Thunderbird, Cougar, and Supercoupe Information

Friday, November 18, 2005

M5R2 transmission rebuild & info

Recently I've noticed interest regarding the M5R2 transmission, equipped in Thunderbird SC and '89 - '90 Cougar XR7 packages. This was a 5 speed manual transmission designed by Mazda, hence the name Mazda 5 speed Rear wheel drive 2nd edition. There were approximately 19000 Supercoupe and 3000 XR7 packages with this transmission.

While the basic M5R2 design was shared amongst several Ford vehicles, there were unique differences for the SC and XR7. These were due to the personal luxury status of the cars, and hence it is widely believed some durability was sacraficed for smoother gear selection.

For some owners, this has led to trouble with the synchronizer assemblies. The problem is amplifed by clutch problems and power shifting. A type of plastic fiber backing on the brass blocker rings becomes worn, failing to produce the friction necessary to sync gears. In the process other parts are often damaged, resulting in symptoms like grinding when shifting, hard shifting, and gears disengaging while driving.

There are several things you can do when problems occur. The transmission can be rebuilt using stock or a limited selection of aftermarket parts, it can be replaced with another M5R2, or it can be replaced with a T-5 using the extension kit available from MN12performance.

Numerous informative rebuilding instructions can be found, including the following:
Rebuild kits and parts are available from Southern Gear, Autozone, Napa, and Rockauto. Part numbers listings can be found at the SCCOA.

Sources for new, used, or rebuilt M5R2 transmissions include:
Autozone (Accurate transmissions)
Jasper (part # E9SR-AB)
Southern Gear
SCCOA Classifieds

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Snow tires improve winter driving

Modern winter tires incorporate extraordinary technology for excellent traction on winter road surfaces. Their unique composition significantly outperforms all season tires for traction on ice, snow, slush, and other winter conditions. Performance winter tires offer a good compromise between traction, handling, and treadwear for those who regularly encounter dry winter roads.

For many in the northern hemisphere, that which make our cars so fun in mild weather can cause difficulty in the Winter. While there are numerous actions you can take to reduce problems from winter roads, perhaps the most beneficial is investing in a set of winter tires. This is especially true for our larger rear drive personal luxury cars.

List of Snow tire brands
See the newest winter tires for 2005 at The Tire Rack

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Yellow Headlights: Repair & Preventing

Over time, the plastic headlamps on many Thunderbirds and Cougars wear out. Sun exposure and broken seals lead to corroded sockets, worn reflector mirrors, and discolored lenses. The result is dim, ugly headlights which detract from the appearance of your car.

It is possible to improve the appearance of discolored lenses without replacing the entire assembly, although the headlamps can be replaced for a reasonable cost. Replacement is also the only option for damaged reflectors. Sources for new units include eBay and supercoupeperformance. The lenses of new headlamps can be protected from harmful sun exposure by using lens covers, UV protectant wax (303 Aerospace or Zaino), or even sealant.

If moisture has corroded the wiring to your headlamps, you can purchase an upgraded wiring harness from Competition Limited, or from a private party as a used part. The upgraded harness also allows safely increasing the output of our stock lighting system.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The cost of Gasoline

Gas prices have been a popular topic in recent times, especially among Thunderbird and Cougar drivers. Gas prices throughout the nation can vary widely, and there is much discussion as to the cause.

Take a look at gas prices throughout the nation..

Find the cheapest gas prices at stations in your area..

Learn about some of the factors that influence fuel prices

Here is a wealth of information about the fuel we currently use for our cars

Alternative fuels are becoming increasingly available, and it is interesting to note there are already numerous vehicles which operate on them. Fuel cells providing electricity seem to be the most likely alternative to gasoline, and they may soon replace batteries.

I will be discussing average gas economy and mileage improving tips for our cars in the near future..

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Buying and Selling

As our cars become older, finding them for sale in good condition becomes more difficult. At the same time, they also lose value amongst general car buyers. How can we find good values when purchasing, and get a fair price when it comes time to sell? Continue reading to find out..

When buying any used car, overall condition must be evaluated and weighed against asking price. This includes interior, exterior, and mechanical condition. Common issues to watch for on MN12s and other used cars follow:

Check the Interior for:

  • Fading or Cracking Dashboard, steering wheel, pillars
  • Carpet damage, spills under seats, shoe wear
  • Strong musty odor, especially during HVAC operation
  • Worn seats including adjustment, buttons, upholstery, cushions, air support
  • Unevenly worn pedals indicating possible mistreatment
  • Smoke damage including falling headliner, used ashtrays or lighter, burns, thick film on glass or other smooth surfaces
  • Malfunctioning gauges, moonroof, windows, vanity lights, controls, electric accessories
  • Leakage under dash including clutch and brake fluid near pedals, coolant near floor vents, water

Check the Exterior for:

  • Rust around rocker panels (especially under ground effects of SC), wheel wells, under floor pan, doors, suspension components, spoilers, trunk
  • Signs of accident damage such as repainting, bondo, ill fitting body panels, frame/unibody denting
  • Damaged paint and clearcoat especially bumpers, ground effects, and roof
  • Damaged or missing trim, molding, lamp assemblies (esp LED taillights and yellowing lenses) badging, ground effects, air dam, antenna, windows
  • Wheels damaged or bent from curb rubbing and other abuse
  • Sagging doors due to hinges worn from excessive load bearing

Mechanical condition should be verified by knowledgeable people. If you encounter symptoms you don't understand, it is wise to have qualified personal perform diagnosis. Check for the following:

  • Unusual sounds such as whining, whistling, howling, grinding, rubbing, rattling, knocking, tapping, or anything else which stands out. Listen in all places while car is idling and driving including, underhood, suspension, transmission, exhaust, rear of vehicle, ect
  • Unusual odors such as strong sweet smell, burning, gasoline
  • Uneven engine idle, backfire, or misfire
  • Transmission grinding, slipping, or hesitation while driving or changing gears
  • Clutch engagement near end of pedal travel, excessive pedal play, slipping or revving when shifting/accelerating
  • Excessive engine or shifter movement, indicating possible torn mounts
  • Spongy pedal, whistling, grinding, or shaking when braking, fading or low stopping power
  • Low, dirty, or contaminated fluids especially coolant, oil, and automatic transmission
  • Suspension leaning, excessive bouncing, harsh ride, pulling, poor handling, or dog tracking.
  • Smoke from exhaust or underhood, excluding thin light-colored condensation buildup

Of course most used purchases will have at least some minor issues, and the price you pay should be adjusted accordingly. A common method of pricing vehicles is to determine the fair market value using tools such as the Kelly blue book and points of sale (ebay, autotrader, newspapers) and then deduct the average cost of repairs. Pricing may be influenced by demand for rare models like the Supercoupe. Specialized clubs can offer help in these cases.

When selling your car, several factors should be considered to receive the best price.

  • Level of cosmetic and mechanical maintenance
  • Logs of maintenance, repair, and modification history
  • The type of person buying your car, and where to find them

Ensuring your car is properly maintained, clean inside and out, and in good repair makes a positive impression on potential buyers. Car dealers demonstrate their understanding of this important concept when you visit their used car lots. Also, presenting logs or receipts to help buyers verify your information will build trust.

Knowing about the types of people purchasing vehicles like these and what resources they use will help you reach the largest market for your car. You can then compare and choose from multiple offers to recieve the best results. Along with checking local resources like newspapers and car dealers, there are also many online sources for MN12 Thunderbirds and Cougars:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Specifications for '89 through '97 Thunderbirds and Cougars

Many of us would like to know more about our cars. Here is information regarding the various packages, production numbers, and more for MN12 Thunderbirds and Cougars through '97.

Thunderbirds included 4 main packages over the years:

  • Base coupe (produced 1989 - 1992, V6, automatic)
  • Sport (produced 1992 only, v8, automatic)
  • LX (produced all years, V6 until 1991, V6 or V8 after, automatic)
  • Supercoupe (produced 1989 - 1995, supercharged V6, automatic or 5spd manual)

In addition to these there were also 1990 35th anniversary and 1995 40th anniversary trims.

Cougars shared many parts of the MN12 platform, including drivetrain options. Packages included the LS until 1993, the XR7, a 25th anniversary trim in 1992, and a 30th anniversary in '97.

The 3 engine options changed moderately over time. The standard V6 pushrod produced 140 horsepower which increased slightly in later years. The V8 was a 200 hp pushrod until 1994, when it changed to a 205 hp modular motor. The Supercharged V6 pushrod produced 210 hp and 315 ft lbs of torque until 1994 when it was upgraded to 230 hp and 330 ft lbs.

Transmissions were limited to a 4 speed automatic which became the electronically controlled 4R70W in 1994 and the 5 Speed M5R2 developed with Mazda available as an option on the Supercoupe package between 1989 and 1995.

Production numbers are as follows:

3.8L T-Bird: 102,059
3.8L SC: 12,809
3.8L SC 5-speed manuals: 8,041
Cougar (w/XR-7 included): 102,275
Total 1989: 217,143

3.8L T-Bird: 82,636
3.8L SC: 21,966
3.8L SC 5-speed manuals: 6,067
Cougar (w/XR-7): 76,467
XR-7 breakdown, Auto: 4,463 5-Speed: 2,238
35th Anniversary edition: 3,371
Total 1990: 181,069

5.0L T-Bird: 16,232
3.8L T-Bird: 59,543
3.8L SC: 7,039
3.8L SC 5-speed manuals: 1,905
Cougar (w/XR-7): 63,701
XR-7 breakdown, Auto: 4,129 5-speed: 841
Total 1991: 146,515

5.0L T-Bird: 12,562
3.8L T-Bird: 57,119
3.8L SC: 4,212
3.8L SC 5-speed manuals: 1,256
Cougar (w/XR-7): 49,254
Total 1992: 123,147

5.0L T-Bird: 19,587
3.8L T-Bird: 106,234
3.8L SC: 3,891
3.8L SC 5-speed manuals: 1,038
Cougar (w/XR-7): 79,700
Total 1993: 209,412

4.6L T-Bird: 66,657
3.8L T-Bird: 51,056
3.8L SC: 2,647
3.8L SC 5-speed: 722
Cougar: 71,026
Total 1994: 191,386

4.6L T-Bird: 94,155
3.8L T-Bird: 14,927
3.8L SC: 5,741
3.8L SC 5-speed: 574
Cougar: 60,201
Total 1995: 175,024

4.6L T-Bird: 86,522
3.8L T-Bird: 25,780
Cougar: 40,700
Total 1996: 153,002

4.6L T-Bird: 66,320
3.8L T-Bird: 18,956
Cougar: 37,240
Total 1997: 122,516"

More detailed discussion about the Thunderbird from Wikipedia is found below..

1989-1997 "Super Birds"
In 1989, the new, much anticipated Thunderbird model premiered. Classified as the MN-12 (Mid-size North American Project 12), the Thunderbird now had four-wheel independent suspension and a slightly smaller, more aerodynamic body. Engine options fell to only two for 1989 as Ford dropped the V8 option for the new T-bird. The LX model was powered by the 140 hp (104 kW) 3.8 L OHV V6 which many felt was underpowered for the nearly 3800 lb (1725 kg) car. A 210 hp (157 kW) supercharged and intercooled version of the same 3.8 L, available only in the top of the line Thunderbird Super Coupe ("SC"). The Thunderbird SC was Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1989.

In 1991, the Thunderbird's engine options were finally once again expanded to three, and included once again the popular and begged for 5.0 L OHV V8, rated at 200 hp (149 kW). In 1994, the Thunderbird received some minor exterior and interior styling updates (including cup holders, notable missing on the 89-93 models) as well, but the most dramatic change was the new 205 hp (153 kW) 4.6 L SOHC V8 which replaced the iconic and much loved 5.0. The 4.6 brought with it an updated electronic control system (EEC-V), and an electronically controlled 4R70W transmission. The Super Coupe continued on with the same supercharged V6 as before for but now with 230 hp (172 kW) and 330 ft·lbf (447 N·m) of torque. These increases in output would be short lived however as the Thunderbird Super Coupe was discontinued after the 1995 model year.

In 1996, the Thunderbird received its last styling update. Available in LX (available with V6 OR V8) or Sport (V8 only) trim. Both featured redesigned headlights/taillights, smoother re-styled front/rear fascias, body side cladding, new wheels (15" on LX, and 16" on Sport), and a slight hood bulge, which was necessary to fit the updated 4.6 L engines taller, now composite, intake manifold. V-8 models still made 205 hp, but now made 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m) of torque, up 15 ft·lbf (20 N·m). The 3.8 L V6 continued to make 145 hp and 215 ft·lbf (291 N·m) of torque and was the base engine in the LX. The gear ratio dropped from 3.08 that had been the only ratio offered on the 89-95 to 3.27 giving the big car a bit more grunt out of the stoplight. In 1997, Ford made no changes at all, trying to save as much money as they could on the floundering coupe. As a result, the 1997 Thunderbird's appeal suffered even more, as the only options available were a Power Sunroof, Power driver Seat, Remote Keyless Entry or a CD player. A low drag co-efficient contributed to a impressively consistent 24-28 mpg on the highway even at speeds over 75 mph. The last four-seat Thunderbird rolled off the assembly line in Lorain, Ohio on September 4, 1997.

There was some difficulty in naming the car, with suggestions ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous (Hep Cat, Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre, and Coronado were submitted among the 5,000 suggestions). One serious suggestion was Whizzer. Crusoe offered a $250 suit to anyone who could come up with a better name.
Stylist Alden "Gib" Giberson submitted Thunderbird as part of a list. Giberson never claimed his prize, settling for a $95 suit and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue.
According to Palm Springs Life magazine, the car's final name came not from the Native American symbol as one might expect, but from an ultra-exclusive housing tract in what would later be incorporated as Rancho Mirage, California: Thunderbird Heights.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Information for all Tbird & Cougar Owners!

As owners of these cars, we all know how difficult it can sometimes be to find help or information. I created this blog to provide information about maintenance, fixing and preventing problems, cosmetic and mechanical modifications, audio/video upgrades, aftermarket resources, and more for our cars.

As a community, we can help each other improve the experience of owning our cars. Feel free to post comments questions, and responses throughout the blog. Communication is one of the best ways to learn!