Spotted on a street in Stockholm, Sweden, this Ford Taunus from the “Project 5” (P5) generation of 1964-67 immediately created the feeling that I had seen it before somewhere. I had never seen a Taunus in the metal before and had heard of it only as the European Ford whose name sounded almost like Taurus. The feeling was unshakeable, though, and a brief amount of time searching on the internet was all that was necessary to reach a firm conclusion on why.
This generation of Taunus and the first generation Ford Falcon of 1960-63 clearly wore closely related styling. Most of the design elements of this 1960 Falcon are unmistakably replicated in the Taunus: the upturned ends of the front bumper, the outline of the grille, the upward sweep of the front fender line, the slight dip of the rear fender, the curve of the front wheel arch, and the shape of the greenhouse. Only the headlights, the shape of the rear wheel arch, and the substitution of a beltline crease for the Falcon’s scalloped flank differ in the Taunus.
The resemblance is less strong from the rear, where the differences in the tail lights and bumpers further disguise the relationship between the two designs, but it is still there in the trunk lid, roof line and rear window outline. The roof line and rear window of the original 1960 Falcon are more curved than those of the Taunus, but a similarly angular roof line and flat rear window debuted in the 1962 Falcon Futura, then became Falcon-wide in 1963.
The Ford family resemblance continues in the interior of the Taunus. Its twin pod dashboard top, dished steering wheel with 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock horn ring, and column shift all look familiar.
They are taken straight from the interior of the first generation Falcon. The five dial gauge cluster of the Taunus is also an American Ford design, used in the Mustang, Fairlane, and Mercury Comet.
The Taunus and its American older cousin were also similar in size, although they differed significantly in width and height. The Falcon was not longer, with the two cars within a few millimeters of each other, but it was significantly wider and lower. Whereas the Falcon was 181 inches (4,597 mm) in length, 70.1 inches (1,781 mm) in width, and 54.4 inches (1,382 mm) in height, the Taunus was listed as 4,585 mm in (180.5 inches) in length, 1,715 mm in width (67.5 inches), and 1,480 mm (58.3 inches) in height. The differences give the two cars distinctly different proportions, with the Taunus appearing shorter and higher. The compact Falcon was a reaction against the longer-wider-lower trend in American cars during the 1950s, but in the context of Europe, it was still not narrow or high enough.
Where the two cars differed most significantly was under the hood. The Falcon debuted with a 144 (2.4L) inline six, added a 170 cubic inch (2.8L) six option in 1961, and in 1963 offered an optional Windsor V8 displacing 260 cubic inches (4.3L). The Taunus 17M offered 1.5L and 1.7L versions of Ford’s V4, introduced two years earlier, and the Taunus 20M used the newly introduced Cologne 2.0L V6 that was essentially the V4 with two additional cylinders. (There was also a separate model Taunus 12M/15M with a smaller body and smaller displacement engine, with front wheel drive and the V4 engine from 1962 onwards.) The Cologne V6 would come to the U.S. in the 1970 Mercury Capri and last until 2011 in the Ford Explorer and other American Fords, enlarged to 4.0 liters, outlasting the Windsor V8 by a decade.
The 1964-67 Taunus 17M/20M was the latest in a line of Taunus designs that had been styled after American Fords. The first generation Taunus 17M of 1957-60 directly borrowed the styling of the American 1956 Fords, from the headlight pods, grille, and bumper in front, to the V-shaped dip in the chrome trim and two toning on the side, to the small tailfins. The Taunus was a considerably smaller car powered by a 1.7L inline four, though.
The second generation 1961-64 Taunus 17M was an original design styled in Germany by Uwe Bahnsen, who would design German Fords for almost 30 more years. It abandoned the 1950s American decorations of its predecessor for Germanic clean lines and lack of decoration, while sharing design elements with American Fords. At this point, the relationship between German and American Ford design was a back and forth cross-pollination rather than German borrowing of American design. The general shape and front bumper are reminiscent of the 1960 Falcon, which was developed at around the same time. The headlight surrounds, peaked fenders, and recessed hood resemble those of the 1961 Lincoln Continental because Elwood Engel visited Ford of Germany and saw the design that would become the 1961 Taunus, and it influenced his 1961 Thunderbird design proposal that became the 1961 Continental. The headlight surrounds and peaked fenders then made their way onto the 1961 Ford Thunderbird.
The 1964-67 Taunus 17M/20M swung back toward direct imitation of American design, taking the Falcon-like general shape of the 1961-64 generation and borrowing exterior and interior details more explicitly from the 1960-63 Falcon.
Ford of Germany and its American parent company diverged widely when they replaced the Taunus and Falcon during the 1970s. In 1972 Ford of Germany replaced the Taunus with the Granada, whose new chassis featured an independent rear suspension with coil springs that replaced the live axle and leaf springs of the Taunus. In front, double wishbones took the place of the MacPherson struts of the Taunus. Even a vinyl roof could not disguise the modernity of the Granada. The Taunus became an obsolete design licensed for production in developing countries, which included Argentina, Turkey and Korea.
In its home country, on the other hand, Ford kept producing the aged Falcon platform under various guises until 1980. The last would be the Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch of 1975-80 and the Lincoln Versailles of 1977-80. A vinyl roof was perfectly in keeping with the design philosophy of these compact Broughams, which used a 1960 chassis that was thoroughly average when new and disguised it under layers of decorations. Borrowing the Granada name used by its increasingly distant and more advanced German cousin was unintentionally highly ironic, as was the advertising campaign comparing the American Granada to a Mercedes: the German Granada offered much of the chassis sophistication of a Mercedes, while the American Granada offered a weak claim of styling similar to that of a Mercedes. The arrival of the Ford Fairmont and its more modern Fox platform in 1978 was a significant step forward, but it was six years after the introduction of the German Granada and still lacked independent rear suspension.
This innocuous, refrigerator-white Ford Taunus represents a sort of testament to the peak of the American automobile industry. A product of the mid-1960s, it translated an American design almost line-by-line into the size and engineering context of Germany. It was from an era when even Mercedes would blatantly copy American styling features, the best known example being the “Heckflosse” sedans with tailfins produced from 1959 to 1964. Eight years and two design generations after the 1964 Taunus, Ford had ceased to emulate its American models in Germany. A similar change occurred at GM’s Opel subsidiary, whose compact Rekord wore heavily American-influenced styling until 1966, and whose Chevy V8-powered “KAD” (Kapitan-Admiral-Diplomat) luxury cars sold in small numbers until cancelled in 1977 in favor of the smaller, six cylinder, European styled Senator. Today it is nearly impossible to imagine Ford or any other automobile manufacturer in Germany copying an American design, except to produce an internationally homogeneous “world car” such as the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera/Vauxhall Ampera/Holden Volt. So let us enjoy this German-American (or American-German) cousin of the Falcon as a monument to the Detroit of yesteryear, the likes of which we are unlikely to see again.