE number, while the turbo’d version was not…the dealer did everything except promise to hire me a hooker, to get me to switch. “The turbo is faster. It’s more modern. It’s more durable.”

        None of which were true…I trashed every Turbo model that ever pulled up to a light next me…seems both the owners of the turbos and the owners of the V8 wanted to find out for real. And the real deal was the V8, whether it was called an SC, a Supercoupe, or just a V8 or 5.0L (302ci) was strong.

        Someone else tried to say they all had 80mph speedometers, also false. Mine went to 150 or 160. Listed as a 143 top, which I had a chance to do under circumstances I won’t go into. Had a GPS with me to confirm that the speedo was more accurate than most.

        I went through this I think on, where people finally confirmed both the higher reading speedo and the V8, though as I said, someone said it was officially just an SC, not a Supercoupe.

        I hope bball40dtw sees this, and is willing to weigh in, as I understand he has access to official Ford info.

        It was one of the best cars I have ever driven, and I have driven Jags (E’s and Mk II’s), Porsches (various 356 and 911’s mostly), GTO’s, a Pontiac with I believe four deuces, Austin-Healeys (bugeyes and a 3000-6), older Birds (2 and 4 seaters), a 57 Ford with the Police Interceptor package, just to name a few…the 88 Thunderbird, with the v8/AOD combo, a moonroof, titanium silver metal flake paint, deep blue leather interior, aluminum billet wheels, etc. was a great car. I only wish I had put disk brakes on the rear, but the mod cost a couple of grand, and I was in grad school at the time, so I was grateful just to be pushing a nice, new piece of performance iron for well under $20K.

        So, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and there was an 88 Thunderbird with a 302 V8 and an AOD with console shifter.

        I have been told that I have a vivid imagination, but it doesn’t extend to inventing cars that never existed.

        • 0 avatar

          Late in replying, but I think what you had was a Thunderbird Sport.

          Everything but the Turbo Coupe came with an AOD in ’88, and was available with the V8 — but the Sport is listed as offering a “Tunnel-mounted shift with leather-wrapped handle,” which isn’t available on the base model or LX.

          • 0 avatar

            @dtremit Yes, you are absolutely correct. I had researched that a while after the above posts we exchanged, but had forgotten where, so I didn’t get around to correcting myself.

            Must have gotten the Sport, sometimes referred to as a Sport Coupe, or sometimes shortened to SC, with the 89+ SuperCoupes, more widely known as an SC than the 88s.

            In fact, calling those 88’s SC’s may have even been an unofficial designation.

            I must have been suffering from “Old Timers Disease”, a/k/a CRS, when I wrote that it was a SuperCoupe.

            Although it may not have been a “SuperCoupe”, though, it certainly was a “super coupe” in its own right, by virtue of the way it looked and ran.

            What made mine even a bit nicer, and somewhat unique, was that I absolutely refused to pay full list for the only one with Titanium Silver metallic paint, moonroof, and dark blue leather anywhere withing hundreds of miles of Richmond if the dealer agreed to put the cast aluminum wheels on it, which normally came with the Turbo only, I belive.

            But on the SportCoupe, it added just the right finished look, IMHERHO.

            It was advertised with a top speed of 143 mph. In 89 or 90 there was a fog emergency all up and down the east coast, and all the state police from GA to NY were making regular radio broadcasts advising people to either stay off the road for about a day, or if they could not, to get their trip done as fast as possible.

            Many people don’t believe this, but they kept on making public service type announcements that they wouldn’t issue any speeding tickets as long as there was no reckless driving involved.

            It was on that day that I was in Atlanta, headed for central VA, and got to try the Bird out. I hit the 143 mph, corroborated by a GPS, though I mostly ran between 120 and 125 on the open road.

            A Porsche with two young guys ran by at about 120 or so, while I was doing about 115. Probably should have said it was more like crawled by.

            So I put the pedal to the metal, and ran it up to 125, knowing that Porsche, whose version I no longer remember but knew then, topped out at 128.

            I watched them wind out the Porsche, barely gaining on me. Let them pass. Then put the hammer down, and watched the Bird climb to 143. They had no choice but to watch me go by, with no way to catch me.

            Seeing the look on their faces as I passed was priceless. They seemed like they had the idea that ANY Porsche must be faster than ANY Detroit iron.

            That was my one chance to have my own personal mini version of a Cannonball run. Made it from the Atlanta Beltway to downtown Richmond, parked in Shockoe Slip, in under five hours, a distance of 525 miles, +/-.

            That was a sweet running machine.

            I was working as a consultant for a Dept of Transportation project at the time, and the guys there let me make a sign to see how it was done. Mine, which I used to put in the rear window when I went to the drag strip, said “Warning: Do not operate in excess of 138mph with stock tires installed.”

            Because that was all the tires were rated for. My little inside joke, but true nevertheless.

            When the AOD went at almost 300K, with a year old son and my then new wife back in college, something had to give, and it was the Thunderbird, sad to say.

            But I did find it a good home with a guy who intended to restore it and keep it.

            That car was so good that I have been solidly in the Ford camp ever since.

            And to make it that much sweeter, its full list as equipped was just over $16K. For comparison, a loaded Fiero would go for a couple of grand more, had about half the trunk space, only seated two, and slower to sixty and in the quarter.

            If there was one car that I could by today exactly as it was the day it came out of the showroom, I would take it over even the Mk II Jaguar I once owned.

            I’m a big boy, and I don’t have a tear in my eye while I write this, but I do have a pain in my heart, thinking about how I no longer have it.

            IMHO, it was THE perfect road cruiser.

            And contrary to all advertising and hype, even though it was supposed to have only 150hp and the Turbo Bird 190, I could pull away from any Turbo I ever saw.

            Its one fault was that it was above the target CAFE number, and the Turbo was below it. But I refused to be talked into the “faster” Turbo and have always been glad of that.

            Sorry for the long followup, but that is one car that deserves to be remembered, and is hardly ever mentioned by enthusiasts.

            But to me, it was the 40 Ford coupe of its generation…a clean, comfortable, fast and durable machine, well-suited to its purpose.

            If I won the lottery, I’d go looking for a fully-restored equivalent, before I would get a beach house in Hawaii.

            The fact that I let my then new GF drive it when I was out of town, proved to me, to my surprise actually, just how much I loved her, compared to all of her predecessors. And it was a solid leading indicator…we have been together ever since.

            But I still love that car, even though it has been gone out of my life for two decades.

          • 0 avatar

            It occurred to me a few minutes after posting the above that they probably marketed it as a “sport coupe.”

            I always thought the ’87 and ’88 Fox birds were particularly good looking cars, with the smoked tail lights. Did the Sport have a grill or did the hood come to the bumper?

            My first car was an ’89 MN12 — not a SuperCoupe, but with just about every option you could get on the LX. Light titanium clearcoat metallic with a grey leather interior. I still miss that car. While it wasn’t particularly powerful — the 3.8 was undersized for that platform — it would cruise and handle at 100 just wonderfully. It had variable assist power steering, which was unusual in those days but really helped.

            If I could find a nicely loaded 5.0 MN12 in good shape, I would buy it as a second car in a heartbeat. Something about the interior and styling changes in the later modular engine cars just doesn’t work for me.

          • 0 avatar

            @dtremit Yes, you were right, Sport Coupe.
            Had a real grill, unlike the MN-12’s. Looks much better in my opinion.

            Yes, that paint color was a real standout. My interior was midnight blue, with a moonroof.

            If you liked it with the V6, you would love the 88 with the 5.0 V8 even more.

            Like I said before, perhaps the best Ford since the 40 coupe.

            Add the cast aluminum wheels with the holes, from the Turbo or perhaps it was the LX, and it completes the look.

            Absolutely a beautiful car, and a nice solid road runner.

  • avatar

    To what we know already, that will keep us steady?

    Well, someone had to finish it.

    And somehow, that someone was me.

  • avatar

    … and apart from a 9 inch height increase, my XC70 is within a few inches of those measurements, too.

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