After two years I realized that my BMW R 26 would not meet my transportation needs, particularly so in the winter. I ventured out to find a suitable inexpensive car. The local Ford dealer had a dark blue Ford Taunus 12 M (P4) in his back row.
Taunus 12 M is what became of Dearborn’s V4 FWD project named Cardinal. It was supposed to fight an invasive species called VW Beetle in the US. But in the last minute the big shots got cold feet and decided to push that whole thing to Germany where the bird could feast on the beetle in its natural habitat.
Ford’s inspiration and aspiration.
The dealer let me take this masterpiece (the ‘M’ stands for Meisterstück) for a spin. I drove home and showed it to our neighbor who was a Kfz Meister (certified automotive master mechanic). Without even peeking under the hood he told me the engine had a problem. The timing gears of its unique V4 engine were worn out. He looked the car over some more and came to the conclusion that it was worth about DM 200.00 and no Pfennig more. This equaled the value of the tires. Oh, was I disappointed.
This is a good representation of the dealer’s car.
As a result of this episode I came to understand the power of positive talking that only used car salesmen are capable of. He had me all excited about the horsepower, great reliability, good heat and comforts of this car. He only wanted DM 900.00 for it. After all, Ford tested this engine for a 150,000 km run in the laboratory! However, Herr Eustachi said that there is a difference between laboratory and real life conditions. He also told me that our neighbor is about to sell his Taunus 12 M and it is a good one.
I took the the blue masterpiece back to the dealer. In his office he asked what I thought of it. I blurted out: “It is worth 200 Deutsche Mark.” There was the dirtiest smirk on his face that I had ever seen to that day!
The dash was in better shape though.
On to the next target. Our neighbor with the Taunus for sale was an engineer. He lived just 2 houses down the street. I thought that would go smooth and easy us being neighbors and all. His Taunus 12 M was a beautiful, 2 door, white one, in pristine condition and with low kilometers to boot. It had a sunroof, too!
Add a sunroof and you see my neighbor’s P4.
I went to talk to him about the car. His wife came too and told of the beautiful ride and trips they made. He opened the hood and started the engine. He pointed out an improvement he installed. Using a coffee can he fabricated a heat riser to improve cold running in the winter. It shortened the needed time for the choke and helped prevent carburetor icing. I was impressed. We sat in the car and he removed the bed sheet that protected the dash from sunlight while it was parked.
The dash was that clean.
I drove a few kilometers going through all the gears. We did some small talk while his eagle eyes observed everything I did and everything that came our way. The car ran perfectly. He explained that he improved the drains for the sunroof by drilling holes into the rocker panels and extending the drain hoses through these holes. From factory the drain hoses end in the rocker panels and and the water runs to the regular drain holes. This set up hastened rusting. Then he told me that he replaced the spark plugs. For two weeks he put penetrating oil on the plugs until they came out easily. I was perplexed how afraid he was that this fine automobile might leave him or me stranded, maybe on the Schwarzwaldhochstraße or anywhere else.
It ran sooo nice!
I drove the car back to his house and parked it where we started off. I left the steering slightly to the left and he wanted it straight. He forgave me this faux pas and corrected it later himself. We continued our small talk while he draped the white sheet over the steering wheel and dash. We were talking about DM 1200.00 for this car. It would have been almost a gift!
He asked what I planned to do. So I told him I would use it to go to Heidelberg, where I studied. Some folds of worry appeared on his forehead and I could sense the gears grinding in his frontal lobes. “And I like to go to Spain to get some sun which helps my medical condition.” Now his back straightened up and went stiff. He shook his head. The he said: “ I can’t do it, going to Heidelberg is o.k., but Spain, that is too risky!” He couldn’t stand the thought of selling me a car that in his imagination may leave me stranded at the Costa Brava! No deal!
That was a hard pill to swallow. The car was meticulously maintained by an anal retentive engineer and I lost out on the deal because I was feeding to his fears with my talking.
I have read that the front wheel drive may not have been fully developed in Ford’s first attempt at this system. Nonetheless the car was able to take a beating. A regular production Taunus 12 M was subjected to a world record run on the Miramar course in southern France. Several drivers took turns and ran it nonstop for some 320000 km. In a moment of inattention driver Mino got off course, pulled it back on track and rolled it. He pushed it himself to the control point. The mechanics realized the drive train survived the ordeal unharmed. They banged the sheet metal away from the tires, taped the windshield down and the P4 continued the run. Even today the car is still drive-able.
All I had so far were two cardinals in the bush. This could have been the end of this almost-COAL. Not so. A few years later my friend Willy acquired a beater with a heater Ford Taunus 12 M that would run out of TüV (German equivalent to MOT) in late spring when he would switch to his motorcycles. I drove my car (wait for my next COAL) to his place. From there we took his 12 M to the Sasbachwaldener Winzerfest (Wine Festival Sasbachwalden). Willy’s older brother Heinz was in attendance and already in an advanced state of inebriation. I volunteered to drive them home safely and limited my own ethanol intake. Many a glass for them later, it was time to go home. They kind of figured that out when the personnel started cleaning up and locked the doors. We took along another buddy who lived in Kappelrodeck, a town on our route. But we had to solve a problem first.
Popular festivity in Sasbachwalden
Heinz, think 280 lbs linebacker for a visual aid, insisted on doing the driving. For safety’s sake we decided that he must sit in the back. Four doors would have come in handy but this one had two doors and a bench in front. I sat in the driver’s seat and held on to the steering wheel. We folded the passenger backrest forward. Willy and our pal pushed and prodded Heinz through the passenger door. He realized that he would not be driving, at least not the first leg to Kappelrodeck. To improve his odds for the second leg he plopped himself on top of the backrest that we had folded forward. And there was no way he would move anywhere else.
The seating order was revised and Willy and the other pal got in the back. We persuaded Heinz to put the backrest up and off we went. Heinz kept announcing he would take the wheel as soon as we dropped off our pal in Kappelrodeck. Going along state road L 87A Heinz got bored of repeating: “ I will take the wheel in Kappelrodeck!” It occurred to him that he could open the passenger door while I am doing 30 to 40 km/hour on a curvy hillside road. I thought to myself there was a way to shut that door for good. I pulled closer and closer to the shoulder until there was a mighty loud “Ker-planck!” The door went shut and Heinz’s hand hurt for a few days. I ought to tell you that the roadside markers on this stretch were made of granite blocks.
The tension rose as we approached Kappelrodeck, our pal’s drop off point. Would Heinz take advantage of the stop and push me off the seat? I stopped and held on to the steering wheel with a white knuckled grip. “I take the wheel now!” Heinz proclaimed. I stared forward avoiding eye contact. I let Willy handle his brother. I leaned forward to let our passenger slipped out behind me. He closed the door and I drove off post haste.
Heinz protested and identified new points in the route where he would take over for me. None of them worked out in his favor which frustrated him more and more. He noticed he could just step on my right foot and speed up. I responded by stepping on the brake pedal with my left foot. Heinz was annoyed and took his foot off mine.Now he leaned way back and put his feet on the dash, then on the windshield. “Look” he said to his brother, “I can push the windshield out!” “Don’t!” yelled Willy, “I need the car to go to work on Monday!” It was too late. With little effort Heinz pushed the windshield out. It was just leaning against the frame. Two more kilometers and I had them home, safe.
There’s your apple.
Next day I went to their place to see if I could help with the windshield. Willy and a few neighborhood guys were already putting a wire into the the rubber gasket of the windshield. Then I noticed Heinz looking out the upstairs window. He was so hung over he couldn’t even speak. With an embarrassed grin on his face and beady little eyes he watched the guys dealing with the aftermath of his cerebral flatulence.
Willy used the Ford Taunus 12 M all winter and in spring he found a Lambretta scooter for his motorcycle collection. He put it in the trunk and showed up at my place with it. It was a Kodak moment worth sharing here.
At the 2015 Baden-Baden Concourse d’Elegance a Ford Taunus 12 M was on display. It was as nice as the engineer’s some 40 years before.