1989–95 Thunderbird SC: Misunderstood muscle car or forgotten GT?


A big Ford Thunderbird might not be your first choice for driving eastern Tennessee’s Tail of the Dragon. The mountainous, 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 throws more than 300 snaking curves at sports car drivers and motorcycle riders who come to “tame” it. Some don’t go home. (Don’t believe me? Google “Dragon Death Map.”)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/28/1989-95-thunderbird-sc-misunderstood-muscle


It is great to see these cars get a little attention! I was also there on the dragon it was a great time! The event was called The Epic Drive. I have owned six SC’s over the years. I have owned my current 93 SC since 2002 and am the second owner of the car. It runs 11.36 in the 1/4 mile @4160 race weight and still retains AC and gets 18mpg . I highly recommend anyone interested in these cars going to sccoa.com and checking out the forums! We also have an annual Sc/XR7 shootout in lexington KY in the fall that is open to any mn12 chasis/Lincoln mark viii. Car show dyno contest banquet and a day of drag racing. sc-shootout.com for anyone interested. My son recently acquired a low mile all original 35th anniversary SC and we plan to do a full restoration on it.

FYI its Kurt not Kevin Kriesz and there is no such thing as a 25th anniversary SC lol they were only produced from 1989/1995 an anniversary car is a 1990


I know Kurt. Great guy and has the twin of my 92 SC. However in the article you mention his name as Kevin which is incorrect. The picture captions are correct with his name being Kurt. Also you mention the 25th Anniversary Thunderbird SC over and over again throughout the article and the picture captions. The proper name is the Thunderbird SC 35th Anniversary edition. The car came about in 1955… add 35 years and you get 1990. The 25th year would have been 1980. Other than that it’s nice to see the cars getting some coverage. The epic drive event looked like a lot of fun and I’m sad I couldn’t attend this year.


Sorry, my error on both Kurt’s name and the anniversary year. Will fix. – Jim Koscs, author


No problem! I am pretty sure that Kurt’s 35th anniversary car is a 15k mile car not a 105k mile car


I like thunderbirds, they’re nice comfy cars. Especiall the ones with the 5.0 litres and the 390 back in the day.


It’s great to see these get coverage. I never had an SC or XR-7, but did have a '96 Sport in the household for a while and this is a great platform. The 1989 and 1990 Cougar XR-7 has intrigued me since a friend got an automatic version brand new at the time. The combo of Cougar and supercharged 3.8 was only around for those two model years and, if I recall correctly, the manual-equipped 1989-1990 only saw production in the hundreds.

Obviously, I still want one!


I owned a 93 SC with a 5 speed. I traded an 88 Monte SS for it. The SC was faster, handled better and got much better fuel mileage then the SS. We drove that car up and down the east coast in style but never in winter. One of the best performance/luxury car I’ve ever owned. Wish I still had it.


Finally - something about the T-bird SC. I purchased mine in 1990 off the showroom floor and have loved every minute of ownership (just turned 55,000 miles). Electronics abound and, I agree, parts are difficult to find. Now that I’ve read this article I am planning to take the same trip in my SC - would love the chance to do it with other SC folks. Mine has been mostly trouble free with cam and crank sensor issues around 1998. Otherwise it runs like a top and handles extremely well for a car that weighs two tons. I also own a 57 bird which is one of the T-birds everyone recognizes. The SC, not so much recognition, but it has surprised a few V-8 owners.


Tail of the Dragon? Been there, done that. Videotaped my two runs on US 129 while riding a motorcycle. Myself and a couple of friends reviewed the video to confirm the much touted 311 turns in 11 miles. We came away underwhelmed. Even allowing for every little twitch in the handlebars we came away around 100 turns short every time we watched. Not to take anything away from enjoying the Dragon in whatever vehicle you choose to drive because even at 200 turns in 11 miles it’s a nice drive. And to add insult to injury while returning home to Ohio we ran several state roads in Tennessee and Kentucky that rivaled the Dragon in turns and an adrenalin rush the Dragon failed to muster.


I had an 89 SC - loved it. Put about 85K miles on it before I sold it around 1993 (needed room in the garage). My wife bought a 91 SC. She put about 10K miles on it in 20 years, mostly it sat in the garage. Had to have the Radio/Stereo/Tape/CD player completely rebuild - as age alone destroyed it. A member of the SCCOA specialized in rebuilding them as it was a common problem. Also common was the speedo gear breaking (cheap plastic).

The SC was certainly loaded with advance features for its time. Four Wheel Independent Suspension, 4 wheel anti-lock disc brakes, adjustable shocks that lowered/firmed the ride automatically above 80mph, limited slip differential, SuperCharger of course! Fully adjustable power bucket seats, A/C, Leather interior. Quite, comfortable and fun driving at highway speeds. Put your foot to the floor at 65mph and that Bird would FLY well past 100mph in surprisingly short time.

AIR she paid around $25K for it new in 91 - and 20 years later still in as new condition - the most I could get back out of it was $10K. (with brand new tires as the originals all tread separated from age/sitting).

Over-all loved them both but other cars took their limited space in the garage. I can certainly understand why so many enthusiast love them today.