1996 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6 from North America

Summary:

Rear wheel drive V8's are now a part of history

Faults:

Intake manifold, head gasket, upper and lower control arm and ball joints, coil packs, spark plug wires.

General Comments:

The 96 Thunderbird has an elderly driver reputation. Not a lot of young people drive Thunderbirds because of the automatic transmission. That's why they are so underestimated. With the automatic transmission in low gear and the overdrive on, it is a beast for a stock 4.6L. Many can argue that there may be more horse power than 205-215.

I bought my 'bird from a used car lot and it had problems. The second day I drove my 'bird, the thermostat blew, which caused it to overheat. The intake manifold, bonded with JB Weld, was leaking coolant directly into the 8th cylinder, causing a misfire. The auto repair wanted $800+ to fix it. Thinking that it wasn't worth fixing, I didn't get it fixed until it was too late. Every other day I remove the spark plug and clean the coolant off; it ran fine. Then the heater core hose broke and caused the motor to overheat again. Finally, I replaced the intake, however I rode my 'bird till the wheels fell off. The catalytic converters were clogged with coolant. She was dead!

I was going to junk my 'bird after only 6 months of driving her and lease a new car, until I was persuaded otherwise by a mechanic, because the body and interior were like new, and the heater and A/C still worked properly.

So I decided to do an engine swap. But there was still one costly problem. My catalytic converters were clogged. My mechanic managed to clear two of three cats, but the 3rd was impossible. However, there are always alternatives for everything. At first my mechanic wanted to cut the cats off, which would have been too loud. The second option was to drill 1/2 inch holes into the pipe; I went with the second option. This is why the 4.6 is bulletproof. I ran that car for 3 months with two holes in the pipes, and she never ran hot. I eventually put new cats on and she ran like a new car. She is now appreciated and respected. My 'bird made my heart skip a beat a few times underestimating its power. This car is a classic, and when she dies again I will resurrect it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 1st March, 2014

23rd Mar 2014, 10:49

"Rear wheel drive V8's are now a part of history"

Uh, no, not when I can walk into any Ford/Chevy/Dodge dealer and buy a brand new one, if I felt like it.

1996 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6L V8 from North America

Summary:

A great long distance cruiser - they don't make them like this any more

Faults:

*I found out that the previous owner of this vehicle was a felon, and obviously beat this car up. I doubt the car would have had this many problems if the previous owner did normal maintenance*

These were present when I purchased the vehicle:

Wear and tear on seats/dashboard.

Leaking power steering fluid.

Excessive oil consumption.

Power locks and cruise control did not work.

These repairs were needed during ownership:

Radiator grille @137.5k - $820.

Rebuilt transmission @139k - $990.

Exhaust malfunction @ 140k - $600.

My vehicle is currently in the shop, because the catalytic converter and rack and pinion system are dying.

General Comments:

I bought this car after I had been without a car for a couple of years. I moved to an area where a car was necessary, and as I was low on funds, had to buy from a less than honest used car dealership.

I have always found these cars, the MN12 series, interesting; they are sometimes referred to as an "American 6 series". They really don't make cars like this anymore. The styling is appealing from certain angles - the front is aggressive, with a very nice sloping hood. The side view is also good looking, with the long doors and low profile.

The interior is, in my opinion, one of the better ones done by Ford in the 90s. However, like most 90's Fords, it's a rattle trap - above 70mph, the rattling is loud and annoying. Most of the 90's Fords have a rattling problem, but this car felt much more solid at higher mileage than my 94 Probe GT did at lower mileage.

The seats are very nice looking, and comfortable as well - however, they could use more lower back support or long drives.

The controls are basic, but fall very easily into the driver's hands.

My car came with the power drivers seat, and the controls worked well. It was easy to find a good driving position. I like the leather wrapped shifter, and the steering wheel feels nice in the driver's hands.

The cup holders, however, are terrible. They are located on the inside of the center console, and are basically impossible to use, so I always put my drinks between the passengers seat and console, or between the drivers seat and door jam. Ford really screwed up on the cup holders, which is a shame, as this car is great as a cruiser.

The back seats are small, but adults can ride in them for short to medium lengths of time. There are belts for 3 passengers in the back, but in reality only 2 can fit, as the drive shaft leaves no room for the middle passenger in the back.

As I stated above, this vehicle is great for long distance cruising. These 4.6L V8s are basically bulletproof, and will run forever. The 96 Thunderbird's 4.6L comes with 205hp @ 4500rpm and 280lbs of torque at 3000rpm. 0 to 60 arrives in the low 8 second range, with the 1/4 mile coming between 16 and 17 seconds - not bad for the time, and still quite above average for today. The power comes on smooth and builds into the higher rev range. Torque off the line is great, but the car doesn't really begin to pull hard until 3000rpm. Freeway passing power is very good.

Gas mileage is OK, better than my 2007 Mustang GT - I think I get around 16 to 17 MPG around town and 25 to 26 MPG highway. The car takes regular grade, which helps expenses a bit.

These cars come equipped with a 4 speed automatic transmission, which gear hunts a bit upon downshifts. A manual transmission would have suited this engine better, and made it much more 'fun' to drive, but this wasn't meant to be a sports car; it was designed to be a powerful long distance GT, and the engine and transmission allow this car to complete its mission very well.

This car comes with an independent rear suspension, and handles very well for a big coupe, partly due also to the car being so low to the ground. It is very fun to throw into corners, and holds its own for such a heavy car. The ride is very comfortable, and glides over bumps and potholes (although I'm sure it rode way better when newer). Braking is adequate, although I'm sure the next owner may need new pads in the next year.

As far as reliability, I know for a fact that the previous owner beat on it, and therefore I cannot blame the car itself for some of the problems. However, the amount of repairs I had to pay for was aggravating, and will add up to more than the car is valued at. On a side note, these cars are very hard to sell on a used lot apparently. The demand for personal luxury coupes died out in the mid 90s.

I would like to keep this as a second car, as it is great in traffic. This is just an overall comfortable and powerful car, great to eat up long drives. I just bought a 2007 Mustang GT, so I cannot afford two cars, or I would keep it as a daily driver.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th March, 2012

18th Mar 2012, 11:43

Great review! My grandfather has owned a '97 T-Bird since new, and that was the car that made me want to be an automotive engineer (he brought it home when I was 4, and I'm 18 now)! This is my dream car!

9th Aug 2012, 09:35

Awesome review, learned a lot about the car! I just traded my friend, because he had a kid, and now I have a 1996 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6L V8, and it is a monster on those streets. Thanks for posting the spec of it, because it's nice to know what I'm getting into ha.

3rd Mar 2014, 02:19

I'm a convicted felon too, and take excellent care of ALL my vehicles. Whatcha tryin to say?? :-P

3rd Mar 2014, 11:31

Good question!

It's just an opinion, but I think the non-convicted felons are just as bad on cars. And exemptions confirm the rule.

19th Mar 2014, 22:43

Haha! I am the original reviewer, and I want to state that I have NOTHING against felons - I technically should be one myself, just lucky I never got caught up! :)

25th Nov 2014, 16:37

I have a 1996 4.6 V8 Ford Thunderbird that has 314,685 miles on it and still runs. It was sold to my father after the person drove it until the wheel fell off and the tie rod broke on the driver's side, but the only thing that I have had issues with is the fact that it burns oil like it would burn gasoline. But overall this brand of car gets a good review, and also fits the name "Built Ford Tough". Let's just say take care of your car and it will take care of you.