The `Bird has sprouted wings. Credit Jack Telnack, Ford Motor Co.`s executive vice president in chargeof shaping sheet metal, for coming up with a lean, clean machine. For 1989 the Ford Thunderbird is less plump. Those who feasted on
the`83-`88 version will find appetites whetted even more for the slimmed down`89. In 1983, Telnack gambled with the aero look on the midsize Thunderbirdand cousin Mercury Cougar. The trick was to round off corners and edges. The `83 `Bird
won plaudits for being a radical styling departure. But itfell a bit short. The T`-Bird still looked a little paunchy and somewhatbloated around the wheel wells, fenders and grille. For 1989 Telnack smoothed the rough edges. His trademark is
evident upfront where the grille has disappeared, a treatment that won a following afterthe Taurus went that route. In its place rests a Thunderbird emblem with wingsextended. Louvers under the front bumper allow air to the engine compartmentwithout
cluttering up the sheet metal. The front end slopes forward for theappearance of motion. Wheel wells have only a trace of an outward blister, which provides aleaner profile than the hefty bulge of only a year ago. The Thunderbird is offered
in three series: standard, LX and highperformance Super Coupe. All are rear-wheel drive. We test drove the standard two-door coupe. Looking good is one thing. Performing up to visual expectations isanother. Again Ford delivers. For `89 a
fuel-injected 140-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 provides the power, about 20 more h.p. than last year. You feelthe extra pep moving from the light, down the merge lane or slipping out into the passing lane and back. Good response time once you hit the
pedal. Very little noise. The 3.8 isteamed with 4-speed automatic with overdrive. For best performance avoid ``D``with the big ``O`` circling it on the gear shift lever. Save the overdrive forcruising on the open road. In the Super Coupe the
supercharged 3.8 V-6 delivers 215 h.p., but formost everyday driving situations 140 h.p. is adequate in the standard and LXversions of the Thunderbird. It is hoped, however, that Ford will work ongetting a few more horespower from its non-boosted 3.8 V-6.
It`s a livelyengine but the 3.3 liter V-6 in the rival Buick Century delivers 160 h.p. and has more kick. Antilock brakes are standard in the high-performance Super Coupe, anoption in the standard and LX versions. We found a slick patch of pavement
to try out the optional ABS on the test car. The brakes brought us to a quick andtrue stop. It would be at the top of our option list. Costly, to be sure, but less expensive than the alternative. For 1989 Thunderbird has undergone a dimension
change as well as stylingoverhaul. Wheelbase has been extended about 9 inches, to 113 inches, andoverall length has come down to 198.7 inches from 202 a year ago. Other key changes are a 7.1-inch
increase in rear seat hip room and a3.9-inch increase in rear seat shoulder room plus a 3.3-inch increase in fronttread width and a 1.7-inch increase in rear tread width. With the longer wheelbase and wider tread width, the car has a longer,wider
stance for better ride and handling. Add four-wheel fully independentsuspension and you have good road-holding manners. A trace of body sway intight corners and a little softness over the bumps, but not mushy like a Town Car. Though a two-door
coupe, you don`t have to worry about carryingpassengers. The front seats flip forward to make rear seat entry a breeze. Theshoulder belt is automatic and housed in the door so it doesn`t block rearseat entry or exit. Two adults fit in back with a
child in between. From the outside thesharp slope of the roof makes it appear you`ll sacrifice head room in back.But the slope starts rearward of the back seat headrest so there`s no loss of room. Trunk space is good, too
, but more geared to luggage and golf clubs thantall grocery bags. The trunk floor is flat and extends under the back seat. Air conditioning, tinted glass, power brakes and steering (speedsensitive on the LX) and intermittent wipers are standard on
the standard and LX models. LX adds electronic instrumentation, AM/FM stereo with cassette,speed control, tilt wheel, six-way power driver`s seat and leather-wrappedsteering wheel. The Super Coupe adds the supercharged engine, dual exhausts,
5-speedmanual, ABS, handling suspension with automatic ride control, traction lockrear axle, cast aluminum wheels, performance tires and more. Though an overall attractive package, Thunderbird is not withoutannoyances, mostly nuisance items.
For starters, the cloth seats are world-class lint catchers. Carry abrush or roll of tape with you. If your pet sheds, cleaning those seats could be a full-time chore. More troublesome are the dash and armrest controls. When the sun goesdown, the
controls disappear. Where`s some back lighting so you can find thosecontrols? Cruise buttons in the steering wheel become invisible at night.Ditto for the dual mirror, window, door lock controls in the armrest and many of the other knobs or dials in the
dash. There`s no light for the ashtray in the center console either. Can`t usewhat you can`t see? Perhaps Ford figured there was enough lint on the seats sothey didn`t need ashes, too. Though interior room has been increased, Ford defeated
the purpose a bitwith big driver and passenger armrests to house mirror/window/door lockcontrols. Not only are the armrests bulky but the mirror controls are whereyou expect the window controls to be. A few times we reached to open or close the window and
adjusted the mirror instead. Room would be spared if some ofthose knobs were in the console between driver and passenger. Another change we`d like to see is a smaller floor-mounted parking brakepedal. It`s too large and protrudes toward the driver.
It`s fairly easy to hityour ankle or shin on the pedal. Considering the low, lean profile of the car, why is the inside domelight so big and hang down so far from the roof? It looks like a search light. And why should T-Bird owners pay a finders
fee to locate the oil filter? It`s a shame you have to experience those nuisance items because so muchattention obviously was paid to comfort and convenience. When you pop the hood, rather than grope around in the grease for thesecond lever
you just flip a yellow plastic button above the right headlamphousing to release the spring held hood. Other noteworthy features are automatic door locks that pop shut when the gear lever is put in drive; wide, wide bodyside moldings to protect
thesheetmetal from minor parking lots dings; a stowage pocket in the centerconsole to hold change or a coffee cup; and a trunk release button in theglove box. No p
rices yet, because the cars don`t go on sale until Dec. 26. Final observation: Watch for GM to offer incentives on its 1989 two-doorOldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix midsize coupes to counter the new Thunderbird.