With winter coming, I found myself needing a winter beater car. The answer was found in a car that had a rich history with my family. It was also a car that tried to kill me a few years prior. Still, the price was right, so I was willing to over look that misstep.
This Ford Taurus station wagon had been selected by my father brand new. While he will claim he is not a Ford man (or a car guy at all) a majority of his cars have worn a blue oval. This particular car was initially a company perk for him. He worked for an oil and gas company at the time and they offered him a company car: anything he wanted under generous price cap. All associated costs like maintenance, fuel and insurance would be paid for. As a young adult I unsuccessfully lobbied him on something glitzy and impractical. How many times in your life could you buy that high upkeep luxury liner and have someone else foot the running costs? Or indulge in a gas guzzler? Most of his peers had chosen German sedans or luxuriously trimmed American SUVs. My father, ever the accountant, selected this much more modest station wagon. After the executive car program was discontinued, he purchased it outright.
The Taurus arrived after I had moved out of the family home, so I did not get to drive it much but there was one particularly memorable occasion. I was moving back to school after the summer break which involved lugging my meagre belongings over a two-hour highway drive. The spacious Taurus wagon made the perfect hauler, so there I was cruising at an easy 110km/h down the highway. This particular Taurus has electrical motors to adjust the front seats fore and aft; suddenly they sprang into action all by themselves, moving the driver’s seat forward and my knees into the dashboard. I have never been so glad to have an automatic transmission as I am not sure I could have pressed both a brake and clutch pedal in the sort of fetal yoga position into which the possessed seat had forced me. I managed to bring the car to a stop on the shoulder where I was able to disentangle myself. The seat was easily moved back to a more normal position and I gingerly set off again. Despite my trepidation, this particular electrical gremlin never reoccurred.
Several years later, the Taurus was passed on to my younger brother. He, his wife and daughter moved to Arizona to further his education in heath food nutrition and preparation. There they lived outside in a tent for several weeks until spring flood waters washed it away. The ever-faithful Taurus was then pressed into use as short-term housing, but even after it went back to serving as mere transportation, it still had a rough life with the red Arizona sand getting everywhere. My brother is good at a lot of things, but being auto repair is not one of them, so any issues that arose forced him to rely on local mechanics of varied quality. The Taurus was able to make it back to Canada in one piece, but didn’t idle quite right.
My brother had moved on to a Toyota van that had been imported, so the Taurus was no longer required. I, on the other hand, was in need of a winter beater over the following few months and was dreading the usual fleecing by a mechanic on the mandatory insurance inspection. There was, however, a way around it. A car new enough did not require such an inspection. Depending on the insurance company, cars under ten (or thirteen) years old were exempt. I usually didn’t have the cash or desire to purchase such a new vehicle, but my brother’s Taurus had enough issues that it could be purchased cheaply. So I became the owner of a Ford Taurus station wagon for the second time.
The biggest issue was that the whole car was covered in a layer of very fine red dirt including the engine. I carefully cleaned everything but the lumpy idle remained. I suspected the air flow sensor had been compromised by the Arizona dust. A shot of electrical cleaner helped a bit and was an encouraging enough sign for me to replace the sensor. While it did not completely cure the issue, it was almost invisible to anyone but me.
The 3.0L V6 was now at least presentable looking and running well. Luckily I’d been able to convince my father to at least spring for the more modern, dual overhead cam Duratec engine over the pushrod Vulcan engine. While its large physical size makes maintenance quite a bit more tricky, it pumped out a rather lusty 200hp. It truly felt like a lovely engine in search of complementary chassis.
The next problem to sort was a bit more of a stinker. Literally. My brother and his wife had lived and cooked in the car which likely didn’t help, but they were also great fans of essential oils. The car had … a strong aroma even with the windows down. Several treatments of carpet cleaner, Febreze and driving around with all the windows down for a month moved the Taurus’s interior to a more neutral smell.
It is hard to talk the interior without at least mentioning the oval overload dashboard. While it was a little shocking when new. I really did not have a problem with it in day-to-day use. Controls were laid out logically. The only real issue I could see is for the owner who wanted an after-market stereo. I generally do not keep vehicles long enough to invest in upgraded sound.
I received a fair amount of good-natured teasing from my co-workers over that Breastfeeding license plate frame until I swapped over to my own license plate. The car had a fair number of scrapes, bumps and bruises which I decided to leave alone. The metallic paint, while nice when new, would have been tough to nicely match on a low budget.
I drove the Taurus for almost a year and it was an exceptionally reliable and pleasant companion. Compared to the smaller vehicles I usually drove, it was a bit of a treat to drive a big, floaty car with a column shifter. I cannot recall exactly why I sold it, but I was probably ready to experience something different. Oddly enough, I managed to sell it on for exactly what I had bought it for. Can’t complain about that.