By all accounts, the MN-12 Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar were duds overall. We aren’t calling them bad cars…they are comfortable, they will eat up miles well, and they are one of the few RWD/V8/IRS equipped muscle cars you could get your hands on. But there were plenty of things against them: for one, many within Ford were not happy with them and designer Tony Kuchta would wind up quitting after hearing Ford’s upper brass’s long list of irritation regarding the coupes. But was that deserved?
The goal for the Thunderbird and Cougar was to be an upmarket performance shot against cars like the BMW 6-series and Lexus SC. In that regard, they weren’t quite up to the task. They could have been muscle coupes, but…well, they weren’t. Ford was so busy hyping up the 3.8L supercharged V6 that they barely cared about the V8 powered ones at all, whether it was the early 5.0L powered cars or the later 4.6L powered versions like these were. We know that towards the end of the product cycle, SVT tried to light a fire with a tuned Thunderbird but it was all for nothing.
A couple of days ago I saw one of these later-model MN-12 T-birds cruising down I-65 in Nashville. It looked unfussed, was moving well in traffic that regularly treats the speed limit signs like a mere suggestion, and courtesy of non-stock mufflers, sounded decent. The 1990s Thunderbird and Cougar are what happen when a product is sold at 80%, before it’s fully cooked and ready to serve.