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1996 Ford Thunderbird LX (219k)
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi. I'm thinking of buying a 1997 Mercury cougar xr7 with the v6. Any ideas? It has 127k miles and it's lived most of its life in the pnw. I'm getting it because I hope the lower mileage means its more reliable than my current 1996 4.6L. Plus my current car doesn't drive right now. Anything I should watch for? Or would it be a hard no. Any advice is helpful. I also just got a new job, so I am kinda in between checks right now.
 

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1997 Thunderbird LX
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I don’t think the V6 is going to be more reliable than the 4.6, far from it. Other than that, check all the usual suspects, suspension, brakes, fluids etc.
 

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1996 Ford Thunderbird LX (219k)
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The 97 3.8 is a lot more reliable than the older ones but it’s no 4.6. That said I’d use a 96-97 3.8 as a driver without much reservation(besides being slow lol)
Okay. Well I'm just gonna check it out and if it all looks good then I'll get it. The owner is willing to drive it 10 miles or so to pick me up so if he trusts it that much then I do. Any tips on checking something like head gaskets or other common failure points? I'm also more so worried about the transmission but whatevs.
 

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A 4.6 is incredibly reliable, it seems to me the 3.8's lose headgaskets a lot.
 

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97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
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The 96+ head gaskets don't really pop like the earlier ones. The EDIS ignition on them is pretty robust too.

You already know about the suspension and interior things to check. A 3.8 transmission is less likely to be on death's door just because there's that much less torque and power going through it (though admittedly there is one less friction in the clutches).

Just run through the standard slew of checks. Run through all the gears and don't be afraid to make it downshift from 4-3-2-1 hard under acceleration (and let off the throttle abruptly to let it shift from 1-2-3-4 without any throttle applied) to see if any of the gears slam. Check for engine braking on manual 2 and 1. Be sure the O/D lockout works; 3-4 and 4-3 will be sluggish on any transmission that's not equipped with a mechanical diode and J-mod. Be sure the ATF is still bright red and doesn't smell burnt. Be sure the oil doesn't look milky. Coolant should be bright green. Power steering fluid should be red too (not black) if you dip a paper towel into the reservoir. If all those check out then odds are it's been well maintained and you won't run into any nasty surprises after it's too late to change your mind!
 

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I have never owned a Ford 3.8, but like others have said the later ones should be reliable. Several years ago I picked up a high mileage 96 Tbird V8 when I was low on money, just because I didn't want to drive my Cougar in the Winter. I expected to drive it one or maybe two winters. I ended up keeping it for about 5 years and drove it more than my Cougar. The way that car drove and how reliable it was makes me miss it. I ended up selling it for what I bought it for e ven though it developed terminal rust.
These are good cars and if you find one that is well maintained for the right price you can't really lose.
 

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1996 Ford Thunderbird LX (219k)
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The 96+ head gaskets don't really pop like the earlier ones. The EDIS ignition on them is pretty robust too.

You already know about the suspension and interior things to check. A 3.8 transmission is less likely to be on death's door just because there's that much less torque and power going through it (though admittedly there is one less friction in the clutches).

Just run through the standard slew of checks. Run through all the gears and don't be afraid to make it downshift from 4-3-2-1 hard under acceleration (and let off the throttle abruptly to let it shift from 1-2-3-4 without any throttle applied) to see if any of the gears slam. Check for engine braking on manual 2 and 1. Be sure the O/D lockout works; 3-4 and 4-3 will be sluggish on any transmission that's not equipped with a mechanical diode and J-mod. Be sure the ATF is still bright red and doesn't smell burnt. Be sure the oil doesn't look milky. Coolant should be bright green. Power steering fluid should be red too (not black) if you dip a paper towel into the reservoir. If all those check out then odds are it's been well maintained and you won't run into any nasty surprises after it's too late to change your mind!
Yea. I will definitely check it all out. The owner says he's pretty confident it's been well maintained it's whole life. It seems to run very well he says. I'll just double check everything like you mentioned and then I think I've got something good. It's silver just like my Thunderbird so they'll look cool parked next to each other.
 

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97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
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It's silver just like my Thunderbird so they'll look cool parked next to each other.
Kind of reminds me of when my father-in-law still had his... :)

 

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