CC Capsule: Ford Taurus (gen1) – The Best Seller Has Become Scarce

For what was once the best selling car in the land, the first generation Taurus has become mighty scarce. Apparently, these are not turning out to be long-lived even here in Curbsidelandia, unlike all of the Mercedes W123 and 124s around, never mind all the old Volvos and Toyotas. This one brings back vivid memories, as it’s exactly like the one my dad bought, the only car he ever bought based on my recommendation. Which means it was by far the nicest car he ever had.

I’m not even going to try to explain to folks who weren’t around in 1985 what an extremely important and influential car the Taurus was. It showed up GM and Chrysler by proving that Detroit was capable of building a world class sedan, without being pretentious or slapping “Euro” badges all over it. It was the first sedan from the Big Three that understood that the key to success was being all-round capable without any weaknesses, not just flexing a random muscle here or there, which had been GM’s game plan for way too long.

And then of course the was its design, which proved that Americans were quite willing to embrace something new, as long as it wasn’t too new. The Audi 5000 had paved the way to acceptance of the new clean aero look.

Does this bring back the memories: those big, comfortable mouse-velour upholstered seats in that gray. This one, a 1990, is a couple of years later than my dad’s, and has a different steering wheel, with buttons and an air bag. The roarty sound of the Vulcan 3.0 V6, which gave quite decent performance for the times with its 140 hp. The new AXOD four-speed transaxle was smooth-shifting, and its overdrive was most welcome on the freeway. My dad never had any issues with his, but he did only keep it for some 7-8 years, and he was a fanatic about fluid changes, which was an essential component of helping to keep them from self destructing. He traded it on a ’93 Skylark, which was not as refined, comfortable and pleasant to drive as the Taurus. And no, he didn’t ask me input on that car, which would be his last.

We borrowed his Taurus for several longer trips in both the Appalachians and out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was a very pleasant companion; not really athletic or inspiring, but a very comfortable and capable sedan, setting a standard for all FWD sedans to come. A Camry today owes a lot to the Taurus; same basic format, just more reliable.

My brother bought a wagon version, but he kept it too long, and it eventually needed more and more work. He eventually bought a Camry in 2003 or so, and needless to say, its utter reliability was a real contrast and revelation.

It’s too bad Ford didn’t have the reliability, quality and steady development and refinement of the Camry, as it could have become a real game-changer for Detroit. Instead Ford squandered a golden opportunity to reclaim a lot of import buyers, and retain them. Oh well…

We’ve given the gen1 Taurus some serious attention here before. I called the 1986 Taurus “The Most Important American Car Since the Model T”.  I wonder how well that claim holds up.

Our resident Taurus expert, Ed Snitkoff, has done the gen1 justice in here too: CC 1986 Ford Taurus: At This Moment You Mean Everything;  and this one: “Good Role Models and Clear Objectives Create a Breakthrough Car“. There’s others too; just use the CC Search bar.