• Jan 22, 2007
Bear with us here, we know that this must violate some grace-period restriction on canonization, and that the Taurus is bound to be a polarizing choice, but at least hear us out.

In the early 1980s, the American automobile manufacturers were getting their asses handed to them. Ford was late to the game updating its midsizers. GM and Chrysler both had moved to front-wheel-drive platforms with better packaging and efficiency, while Ford soldiered on with their Fox-platform LTD (née Fairmont). We can debate until we're blue in the face the superiority of a rear-wheel-drive layout, but the fact of the matter is that RWD creates packaging ineffciencies. At that time, FWD was being touted as the most monumental invention since the wheel.

More after the jump.

The Taurus was developed by a skunkworks assembled by Lew Veraldi. Veraldi pioneered a team concept that cut across departmental fiefdoms and succeeded in turning out nothing short of a revolution. Holed up in the basement of Ford's Design Center, Veraldi and his team hammered out the details of the car across disciplines in a way that enlightened all to the supreme struggle every department puts into birthing a car. Veraldi's team effort was so effective that it was emulated when the 1995 Taurus was being designed.

When the Taurus dropped in 1986, minds were blown. Here was an American car with a sleek aerodynamic shape that many thought aped the Audi 5000. The lines were clean and trim -- up front there were flush headlamps and no grille. The LTD had been a pretty good effort at smoothing out the middle-earth origins of the Fairmont, but the Taurus buried it once and for all. Aircraft-style doors closed tight around the B and C pillars, sleek door handles with integrated locks replaced the ribbed chrome flap seen on Fords since at least the Johnson administration. A large glass area made the interior feel airy and even roomier than it was. The look was quite contemporary and doesn't look severely dated even today. Inside was a dashboard that had been to the same finishing schools as the European and Asian competition. The dash even tilted toward the driver, acknowledging his or her presence. Unlike the slide-rule angularity that plagued GM interiors for most of the 1980s, the Taurus was studied in ergonomics, with uncluttered design and better materials than the outgoing LTD.

Front-wheel-drive certainly aided the roomy feel of the passenger compartment. Gone was the huge and obtrusive drivetrain hump from the Fox cars. Footroom was greatly improved, and there was just a small tunnel down the center of the car for the exhaust. The Taurus offered fully-independent suspension, something a Fox-derived car wouldn't do until the very last gasps of the SN-95. It was cheap and easy for the Taurus to pull off, there wasn't a heavy, bulky differential to eat up trunk space, so the rear suspension could be a lot more compact with no live axle to accomodate. As a result, the Taurus set the standard for interior volume that the Accord, Camry, and GM10s chased.

There's a lot of variety to the Taurus range, as it tried to be a lot of things to a lot of people. You can find a utilitarian wagon with a large and flat load area and a raucous sports sedan, both wearing the Taurus badge. Initially powered by the venerable gravel-throated 2.3-liter four cylinder and the 3-liter Vulcan V6, adequate, not stunning, performance was the order of the day. The stunning performance came later with the addition of the SHO to the Taurus range in 1989. The SHO had a Yamaha-designed V6 underhood, came only with a manual transmission, and could run with the big-dog euros. We're waiting for a Fusion SHO, thanks. The torquey 3.8-liter V6 made it into Tauri as well, a boon for the heavier wagons and making the car overall more relaxed.

Over the years, the Taurus had one redesign, with a couple of freshenings interspersed. The features went up, the price held fairly steady, and the resale always fell like a stone. Not yet dead a year, you could probably even find a fairly new one languishing on a dealer's lot. There are so many of these things around that a deal is a given. They're not terribly loved, but they offer a lot of space and drive well if you're not looking to set record lap times.

There were problems – AXOD transmissions had issues, the 3.8 liter had an appetite for head gaskets, and all cars from this era seem to have biodegradeable base/clear paint. There's a good base of knowledge about these cars because they are so common. Every mechanic has had at least one Taurus on the lift. There's also a fair amount of support from internet sites, as well. It's a great car to learn how to wrench on; cheap, plentiful, straighforward engineering.

Overall, the Taurus was a hell of an effort. Lew Veraldi assembled a team that fussed over the details and really brought out a stunner. We may snicker now about the Taurus, but drive an LTD (if you can find one) and a Taurus back-to-back and you will know which one is the superior car.


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  • 36 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      "I'm amazed at how Ford managed 190 hp out of a 3.8 liter when Nissan and Toyota today get 300 out of normally-aspirated 3.5 liters AND get better fuel economy. Even back in the early 90s Nissan's DOHC 3 liter made 190 hp while Ford's made a sickly 150 (half of which was absorbed by the awful 3 speed automatic."

      the 150hp motor was designed in early 80s and greatly universal, while it only made 140hp, i did put out 160ftlb of tq. and in 89 the sho motor made 220hp and 200ftlb tq out of a 3.0L motor. and the 3.8L while also not a high hp motor. put out 220ftlb tq.
      the 89 sho was pinned up against a bmw 5series in a car and driver article. with the sho winning. how bout them apples? hop in any 80s fwd, non are going to be OMG HOLD ON FAST. like cars of today. but i tell ya what. compare a taurus vs any other sedan in its price range, with its STANDARD features. and u will see ur getting a better car. we've have many taurus' in my family.. 87 wagon 3.0, 93 sho mtx, 93 sho atx, 95se 3.0, 98se dohc, 99se 3.0, 04se, 04 se, 04ses.... and none of our vehicles gave us problems that any real issues.

      btw... taurus farewell clip.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwuCm8hNXgI

      my car is the silver 95 in some of the clips.

      mario, aka silverknight. taurusclub.com moderator and midwest chapter president.
      Bob Atkins
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Taurus as a classic? I seriously doubt that. Most classics are two doors, with the exception of a few luxury sedans. The Taurus was never even offered in a two door version, even the NASCAR versions were fake. The Taurus, good or bad, will be remembered for what it was, a fleet/rental car. It only paved the way for the ugly ducklings produced today. It is no more a classic than a Pinto is.As a matter of fact, I'd take the Pinto over the Taurus any day. At least it could be had in a two door, even the wagon!
      • 8 Years Ago
      A classic? Hardly.
      • 8 Years Ago
      R.I.P. - S.H.O.
      • 8 Years Ago
      After years of buying soggy Mercury Marquis luxobarges, my dad bought a new Mercury Sable LS wagon in early 1986. I was initially skeptical despite the adventurous styling but came away truly impressed with how nice this car was to drive. Hardly a sport sedan, but a highly capable cruiser that actually rode and handled decently as well as being quite reliable and well screwed together. The Taurus and Sable seemed so promising as import alternatives back then....
      • 8 Years Ago
      Boo Hiss!!

      Future Classic: Chevrolet Celebrity !!

      :)
      • 8 Years Ago
      I just remember the story my Mom told me about the Taurus: Designed around a 6-foot-tall male. While it had comfortable features she sank into the squishy bench seat and couldn't bring her 5'4" frame into a position to see over the non-adjustable steering wheel. She thought it was a very nice car but not for her and was chagrined when Dad got "a great deal" and handed it to her. She drove it around for a week before driving it straight to Toyota and trading it in on a 1988 Camry with cruise and A/C being the only options.

      It may have been a wondrous car... but the Taurus simply wasn't for everyone despite it's best efforts to find a way into everyones homes. I think that it's push to be a car for everyone is what eventually killed it, regrouping from too-wild a restyle in 1995 and reverting more and more into a plain-Jane sedan and further succumbing to "My what a lovely rental car". The Taurus seemed to settle for being a benchmark that every other mid-going-on-full size car could easily improve upon.

      So long Taurus. You may be missed, but not by my mom.

      Still, I wouldn't put it past Ford to suddenly appear with some totally bitchin' car called "Taurus" to replace the Fusion in 2014.
      • 8 Years Ago
      While ditching the name might seem like a bad idea, when the above article points out things like "brutal resale", "found everywhere" I believe this is what Ford is trying to remove. Reinvent themselves. Would a new Taurus design really capture the imagination of the general populous? It would make it onto peoples "lists" when shoping just as it did before, but maybe the fact that its "just a Taurus" is a reason why Ford has been steadily declining in sales.

      Camry, Accord, etc are all names of quality, they have a history of quality, not something that the Taurus really had. Maybe the Fusion is the rebirth? In the end its just a Ford though, a name that I don't even add to my "short list" these days.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I had a '94 with the 3.0 liter that was willed to me with 60K miles on it. It was the first car I've ever owned that when I kicked it down into passing gear just made more noise and didn't really go faster.

      The seats were plainer than plain. The thing didn't have an inside trunk release (I've herd it was part of an option package I didn't have, LOL). The stereo was the worst I've ever heard since the 70s. I pawned it off on some poor grad student that just needed wheels to get around. That's all he got.

      When people (including me) talk about the Camry being "terminally boring" they need to hark back to the standard bearer on dull, the Ford Taurus. Please don't use "classic" and "Taurus" in the same sentence. If it's a classic, I just took a classic in my bathroom this morning -- capiche?
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Figures that particular Autoblog editors would choose to reflect back on a vehicle like the Ford Taurus, instead of a REAL classic car (maybe an old Camaro, Firebird, 280Z, something like that)."

      Yes only 2 door sports cars can be classics.

      "A classic car has staying power and is a vehicle everyone can appreciate."

      Yes like the Camaro and Firebird... oh wait they've been out of production longer than the Taurus.

      Is the Taurus a classic? Quite probably. No discussion of 1980s car design can be made without the Taurus. And it was fairly reliable, I knew several people in college who got around pretty well in 10+ year old Tauri. Unfortunately Ford really flubbed the mid-90s redesigns and the car got fat and ugly. And then they didn't update their engine designs for almost a decade.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Tim UF, you are starting to make a good point. Don't forget that the bottom line is to SELL the car. So it makes sence to MARKET the car at DEALERS. you say it like it's a bad thing, but it's not.

      The nameing game it nothing new either. Ford had all cars (and trucks) names start with the letter "F" as far back as the 50s. The Ford Fairlane is a good example. This is for something called BRAND RECONIGITION. Chevy did the same thing in the 60's with the Chevy Corvette, Camaro, Chevette, and so on.

      What Mr. Roth is trying to state is that Ford hit the nail on the head with the Taurus and named it well. The Taurus enjoyed strong sales even up to its end last year. Poor resale value is due not becaue of poor quality, but to numbers of cars built. I can look at 50 Tauruses in one day, and drive away with the pick of the litter and not spend a lot. That is a good thing.

      You see, Tim UF, most people drive to work everyday. If you are a lower income earner, then you cannot afford to buy a BMW or even an Accord at the used car dealer unless it is 10 or more years old. Buying such an old car, no matter what the build quality of the manufacture is at new, will result in a lot of trips to the repair shop. Why should I have to deal with that when I can get a 5 year old (2002) Taurus with a few nice options for less then $10,000 and have little or no problems with it.

      Face it, when your as big as GM and Ford, you dont need to worry about resales value, you need to worry about current (thats "new") value. Ford did an awesome job with the Taurus and is doing an equally good job with the Fusion. It's the same magic trick, just with a new name.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I had no doubt that the Taurus will become a classic someday; heck Ford may bring the car back someday. I'd like to see Ford bring it back, without this silly Bold Moves dribble. Maybe reintroduce the car as "The Bull is Back!"...the all new Taurus with a 3.7L Duratec V6 with all wheel drive and a 6 speed automatic, and optional manual. That car would catch the attention of many people, and the name is already familar to Americans (even after it's cease of production in late October). While the idea may sound silly, some of you might enjoy reading a few books about how the Taurus came to be. "Taurus: The Making of the Car that Saved Ford" and "Reinventing The Wheels: Ford’s Spectacular Comeback" tell you more about the car than one can imagine and how it saved Ford's behind. "Car: A Drama of the American Workplace" talks about the production of the Jelly Bean Taurus (96-99) and who Ford wanted to compete with. There are many site out on the internet, as the article states, that are dedicated to the Taurus...such as taurusclub.com , shoforum.com, v8sho.com, etc. All a worthwhile look if you have an interest...
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