When my lease expired on a 1991 Mustang LX convertible (4-cylinder), I decided to look for an older used car that would be cheaper to insure.
Unfortunately, I purchased a 1985 Thunderbird coupe with the V6 automatic. The odometer read 72800 miles when purchased.
I had problems with this car from the day I drove it home. The car ran extremely rough and the transmission would be sluggish or buck when accelerating and shifting up. I finally replaced the tranny myself with a rebuilt tranny from a junk yard.
Biggest complaint with this car had to do with the EFI and the on-board computer/chip set. This developed several problems, and the whole electronics had to be replaced, work which had to be done at a Ford dealer. Needless to say, my experience with Ford dealers in terms of repairs was that they take forever and charge exorbitantly. The car was once in their shop for 3 weeks. Fortunately, I only lived about 1.5 miles from my work, so I could walk while the car was in the shop.
This car was hungry for money/used parts, and virtually most expensive parts under the hood had to be replaced between 80000 and 100000 miles. To some extent, replacing an alternator, battery, brake service, muffler is to be expected, but I was disappointed in having to replace the gas tank, fuel pump (2) and tranny before I ever reached 100,000 miles.
This car also took oil, and was told by a reliable mechanic that both the V6 and the 302-V8 took a fair amount of oil.
I was not impressed with handling and braking of this car at all. Needed forever to stop and did not give a smooth ride.
I will give this car credit for the following:
1. The car had pretty good acceleration for a V6, and when it wasn't broken down, it had some serious giddy-up.
2. The car could really perform in snow and mud. I didn't have a great set of tires on this car, but the car would handle a foot of snow on the roads with no problem, and I bogged through at least 8-10" inches of mud on a mountain road with this car. To this day, I don't know how I got through that mud.
3. The interior was plush and loaded with amenities such as good stereo (AM-FM cassette) lighted visor mirrors and comfy seats. The car's heater could throw out serious heat within a matter of minutes. Only downsides were the LED dash (which takes some getting used to) and the air condition, which died around 80K.
4. Body styling was sharp; the mid-1980s T-bird (before the 1988 design change) was a very rakish car. Still like to see these cars on the road today.
I had a real love-hate relationship with this car. I liked the comfort and design of the car, but I was always fixing this car. Spent many a weekend under the hood of the car, and I spent $5000 on parts and repairs in the three years I drove the car. Perhaps Ford has gotten its act together since the mid-1980s, but I would be extremely reluctant to buy another Ford vehicle. There are mid-1980s T-birds out there to be had cheap, but who should buy one? Not people looking for a reliable car, but perhaps a young guy who wants to get experience working on a car. You'll get plenty of practice, but if you have the cash and the time, you can get a comfortable, stylish used car, and if you find a V8 Turbo, you'll get some good power as well.