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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
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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.

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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.

I appreciate the super coupes but am more a fan of the V8’s with the Sport package. Our’s is a '97 Limited Edition with the traction-lock axle, 205hp, and 280ft. lbs. of torque. That’s only 10hp. less than a '97 Mustang GT. Our '97 has 31,000 actual miles and I absolutely love it.

I graduated college in the summer of '89 and after obtaining a full-time salaried position along with my savings (didn’t have no college debt as I worked my way through), I had to have an '89 SC. My dealer did not have any, but could get one from a dealer in Alabama that had 3 they were trying to get rid of. Red (5 speed), white, and blue (both automatics). I thought I wanted the red 5 speed, but the salesman asked if I wanted to come along as the “runner” just to make sure. The 5 speed was fun, but I could tell it would get old and I fell in love with the Twilight blue. It changed color depending on the light and was gorgeous. After I broke in the motor, I was off to Saturday night and Sunday afternoon drag racing in the street class. Only modification was a K&N filter, but my SC would smoke 5.0L Camaros and Mustangs and especially the 5 speed XR7 and other SC. Always figured mine may had been a little more hp than advertised but I never had it dyno’d.

I loved that T-bird (was my 2nd after my 83 I bought used after HS). But when I moved to Atlanta, I decided I needed something newer as it had 97,000 very hard driven miles. With no issues other than figuring out why the supercharger did not work on Monday after racing that weekend. The dealership couldn’t figure it out, but I was getting water into the vacuum line and it would settle in the drum overnight.

From the computerized suspension, the active aerodynamics, the lumbar and gripping seats, fuel mileage (I got 25 plus on the highway), and the power. It was an overlooked gem.

I’ve been around for a minute (65 YO) and have had a few sports oriented cars in my lifetime, the obligatory Mustangs (70’s), Fox body Mustangs, a 1970 Thunderbird, a 72 Pantera, and for the last 15 years have had various Mercedes…mostly the C and E class sports coupes. By far the best car I ever owned was my 89 Thunderbird SC. I remember when I purchased it new, it was a choice between this and the Taurus SHO. I am so glad that I bought the SC as I had more FUN in that car than any other. It had TON’S of low end torque and would move the 4K pounds of that car much better than anyone would think with that supercharged V6. The initial acceleration was unbelievable, and would scare the bejabbers out of anyone riding in the car. The Buick Grand National gets all of the attention with it’s V6 engine, but I think the TBird SC would give it a run for the money. The ride on this car was boulevard smooth and could cruise at 100 MPH with 4 people and the air and radio full tilt ALL DAY LONG. Handling wasn’t its forte, but the ride quality was every bit as good as my Mercedes these days. I put 90,000 miles on it with no problems and sold it to a “friend” with the condition that he sell it back to me when he was done with it. I have never seen it since, but was the only car I cried about when I saw it leaving my driveway. What a car!

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I own an original 1993 SC, i give it to my doughter for the university and still in family with just a litle “dents” by daily use. I hope begin in july a overall to original condition, but i´m looking for a new shape (wood, carbon fiber, etc) in dasboard. What do u think about it.

A highway patrol few mounths ago, stoped us just to see this car.

SC is a Super Car.

Back in 1988, I was working in Las Vegas as a Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper. I was on a traffic stop on Boulder Highway and I heard a car pull up behind me. I glanced back and saw that it was a Arizona Highway Patrol Trooper in a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. It was a marked patrol car and the Trooper driving it was on his way to Kingman, Arizona from the Arizona Strip. We chatted for a minute and I complimented him on having a cool patrol car and that I was jealous. He told me to check out what was under the hood. He opened the hood and showed me the Supercharged V-6 that had been shoehorned under the hood. Ford had given the car to the Arizona Highway Patrol to put it through the paces. He told me it had been assigned to him because his patrol area consisted of almost all freeway (I-15) and it tended to be very hot during the summer. We parted ways and a few years later a fellow Trooper had bought a Thunderbird SC. I got to drive it from Vegas to Reno when he moved. Awesome car, his SC was totaled not long after that when someone hit him while he was stopped at an intersection.

I own a 1995 Thunderbird, it was originally planed to be one of those police versions, it does however have the V-8 engine. I love how it still holds the road, however I am looking to see if anyone else could love and enjoy this car like I have these last 24 years.

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I totally agree, excellent road holding, I got a 1995 Thunderbird LX 281 cui v8, slightly tuned with K&N open filter & tube, SCT tuner, headers and a low restriction exhaust.
I get some 250 hp from these mods, and it makes the car perform a lot better than stock.
I use also use 17"x8" wheels and R17 245/40 Tires.
I love the car though the paint is almost falling of.