The exterior glass used on the Cougar and Thunderbird was semi-revolutionary for its time. Due to Ford's extensive use of adhesive in the manufacturing process, the glass was now affixed to the body via a polymer adhesive in most cases, and eschewed more traditional methods like butyl sealant. This allowed the traditional aluminum trim to surround the glass using strategically-placed clips and minimal amount of screws. Door glass was still attached to the regulators via a clip or bolt (depending on model year). The 1987 model year was even more advanced, with flush side glass being the new norm, and some trim was molded with the glass to create an entire assembly.
This all sounds exciting but it's tame compared to some of the newer vehicles being sold today. Still, it's not a horrible thing if your glass needs replaced due to cracking, breaking, or delamination (the separation of layers on a windshield).
The one thing we cannot stress enough is that a good glass repair shop will be your friend here. We were lucky to find a reputable independent shop in our area and we've used it for many years with zero issues and always a fair deal. Thanks to our experience with them, we're able to pass along the information below to you.
The original supplier to Ford for all of the glass used on our cars was Carlite. Replacement PPG glass is still being made today. As is typical, all side and back glass is tempered, with the windshield dual-layer laminated.
Tinted glass was standard on LS and XR7 models but non-tinted glass was standard on the base GS (tinted was optional). Some aftermarket glass is still listed as non-tinted if you need it.
Above: 1983-88 Cougar/Thunderbird original windshield glass with Carlite logo in center.
Above: 1983-88 Cougar/Thunderbird replacement windshield glass with PPG logo in lower driver's side corner.
Our windshield was shared between the Cougar, Ford Thunderbird, and the Lincoln Mark VII. There is no difference between the windshield glass on all three vehicles. Original glass has the Carlite logo in the bottom center of the windshield; replacement PPG glass has the logo on the lower left-hand side. Otherwise all markings and shadings are identical to factory.
Our door glass was shared with the Thunderbird and Mark VII. The upper corner at the B-pillar was rounded but almost squared off. This earlier glass has the unique property of a lower extended area through which holes were drilled, and this allowed the glass to be bolted to the track on the regulator. Although a more expensive process due to drilling holes in glass and the additional grommets and bolts required, this has proven over time to be a better solution than the later cars, as it's almost impossible for the glass to separate from the track (this glass cannot be retrofitted to later cars, unfortunately). There is a difference between glass for a vent-window car and one without that option, and one cannot be used for the other.
For those cars with the vent window option, again, the T-Bird and Mark VII vent window glass was identical. See this section for more on vent window repair. We discourage replacing the glass yourself due to the high tension on the mechanism and the potential for glass breakage. This is a job best left to a professional.
The triangular rear quarter windows were unique to the Cougar and were affixed to the car via adhesive. The Carlite nomenclature is in the lower corner near the B-pillar trim, although we have seen some cars with the Carlite lettering at the top. Either one should be correct. Again, this glass is available new in the PPG brand with all the correct shade markings around the perimeter.
The rear window glass is unique to the Cougar and was available with or without heated elements for the rear defroster. Over time we've found the non-heated glass to be extremely rare, relegated to stripped-down models for the most part. The rear defroster was available in nearly all popular preferred-equipment packages (PEP) so they made up the majority of the rear glass. All replacement glass appears as stock. The Carlite logo was found in the rear center of the glass.
Above: 1983-86 Cougar/Thunderbird factory sunroof glass, removed from vehicle.
Above: Ford factory sunroof glass (Mustang shown, 1983-86 Cougar/Thunderbird similar).
The optional Ford factory flip-up (non-power) sunroof used on the Cougar/Thunderbird was identical to the sunroof on other Fox cars, such as the Ford Mustang and Mercury Capri, and possibly the Ford Escort/Mercury Lynx. Factory glass was curved toward the front and straight across in the back. All cars with this sunroof used the same mounting hardware, glass, weatherstripping seal, etc. and you can use replacement parts from those cars if need be.
The sunroof option required a different roof panel, headliner, and wiring harness for the dome light. The dome light itself (either standard or with map lights) was moved backward to allow roof for the sunroof; it was never moved forward. Original Ford glass had three visible oval-style "bars" on the top of the glass: two for the hinge areas, and one for the latch. This is where the components bolted through the glass for attachment. Again, Carlite was the OEM supplier.
We have found new replacements parts through NPD, LMR, Fox Mustang Restoration, and CJ Pony Parts, listed for a Fox Mustang. This includes the main weatherstripping seal and some other trim items and bolts. Additionally, you can always try eBay for good used or sometimes new parts.
Factory sunroof cars had a special bag to hold the glass upon (temporary) removal from the roof. It was supposed to be suspended in the trunk from the package tray to keep it out of the way of any contents in the trunk, including the jack and spare tire. Since they're so uncommon, we've seen OEM Ford sunroof bags go for higher prices recently, although reproductions do exist now (see the NPD link above).
If you do not see three bars on your exterior glass panel, or there is no Carlite logo etched in the glass, or if the sunroof is not as described above, then you may have an aftermarket sunroof. Please keep in mind that there were many aftermarket companies producing sunroofs, and some of those (along with aftermarket power moonroofs) were installed through dealerships when these cars were new or just a few years old. A majority of them were universal fit. If you have one of those sunroofs then you're going to need to find the original manufacturer of the part, and see if you can still hunt them down (see this link and this link for possible candidates). If you can't find out what you have, and your glass breaks...then you may have no other choice but to have a new, universal fit sunroof installed in the car.
Tinted glass was standard in all 1987-88 models.
The 1987-88 windshield glass was still identical to the Thunderbird and Mark VII with no differences noted. You can use any windshield glass from 1983-88 in your car.
With the elimination of the vent window option in 1987, all the door glass was the same style now, and was shared only with the Thunderbird. The upper B-pillar corner was rounded but markedly larger in radius compared to the older style. The bottom of the glass was now straight across to allow it to sit in a long channel, affixed with clips and adhesive. This was a great short-term solution but over time, the glass can separate from the track, allowing the window to fall into the door cavity or to come off the track/channel. Many people have tried different ways to reattach their glass over the years…we've heard a lot of interesting things with seemingly mixed results. If you want to try the repair yourself, one of the more successful solutions seems to be a two-part epoxy adhesive. However, for our time and money, we usually take the car to the auto glass shop so they can use their heavy duty adhesive. It's never given us an issue and seems to be exclusive to auto glass shops.
Also, in a similar fashion, the plastic clips (original OEM p/n E7SB-6323276-AA) that hold the glass to the channel can break. It seems that auto glass shops can get not only plastic clip replacements, but aluminum ones as well. As we're told, the aluminum clips have some additional holes drilled into them so that the adhesive can better attach to the glass. We have used them in a few of our past cars and can attest that they are the best solution in the long run.
Above: 1987-88 Cougar LS rear quarter glass with Carlite logo.
Above: 1987-88 Cougar rear quarter glass, inside view with attaching bolts. Note the adhesive strip around the perimeter.
The new unique Cougar rear quarter windows were affixed to the car with both adhesive and bolts. This was due to the new flush glass styling which included the trim piece attached to the outside. Since there were two different models, the LS and the XR7, there were two different surrounding trims: black and chrome (or "bright" as Ford likes to call it) for the LS models, and fully blacked out for the XR7 and 20th Anniversary models. If you need brand new glass, be sure to specify which one you'll need, as we're unsure if it's possible to reuse your old surrounding trim.
Surprising, this is about the only glass assembly on these cars that you can safely attempt to swap out yourself. We've done it before and it's kind of fun and rewarding if all goes well. The trick is to do it on a very hot day, letting the car sit outside in the sun to help warm things up. Remove the interior sail panel trim (which, in itself, is not fun but necessary). Behind the black insulation panel you'll find a five (5) nuts around the perimeter of the glass; remove those—don't worry, the window should not fall out. Then stand outside the car while gently pushing the glass out from the inside. If you're lucky you won't have to run a knife down the adhesive sections to break the bond. In general, Ford seemed to not use a ton of adhesive here, so it shouldn't take a lot of effort for the glass to break free. Then carefully remove the entire assembly unit. This is great if you're either upgrading the exterior trim or installing used glass. Be sure to clean off the old adhesive and use quality new adhesive around the entire perimeter before reinstalling.
Unique to only the Cougar, the curvy rear window glass was non-heated as standard, heated optional. Again, most cars either had the PEP which included the rear defroster or had the individual option for it. It's very, very difficult to find non-heated 1987-88 rear glass actually in a vehicle. All replacement glass appears to be as stock with the correct perimeter shading. The original Carlite nomenclature is in the right rear corner.
The optional power moonroof option was available on very late 1986 through 1988 Cougars/Thunderbirds and used the same glass (p/n E8SZ-63502A82-A) as other Fords of the era with the same option. This includes the Lincoln Mark VII and Continental (RWD and FWD), and possibly the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable. The moonroof is quickly identified by its chrome ("bright") surround and heavy tinting, with lack of any visible exterior grommets or covers, and also a built-in sliding and vented shade on the interior. Any similarly-equipped Ford passenger car from 1986 through at least the early 1990s should have the same glass but be sure to double check for dimensions and fitment.
Otherwise, just like the earlier sunroof cars, any Cougar or Thunderbird with the power moonroof option had its own unique roof panel, with a new molded headliner, and extended wiring harness for the map light. New to this system was an overhead console that contained the open/close switch and two push on/off reading lights. The overhead console also required special shorter sun visors. Due to the complexity of the system, we recommend having a professional shop replace the glass assembly itself, but you can usually get to and replace or adjust parts of the mechanism if you're so inclined. Just remember that anything involving work on this system will require removal of the headliner…every single time.
According to the owner's manual, there was a "special tool" that one could use to manually close the glass in case of the moonroof motor's failure or a faulty switch. It turns out that "special tool" is a common 5/32" Allen wrench! With just a few screws removed, the overhead console can drop down to expose the moonroof motor and in its center is the Allen keyway. Turning the Allen wrench clockwise will close the roof panel.
Incidentally, the moonroof motor, along with nearly all other parts of the mechanism, is shared among other Ford vehicles of the era with the moonroof option such as the Mark VII and Continental. We have seen both new and used parts on eBay.
If you are in need of a new moonroof seal, you're in luck—they are still available new through the Sunroof Doctor. It could still require a glass shop's professional installation but at least you can get the seal.
Finally, there is some minimal maintenance that goes with the power moonroof option. The sliding tracks on the sides should be kept free of debris and dirt. They will occasionally require lubrication with a good, thick, water-resistant lube such as lithium grease or garage door track lube. Similarly, the pivot points (which raise and lower the glass) and the front deflector pivots will need lubed. You can access most of this with the glass slid back into the roof (opened) and/or tilted upward. You should also make sure that the drainage tubes are opened and not clogged with dirt. There is a tube in each corner, recessed into the roof panel, and its job is to drain any water that gets past the seal out of the car. The drains runs along the A-pillar (front) and across the roof panel to the C-pillar (rear) and drain out to the bottom of the car, onto the ground. Cleaning them out is, naturally, not easy or fun but usually a little pressure with an air hose can greatly assist with this.
So after reading all this, you may be asking, "Why can't I just use glass from the salvage yard or eBay?" And that is a valid question because salvage yards are a great source for used OEM glass, and eBay will sometimes serve up a huge surprise of really good or even NOS glass. It really depends on quite a few things:
With the salvage yard option, especially if it's local, you can see the merchandise before buying. Pricing is typically not that expensive. You may end up with way better glass this way. And it's technically correct. So yes, it's okay to do this if a shop is installing it for you and they're good with it, or if you're brave enough to change out the glass yourself. We've installed used windshields before with mixed results; while it worked and didn't really leak, the glass delaminated quicker than we'd hoped and we ended up getting a new windshield installed anyway because of that. So it really didn't save us money.
The eBay option is always "buyer beware". If the glass is NOS then you're good for condition; however, shipping becomes the huge issue. Glass breakage during shipping is more likely to occur if the seller doesn't pack it correctly. Then again, we've bought glass from eBay that was well packed and it showed up just fine. This is definitely your call but it's also the riskiest option in our opinion. Be sure to pay attention to the details! In general you're going to have better luck with smaller pieces being shipped, like the rear quarter glass and vent window glass, versus larger pieces.
Otherwise you may just have to pony up and pay for new glass from a replacement shop. For a daily driver this can be expensive but may be the only option for things like the windshield and rear glass. For show-quality cars, NOS original glass is preferred but even new, non-OEM glass can help with points in judged shows, even if the judges know the glass has been replaced. We've had our fair share of experience with this.
If you have a small nick in the windshield or a scratch in the side glass, a shop may have the ability to simply repair these issues without having to replace the glass. For the windshield, so long as the nick is not going to spread and is in just the outer layer, a clear fill can be applied and it's almost impossible to tell it's there when done properly. Any scratches can be buffed out, similar to a car's paint finish, using special compound and a small-head specialty buffer. Either of these methods can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Be sure to check with a reputable local glass shop to see if these methods are suitable to your vehicle.
We are big fans of using a clay bar on glass, just like you would on the car's paint finish. The same principle applies to glass, so why not? This helps keep contaminants off the glass for easier cleaning, and also helps repel rain. Speaking of, products like Rain-X seem to be alright but they don't last very long due to exposure to the elements. Regardless, it has to be applied to clean glass that's free of contaminants in order for it to be the most effective. But the clay bar method plus Rain-X is a great solution. You'll almost hope for rain to watch the water bead up and slick right off!
Otherwise, occasional cleaning inside and out with a soft cloth or microfiber cloth and good cleaner is enough to maintain the glass. Using a cleaner with alcohol (i.e. Windex) is your call…sometimes it can affect the tinting or shading or leave streaks. We've had great luck with Stoner's Invisible Glass over the years. Also, you can ask your local glass shop what they'd recommend for good, long-term care of your car's glass.