Huw Evans
September 19, 2008


Today, the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe remains a symbol of when Ford prov edit could build a world-class grand tourer with a decidedly true European flavor. For a number of people, the car remains just as seductive now as it did when new.

One of those who has fallen victim to the TC's charm is Staten Island,New York, native John Romanello. He owns the gorgeous '88 you see hereand fell in love with these cars back in 2001. "My good friend TommyTocco had an '86 {{{Mustang}}} SVO, which was how I got to learn about [TCs],"John said. "He was often doing work on the car and I'd help him out whenI could. The thing is, I became amazed at the performance of Tommy's SVOand I asked him to help me find a Turbo Ford of my own. One day he cameacross this '88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe for sale down in Baltimore. Iwas in love. I told the guy I was interested and went down on the train.I test drove the car and that was it. I paid the guy and drove it home.The [TC] was everything I imagined. It was fast, comfortable, and a lotof fun. It was also in excellent shape and had just 60,000 miles on theclock."

John drove his new toy daily for about a year, but due to its amazingcondition, began thinking about retiring it. "I put about 10,000 mileson it that first year, but I liked the car so much that I figured itwould be best to keep it as a weekend pleasure car." It was also at thistime that he caught the modifying bug.


"My goal was to take an already very capable car and build on it, addinga bit more power and improving the handling," John said. "I tried tostick to at least one upgrade per year or, as my budget would allow."

On the engine front, John removed the stock camshaft and installed aFord Motorsport A237 bumpstick, along with a Racer Walsh adjustable camsprocket. "This allowed me to fine-tune the engine's powerband to myliking. I currently have the timing advanced by 4 degrees," he said.

Next, it was time to play around with the plumbing--specifically, the turbo and intercooler. "Tommy donated the Garrett T-3 turbo from his SVO to replace the stock IHI unit in my car and we also got our hands on a Spearco intercooler, designed for the Mustang SVO," John said. "We were able to modify it and fit it to the T-bird's engine. I chose to do this because I wanted an increase in boost without any risk of problems, such as detonation. It's currently set at 21 psi."

To further compensate for the increase in airflow, John wisely decided to upgrade the fuel system, installing a Kirban fuel pressure regulator to precisely control the amount of juice going through the stock 36lb/hr injectors. He also ditched the factory in-tank fuel pump for astouter 255-l ph Walbro.

Other engine mods include a Melling high-pressure oil pump and an Esslinger windage tray mounted in the stock oil pan. "Besides fuel, I didn't want any risk of oil starvation," says Romanello. At the backend, flow was improved through a big-log header from with15/8-inch primaries that feed into a stainless (and cat less) 3-inch single exhaust produced by the now-defunct ATR Performance. (Keenob servers will notice the single tailpipe on John's car--five-speed Turbo Coupes sport duals.)

In addition to the engine mods, the car currently sports KYB struts and shocks, along with Cobra R-style five-spoke 17x9-inch chrome wheels and Falken P235/45ZR17 rubber in place of the original factory rolling stock. A set of Auto Meter gauges--air/fuel, boost, water temperature,and oil pressure, which enables John to monitor engine health and efficiency--have found their way into the mint interior, as has an Alpine In-Car-Entertainment system, for cranking the tunes on longer trips,like to the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals, where we first spotted the car and which John attends as often as he can. "This is a great event and I've formed many friendships, through forums like Turbo, the SVOCA and Turbo Carlisle is kind of a social gathering for all of us," he said.

As amazing as it might seem, the Silver Clear coat Metallic paint is the original finish and still glistens today, probably even more than it did as the car rolled off the Lorain, Ohio, assembly line. Complementing the car's super-clean exterior and interior is a spruced up engine bay. The long-block was pulled and given a thorough cleaning and some fresh silver paint (matching the exterior of the car), while much of the top-end stuff was sent out to Mad for powder coating. Once back between the shock towers, the detailed engine became the icing on thes pectacular cake that is John Romanello's super-clean '88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.