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Will
Will UltraDork
2/25/17 12:46 p.m.

I know GRM isn't gaga over the MN12 platform, but when I got mine in 2001, I thought it was the greatest thing ever: a V8, two doors, RWD and an IRS.

Here are a couple shots from 10+ years ago:

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I loved this car. I drag raced it, ran the road course at the California Speedway, autocrossed it and drove it across the country from California to Tennessee.

Unfortunately, by 09 or so, it had a number of minor problems that led me to park it: charging issues, exhaust leak, popping noises in the front suspension and a driveline vibration. I had plenty of other cars, so it was easier to let it sit than to deal with it.

Now I've decided to make it my daily driver again, but time is cruel to cars parked outside. Here's the car after more than 8 years of sitting. It looks worse in person--the paint is flaking off in spots, and it's become home to quite a bit of lichen. And yes, the headlight lenses fell the berkeley off:

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Note the giant wasp nest on the underside of the hood:

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But this isn't going to be a restoration. The 205 hp 4.6 is the worst part about the car, so it's got to go.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/25/17 12:59 p.m.

First, a bit about what I do and don't want this car to be: I do want it to be a nice daily driver. I don't want it to be an over-the-top built that sacrifices comfort and street manners for performance. I already have a pretty stout Supercoupe, and don't need to replicate that car.

So in choosing a new engine, I wanted something reliable and easy to install, but with more power than the original 4.6. I considered a Mark 8 swap, but chose this instead:

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That's an Explorer 4.6, which means it's the same 260 hp engine that the 99-04 Mustang GT got, but with an aluminum block to save something like 70 pounds. And since the 4.6 in my car predates even the NPI 4.6, it has an aluminum intake--that means the new engine will save yet another 15-20 pounds over the original.

I'm still a way off from installing the engine, but I took the time to remove all the stuff I won't need and give it a once-over. It supposedly has 99k miles, which is really nothing for a 4.6. The intake was cracked, so I'll have to replace that, and the valley of the engine was filthy, but inside, it doesn't look too bad so far.

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I haven't taken the oil pan off yet, but the oil that was left in the pan and filter showed nothing of concern.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/25/17 1:09 p.m.

I'm probably going to jump around a lot from one aspect of this project to another based on which parts I have available at the time.

Originally, this was essentially a zero-option V8 car: no sunroof, cloth seats, drum rear brakes, no remote entry, etc. Several years back I located a set of leather, full-power seats from a Supercoupe. Installing the fold-down rears meant swapping the V-shaped brace from behind the rear seat with C-shaped braces that came on the SC:

0010

When I bought it, I just sort of assumed all cars from this era came with fold-down rear seats, and was really annoyed when I learned mine didn't. Now that's fixed, but it does mean the rear shock tower brace needs to go:

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That's better:

0011

Mad_Ratel
Mad_Ratel Dork
2/25/17 2:01 p.m.

toccoa

your best friend. My fil bought his 1996 new. I bought it from him in 2012 after sitting from 2008 (when my wife stopped using it for college). 600 bucks in suspension overhaul and it was wonderful. Sold it to a local guy. Still miss that car.

Let me know if this image does not show up.

Mad_Ratel
Mad_Ratel Dork
2/25/17 2:07 p.m.

Just emailed someone that knows the people I sold it to to see if they were interested in selling it back...

eastsidemav
eastsidemav SuperDork
2/25/17 7:03 p.m.

Nice to see someone else likes them A 1995 T-Bird V8 was the first "new-ish" car I ever bought, back in 1997. It was one of the best road trip cars I've ever owned.

Mad_Ratel
Mad_Ratel Dork
2/25/17 8:07 p.m.

I sold it because the wife had an edge and I had her mustang. Then she wanted the mustang back and I traded the edge on a f150.. (b/c family).

Owner says he cannot part with it just yet. : ( 3 years and not an issue...

We have a road here that I always turn into and floor it. The tbird would hit 70 before i'd slow down. The mustang could hit 100 long before the same physical point. (2012 gt)... But the tbird just was nice to drive. I'd love to coyote swap with a manual one...

RossD
RossD UltimaDork
2/25/17 8:20 p.m.

I would like to do a coyote manual Mn12 too, for a DD type. I am excited for this build.

Cooper_Tired
Cooper_Tired HalfDork
2/25/17 8:51 p.m.

Yes!

I dig these cars, and it makes me sad they get almost 0 attention. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

My parents had a 93 LX while I was growing up. Because of that car, I've day dreamed about picking one up to play with. Is yours still an auto?

Agent98
Agent98 New Reader
2/25/17 9:02 p.m.

Had a 1994, also base model 4.6. Great car, very unappreciated. V8 IRS, plenty of room inside, never understood the hate...1994 was the first year I believe of OBDII -- check engine light became known as the "check wallet" light...

Now maybe this one bad color combo....

tan with a green interior.....

Mad_Ratel
Mad_Ratel Dork
2/26/17 5:32 a.m.
Agent98 wrote: Had a 1994, also base model 4.6. Great car, very unappreciated. V8 IRS, plenty of room inside, never understood the hate...1994 was the first year I believe of OBDII -- check engine light became known as the "check wallet" light... Now maybe this one bad color combo.... tan with a green interior.....

after the forth service for the gas tank plug my fil put a piece of tape over the CEL. He'd also walk around in front of it occasionally, open the hood "yup engine's still there!"

Agent98
Agent98 New Reader
2/26/17 8:07 a.m.

Reverse a refrigerator magnet. place in front of CEL. Trim to fit if needed. Magnet is exact same color as dash background. Light cannot shine through it due to the density of the filled rubber.

appliance_racer
appliance_racer New Reader
2/26/17 11:02 a.m.

Had a 96 bird. I loved that car and of course now miss it. I also wonder why this car is so overlooked. Mustangs are "sexy" and all but damn the t-bird was such a nice car to drive. I've seen a couple at auto crosses and they seem to be competitive with some GRM ingenuity. Does anybody really know why these cars are ignored? Are they impossibly overweight? Can't be any worse than any of the new pony cars.
I really am considering one for a challenge build.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/26/17 12:38 p.m.

Glad to see some people chiming in. I was worried I might be talking to myself in here.

To reply to a few comments/questions: When I was driving this car I was active on TCCoA, but as I got more into my Supercoupe, I pretty much moved over to SCCoA. I haven't posted on TCCoA in years, but still have an account if I need to ask questions.

I plan on keeping the automatic in this car. My SC is a 5-speed, and again, I don't need to try to build something identical. Besides, all my other cars have manual transmissions, and I don't think it's a bad idea to have one automatic in the flock.

A Coyote swap would be pretty cool, and there's a guy on SCCoA who's done just that with one of these cars. But that would be more work and a lot more money than this swap.

Getting back into the project: I've gone kind of nuts with weight reduction on my Supercoupe. It currently weighs about 3,370 pounds or so, which is very light by the standards of these cars. I've gone so far as to replace steel idler pulleys with plastic ones and gut the wiring harness for all the wires, switches, etc. I wasn't using anymore. I"m not going to do anything like that on this car, but I will go for some of the easy weight reduction.

That brings me to the rear suspension. I put some good parts on this car back in the day. I converted the rear drums to discs, added Koni shocks, Eibach springs and braided brake lines. The shocks appear a little rusty from sitting (if I have to replace them, I've got some old NLA Bilsteins that should be nearly as good).

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What does that have to do with weight reduction? Well, one of the best ways to shave weight from these cars is to replace the cast iron lower control arms with aluminum Mark VIII arms. It's (mostly) a direct bolt-in, and saves a bit over 30 pounds. Below, the T-Bird arm is on the left, and the Mark arm is on the right:

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The Mark came with factory air suspension, so it doesn't have a spring perch. I picked up a set of aluminum perches (used in conjunction with urethane spring isolators, not pictured) from my friend Bill at Supercoupe Performance. I also replaced the toe compensator link with new ones I had lying around.

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A couple important notes about the Mark 8 arms: First, they don't use the same knuckle bolts as the T-Bird. If you grab a set of the Mark 8 arms, make sure you get the Torx knuckle bolts, too. Second: The Mark 8 arms only have one mounting tab per bolt (compare to the T-Bird arms earlier). 0041

Why is that important? Because it makes it theoretically possible to rip the knuckles off the control arms. Look at this next pic. This is from my Supercoupe--it has Mark 8 control arms as well, and at the time, urethane knuckle bushings. After a couple (literally just 2-3) 1.6X 60-foot launches at the drag strip, the combination of traction and torque nearly ripped the knuckles right the berkeley off the bushings. A few more probably would have caused a serious, serious problem. I can't stress this enough: Do not use urethane knuckle bushings, Mark 8 control arms, and drag slicks together. 0006 I've since replaced the knuckle bushings on my SC with delrin, and haven't had any problems since.

Caleb
Caleb Reader
2/26/17 2:00 p.m.

I've always really liked these cars, there only flaw as far as i'm concerned was that they never offered the v8 models with a factory manual option but i guess that wasn't the market segment they where after lol

appliance_racer
appliance_racer New Reader
2/26/17 3:44 p.m.

Good info about the rear arms. You're definitely not talking to yourself, I'm already enjoying the build. Please keep us up to date.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/26/17 4:11 p.m.

Wanted to add another picture of that destroyed bushing from my SC. If you're wondering if maybe a lip on the other end of the bushing would prevent them from pulling out of the knuckle...there used to be one. It was completely ripped off.

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To address some of the questions about why these cars aren't more popular: yes, weight is a big part of it. Each of the past three years I've brought my wheel scales to the Supercoupe Shootout, an all-MN12 drag race/car show. I've had the chance to weigh 26 different cars, and the average of all of them is 3,778 pounds. That's a little lighter than some people assume about these cars, but it's still a lot heavier than almost any Mustang.

The second problem is aftermarket. There's some support out there for these cars, but it's nothing like the Mustang aftermarket. Some people think these cars share a platform with the Mustang, but that's not the case. There's a degree of parts interchange (brakes, engine stuff, parts bin stuff), but the suspensions are completely different.

And then you get differences that are just Ford kicking us in the nads, like the goofball 5x4.25 bolt pattern that prevents the use of Mustang wheels (though a hub swap can fix that).

Agent98
Agent98 New Reader
2/26/17 4:26 p.m.

Thinking of jumping into the MN12 whirlpool yet again... any parts interchange with Fox bodies -

-tubular control arms, engine cradle, etc?

Will
Will UltraDork
2/26/17 4:35 p.m.
Agent98 wrote: Thinking of jumping into the MN12 whirlpool yet again... any parts interchange with Fox bodies - -tubular control arms, engine cradle, etc?

None at all.

therealpinto
therealpinto New Reader
2/27/17 8:35 a.m.

Interesting build for me, but for a rather strange reason I guess. I have started looking at these in Sweden, for a pickup project, and I think this thread may be valuable.

Why a pickup?

We have some rather strange rules in Sweden allowing 16 year olds (18 is our drivers licence age) to drive speed restricted cars if they are made into pickups with small beds (or has a mid engine...). My daughter who now is 12 is very set of having one of those and it has to be a Ford. With the way the rules are today rwd is almost a must (usually double gearboxes or a reduction gear is needed).

A V6 T-bird actually is one of the cheaper rwd Fords you can get here and I have come to think that the sloping C-pillar could work pretty well as a "ute". I also need a really low revving engine (the lower the better) and the 3.8 V6 seems to be a decent candidate.

So now I am gathering some inspiration. I might just have found it :-)

Gustaf

edizzle89
edizzle89 Dork
2/27/17 1:59 p.m.

i think they aren't very popular for the same reasons the mark viii (which is basically the same car but with 290 hp) isn't super popular. somewhat heavy, never offered with a manual, and never marketed in any kind of 'sporty' way.

There are quite a few places that sell mod motor-to-LS motor mounts. a sleek coupe with IRS and LS power would be a fun combo

Agent98
Agent98 New Reader
2/27/17 4:11 p.m.

They had a manual only in the V6SC .. rare.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/27/17 6:06 p.m.

Ever look back at a styling trend that seemed awesome at the time, and then wonder what the hell you were thinking? White-faced gauges, I’m looking at you.

Man, did I think those were cool. I installed one set of overlays, then bought a whole new cluster because it had the 145 mph speedo from the 94-95 SC. The fact that the tach actually said "Cougar" on it didn't seem to matter at the time:

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To me, at least, this look hasn’t aged well at all. It's like carbon dating for car trends, one of those things that lets you pinpoint within 2-3 years exactly when a car was modified. So I decided to reinstall the stock gauges. But first I had to hunt down another 145 mph speedo, because the stock 120 mph one just isn't cool either.

0023

I reset the odometer to match the car's actual mileage. And the odometers in these cars all fail eventually because the plastic gears strip, so I decided to check them out before I put the new speedo in the car.

Yep, they're bad. Notice the missing teeth on the blue gear: 0024

Ah, this is better. Nothing fancy, but it doesn’t look nearly as dated. 0033

While I was at it, I replaced the regular 194 gauge cluster bulbs with LEDs. These cars have a bit of a dark spot at the top of the speedo, and I'm hoping the LEDs help.

Will
Will UltraDork
2/28/17 6:54 p.m.

One of the things I've missed while daily driving an SW20 the past few years has been cupholders. To me, they're like a pistol, seatbelts, or a fire extinguisher: you might not actually need them very often, but when you do, you really do.

Unfortunately, the cupholders that came with my car are terrible. They’re hidden inside the center console armrest, which means you can’t use them if you have much of anything in the console, you can’t use the armrest and the cupholders at the same time, and you have to reach more or less behind you if you actually want to take a drink. Here’s a look at the ones in my 94 SC:

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Related: it's amazing how well camera flash reveals dust & grime. Looks as i I've got some cleaning to do. Don't judge me.

In 1996 Ford redesigned the shift surround/console lid with usable cupholders. I added them to my LX years ago:

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Somehow, the console on the car I haven't driven in 8 years is cleaner than the one I drove last weekend.

Also, notice that the ashtray/cigarette lighter is in the console in the 94-95 (the door just below the handbrake). For 96-97, Ford moved them to the bottom DIN slot in the dash. I added that part just for the cigarette lighter.

Speaking of the handbrake, only Supercoupes got them. All other T-birds of the era came with a foot e-brake. You can swap in cupholders or the handbrake, but can't have both in the same car. For this car I chose the cupholders because I can put the car, but not a drink, in park.

eastsidemav
eastsidemav SuperDork
2/28/17 8:48 p.m.

In reply to Will:

I had forgotten about that cupholder design in my old car. Made it kind of awkward for the passenger. Nice to see that Ford improved the interior design for the 96-97 models, since they screwed up the exterior.

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