Where No Ford Has Gone Before: The Taurus Galileo

Sometimes when happening upon a CC, you really want to talk to the owner. Other times, it is just as well to let the mystery be and come up with your own story about the car. Most times, you just don’t have a choice as there’s no one to talk to and the car is obligated to tell its own story.

This is one of those cases.

Our subject 2018 Ford Taurus seems to be trying hard to convince me that it has somehow traveled here from 242 years in the future. Now, you might say that’s what nearly all Taurii have been trying to convince us since their initial appearance in 1986. That look has certainly related to the model’s popularity as vehicles that were imagined to have arrived from the “near future” in worlds such as that inhabited by Robocop. This was a future, at least initially, where cars are shaped like bars of Dove soap. Such was our future as imagined in the past.

Leaning into that “near future” stuff, it’s obviously time to boldly go! So off to somewhere around 2266 we head. This will be a trip courtesy of the world 58 years in the past. 1966. There will also be appearances by Lucy (yes, that Lucy) and plastic models partially developed by the same guy who also partially developed the Studebaker Avanti. Yes, like much of the past it’s all rather confusing and jumbled together. But since this past future has already happened, I’m confident that we can work it all out.

Unlike what might could be the actual future, where we apparently haven’t a clue.


Prior to wriggling down this particular cultural rabbit hole, I’ll note that I don’t exactly know the size of the actual Trekkie/Curbside Classic intersectional community. I’m going to guess that it’s somewhat higher than perhaps other potential overlaps (e.g., Theater Organists/Curbside Classic readers). I hope that the comments to this post clarify that matter for future authors and the demographically curious.

If necessary, I will actually write up that post on the Mighty Wurlitzer that I’ve been tempted to do.

Probably initially from the New Yorker, but in this case it’s from my copy of Parallel Universes…by Roz Chast, the best cartoonist ever. IMO. Period. Of course, Roz – who I think by her own admission can barely drive – probably doesn’t read CC. Therefore she’ll never receive this bit of fandom and acknowledgment that several of her pieces have been my go-to illustrations for a wide variety of sociological topics for over 30 years.


Let’s just say that I suspect that the “Bob” overlap is rather large among the Curbside Classics readership. Therefore, as much as I would like to do otherwise, I am not going to spend a tremendous amount of time explaining the details of the Star Trek universe. This is said with some disappointment by someone who has loved the show since its initial broadcast run and who has been to more than one Star Trek convention, thereby meeting most of the TOS – “The Original Series” –  bridge crew except for Captain Kirk himself.

The shuttlecraft (basically, a “landing craft” for the uninitiated) for the Starship Enterprise was (is? will be?) named the Galileo. Hence, this is what our Taurus is channeling.  And they’ve done a pretty good job…although perhaps the whole story is even more interesting than that.

You see, there’s a good backstory rooted in Star Trek production lore. As it turns out, the Star Trek writers wanted to create several stories during the first season of the show that involved the Enterprise crew (and sorry, if you don’t know what the Enterprise is, or who composes its crew…the Internet is your friend) utilizing a landing craft to travel to places where the Enterprise itself could not go and where the transporter was not practical. Although I have to say that it’s hard to imagine just what the transporter could not be used for. The transporter was pretty magical, even if it did – like a highly-stressed European car –break down pretty much constantly thereby requiring Chief of Engineering Scott to always be fixing it at inconvenient times.

Here Mr. Spock utilizes his tricorder, which hopefully has the latest SP-Daten files from Star Fleet, to fix some sort of problem. Perhaps he’ll code out the persistent faulty airbag light and that annoying seatbelt chime while he’s at it. From his expression here, I’m sure that he’s encountered the fact that the diagnostics are in fact displaying only in German.


Anyway, the writers faced steadfast resistance from Star Trek’s production company – Desilu Studios – around creating scripts that involved the use of expensive props. After all, the much-utilized transporter mainly consisted of a couple of light bulbs and some sparkly manhole covers. “Here guys, just go stand there and we’ll fix it in post.” So clearly the folks at Desilu, including the penny-pinching Chief Executive Lucy Arnaz, were reluctant to shell out for building things like a life-sized shuttlecraft.

Nevertheless, the writers were persistent and really amped up the pressure on Desilu as the first season was being filmed. Fortunately at about this time, early episodes of the show were being distributed in previews, and among the enthusiastic viewers of these early episodes were executives at the plastic scale model maker AMT. In an early incarnation of a merchandising strategy that later exploded with Star Wars, AMT sought a deal with Desilu to produce scale models of Star Trek vehicles  The quid pro quo was that in order to obtain these licenses, AMT would have to agree to produce studio models (suitable for filming) of whatever it licensed. This arrangement allowed the producers of the TV show to expand the repertoire of starships and vehicles appearing in episodes as there was now someone else paying for the creation of the studio models.

The benefit for AMT was that it was able to produce and sell plastic scale model kits of the Starship Enterprise, Klingon Battle Cruisers, Romulan Birds of Prey, and the Shuttlecraft Galileo.  As a child, I purchased and built all of these. While I still have them, most have fallen apart and the pieces are scattered. The only one that I am able to mostly put back together is Galileo.

I did need to buy a tube of Testor’s glue to reattach the engines, and the decals have yellowed, but it’s pretty much complete.


But wait, there’s more.

The Galileo looks like it should be pretty easy to construct whether as a scale model or a full-sized studio model. It is essentially a box with two wings and two tubes ion engines. In fact, the plastic scale model is probably one of the easiest I’ve ever built (and that’s saying something as I am absolutely no Peter Wilding and therefore tend to gravitate toward models that are for the “Age 8 and under” set). It’s literally 10 pieces of plastic. Nevertheless, AMT decided that fabricating a full size Class F Shuttlecraft was beyond their technical abilities, so they brought in a consultant. In this case, the consultant was Gene Winfield (who at age 96 seems to still be with us!). You can read all about Gene on the web and on his company’s website. In addition to building the Galileo, Gene also created the futuristic Bubble Cars featured in Woody Allen’s Sleeper, the various props installed on Maxwell Smart’s Sunbeams and custom vehicles for many other films and television shows.

Woody’s problematic relationship with transportation devices is well documented in cinema, but this clip from Sleeper is probably his ultimate statement on discomfort with modern (or future, as the case may be) transportation. There is certainly a wide range of vehicles here to absorb his ire. It’s not stated, but perhaps Gene Winfield also made the red “Security” van from that scene?  It looks suspiciously like an Earth-bound Shuttlecraft Galileo to me.

Ultimately, Winfield was not the only notable automotive design/fabricator to be involved with Star Trek’s Galileo. As it turns out, the original production sketches for the Galileo were unsuitable in that they pictured a much more streamlined, Buck Rogers-ish, vehicle. As AMT moved toward something it could (relatively) inexpensively construct, Winfield was asked to simplify the design into the boxy box that ultimately became the Galileo. In order to accomplish that, he reached out to Raymond Loewy Associates (which seems odd to me), and ultimately one of the principal designers of the Studebaker Avanti – Thomas Kellogg – came up with renderings and actual blueprints for what Winfield eventually constructed.

And you know, if you squint a bit you can definitely see a little Star Fleet Class F Shuttlecraft in that Avanti.

Well, at least I can.

All of this is a pretty good automotive rabbit hole for a TV show where actual automobiles played a pretty minor role.  This of course should be expected of a show where most of the action takes place in Strange New Worlds many years into our future; even if our present is sometimes the future imagined in the distant past of 1968. Actually, the only Star Trek (original series) episode to feature a then-current car was Season 2, Episode 26 “Assignment Earth” where our heroes traveled back in time and rode around in a 1968 Plymouth Satellite (a vehicle from our past). The Satellite — also a white car, military issue — wasn’t even the highlight of that episode. That honor went to human actor Teri Garr (about six years before Young Frankenstein, another fabulous movie from our past).

Fortunately, Teri Garr was safe on Earth during her Star Trek appearance and didn’t need to brave/fight the 12 foot tall stone spear wielding aliens (while Mr. Spock tried to perform DIY repairs on the Galileo) of Taurus II.

Wait a minute…where were they?

That’s right, Galileo made its first appearance in an episode (Season 1, Episode 13 “The Galileo Seven”) where the shuttlecraft crash landed on a planet named “Taurus II”.

And there you have it.

We’ve found a Ford Taurus-based tribute to a Star Trek icon that involves the maker of classic scale models, utilizing the skills of the designer of the Studebaker Avanti, that takes place on a planet named Taurus, and all made possible by a savvy business deal pushed by the real-life version of Lucy Riccardo.

I’m guessing that this business about the reducer valve delves into deeper Star Trek lore than even I can fathom.


I didn’t take any interior shots of the Ford Galileo. Suffice to say that it did not resemble Star Fleet’s Galileo. Which is probably a good thing.

The AMT/Winfield/Kellogg shuttlecraft had a dash strangely evocative of many cars in 2024 although with somewhat reduced forward visibility. Note the large central screen and ambiguous controls. (“Uhura, get me Fleet Admiral Musk on subspace channel 3!” “I’m sorry Captain, Star Fleet Command says that we need to pay an additional fee to unlock that frequency.”) I guess for Galileo drivers, going would indeed be an action that needs to be undertaken boldly and at least partially blindly.

All things considered, the present-day Ford Galileo might be an improvement from the past as compared to the visions of transportation for an imagined future. I didn’t see this one depart its parking space, but I’m going to bet that it didn’t fly.

Because at least here on Earth (and probably on Taurus II as well, given the fact that 250 years from now they still appear to be stuck in their stone age) we still don’t have our flying cars…although I hear that’s happening any day now.

In fact, I am not the first CC contributor to make the connection between cars and Star Trek. For that, you should definitely check out Tom Halter’s in depth article on The Cars of Star Trek

Also see Edward Snitkoff’s article on the use of the Taurus in movies and TV shows (e.g., Robocop).  Daniel Stern’s article on Movie-Car Mods picks up some nice connections between real cars and how they were adapted for better or worse when turned into movie stars.

2018 Taurus Galileo Edition — Stardate -360361.61 (Earthdate May 4, 2024), Ayer, MA