Ah, the over ovoid Taurus! A low point for Telnack’s tenure. I can see what they were going for but for some reason it just didn’t work. I remember reading that the 96 Taurus took 38 months to get from paper to production and it only lasted 36 months on the market before it was refreshed. Big risk, little return. .
The Tracker didn’t get the recognition it deserved. With the exception of power it had all the right components to be a Jeep fighter. How hard would it have been to drop a 60* V6 or even a Quad Four in it?
When I first saw the 2nd series Taurus, I remarked to someone that it looked like a pre-school child had drawn it with a crayon.
Thats the awful Taurust Ford threatened Aus and NZ with noone out here could believe it was a best seller in the US it was such an ugly incompetent piece of junk. there are still some rattling along impossible to resell. The square rigged little Suzuki is the exact opposite all straight lines quite popular with thousands imported used from Japan to top up local supplies. These two are like opposite ends of the spectrum.
That Taurus was not a best seller here. It’s the redesign that knocked the Taurus off the Best Seller list in the U.S.
The Sidekick/Tracker was left to languish for a decade. I feel that GM/Suzuki could have done more with the platform.
I’m honestly not sure what to think of the Taurus. On one hand, it had “flame surfacing” on the sides before Bangle’s Bimmers, and the (attempt at) “four-door-coupe” styling (cribbed from the Infiniti J30) foreshadowed what would come almost a decade later.
On the other hand, the Taurus is just droopy. The roofline forced the rear seat down, and the dashboard was bizarre. And, of course, “flame-surfaced” and “four door coupe” designs tend to age badly – the Taurus is no exception.
Ahead of its time in some ways, and yet it didn’t hold up very well with time.
In my mind, the Oldsmobile Alero’s design, enlarged slightly, is what the Taurus “could have” looked like. Perhaps the Alero’s designers had a contest to make the then-current Taurus “look good”?
That’s a Sidekick, not a Tracker. The giveaways are the amber rear turnsignals, and the body-color bumpers and mirror housings. Based on the color, I think it’s a 93. The 94 blue was darker, and the 92 blue was greener. The squiggle graphics mark it as one of the low volume “special” editions, which weren’t in the annual brochures.
Basically the same truck.
Well, technically it sold okay, except half of the sales were to Hertz, et al and so carried no profit (well, actually probably negative profitability, because all of the rental-fleet Tauruses coming onto the market after about a year in service killed resale value, causing Ford Credit to take a bath on lease residuals). This was followed by the 1990 hurry-up redesign, which basically sold only to employees and fleets (and if your only exposure to a Taurus was through Hertz, you’d never consider buying one, because the interior trim was so low-grade).
Pretty much from 1996 on the Taurus was an exercise in keeping both the Atlanta and Chicago Assembly plants open until products could be found for one and the company could negotiate closure of the other with the UAW.
It didn’t help that this redesign killed both rear-seat and trunk space.
This was the Taurus that killed the brand. The previous cars were much better looking. I think the current “Taurus” is a nice car. I’ve driven the Ecoboost SHO and it’s a pretty fun car to drive.
I wonder what happened to all the Trackers I used to see on the road. I haven’t seen one in at least three years.
Absolutely right. Ford lost Taurus as a brand in 96. They never really got it back until the 500/Taurus naming fiasco. I actually liked the re-brand as 500, sadly they couldn’t commit(corporate panic is a fun phenomenon). If they really dug deep Fairlane or Galaxie would have been a nice re-start too.
I’m with you on rebranding the car after the Taurus name, but 500 really didn’t make any sense. Maybe I’m old enough to remember when the numbers after model names implied their content level, but without a corresponding 300 level car before it, it’s just an abstract number. It could have been called the 4512 for that matter.
I’m not a big fan of resurrecting car names that have been dormant for a long time. Chevy pulled it off pretty well with the Malibu, only because the car has been pretty decent in it’s more recent iterations. I’m hoping the rebooted Dart will be a good car for Mopar, too.
But I can’t imagine what the names Galaxie or Fairlane would do for the biggest contemporary Ford. Now, Starliner would be cool, and it’s obscure and far back enough in history for no one to assign any kind of bad feelings to it. And the new big Ford does look kind of futuristic (in the current idiom) that Starliner might have a chance.
But Ford isn’t paying me for my insights… Oh well…
I always thought it was quite bizarre that Ford spelled out the words “Five Hundred” on the car’s badges. Isn’t the point of using a numeric name to take the place of letters? Then again, that was when Ford was afraid to name their cars with a name that didn’t start with “F.” Five Hundred, Freestyle, Freestar etc. Thank God Mulally came along and whipped that place into shape.
Personally I thought the 500/Five Hundred was nice looking, and the look was ruined when they renamed it the Taurus and threw all those hideous gaudy chrome bits all over the car (and I like chrome!). I think they might have been better off waiting until the current version of the Taurus to re-introduce the nameplate. Then again, I don’t think the average person is even aware of the existence of the Five Hundred Taurus. Talk about invisible cars.
The Taurus has always confused me. The concept was intriguing; and although unusual, the styling was uniform all over, inside and out. It was like they created a concept car and then put it in production with zero thought for practicality, not to mention how it compared with what it was replacing, and where it was to sit in the market. I like the interior design, and especially that combined aircon/stero panel, but I remember sitting in a brand new one when they were released here, and marvelling at the attrocious quality of the interior plastics. At least the wagon would have been a tad more practical, and certainly marginally better looking. But both sedan and wagon are a complete joke when compared with their Taurus/Sable predecessors.
And now Ford here in NZ/Australia wants to replace the Falcon with the Taurus. Admittedly the current Taurus is vastly better than the ovoid monster, and quite a good car by all accounts. But being an old Volvo S80 underneath means that compared with the Falcon, it’ll be a complete joke downunder if it arrives again, and will kill Ford in my eyes.
Fun fact: the RHD ’96-’99 NZ/Australia/Japan model, were all fitted with the Sable front end, as per the wikipedia photo:
The 86 Taurus was an awesome car(yet the worst car my family ever owned). It stood everybody at attention. The issue with the 96 Taurus was Ford didn’t realize that by 95-96 their core buyers already considered the previous generation cars conservative. Buyers didn’t want, nor were they ready for a radical change but Ford wanted to WOW the market like they did in 1986 and they charged on with less than stellar results.
Funny thing about the current Taurus is that the Fusion is really more Taurus than Taurus is..
I think they sold something like 4500 examples in total, even though they were priced fairly aggressively.
I agree with you re the return of the Taurus too, likewise for Holden – if one goes fwd and the other doesn’t it will be interesting.
About 10-12yrs ago I was walking up town and kept hearing a fantastic exhaust note. I was waiting for a grey Taurus to get out of the way to see where the noise was coming from…but it turned out to be the Taurus! It was one of the V8 SHO ones. They weren’t sold new here, and it was ex-Japan (but still RHD). That thing sounded phenomenal! It was in town for about 10yrs, I always enjoyed following it with the windows down (I actually drove 2km out of my way once following it just to enjoy the sound…sad I know…!).
In my district (the one that had that fabulous sale of late 80s to early 90s machines in the fall of 2011) there is still one of these ovoid Tauruses sitting in the parking lot. I believe it has of late been asigned to the Indian Education unit. I was confused as to why it had not been sold during the sale so I peeked in the window a few weeks ago… it has 50,000 miles on it! Given how over priced things were in that damn auction they likely would have gotten $5,000 for it.
Being a high school kid in the 90s I have always wanted a Tracker/Sidekick of the 1st generation. Make mine a 5 speed manual with the manual locking hubs. I’ll take the convertible (and then put an aftermarket hard top on it) or one of the rare non converible models. It would be the perfect poor weather commuter for me.
You’d better get that hard top, as anyone with a box cutter and a lookout can cut through those plastic windows on the Tracker in no time. After the first time I left nothing remotely worth stealing in my ’98 Tracker and by the third time I’d gone to leaving it unlocked but that didn’t stop the bastards from cutting my window that time, too. Habits die hard. The cops were utterly useless every time.
An upholstery shop nearby would sew in a new piece of clear plastic for $50, but I was using duct tape after the third time. I sure hope Karma catches up with the little pricks. You see, the cut was just big enough for a young teen’s arm to get through and at about the right height for that as well.
The plastic attachments for the top were typical low grade plastic and broke just out of warranty. Mechanically it was okay. It was fun to drive. I put grippy tires from Firestone on it and I could take corners at twice the posted yellow sign speed. I had no warranty claims for the important stuff at all, but the quality of the interior would have gotten one of those big black circles from Consumer Reports. Mileage was about what I get now with my ’10 Accent.
In defense of this generation Taurus/Sable, they are a great car to be in if you are in a wreck. I have seen several of these that were involved in some pretty bad accidents, and the passengers were always able to walk away from them. It makes me feel better when I know my mom is cruising around in her ’05 Sable, the last of these designs.
As for the early versions, I don’t get the hate for the interior material quality, the cars felt very well put together inside with good plastics and cloths and leathers, at least up till 2003. After that then yeah, the cost cutting started getting real obvious.
And the first gen Trackers felt terribly unrefined to me. I drove a brand new ’98 model and I was not impressed at all…
I guess as usual, YMMV…
I agree, I find the quality and materials the only good aspects to those interiors. Execution and design not so much, but there’s a difference
My sister in law fell asleep at the wheel of her 2000 Taurus, with her cruise control set to 90mph on the parkway. Guy driving behind her saw it all, and said he has no idea how she possibly survived. She walked away with nothing but bruises from the seat belts. Definitely a safe car!
Design wise though, the ’96 redesign was tragic. I get what they were trying to do. The ’86 was a design bombshell, introduced soap bar styling to the masses, blah blah blah. But I mean, I’m just so confused as to why they thought it was an okay idea to take that design direction and run with it so far past its tasteful conclusion? It’s awful.
What happened with the 1996 Taurus was a Deadly Sin. Ford really wanted to out-do the 1986 Taurus and it’s explosion onto the automotive landscape. Make no mistake, the 86 Taurus was a landmark car for the times, it catapulted Ford into the number one spot (in North America) in mid size car sales. It looked like no other car at the time, but was nicely proportioned and looked futuristic at the same time.
I lived near the Atlanta plant in the early 90’s, I had seen spy pix in car mags, and even a few pre-production cars on the roads nearby. I had a WTF? moment, and thought that these were camo’d to hide the actual car. Much to my horror when the actual car was released, they DID look like the cars I had seen on the roads.
The Taurus went from a good looking, style setting sedan to this fishy, lumpy and humpy looking thing with this weird oval theme that ran throughout the whole of the car. The company I worked for at the time bought one as a company-use car. It was nice enough, but I found the IP with it’s oval theme kind of hard to get accustomed to. The car drove well enough, but the 3.0L Vulcan was nothing to write home about. I guess that’s the penalty of buying the cheapest model of the car.
IMO, the Taurus went from being a solid choice to a ‘what was I thinking moment’ right about that time. Ford, literally handed over the sales crown of mid-sized cars to Honda and then later Toyota. I’m hesitant to use the term “Edsel-like disaster” without qualification; but I think the resulting 20+ years would prove me correct.
After the 1996 Taurus/Sable, Ford rebounded some with the 2000 re-style, which IMO was really well done. If my wife hadn’t insisted upon a 2001 Aztek (the things we do for love), we probably would have had a 2001-era Mercury Sable in the driveway. The bad thing is, the 2000 restyle wouldn’t have looked so good if we hadn’t experienced the 1996 car.
Since the 2000’s Ford has floundered with the mid size line; the Taurus in it’s last iteration stayed around way too long, IMO it overshadowed the Fusion for a while. The whole “it’s a 500, no it’s a Taurus, no we don’t know what this is” debacle was not helping, either. Finally, in the last couple of years, they managed to define roles of both vehicles to where they relate to one another well, with the Taurus being the top passenger car line and the Fusion the volume mid sizer.
However, Ford really did the Deadly Sin with the Taurus brand. Just as bad the Vega or the Aspen in terms of reputation, they squandered the midsized market completely, gave it to Honda and Toyota who have never relinquished the category again.
For a person like me who was of car-buying age when the original Taurus was released, the new ones don’t have the same impact, I wish they would have just retired the name with the 500. I feel it would have been better to move on, rather than to try and resurrect the name.
Ford Australia caught the same ovoid disease for the 1998 AU model Falcon, they did what they could in 2000 to back away including cutting down on ovals inside. Too bad, because apart from the styling they were a good car and have proved to be very durable. On the plus side, it meant they worked harder and did more for the 2002 BA model mid-cycle update – new dohc engine, turbo I6 & two V8s, new standard IRS, restyle of all panels apart from doors (ie including roof).
One difference is, I think, that the AU exterior still looks fresh today (not pretty, but not heinous either); whereas the Taurus just doesn’t. The AU had enough sharp edges to be at least saying something (and there’s some beautifully subtle detail design here and there too), whereas the Taurus was an amorphous lump of ‘meh’. But the BA, now there’s a fantastic car.
Like an over-inflated Merc CLS (well a little bit)
Lol, glad I’m not the only one who sees an AU every time I get passed by a CLS…! That would have been a great Mercedes advertising catch-phrase: “Buy the luxury car designed to emulate Australia’s [dis]own[ed]!”
I agree with those who expressed surprise about comments about the interior quality of the Taurus being poor. My dad had a 1994 Taurus as a company car, and I remember as a child thinking how cheap the interior seemed. Cheap cloth seats, hard plastic everywhere that would creak if you pressed against it.
He got a 1997 Taurus for his next company car, and the difference was night and day. I remember the interior quality seemed like a HUGE step up to my critical young eyes. The switches and buttons had a nice feel to them (particularly the large on/off/volume control on the radio) and I personally liked the integrated radio/HVAC controls. Seemed very modern at the time. My neighbor had a 1995 Camry and it honestly did not seem any better in terms of interior quality — in fact, I recall being disappointed the first time I sat in it after hearing all about Toyota’s legendary quality. It’s what got me thinking that Toyota’s reputation was overrated, something I still believe to this day.
I also have to say I didn’t really find the exterior all that offensive — it was very radical for the time, and always very polarizing. For a moment it was almost cool (I always found the Sable hideous), but I agree they aged very quickly and very badly. I remember my dad always hated how the rear turn signals were amber (changed to red in the ’98 refresh). “American cars don’t have yellow turn signals” is what he always said.
“I remember my dad always hated how the rear turn signals were amber (changed to red in the ’98 refresh). “American cars don’t have yellow turn signals” is what he always said.”
Now to me, that’s funny.
I’m no great fan of the attitudes about safety which have brought us mandatory stability control systems, mandatory tire pressure monitors, mandatory airbags, mandatory hood heights, etc. Yet one simple and easily met regulation, which could only reduce ambiguity and therefore improve safety, never even gets mooted, let alone enacted: mandatory amber turn signals, coupled with a requirement that the brake lights and tail lights illuminate separate lenses.
It was the door trims and console that stood out to me as being the worst for quality. The picture below is of a ’96 SHO that’s for sale nearby. I distinctly remember that hole that the door lock button comes out of, and how rough and unfinished the edges were. The other fittings on the door were similarly rough-edged and poor-fitting. It was the hard cheap plastic. The console plastic around the gear lever was terrible, and the centre armrest poor. In the scheme of things it may not have been too bad, but compared with where it was supposed to sit in the market out here, and the price charged, it wasn’t remotely good enough. You just didn’t see such poorly finished plastic on other comparable cars. And I’m saying this as a Ford fan! (although I must say I’ve never seen the interior colour this particular SHO is sporting, and I do rather like it).
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