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Discussion Starter #1
I know I posted about a 1990 3.8 not too long ago, and following the advice of folks here I avoided it.

Was 1996 any better for reliability on the 3.8? Recently found a 110k mile 3.8 T-bird that seems to be in decent shape. It sat for a few years, but the owner claims he has the paperwork showing it recently passed its California smog test, and has been driven around problem free. While I didn’t take it on a test drive yet, the car isn’t throwing any codes, and seeing as California smog testing is strict I’d imagine it having passed is a good sign (heck, my current TBird hasn’t passed smog yet :(... ) Car spent most of its life in San Diego until the original owner (current owners brother) had a stroke. Guy only wants a gran for it just to get it out of his way as his brother has since passed.

Thoughts? Should I snatch it up, or consider one T-bird that I’m still chasing emissions issues on is enough?
 

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Super Moderator
1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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9,640 Posts
Yes, actually the 96s got EDIS and some other revisions - the infamous blown head gasket issue is much less common on the 96+. The transmission is much better as well, and J-modding it to make it even better won't cost but $150 or so with fluid. $1000 isn't terrible for a V6 MN12, depending on the overall condition.
 

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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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I can’t make your decision, but yes the 1996 3.8 is significantly more reliable than any 95 or earlier 3.8. The block and heads were updated with thicker deck surfaces and other improvements that solved the inevitable time-bomb factor of the head gaskets.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I appreciate the input. We’ve been looking for a second car, and since we both love the 96’ Tbird V8 we already have, I thought a second Tbird was within the realm of possibility.

This V6 has a fair interior for its age, and the typical dings, and scratches on the outside. Other than that it being smogged recently is a confidence boost since CA is really strict with it.

We shall see. I wouldn’t mind 2 Tbirds in the driveway :)
 

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1997 Thunderbird LX
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Go for it!

These cars are getting harder to find by the day, you shouldn't have any rust issues being a CA car. Do all the maintenance it needs and you should be in good shape.

Joe
 

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V6's get nice gas mileage. Back when the gas was good, I used to get 24 city and 30 hwy on my old '88. Now with the 10% ethanol, subtract 3-4 MPG from both figures.

Al
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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You can't really translate fuel economy estimates across platforms. That'd be like comparing 4.6 2v SN95 mileage to the 4.6 MN12 or panther. The Foxes are lighter, have a different driveline (trans/axle), and different body sculpting/CD.

IME the 3.8 MN12 fuel economy is only marginally better than the 4.6. The OP can expect 26-28 on the highway and 21-23 city, depending on conditions. I never saw more than 30 MPG (round trip average to negate the effects of wind and altitude changes) on either combo... in short YMMV. :)
 

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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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The poorer gas mileage of the 3.8 NA is actually the reason the MN12 team got reprimanded with forced early retirements for senior members. They couldn’t hit the targets set by the outgoing 88s due to all the weight added.
 

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You could do a splitport top end and pick up some power. You could also bolt up the M5R2 from the supercoupe. This is assuming you're mechanically inclined and can source the parts.

Do the JMOD at the least. Do the suspension maintenance it will surely need and just drive it.
 

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If you are looking for opinions, mine is don't get a V6 MN12. The stock 4.6 models keep up traffic fine these days and they can hold their own, any less power though and they would be struggling. Unless you really don't care about that stuff, but at that point you might as well buy an old Buick or something. It would probably be more comfortable and reliable
 

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^^True story. They are also bad on long, steep hills at interstate speeds, have to be going 90 at the bottom to make it to the top above 50 MPH.

Al
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for the responses everyone! Truly appreciate it!

We ended up passing on the car. It was in great shape until you hit the highway.... wouldn't go past 65 miles per hour, and the RPM's would shoot up to 4000. That transmission is probably about to grenade itself.
 
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