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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello All!

I am glad to join this community. The Thunderbird/Cougar/Mark VIII trio off the 90s has always been among my favorites. Previously, I owned a Crown Victoria as the Panther is another favorite of mine. Some may remember me as "06Tungsten" from CrownVic.net.

As of a few days ago, I am the proud third owner of a '97 Thunderbird LX 3.8 V6 in Pacific Green with Light Prairie Tan cloth interior and no options that I can tell other than alloy wheels and rear defroster. It has about 40,000 miles on it. I took most of the interior apart for deep cleaning. I haven't cleaned the exterior yet; my apologies for the lack of pictures.

Strangely, my car's interior is apparently not entirely original. I understand that the Thunderbird normally has a black arc starting on the driver door across the dash into the center console and armrest; the Cougar has all those parts in the color of the interior.
My Thunderbird has the black pieces on the door and on the center console; however, the two dash pieces are not black. They are light brown just like the dash, and so is the steering column shroud. I assume that the original owner changed these pieces to customize the interior. Or maybe they were damaged (but then why not replace them with the black original pieces?).
I am ok with this, although I'd prefer to have the matching light brown door bezel.

- It does make a lot of rubbing/squealing noises when steering at low speed which a mechanic attributed to worn ball joints. I also notice that the steering returns to center very slowly if at all (possibly related to those ball joints, as well?). The steering is also heavier than I would like. Any thoughts on that?

- When purchasing parts such as ball joints and control arms on Rockauto, are there any particular brands that are preferable (assuming that OEM parts are discontinued)?

- I notice that any time I engage cruise control, I hear a brief "ugh" noise. Is that just normal operating sound? It doesn't alarm me; it just sounds oddly human.

- Is there any way to set up the door locks to lock when shifting into drive?

- Fun fact: The original Ford build sheet was in the trunk under the trunk liner, which I removed for cleaning. If anyone can read those codes. I'm wondering if I have an option, one option, after all.

- Center armrest compartment: was there ever illumination in there in previous years? If so, I'd love to retrofit using the OEM light (part number?).

- Does anyone have issues with water accumulating in the license plate lights? They seem to be riveted on, too, so it's hard to tackle that.

- Has anyone installed a seat belt holder attached to the headrest posts (similar to Dodge Challenger for example)? Not that I couldn't reach the seat belt; I just like those seat belt holders. My seat belt is also awfully tight on my shoulder, which could be less noticeable if the belt ran through a holder (being a bit higher up that way).

- Lastly, my car has an odd lock under the driver side dash. Apparently it is a supplemental hood lock. Unfortunately, the key to that lock didn't come with the car, and second owner didn't even know what it was. Was this a factory option? Or rather an accessory? The cable from this lock goes into the the engine compartment inside an approx. half-inch tube together with another wire (of which I'm not sure where it goes or what it does).

That's all I can think of right now. Thank you all!




 

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Welcome. Nice car! For suspension buy Moog or TRW.
 

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1997 Thunderbird LX
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Welcome from one 97 V6 owner to another!

That lock looks like an old aftermarket alarm from way back, you set it with the key. Water in the license plate lights is common, the bulbs come out from inside the truck lid not from dropping the lens out.

Joe
 

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97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
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Welcome.

Yes it does appear the cluster and radio trim bezels were replaced. The bezel for 97 is unique (at least for the cluster bezel) and extremely hard to find, so if the original cracked, the previous owner may have "settled" for the best thing they could find and replaced both the cluster and radio bezels to minimize the obviousness of the change.

The low speed creaking and difficulty with the wheel is indeed most likely ball joints. Probably best to also drain out all the power steering fluid and replace it with fresh Mercon V ATF.

The cruise control thud might be slack in the cable. Check both connections at the throttle valve and see if the springs are secure/tight too.

I don't know of a way to set the door locks on a 97 to automatically lock. No factory illumination in the center console storage compartment for 97 either.

That lock you see isn't factory, that's for certain. Might be part of an aftermarket alarm?
 

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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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Outside possibility the entire dash was replaced with one from a Cougar for whatever reason. The weird part to me is that the headlight switch trim is the matching tan, I could see swapping over the bezels if finding 97 black ones was proving difficult but I’m kind of surprised they would bother with that piece, it looks fine black, 94-95 Cougars came that way
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited by Moderator)
Welcome. Nice car! For suspension buy Moog or TRW.
What about "Mevotech"? They sell a front end kit for $165. It includes control arms (upper/lower) with ball joints and tie rods.

Welcome from one 97 V6 owner to another!

That lock looks like an old aftermarket alarm from way back, you set it with the key. Water in the license plate lights is common, the bulbs come out from inside the truck lid not from dropping the lens out.

Joe
But how do you get the water out?

No factory illumination in the center console storage compartment for 97 either.
But previous years had it?

Outside possibility the entire dash was replaced with one from a Cougar for whatever reason. The weird part to me is that the headlight switch trim is the matching tan, I could see swapping over the bezels if finding 97 black ones was proving difficult but I’m kind of surprised they would bother with that piece, it looks fine black, 94-95 Cougars came that way
Good catch - the headlight switch. The same is true for the two-piece steering wheel shroud; that is the light brown/tan color, too. Would a full dash swap include the steering column?
 

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I’m pretty sure Mevotech is Chinese for crap. 💩

TRW was the OEM supplier to Ford.
 
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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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Good catch - the headlight switch. The same is true for the two-piece steering wheel shroud; that is the light brown/tan color, too. Would a full dash swap include the steering column?
Oh yeah I didn’t even catch the column, yeah I think it’s more and more likely it was pulled and swapped as an assembly for expedience.

Also noticing the non leather wrapped steering wheel shifter and manual driver seat so that car is pretty low option (which is actually cool because that stuff is rare), does it have a rear window defroster grid? A lot f cars like that tend to not have that either, but the (possibly)new dash has the button
 

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Welcome! Nice to see a new member here.

I have used Mevotech on a few cars over the years, they seemed about as good as any major parts store house brand. You can still find TRW stuff on Rockauto for our cars and they are good quality and inexpensive.

Is it possible that the dash came with the color combo? I have heard that the 97's came with some strange combinations because they were the last year.
 

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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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Welcome! Nice to see a new member here.

I have used Mevotech on a few cars over the years, they seemed about as good as any major parts store house brand. You can still find TRW stuff on Rockauto for our cars and they are good quality and inexpensive.

Is it possible that the dash came with the color combo? I have heard that the 97's came with some strange combinations because they were the last year.
Mevotech UCAs LCAs and tie rods I wouldn’t touch. I think their rubber strut rod bushings are probably better than Moog though, I’m pretty sure that’s the rubber set SCP started selling for $100+

97s were consistent if they were anything, QC was good enough that mismatched bezels wouldn’t have made it out of the assembly line. They were mostly just cheapened in little ways like removing bulbs, removing the glove box shock and sharing the instrument cluster with the Taurus


But previous years had it?
No 94-97s have a console light unless you count the cigarette lighter/ash tray one in the 94-96
 

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97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
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Not necessarily - Ford uses parts from many worldwide suppliers and sometimes resells them under their label.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Oh yeah I didn’t even catch the column, yeah I think it’s more and more likely it was pulled and swapped as an assembly for expedience.

Also noticing the non leather wrapped steering wheel shifter and manual driver seat so that car is pretty low option (which is actually cool because that stuff is rare), does it have a rear window defroster grid? A lot f cars like that tend to not have that either, but the (possibly)new dash has the button
It does have the defroster grid, which I think was in a package together with alloy wheels.

I wonder why they would swap the dash...
The car was owned by the first owner for 23 years. The second owner owned it for 1.5 years; they know nothing about the dash trim and assumed it was factory. I wonder if the dash was damaged in an attempted theft (?). I can't imagine it was replaced due to age or fading.
Or it's one of the final 1997s, and Ford ran out of black pieces...lol
 

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Ive been buying the ACDelco arms, with the big yellow balljoint. A set has been on lazarus for 10 years now, that's longer than the facyory lasted.
 

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What's the interior code on the sticker in the drivers door jamb?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think I found another odd one. The picture isn't very clear, but the dash is definitely not black:


Interestingly, it's also Pacific Green.
 

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1994 Cougar XR7 DOHC/5-Speed
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It’s the same code regardless of Tbird or Cougar.
I think I found another odd one. The picture isn't very clear, but the dash is definitely not black:


Interestingly, it's also Pacific Green.
That was the 1996 only saddle interior, 1997s with tan have the black bezels
 
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