March 22 marked just about three weeks since I last took the Taurus er, Raging Bull, out for a spin. That little trip involved a wheel alignment and two new tires. Both of those things were very much needed. It was supposed to be the first of several repairs to get the car into fighting shape for Radwood Philly 2020. Obviously that’s not happening anymore. So it’s time to take stock and re-calibrate. Looks like this Taurus is sheltering in place, just like I am.
Originally, the road to Philadelphia would have seen the Taurus get four new struts and some other minor fixes to get it capable of making it to PA and back. Not exactly cheap, but this car is worth it. So much so that it needed a name. Technically, it already had one, via the previous owner: Ms. Cougar. I can see it. Is this Taurus a sexy older woman able to seduce much younger men based on her ravishing good looks and outgoing personality? Probably. But that name wasn’t my call. That being said, I can’t just throw tradition out the window. So henceforth my 1986 Ford Taurus LX shall be formally known as Ms. Raging Bull. Or Raging Bull, for short.
Why name a car after a movie I’ve never seen? I guess it’s a fighter, right? This bull is raging against extinction. First generation Taurus and Sables of every shape and size aren’t exactly common anymore. Generally, the ones that are still around tend to be later iterations. We’re talking 1988 or later models. It’s no secret as to why that is the case. Any make or model, even in 2020, comes with its own set of gremlins to work out. The Taurus was no different. I have to imagine the number of 1986 LX models still plying America’s roads are quite low, possibly in the single digits, and they’re probably not in terribly great condition either.
Raging Bull is a bit different. A little rough around the edges, but overall in great condition. Which is why I figured the Taurus needed to be taken out for a bit. Unfortunately, the car will not go beyond my neighborhood for the foreseeable future. With everything going on, the Taurus can remain extremely local until later in the year. There is no silver lining to the current situation, but without any car shows to attend I can hold off on big ticket items and keep as much of my wallet intact as possible.
Since the car sat in the garage for three weeks, I did have to jump it. That was a bit unexpected because I had been in and out of the Taurus several times and the interior lights were working fine. In any event, I was glad to have this battery pack/jump starter handy. I originally intended to use this in case I was out of state and the battery died, but it worked well enough and the car started right up. There are plenty of “real” jump packs you can buy for not much money but those don’t really serve a dual function. With an 18,000 mAh capacity, two USB ports, and a whole bunch of adapters for laptops, I can use it as a regular charger between the times I need it to jump the Taurus.
Once I started the car and moved it outside, I finally figured out that the Taurus is leaking coolant. Quite a bit of it actually, as you can see in the video. Fortunately, oil and transmission levels are at full. Based on my observations, it seems like the hoses that connect the water pump to the radiator weren’t installed correctly.
I do have some evidence as to why that might be the case: there is a box for a water pump in the trunk that contains some old hoses. Either the previous owner did the work themselves or they had a friend to help. Or maybe they just took it to a shade tree mechanic or something.
You can see some of the coolant trickling down in this screenshot I took.
I have plenty of coolant on hand to fill the tank up so I’m not really concerned about the Taurus being low. The main problem area is all the coolant pooling on the bottom of the engine and around it. I’ll have to deal with that eventually.
There’s also these nice scratches all over the hood, roof, and trunk. This might be the most aggravating issue for me because I failed to spot them before signing off on the delivery paperwork due to the car being filthy from its cross-country trip.
Fortunately, while they’re numerous, they didn’t pierce the clearcoat.
There’s also this plastic front bumper extension that got damaged by a previous owner. That’s actually a pretty easy fix assuming I can find a decent replacement: a couple of screws and it comes right off.
Here’s another issue: the Taurus is watertight but two of the doors are misaligned. Here’s the driver’s door.
And here’s the rear passenger side door.
I just finished re-reading Taurus: The Making of the Car That Saved Ford by Eric Taub. One of the later chapters details the initial production run of the Taurus, which started at Chicago in January 1986. My Taurus was manufactured in May of 1986. That almost certainly makes it a Job #1 build. According to Taub, early models suffered from ill fitting doors. Coincidence?
As for the interior, there aren’t too many issues. All the lights work just fine. The power antenna goes up and down but the radio gets nothing but static. Not a big problem, especially because the cassette deck and stereo work perfectly fine. A bigger issue is the control for the electronic cluster. It’s completely dead. The cluster itself works just fine though, and the distance to empty kept adjusting itself to account for updated gas mileage figures in light of a newly filled tank.
While there are issues to sort out, it was really fun to take the Raging Bull out for a spin. The struts absolutely need to get done but it drives well, especially with the new tires and fresh alignment.
Some minor good news is that despite some initial snafus, State Farm did approve the Raging Bull for their classic/antique car policy. And in the long run the historical plates will save me money on registration costs.
Speaking of the historical plates, there is one notable difference between them and the plates I have on the Focus. Can you see it?
As for future plans, I do intend to spend some time detailing the car. The leather is in great shape but it is dirty.
Several people recommended Lexol to me. When the weather gets warmer I’ll give it a shot.
It’s hard to tell from the pictures but there is a thin layer of dirt on all leather surfaces except the driver and passenger seat. The armrests have it too.
There is also a tear on the driver’s seat. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that though.
I also plan on tackling the vinyl and plastic areas in an effort to clean them up a bit. Although I’m not sure they really need it.
I got this stuff for that task.
I also purchased some light compound in an attempt to get rid of the exterior scratches.
I’m actually going to test the compound out on the Focus before I use it on Raging Bull. There’s still some paint transfer that might buff out. I also need to buy touch up paint for both cars, because the Taurus has its fair share of chips and missing paint. If anyone can tell me how to acquire touch up paint on an older car like the Taurus, let me know in the comments.
And before I do all that I’ll simply wash it by hand. Part of that will involve cleaning the dirty alloy rims. I look forward to seeing if this wire brush can cut through the decades of dirt that accumulated in all those small holes.
Overall, taking the Taurus out improved my mood considerably. Especially because it allowed me to recreate this photo I took of my 1989 Ford Taurus wagon back in 2003.
Who knew that 17 years later another first generation Taurus would occupy the same spot, albeit temporarily? And that the Taurus would eventually jump start my automotive enthusiasm? Or that we’d be in the current situation we’re currently facing? This has certainly been an eventful year so far.
For now, the Raging Bull will practice social isolation, but not from me, or the Passat, for that matter.
Anyway, if you’ve got any advice for me regarding the Taurus, please share them in the comments. Thanks in advance!