North American Turbocoupe Organization

Installing a T3 on an 87/88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
andrewjs18 Offline
Installing a T3 on an 87/88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
by Brian Stanton (Trashline)

Most would agree a beginner upgrade turbo wise for the latest bird would be a T3. If the turbo you get came from a ford chances are the compressor housing is a .60 A/R and the exhaust is either a .48 or a .63. The .48 has faster spool up then the .63 but will run out in the higher end before the .63 will. Depending on your application choose the one that’s right for you. To start will be a list of items I needed to make the install a success. Take note this is for guidance only work at your own risk and be safe.

1) T3 turbo
2) T3 return line, has a larger bolt flange then the IHI return line
3) T3 elbow w/ waste gate actuator this setup is totally different then the IHI
   waste gate so nothing can be used from the IHI.
4) Two 5/16 brake lines one 12” the other 20” both sold at AutoZone.
5) One street L ¼ npt
6) Two ¼ npt flared fittings so the 5/16 brake lines will screw right into them.
   Bring the brake line with you and the turbo if you can to ACE hardware.
7) Teflon tape for supply lines
8) SVO compressor housing, unless you are going to make a pipe flange to
   mount the stock IC or grind off the ears from the TC compressor housing.
9) 10.9 class bolts to mount the elbow to the turbine housing. I used 8MM X
   20MM which were bought from
10) VAM hose adapter to the compressor. You can use the IHI one and it will be
     angled down but can work with the VAM attached to a K&N filter and no air

So to start off I drained the coolant, now is a good time to flush the system anyway since your draining it. While that is flowing out unhook the intercooler and remove completely. Unhook the O2 sensor electrically and unscrew it.  Unhook all steel lines to the turbo this way you have full access to the nuts holding the turbo on. By this time you can put the drain cock back in for the radiator as it should be empty. Once all the steel lines are removed unhook the VAM hose from the compressor housing. No need to remove the VAM as it doesn’t get in the way.

The 17 mm nuts holding the turbo to the manifold are tough. I went to the local re-tool and picked up a used 17MM wrench that had a good box end. I had to grind it down to make it skinny enough to fit in the walls of the exhaust man. I also had to grind down the outer part of the wrench to make it as thin of a wall as possible. With this I was able to remove the top two nuts and the front bottom nut. With another wrench you can put the box end onto the wrench side of the 17MM wrench to get a bit more torque.


Once everything is taken off the top it's time for the bottom. I jacked the car up and put the front end on stands. Remove the exhaust down pipe completely, whether you can do it before or after the cat, it doesn’t matter.  The more room the better. I was able to do the job with it still hooked up but it was tight even with my skinny arms. Next take the starter out. This is another I did with it unbolted but stuffed towards the front or you can unbolt the cross member bar and take the starter all the way out. Now you have clear view of the bottom. This is where it is nice you drained the radiator because when you remove the coolant return line coolant would flow out like it did all over me. Have a catch pail there just in case. With the coolant return gone, remove the bottom turbo support bracket bolt. Then work on the last back 17MM nut from the turbo. The brace once pulled off the studs will fall down and out of the way. Now I unbolted the oil return from the turbo b/c I knew the flared nut attached to the block would be a pain and it was. Do not twist the return line or it will leak. The turbo should pull off the studs now. Take the car off jack stands and take the turbo out and remove the return line. You need the 45* elbow that screws into the block so don’t trash it.

Now to the install, which is where the fun is. Put the new metal gasket on the exhaust man studs at the turbo flange. You might need to use a deep socket and hammer it onto the studs. Make sure the new turbo is put together correctly. Meaning the compressor housing is clocked correctly. This way the waste gate will work. The best way to get it clocked or close is to loosen the bolts holding the compressor on with the waste gate on slide it clockwise or counterclockwise which ever points the compressor exit at a 110* angle from the exhaust manifold. This will get you close enough to the correct position. Final adjustments might need to be made if the waste gate hits the manifold or anything else. Make sure the elbow is attached and tight. Put the oil return line on as well using good Teflon tape on the ends. Clean up the return line fitting on the block too. Don’t forget the gasket for the oil return line on the turbo either. I didn’t tighten the turbo down all the way until I had the coolant lines mocked up. For the supply I used the street L turning straight up and the flared fitting screwed into that. Attach the 5/16 brake line and come up about 4 inches turn it towards the head and when you get about 3 inches from the steel coolant line that was used for the IHI, which will allow you to reuse the rubber line from the IHI. Cut the steel line with a die grinder, or small tubing cutter.


The return line you need just the ¼ npt flared fitting to attach the 5/16 line to come out and make a hard left towards the back of the car. Run overtop and as close to the exhaust manifold as possible, drop down and about two inches loop it towards the passenger side and then run it back into the block. Once this is setup tighten the top two nuts, and all the new steel lines. Don’t forget the Teflon tape on all threaded seals. A side note on the return line; there should be a fitting on the block to screw the 5/16 reverse flair fitting into. If it's not there, this is where you might need a 1/4" brake line. After these are tight put the O2 sensor in, hook up the water supply and hook up the original oil supply line which will need a little bending. The Oil supply line should be handled with care you could risk the chance of damaging it. Don’t install the water return yet that will be later. This way you have room under the car to install the rest of the parts.

Bottom again, jack the car up and put on stands. Reattach the oil return, and now put the turbo support bracket on. You can modify the support bracket as shown to make it easier to work with Slide it over the studs and put the bottom screw nut thingy back on. Tighten the bottom two nuts.


Reach over the top and attach the water return. I said wait this way you don’t hit it and crack it or break it or you will have to bend a new one. Also a side note. If you don’t have a tubing bender, use a small glass bottle and push on it. Go back under and install the water line. On my turbo (IHI) it used 5/16 water lines so the fittings went pretty simple. You might need to use ¼ lines. Attach the return. The exhaust down pipe flange needs to be ground down to have the holes elongated towards the center because the T3 elbow studs are closer together. I cut it with a wheel and ground it with another wheel so that it was slotted. Also watch the location of the water return so it doesn’t hit the exhaust pipe. Now you can put the exhaust back up and reinstall the starter. Make sure everything underneath is put back on and tight.

Take the car off stands. Make sure all the lines are tight. Put the VAM hose adapter on so that it is facing down. You can still get the hose on it. It might be a little tight with the A/C stuff there but it can be done. Bend the breather line to mate the fittings new location. Depending on your compressor setup hook up the IC and make sure all your vacuum lines are back on and everything it cleaned up good and tight here. Refill the antifreeze. Take it for a drive and enjoy the new horsepower.


  1. 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 16mm ,17mm, 18mm wrenches
  2. sockets for the above wrench sizes with extensions
  3. channel lock pliers
  4. flaring tool for the tubing to shorten but it isn’t needed
  5. pipe cutter
  6. adjustable wrench
  7. die grinder
  8. files
  9. jack stands
  10. jack
  11. I could be missing some but this is a good start


  1. The wrench is a must, grinding it is the only way to go.
  2. Use Teflon tape on all your fitting connections. However be careful and don’t put any on the last thread, so you don’t risk it getting into the fluids.
  3. Take your time; don’t drink till you’re done. It took me 11 hours to finish this and still had problems because I did it in one day with a couple mess ups which is the reason for this write-up.
  4. Make sure you have all your parts before you start, so you don’t have to run out every 10 minutes for new parts.
  5. All thread pitches are 1.25 and are all metric bolts and nuts.
  6. Watch the bends on the tubes you don’t want to close the tubing this will hinder flow. It might happen so just be careful.

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