By Dave Turner
Excitement Regained, Thunderbird, the Ninth Generation 1983-1988
After the rather square-rigged and perhaps a little un-exciting pre-ceding T’birds of 1980-82, the new aerodynamic cars for 1983 came as quite a shock. There were two main aims when this car was planned, better fuel consumption and appeal to the under forty buyer. Work in the wind tunnel achieved the former while up to the minute styling and technology certainly attracted the younger generation.
Initially two versions of the ’83 T’bird were the regular, or standard issue, and the Heritage featuring an electronic instrument panel and other modern gadgets. A single engine choice was the 3.8 litre V6. However early in 1983 the Turbo Coupe was announced featuring a 2.3 litre 4 cylinder turbo-charged engine. At the same time a 5.0 litre V8 became another option. All this must have been what the public wanted as production of Thunderbirds for 1983 was three times that of the old model in 1982.
No real changes came for 1984 other than a bit of range juggling – the Heritage became the Elan while a fourth version was introduced – the FILA the latter inspired by the sportswear range favoured by contemporary “yuppies” . More minor changes identify the 1985 cars, larger and fewer apertures in the grille, a new instrument panel and a new tail light layout with the back-up lights included together with a smaller Thunderbird insignia. In January 1985 a 30th Anniversary limited edition came with a blue metallic finish, around 5,000 were produced. Little change came for ’86, the FILA was dropped and a high level brake light was incorporated on the rear parcel shelf.
A restyled body came for 1987 but it is still considered to be part of the ninth generation. Flush headlights in a streamlined nose combined with even more aerodynamic body lines made for an even more slippery outline. Standard engine was the 3,8 litre V6. The Sport model came with the 5.0 V8 and this was optional on the LX. The Turbo Coupe continued with the 2.3 in-line 4 and was easily identified by its smooth nose omitting the shallow grille of the other models. 1988 cars were little changed in anticipation of the forthcoming new 1989, tenth generation model.
Very few actual ‘models’ of 9th gen. T’birds have surfaced, the vast majority of miniatures being contemporary toys of one sort or another.
Contemporary toys comprise the vast proportion of miniature 9th generation Thunderbirds, typical is the 1:64 diecast offering in the Road Champs/Road Tough range. Whizz wheels, suspension and opening doors complement the play value while the cast body is quite accurate in a simple way while the grille approximates a 1983/4 vehicle. Along the same lines but slightly smaller and even simpler is a 1:68 ’83/84 from Yatming and another similar toy came from the Zee Toys/Zylmex range in the 1990s, possibly even using the same tooling as the Yatming. Both these have an outline that suggests they are meant to represent Nascar racers but at least the Yatming features a simple but stock plastic interior.
Majorette joined in the activity with their ’83/84 coupe as part of their 200m Series from the mid 1980s for around ten years. Fast wheels, suspension and an opening hood were included to appeal to the play element while a huge tow hook meant it could be attached to some of Majorettes varieties of trailers. A split diecast body allows for a black plastic insert to represent the bumpers and side mouldings. Yet another entry into this small toy group is the 1:66 example from Ertl although this one featured the ’85/86 Grille pattern.
The French Starter range of resin kits invariably features competition subjects but on at least one occasion they re-tooled a racer into a 1:43 road car with their ’84/85 Turbo Coupe. Although listed as an ’86, it features the earlier grille pattern while the smaller details including the instrument panel decal are correct for a Turbo Coupe. During its almost 30 year wait to be built on the ‘kit shelf’ the resin body seems to have shrunk in relation to the plastic base.
A rather larger plastic toy came from the US Bergman/Processed Plastic operation carrying decals announcing that the car is ‘Sonny’s Streaker’ . Sufficient detail is present to identify the ’85/86 grille. Even bigger is the remote control ’85/6 coupe from Scientific Toys and this features a trigger control for forward or backward movement.
Moving on to the sleeker ’87/88 cars, all of which found so far feature the Turbo Coupe. Matchbox joined in with several variations of their Turbo Coupe and that turns out a be quite a nice miniature. However the issue under the ‘World Class’ label not only features plated windows but rather unattractive maga-wide wheels that detract significantly from the otherwise pleasant appearance. Tootsietoy offered a couple of Turbo Coupes, a reasonably well-detailed 1:43 Chinese made diecast and a huge US made plastic toy. Even bigger is a plastic toy from New Bright and this is nicely detailed complete with the correct aluminium pattern wheels.
Monogram were on the ball with their 1:24 plastic kit for a Turbo Coupe as the box is dated 1986. Finally we have a little and very basic Turbo Coupe the base of which carries a stylised “Z” together with J102 and the inevitable ‘Made in China”.
Photographs by the author are included in the gallery below with a list of illustrations below the gallery.
Illustrations: Ford Thunderbird 1983-88
- Tootsietoy: 1:43 diecast from China: 1987 Turbo Coupe.
- New Bright, 1:17 plastic from Hong Kong: 1987 Turbo Coupe
- Bergman/Processed Plastic, 1:27 plastic from USA: 4605 1985 Coupe
- Road Champs, 1:64 diecast from China: 6500 1984 Coupe.
- Matchbox 1:67 diecast from Macau: 28 1987 Turbo Coupe
- Majorette 1:65 diecast from France: 217 1984 Coupe
- Monogram 1:24 plastic kit from USA: 2735 1987 Turbo Coupe
- Tootsietoy 1:19 plastic from USA: 1987 Turbo Coupe
- Matchbox 1:67 diecast from Macau: 11 1987 Turbo Coupe in the “World Class” series.
- Scientific Toys 1:20 plastic: 7112TR 1985 Coupe, remote control.
- Ertl 1:66 diecast from China: 1329 1985 Coupe
- Yatming 1:68 diecast from Hong Kong: 1033 1983 Coupe
- “Z” 1:75 Diecast from China: J102 1987 Turbo Coupe
Model Summary Details
|Zee Toys/Zylmex||Hong Kong||P390||’83/84||1:64||Diecast|
|Starter||France||1987||’84 Turbo Coupe||118mm||1:43||Resin kit|
|Scientific Toys||7112TR||’85/86||247mm||1:20||Plastic remote|
|Matchbox||Macau||28||1987||’87 Turbo Coupe||77mm||1:67||Diecast|
|Matchbox||Macau||11||’87 Turbo Coupe||77mm||1:87||Diecast|
|Tootsietoy||China||’87 Turbo Coupe||119mm||1:43||Diecast|
|Tootsietoy||USA||’87 Turbo Coupe||268mm||1:19||Plastic|
|New Bright||Hong Kong||1988||’87 Turbo Coupe||304mm||1:17||Plastic|
|Monogram||USA||2735||1986||’87 Turbo Coupe||1:24||Plastic kit|
|“Z”||China||J102||’87 Turbo Coupe||69mm||1:75||Diecast|
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