North American Turbocoupe Organization

"Just bought a TC" FAQ (updated)
tr_guy79 Offline
Senior Member
Guys, I am putting this together since we often see this post. Having just added a TC to my stable, a lot of this is still fresh in my mind... It is a work in progress, but I look forward to your feed back....


DISCLAIMER: It is important when purchasing any vehicle to ensure that all safety and government required equipment is present and operation satisfactorily. If you are unable to check/test these items yourself, a competent third party should do so.

The Thunderbird TurboCoupe, though a great vehicle, does have some areas that should be looked at upon purchase (and during ownership) as they can cause poor running, reduced performance, or cause the vehicle not to run at all. Most items are very easily checked/adjusted and can greatly reduce later headache and drivability issues. The items listed are not a “be all, end all” but will get ensure that your TC ownership does not start with a sour taste in your mouth

1--Tune Up:
Unless you know for sure the last time the engine was tuned up, and the proper parts were used, this is ALWAYS a good starting point on ANY newly acquired vehicle. Though this my seem like a given, it is pointed out since the Turbo Coupe has some unique requirements

Ignition Wires: You may be tempted to put whatever brand happens to be cheapest at your local parts store, or to go all out and buy high performance wires. While this method of attack works quite fine for most vehicles, it has been PROVEN time and time again by members of NATO, that unless you use Motorcraft (Ford) wires, you are running the risk of odd misfires, and breaking up under boost. I have personally had this happen. A set of $120 Jacob’s Ceramic boot wires caused horrible misfires. There has been SOME luck with AutoZone wires by myself, but it is still recommended that Motorcraft wires be used

Spark Plugs: Again it is recommended that Motorcraft is used. Although it does not seem to be as much of an issue as is seen with non OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) wires, there have been issues seen. If there are reasons that you do not want to use, or cannot find Motorcraft plugs, Autolite copper cores often work well, though I have firsthand, had issues with these. STAY AWAY FROM any “fancy” (Platinum/Double Platinum/Iridium etc…) plugs. On non-forced induction engines they DO offer longer life, and quite often, trumped up claims of increased performance, but they DO NOT work well with forced induction. You will quite often run into “spark blow out” (Feel free to use the search function for more information on that)

Rotor: This is the item inside the distributor cap that is responsible for getting the energy (spark) from the ignition coil wire, to the outputs for each ignition wire. There has not been as many issues seen with non OEM rotors, but two things to look for are, that it is brass contact, and not aluminum (true for any vehicle). It is also important to take the old rotor to the parts store with you, or at least remove the distributor cap and check for the style of rotor that you have. The types are very different from each other. You will either have a rotor that is a flat disc with two Phillips screws holding it down, or one that pushes onto the distributor shaft. If you have the flat style, and the parts guy (or girl) is insisting that your’s is a push on, have them pull one out for an ’83 Turbo Coupe (regardless of the year of yours). This will likely prove to be the correct item

Cap: Again, brass contact should be used as it will last longer for you. Other than that, the consensus seems to be, use what is the most cost effective.

Ignition Timing:
Ignition timing is crucial to a properly running engine. In order for the engine to “fire” the spark plug at the proper time, thus creating the most power and efficiency, you will need to set the timing of the spark plug firing. What you will be doing is setting the “base” ignition timing. This is the timing that engine will base all ignition timing off of.
You will need:
Timing light
Degreasing cleaner ie; Spray Nine, 409, Greased Lightning(optional)
Paper towels (optional)
3/8 drive (?15mm?) socket
A few 3/8 drive extensions
1. Take your cleaner and paper towels, and clean the timing cover marks if they are not clearly legible. They are located on the plastic tab at about the 2 o’clock position of the bottom (crank) pulley. You will be using these marks as a reference to set your base timing
2. Start and run the engine until normal operating temp is achieved, then shut down
3. Disconnect the SPOUT. This will either be a rectangular shunt (aka pill) on two wires near the distributor (87-88?), or a black plug inline on a yellow wire (83-86?) in the same location
4. Get your socket and extensions on the distributor hold down bolt. This can be tricky, as the PCV gets in the way (we’ll replace it later). The best method is to look in through the gap between the alternator and timing cover to line the socket up with the bolt. Just take your time and be patient, it may take a few tries
5. Loosen the hold down bolt, and retighten until it is just snug. Leave your socket, ratchet and extensions attached. Be sure they will not interfere with any moving parts when the engine is started
6. Connect your timing light. Cylinder #1 is the front cylinder
7. Restart the engine
8. Activate/turn on your timing light and aim it at the timing marks you cleaned in step #1
9. You should see a notch on the rear of the crank pulley aligning with one of the marks on the timing cover. If you dot not,
a. Recheck #6
b. Recheck #3
c. If the timing mark is not at a steady location, there may be underlying problems. Post to the board, and we will help you diagnose
10. Factory recommended timing is 10* BTDC. For this procedure this is where we will set it. Your base timing can be changed, for performance gains later, but for now we are making sure everything is working properly.
11. Loosen the hold down bolt on the distributor just enough that you are able to rotate the distributor without needing a lot of force
12. It takes very little movement of the distributor to change the timing. Rotate your distributor until the notch on the rear of the crank pulley aligns with the “10” on the timing cover
13. Retighten the hold down bolt, and double check your timing again to make sure you didn’t inadvertently move the distributor
14. Shut down the engine
15. Reinstall/reconnect the SPOUT connector

Your base timing is now properly set. As mentioned, there are some changes you can make to the base timing to improve performance, throttle response, and fuel mileage, but it is important to make sure the engine is running properly BEFORE adjusting anything outside of factory specifications

Setting Base Idle:
In this step you will be setting the base idle, or the speed the engine runs at when idling. This can be frustrating, since later when you set your TPS, you may have to go back and reset your base idle, and then your TPS again. This can be frustrating, but usually does not take more than 3 cycles before they are both correct, and the TC gods are smiling
You will need:
Large slotted screw driver (?87-88?)
(?10mm?) wrench (?83-86?)
Tach/Dwell meter (optional)

1. If you just finished setting your base timing, skip to step 3, otherwise start the engine and bring it up to normal operating temperature
2. Shut down the engine
3. Disconnect the plug from the IAC (Idle Air Control). The IAC is located on the back side of the throttle body and is cylindrical in shape
4. Locate your throttle stop adjuster. The throttle stop adjuster is located on the front of the throttle body, and depending on the year of your TC, this will either be a slotted bolt, facing the passenger side of the car, or a bolt pointing straight down towards the valve cover
5. (OPTIONAL) If using a Tach/Dwell meter, connect it according to manufacturer recommendations
6. Start the engine
7. If the engine stalls, tighten the throttle stop adjuster ½ turn, and repeat step 6.
8. Adjust the idle stop adjuster either CW or CCW until your engine is idling at 750 RPM. The dashboard tach will suffice, but the Tach/Dwell meter will be precise
9. Reconnect the IAC. The idle should increase to about 1000 rpm. If it does not, try shutting the car down and restarting. If the idle is still not about 1000 RPM, you may have an underlying problem. Post to the board and we will help you diagnose

Other items that will be addressed when completed:

Checking Codes
Throttle Position Sensor
Fuel Pressure
Cam Timing
Boost and Vacuum leaks

3rd Annual Philly Tri-State NATO Meet -

'87 - Range Roller 4* adv / 50 trim t04e / Ported E6 / Gutted Knifed intake / Stinger 3->2.5" / Adj. Cam Pulley / Warlboro 255

To Do: PIMP/MS2, FMIC, Bigger Inj

Jeff K Offline
Great work, Shane. Keep writing!! There will be many new TC owners who will thank you.
Jeff Korn

88 Turbo Coupe: Intake and exhaust mods, T3 turbo at 24 psi, forced air IC, water injection, BPV, Ranger cam, subframes, etc., etc.
86 Tbird 5.0 (original owner): intake, exhaust, valvetrain mods, 100 HP N2O, ignition, gears, suspension, etc., etc.
05 Taurus SEL Duratec daily driver
04 Taurus Duratec (wifes car)
02 Pontiac Grand Prix GT
95 Taurus GL Vulcan winter beater
67 Honda 450 Super Sport - completely customized

junkedturbo Offline
Senior Member
I really like that, don't foreget about the PCV system Smile

zbird Offline
Posting Freak
This should be the bible for First time T/C'ers. GREAT JOB KEEP GOING!!!! I may print it to keep my sanity when I get CRS (can't remember s**t). LOL
Dom Z
88 T/C med grey. 140 MPH Speedo, Kirban FPR, Gillis valve,Tripminder, K&N.
87 T/C Silver, Auto (project Daily driver)
99 F150 4x4
14 Ford Escape 2.0L Turbo
88 T/C
87 Silver

Timmay Offline
Senior Member
might wanna add a part about checking other items like suspension,bushings,steering,brakes and prolly the worste problem the dreaded frame rail rot.
1988 Turbocoupe- RIP in a place without rust!
1978 Mercury Bobcat super clean-2.3T, t5 trans, 8.8 rear 3.73 gears 31 spline axles,255 walboro in-line,MBC,3 inch exhaust,4 wheel disc brakes,5 lug

tr_guy79 Offline
Senior Member

Those are not bad items to address, but not my fortay by any means, and likely a little too intricate to cover within this FAQ. Something like that (IMHO) would be better suited to a tech tip (ie; how to replace ball joints)

3rd Annual Philly Tri-State NATO Meet -

'87 - Range Roller 4* adv / 50 trim t04e / Ported E6 / Gutted Knifed intake / Stinger 3->2.5" / Adj. Cam Pulley / Warlboro 255

To Do: PIMP/MS2, FMIC, Bigger Inj

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