It's complicated. Ford Benchmarked the BMW E24(6 series) and Mercedes W126 SEC and went way overbudget to do so but never really pulled away any buyers, nor intended to from BMW(in fact the premium coupe market was imploding when the MN12 came out). The BMW E31 existed in much of the same timespan the MN12 did as well, but again yuppie BMW buyers don't cross shop Fords(they didn't gobble up the 8 series much either).
GMs E bodies like the Riviera, Toronado and Eldarado(to the Lincoln Mark series) are classically the Thunderbird's completion. Although those cars were waaaaay smaller after GM downsized them in 1986 though, so they're noticeably outclassed these as well as the late foxes. The 88+ W body coupes like the Lumina/Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Regal and Cutlass Supreme would probably be more direct competition, especially as the 90s progressed.
Chrysler really only had the K car Lebaron, which is probably a stretch to call that competition, but then again Iacocca successfully jammed the K car into way more market segments it should have.
Sounds about right, the Mark VIII was typically pitted against the Eldorado Cadillac with the northstar V8, and there was one of the Eldorado's an ETC which pumped a whooping 300 hp to the Lincolns rated 290 on the LSC as far as I know, the northstar is a pain and expensive to maintain in my opinion to the Lincolns dohc, they are nice to drive but wouldn't want to own one, you'd have to be a die hard GM nut to believe it is worth the money you spend.
The Cougar and Thunderbird are hard to classify to my opinion as the Monte Carlo, Grand Prix lineup which are about the same size and 2 door cars might be better compared with a 3.8 version of the Cougar or Thunderbird, but being these are front wheel drive and the MN-12 is rear wheel drive is a bad comparison even if you compare the GTP Grandprix with the SC Thunderbird they both use a eaton m-90 blower and are 3.8 v6er's but the difference is in front and rear wheel drive platform which is a bad comparison in my book.
Ford had the Mustang and Cobra to compete against the Camero and WS6 Trans-Am, so the Thunderbird and Cougar was just something in between it all just my opinion.
Chrysler never had anything like it everything was smaller had a 4 cylinder with no power or 3.0 v6 or a turbo 4 cylinder which wasn't nothing to gawk about unless you got a shelby car like the GLH or until the Dodge Spirit R/T came to compete against the SHO Taurus and The Daytona R/T to compete against the Mustang GT and Camero, both were rare, made only from 91-93 came with Lotus style dohc heads and factory intercooled made about 225 hp and were nothing to joke about for their time, but nothing made to compete with the Thunderbird, even the 80's The Shelby daytona and Turbo Z model were more in size with the SVO Mustang and still a rwd to a fwd match not a real equal for equal deal.
Well The FWD W body coupes were essentially replacements for the RWD G bodies, which were the competition for the Foxbody Tbirds/Cougars. Before the MN12 became the MN12 during it's development, the 89 Thunderbird/Cougar was originally intended to ride on the FWD Taurus platform which would have made the W body comparison more direct.
Plus the MN12 was only designed for the 3.8 and 3.8 SC originally, which is pretty similar to a Grand Prix option pallet. Grand Prixs also had the benefit of a more efficient drivetrain due to the transaxle and a much lower(by ~300lb) curb weight than the MN12, so the Buick 3800 in a W body wasn't quite the slug the Essex 3.8 was in a MN12. The V8s added later certainly outgunned the GMs but even they aren't really that much faster stock by comparison.
I think when it comes down to determining where these cars were in the marketplace you have to put the dynamics of drivetrain layouts aside, which 99% of buyers don't really care about, let alone understand, and look at things like price point, size, styling, marketing ect. When you look back at old magazine tests the comparisons tended to be against Monte Carlos, Regals and other personal luxury coupes.
As Matt says, the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix were where GM was aiming at (hopefully!) the same demographic.
If they had made a 4-door variant (even if it wasn't a TBird and/or Cougar - say waking up the, oh, maybe the Fairlane family name and gunning a different body on it - don't laugh, look at what all fell out of the Fox chassis!), they may have aimed at the Lumina / Malibu class vehicles. But with only two doors, it put the MN12 out of the "family flivver" aim.
(They could have made a 4-door variant. For a good comparision, look at what all fell out of either the old Falcon chassis or the Fox chassis families. Or as Matt pointed out, the K-car families from Chrysler Corp.)
K-car platform may have been overused, but Honda did much of the same with the chasis on the earlier Civic's and Accords and much of their other lineup and worked well.
It's a good way to keep the cost low on manufacturing and put it to where it counts if they were smart it would have been in the motor's and drivetrains, which weren't bad but not excessively great either.
I have a hard time believing the Grand Prix to be lighter than the MN-12, and the Monte carlo's couldn't get out of their own way if you really laid into the pedal they were still underpowered and seemed heavy, maybe the SS supercharged was better but anything less was just disapointing. I always found it took more guys to push in GM cars when they wouldn't run than most fords and Chrysler's, so I really don't buy them as being lighter. Why GM's engines always seem to have higher power output than their competitors kind of necessary.
GM's 3.8 v6 was pretty decent though and proved itself to be pretty stout, probably one of their best engines as it worked well it turbo and supercharged form and N/A with minimal issues.
I really loathed the Ford N/A 3.8 in the MN-12 nothing about it to me seemed good at all, I always aimed at the V8 it's hard to go wrong with a Ford V8, I liked the SC but it seemed like a lot more than I was willing to deal with.
I still think the GTP could and would beat a stock SC and the V8 stock but it would require the GTP package to get it done, I heard Ford detuned the SC so the Mustang would be faster is that true?
While I had my Cougar (3.8) my buddy had a 3.8 Bonneville and I can tell you they were comparable powerwise. If memory serves it had better take off but once rolling it was over for the Bonnie nor did it handle as well.
W bodies weigh on average between 3300 and 3500 and MN12s weigh on average between 3600 and 3900.
If you're pushing an Electra 225 and comparing it to a Reliant and a Tempo, then yeah the GM is going to be heavier lol. H bodies (Bonneville, Park Avenue, Lesabre, 88, 98) are probably closer to the average MN12 weight but Ws are quite a bit less. There's not much to them. Plus the 3.1 most of them came with were dogs like the MN12s 3.8. The 3.4 DOHC and 3800s were much more substantial in them, acceleration wise comparable to a V8 MN12, they're all mid 15 second cars.
I drove a Monte Carlo with a 3400 was a friend of mines that needed excessive work, I did it for him as a favor labor free and when I was done with all the gaskets and all the other stupid stuff that went wrong with it I drove it for 5 days to makes sure it wouldn't overheat or be a problem as he is too lazy to check the fluids on his own.
It was still slow to me I liked my Intrepid's 3.5 7x times better in the take off and high end and there was no way that thing would have ever kept up with it. I also did the same work to it that I did the Dodge too funny how that goes everyone thinks GM is soo much better.
Anyhow enough of that, maybe the 3.4 dohc in the older Grandprix GTP and Lumina Z34 might have been more suitable, those I believe were lighter in weight and more of a competition based vehicle. Even the 3.8 N/A didn't feel too lively to me my 3.3 in the Dodge Dynasty used to beat a lot of those N/A 3.8 buicks and pontiacs with ease even after I ran past my 200K thousand mile mark. That's why I believe GM bodies are just heavier. I know the MN-12 isn't a lightweight in many peoples eyes either but the V8 and SC can make that part not seem so bad.
I did like the later 90's GrandPrix GTP's and Bonneville SSEI's kind of hard not to when you drive it for real, I drove one for 3 days and hated giving the keys back, The other fun ones were the
WS6 Trans-Ams too bad they were so problematic, I would buy the Cobra over one, but I think the Cobra's are overpriced in most cases though some of the late 90's ones are getting cheaper but high in milage.
I am glad the MN-12 and 80's fox birds and cougars had the option of the V8 motor it made a nice combination for the car and was what led me to be a fan of them I bought an 86 as a cheap beater and because the reliability and fun it was to drive with the V8 had me hooked that I was going to get another one and really do some fun things with it, thank god for the Mustang too and the fact that most of the parts will interchange from it to a Thunderbird and Cougar, as well as the Lincoln Mark having some good things, this is why it is just so nice to have an MN-12 you can swap and build a lot with it, out of a lot of cars I had in the past along with some GM B-body cars I used to like the Grand National never could afford it but the MN-12 is just so buildable and so cool how many things you can swap or upgrade for not too much money. Only exception is the 4.6 is a little pricey to build in my opinion.
I was only referring to the 3.4 DOHC. Those were pretty good motors other than being a maintenance nightmare. The OHV 3.4s are indeed dogs.
Which GM 3.8s are you referring to? The 95+ Series II were much better engines than the earlier Series I used in H bodies. Those were rated at 205 horsepower IIRC and they're fairly fun to drive(for a family car)
I think the point to be made is that in 1995, the MN12s and W bodies were competing for sales. They were the same size, had similar performance and had similar prices. Today though, in the (well)used car market? Probably not so much. They really aren't competing with eachother, at least not with the enthusiast demographics. MN12s, just like you mentioned, have lots of interchange with Mustangs and in general can be made better and better due to the IRS RWD chassis layout and corporate V8s, which any enthusiast can appreciate. That's why these have aquired a small but passionate cult following. W bodies or any other fwd GM today? Not so much. They are largely disposable cheap transport today. GTPs have their fanbase like any niche model(like our SCs) but the pedestrian models are just unloved by anyone since there's no real remarkable or standout qualities to them that make them desirable today.
Lot of the F-body's suffered from rear end breakages, automatic transmissions had a hard time holding the power of those motors even in stock format, headlight doors not a big deal but sucks if you don't want a car to be winking at ya, lot of rattles and squeaks for no obvious reasons, seen some had instrument cluster issues not all, piston slap on some of the motors again not a big deal but can be annoying, seen some of the motors on those things ran fine one day and the next day start up and be knocking requiring a rebuild, both LT and LS motors, My one friend had a nice green 97 WS-6 with T-tops but that optispark was crap went through 2 of them and the 3rd we used an MSD model which held up for the rest of the time he had it, replaced a clock spring in the steering wheel too, not a big deal though wasn't hard, hinge pins on the doors can go bad like the Birds and Cougars and cause sagging but not a big deal, T-tops sometimes leak but thats most cars with T-tops.
I am not knocking them entirely I still do like them, you can't beat them for bang for the buck LT and LS motors can put out amazing numbers stock and modified that other engines can't without power adders, just I wont spend 8500 bucks on a car to rebuild the motor or trans or rear end sometime after, some might generally be cheaper depending, but for a decent not a nice but decent WS-6 with 6 speed and LS motor even with the LT-1 it wont be less than 6500 bucks. Although I almost caught one for 5 even didn't last for long at that price.
I mean it is what it is GM has been the benchmark for performance since the 60's and what every manufacturer longed to beat and if you could for less money you got famous, That's how Mopar got it's race image in the 60's and 70's they found a way to outrun GM and did it cheaply stock and modified. Gave em a bit of fame until the Muscle car era ended, even in the 60's the reason to make the Daytona and Superbird was to outrun Ford they were ruling NASCAR.
I never liked the power of 3.8 series I motors, my AC/AY body Chryslers were much better with their 3.3 and 3300lb curb weight.
By the time I experienced the series II 3.8 I was on a SOHC 3.5 Chrysler motor non H.O. still was a high compression deep skirt block with cross bolt center section, twin TB'S and crossflow intake that ran off 89 octane and 215hp for 97 didn't see anything that cool out of Chrysler since the 60's, then like most DOHC Chevy 3.4 guys I ended up replacing all the gaskets on the block and did the cam and crank seals since I was already into the job and it came in the kit. That's what led me to say no more to them, I was done with Chrysler, though the cars engine was never a problem other than that but who wants to have to do that. I also felt like with the power rating they had on the Series II 3.8 those cars should have been a tad faster than they were, the Lumina LTZ was the only car that semi impressed me but I still had better.
My friend lives across from a GM guy has a DOHC 3.4 Grandprix and the street where its parked is saturated with oil from where it leaks, and has a 4.3 blazer the 2nd most junked SUV next to the early model years explorer. You have to like GM to deal with those two and their needs.
The OHV 3.4's are not impressive at any standpoint, nor is the 3.1 unless you had it in a early 90's z24 cavalier maybe. The 3.8 N/A in the birds and Cougars I only drove for a small time once when I dated a young girl who had it and didn't like it at all I insisted we always took my car when we went out. It felt slow and doggy to me I rather have drove a crown vic or grand marquis over it the boxy one with the 5.0 EFI.
I did think the Yamaha v6's on the Taurus looked like a work of art, just something about opening the hood you could stare at it all day it looked so neat, and was decent with power, but as most things had it's issues too.
Seeing all these v6's from all American manufacturers with these problems really led into my preference for the V8, I even had the 302 H.O. in my 93 Cougar, just too bad when I got it all kinds of stupid problems came at once, plus my girlfriend could never get over how different the steering felt compared to the 95 we had, I really wanted to build that 302, within months of ownership the water pump, rack and pinion went bad, front suspension needed freshening, window switches went bad, headlight switch went bad, drivers side window motor went bad, alarm went wacky, and blower motor relay went bad all in 6 months time. Then the rockers started to rust and become soft and that was it for that one I lost so much money from when I sold it. Motor ran flawless other than a header leak. So I went back to another 4.6.
Plus the 4.6 nearly matches the gas mileage of most any of those v6's to boot.
A little thread bump, but I'm surprised no one mentioned the one that came to my mind immediately. Let me know if this sounds familiar:
- 6cyl with manual or auto and an 8cyl auto-only
- Two doors
- Double wishbone front suspension
- IRS with double wishbones in back
- 3500-3600lb curb weight
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