With the departure of the Fila model from the lineup, the 1986 Ford Thunderbird was reduced to three models - the base, Elan, and turbocharged hardtop coupe. It was part of the ninth generation of the Thunderbird, introduced in 1983 and continued through 1988. The Thunderbird's history traces much farther back, to 1955 when it was introduced in response to Chevrolet's new Corvette. Instead of competing directly with the sports car, the Thunderbird created its own market segment of upscale personal luxury motoring by combining both luxury and sport.
Although the Thunderbird was very successful, easily eclipsing Corvette sales, Ford management felt its two-door configuration limited its sales position. As a result, the car was redesigned as a four-seater for 1958. The bold decision paid off, and over 200,000 units were sold in three years, four times the result of the two-seat model. Its success led to Motor Trend 'Car of the Year' honors, the first individual model line to receive this distinction - prior to this, it had been awarded to an entire company as opposed to an individual model line.
The Thunderbird evolved and changed over the years, and most of those changes were met with enthusiasm. The eight-generation of 1980 to 1982 had missed the mark, prompting designers to quickly come up with a solution. The result was the 1983 redesign based on the Fox-body like the previous Thunderbird, but having a slightly shorter wheelbase of 104.2 inches. The exterior was sleeker and more aerodynamic, and the 3.8-liter Essex V6 and 5.0-liter V8 were carried over from the previous generation. The V8 gained CFI electronic fuel injection in 1983, and the V6 in 1984 for U.S. models. A 2.3-liter overhead cam four-cylinder engine with a turbocharger joined the lineup in 1983, a Thunderbird 'first.' Another 'first' was the optional 5-speed manual transmission with the turbo-four.
A special 30th Anniversary edition was celebrated in 1985, finished in special Medium Regatta Blue Metallic paint, special trim, and graphics.
The 1986 continued with few changes. The base engine was the overhead valve V6 displacing 232 cubic-inches and fitted with throttle-body fuel injection. It offered 120 horsepower at 3,600 RPM and 205 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 RPM. V6 models came standard with a three-speed SelectShift automatic along with a final drive ratio of 3.45:1. The V8 models had a standard four-speed overdrive automatic. The overhead cam turbocharged four-cylinder engine developed 145 horsepower. The overhead valve 302 CID V8 had 150 horsepower and 270 lb-feet of torque. Disc brakes in the front and drums at the rear provided the stopping power. The steering was handled by a rack and pinion system.
The styling was unchanged and continued to be shared with its Mercury sibling, the Cougar. The design featured the recessed, staggered quad rectangular headlamps with amber wraparound signal/marker lenses. Between the lights was the grille comprised of four thin, bright horizontal bars over a blackout pattern. Below the headlamps and grille was the bumper rub strip with integrated amber parking lamps. In the back were wraparound tail lamps that had Thunderbird emblems in each lens. The Emblems could also be found on the C pillar and above the grille (and below the hood).
All Thunderbirds now came standard with an electronic-tuning AM/FM stereo radio. New options included a power moonroof and a collapsible spare tire which included a 12-volt air compressor that plugged into the lighter. Standard equipment included gas-pressurized shocks and struts, reclining cloth split-bench seats, and variable-ratio power rack-and-pinion steering.
The Elan had updates to its interior, with revised cloth trim and the addition of a wood-tone instrument panel applique. Standard amenities included power windows, dual electric remote mirrors, a digital clock, lighted visor mirrors, system sentry, and interval wipers.
The Turbo Coupes were equipped with a five-speed close-ratio manual shift, Goodyear performance tires, and articulated and adjustable front sport seats.
Ford produced 163,965 Thunderbirds for 1986, an increase over the 151,851 produced in 1986, and a decrease from the 170,533 produced in 1984.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2020