Probably the number one inquiry that we receive involves finding a ground effects kit for a Cougar. And with good reason: it's the most brash, in-your-face way to separate your Cat from everyone else's. But before you consider doing such a radical mod to your car, you must know the facts.
Ground effects are also known as a "spoiler kit", "body kit" or "air dam kit". At one point, ground effects kits for our cars got so popular that auto dealerships offered kits on new Cougars and Thunderbirds as a way to pad their profit margins. This is how the misperception started that there were "factory" ground effects kits. In reality, factory kits never existed; they were simply aftermarket kits that were sold to customers by the dealerships.
With the passage of time the number of companies that still produce ground effects kits for the Cougar/Thunderbird has dwindled to pretty much zero. Companies that used to build kits for our cars (such as A&A, Kamei, Erebuni and Pacifica) have long since discontinued them.
Trying to find these kits used is very difficult; however, they do (very) rarely show up on eBay. Some people have had luck with finding kits at swap meets or at salvage yards. Really, at this point in time, those are your only options.
No other vehicles' ground effects fit our cars directly. Any other kit would require serious modifications and bodywork. That would include 1987-93 Mustang kits, as well as those for 1987-97 Cougars/Thunderbirds.
Using a 1983-86 kit on a 1987-88 car, or vice versa, also won't work without modification. The dimensional differences, and the use of totally different bumpers, prevent you from doing this successfully. We've seen attempts to do this and the results are less than professional.
With that being said, the information below is the most current, up-to-date information about ground effects kits for the 1983-88 Cougar/Thunderbird that you will find anywhere. It will change as information is obtained, but for now it is extremely accurate.
A long-time manufacturer of ground effects kits for the 1983-86 cars was Xenon, a division of American Best Car Parts. They are still in the restyling business with domestic and import cars, and with trucks as well. This company also recently bought GTS, the maker of headlight covers. Xenon does not carry the 1983-86 Cougar/Thunderbird kit in their catalog anymore. While it's entirely possible that they have the molds to make more of those kits, the demand is probably not there from their point of view. Pricing for a Xenon kit was in the neighborhood of $550-600 US.
Below is some legacy information concerning the Xenon kit:
The urethane Xenon kit is 4-piece (front air dam, rear valance, pair of side skirts). Fitment of the front and rear pieces are very good. However, the side skirts leave a little to be desired. They require you to attach them inside the door seam, instead of just below on the rocker panel itself. As a consequence, the urethane that slips under the doors is very, very thin and has a tendency to wrinkle and ripple. A custom aluminum piece to slip over this section will help keep them from rippling.
The kit was designed around the Turbo Coupe/XR7 bumper cover with foglight cutouts. It is possible to use this kit on cars with the stock bumper covers in front, but you will need to cut out for the foglight provisions in the air dam. For cars that have the turbo cover, the air dam slips right on and mates up to the stock lower dam perfectly.
Part numbers for Xenon's kit were as follows:
- 8131 Air Dam w/Fog Light Cut Outs
- 8135 Right Side Skirt
- 8134 Left Side Skirt
- 8132 Rear Valance
- 3003 Rectangular Light Kit/3.25"x6"/Fog Pattern/Clear Lens
- 8000 Complete Kit (8131,8135,8134,8132)
The boldest kit seen to date was offered by GST. The fiberglass kit included the front air dam, side skirts, rear valance, trunklid spoiler and a pair of Monza exhaust tips that exit the rear valance. GST sold the kit for a whopping $950 US. GST has gone out of business and sold some of their molds to private individuals. While we do know that the Cougar/Thunderbird molds were purchased by an individual, we don't know if any kits will be produced in the future.
Part numbers for GST's kit were as follows:
- 13000 Cougar Kit (front valance, rear valance, 2 side skirts, 2 exhaust tips, all hardware and instructions for install)
- 18901 Optional Rear Spoiler
- 47801 Optional Rear Spoiler
- 54448 Light Kit
This ABS plastic kit was available from Kobel. In the early 2000s McK Plastics bought the Kobel brand and used the Kobel molds. The kits listed for $479 US. Kobel/McK no longer produce this kit.
This is the Kobel/McK Cougar front air dam. The rest of the kit was identical to the Thunderbird's above. Thanks to Scott for the photos.