(This actually my *first* piece for Curbside Classic. I had originally intended to write this piece finding a 1986 Sable wagon. But I could never actually catch the one running 1986 Sable I’ve seen all year. I found a 1989(?) wagon, then the owner garaged it. My educated guess as a now unloved (and sometimes troublesome) 25 year old car, it’s beginning to become harder and harder to find the first generation Mercury Sable).
Being an only child sucks for the automobile lover. Growing up your family doesn’t need to adjust to the pressures of a growing family, and doesn’t need to embrace, weigh and consider the virtues and detractions of various motor vehicle styles. Your parents can get stuck in an Automotive rut of their preference. My parents fell into the rut of Personal Coupes almost immediately. My father traded his 1960 Corvair 500 sedan for a Dodge Lancer GT and never looked back until he came to a Oldsmobile lot 35 years later and found no large coupes and bought a lease returned Eighty Eight Sedan.
My mother started off settling on a 1973 Cougar when she was told she wasn’t responsible enough for a 1971 Sting Ray. A 1978 Camaro and 1985 944 came and went before she settled into middle age and on rental return white Tauruii. But, for the large part of my youth I was stuck tripping over seatbelts affixed to B-pillars and entrapped in Sport Vinyl or Rich Corinthian leather hell, and once out of a car seat, unable to see the world around me.
I had a strong case of envy for all the people that had Sedans and Wagons. And in the Spring of 1986 it became more monumental when the first Taurus/Sable Twin wagon appeared on our block.
Mrs. Duncan’s eldest daughter had two kids that bookended me in age. A son that was five, a daughter that was three, and that all new midsize Mercury proved a perfect step up for her growing family. It replaced her Datsun B210 she had since college. Beyond the practicality, it was like the future arrived on our block. The San Francisco peninsula was still a place overrun by a lot of baroque chrome and wire wheels in 1986. Every other garage had a half padded vinyl roof, the other ones had standing hood ornaments. More often than not it was a “G” Body Cutlass Supreme or one of its siblings.
You can understand how someone who barely learned his ABCs could be blown away by a station wagon with a Lightbar, And curves that seemed, so, rich, so much like that Audi that never ran my uncle had. How could this be a car in *my* neighborhood, affordable by someone who worked at the Post Office?
In the press at the time it was called “the car that came from the moon.” It definitely felt like it was out of this world. Turn the key and that other-wordly hooverboard burble exhaust note from the Vulcan V6 said warp drive capabilities in ways the carb fed 307 Oldses of my families couldn’t possibly demure to do. It was the perfect family car for the geeky only child that would soon become addicted to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I would have had so much space to play with my “Action Figures“ in this shuttlecraft of a Station Wagon.
It’s like the half vinyl roofed G body Cutlasses of the block turned their noses at the new arrivals, like a bunch of society wives on a social lunch.
“How RUDE not to show up with the proper accessories that show breeding, like whitewalls and lightbars are only for the chrome band that separates Vinyl from the steel on the roof.”
“HOW VULGAR to have a full light bar on your face! You’re supposed to eat your air through a grille! What’s with all of this glass area? Rotary dial Climate Controls?!?!? *Where’s my fainting couch?!?*”
Little did these “Cutlass ladies” know how society was changing, and how much they might have been fearing the change. A lot of their details and designs were decidedly passe. It still took more than a half decade for The Taurus/Sable Wagon to become the UnMinivan family hauler of choice around these parts though. People loved (understandably) the many virtues of late 1980s B-body wagons and the future so soon is something that has to be taken in doses. But eventually, and after the B-Bodies tried on those curves (depending on what you think, not too successfully) people defected to the Sables and Taurus, or if you had *real* money you moved to the 300TE.
It’s funny now to think I wouldn’t dare be overcome with passion for a 1986 Sable like I was as a Child, if I were to go FWD wagon, I’d go for the scatterbrained approach of a 3.8L equipped Cutlass Ciera Cruiser with the FE3 Suspension and Console shift with alloys but Wood Paneling, because I’m pretty sure you could order that absurdity from my uncle’s Olds dealership.
I did spend a weekend behind the wheel of my Cousins beater 1992 Taurus 5 years ago though. I did find myself pleasantly surprised at how light and athletic it felt for an American family sedan. I can see how at one point, a quarter of a century ago these cars were a revelation to the American Buying public. I can still hear the exhaust note of that first Sable, and get the urge to chase that exhaust note down the block in awe like it was 1986 all over again.