By on November 25, 2011

The Junkyard Find series is all about the interesting and uncommon stuff I find during my travels to wrecking yards in Colorado and California, but what kind of cars form the backdrop to the Peugeots, Merkurs, and ancient Detroit iron? The demographics of this population tend to shift over the decades; 20 years ago, the GM B body reigned supreme in the high-turnover self-service yards I tend to frequent, but there’s no doubt about the 21st Century’s current Junkyard King.
Lately, the Chrysler LH has been moving up in the junkyard ranks, perhaps even displacing the GM H Body for second place. California junkyards always have substantial numbers of Volvo 240s, as the brick-buying demographic transitions to the Prius, and the high cost of repairs to big Benzes means there’s always a long line of W126s before The Crusher’s hungry steel maw.
But the numbers of junked Ford Tauruses (and Mercury Sables) dwarfs everything else. I visited a large steel-company-owned self-service California yard a couple days back and started counting the Taurus/Sable population. The Ford section of this yard has about 300 vehicles, and 118 of them are Tauruses and Sables.
Obviously, this is mostly due to the vast sales figures for these cars over the last quarter-century; the Taurus was #1 in North American sales for most of the 1990s, and most junked Detroit cars are 10-15 years old these days.
But where are the junked Accords and Camrys? Granted, the typical junked Honda or Toyota is 20-25 years old in California (due to perceived-value assumptions of West Coast used-car buyers and resulting higher values for allegedly bulletproof Japanese iron) but we should be seeing the import sections of self-serve yards overflowing with early-90s Accords… and that’s just not happening. Right now, the VWs are jostling with the 626s, Tercels, early Infinitis, and a new influx of disposable late-90s Koreans in these yards, but you’re lucky if you can find more than a half-dozen Accords or Camrys (and don’t get me started about the near-zero availability of fifth-gen Civic parts in the cheap self-serve yards; every time I need something for my daily driver, I have to visit at least two yards to find it).
Taurus sales went downhill fast when so many Americans switched to trucks as daily drivers during the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, which means that we can expect to see the Taurus Junkyard Era start to wind down in another five years or so. The early, game-changing ’86s and ’87s are already rare enough that I notice them on the street. Maybe it’s time to find a clean ’86 and stash it away?

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93 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Where Tired Tauruses Go To Die...”


  • avatar
    vww12

    Where are the Accords and Camrys?

    Easy: living second lives in third world countries. They’ll take each one. But disposable income is hard to come by outside the U.S. borders.

    Therefore, few will purchase U.S.-made cars when there’s quality Japanese stuff to be had.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Ditto for Corollas, I have been to a couple of local yards and whenever they get a Corolla it’s damaged beyond repair and then the car is picked apart for every little part, even interior plastic and such. When they’re junked for anything else they get sold to exporters who send them to Latin America or Haiti where they get fixed and go back into service, no worse for the wear. BTW my in-laws had a mid 80′s Taurus wagon, great car when new but as it got older, the repair bills became intolerable.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Generalizations are awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      The late 80s, early 90s Accords and Camrys rusted away a long time ago. Most were made out of thin metal that loved the rust monster, hardly see one on the road today either.

    • 0 avatar
      damikco

      So who are “exporting” these Toyota’s and Honda’s? The Japanese Folk of making 100x better cars than America is just that a folk. I give you the 80′s to the early 90′s but they where not that much better.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Oh, lets see mechanics, exporters to third world countries, people who gain from exporting cars over there that will stand the ravages of bad roads, bad service and fuel and poor maintenance.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    There was a time when every every rental car you got was a Taurus/Sable, and that may explain their heavy representation in the junkyards. Even if you asked for a “subcompact” they’d slam you in one of these at the same rate, and the gas mileage wasn’t different enough to complain about. It may have been during the period when the big American manufacturers owned the rental car companies, which would’ve helped too.

    Hard to believe it now, but the original oval-rear-window Taurus was kind of an exciting design when it first appeared…a huge change from the Impalas and awful Monte Carlos GM was “styling” in those days.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought the ’96 oval-window Taurus was a really interesting-looking car, and was disappointed when it wasn’t a big hit. Lesson learned: make cars look boring.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Ford neglected the Taurus to the point that it gave up its #1 status to Accord and then Camry in the lucrative mid size market, I had a 86 Camry and my in-laws had same yr Taurus wagon, the latter was a better driver but at the end of the day, the Camry kept going and going w/o any major problems for over 240k miles while the Taurus became a monthly cash drain for their bank account till they had to give in at just over 100k miles, BTW the Camry was cheaper to buy as well.

      • 0 avatar

        Can anyone even picture what the ’96 Camry and Accord look like, now that 15 years have passed? Toyota and Honda learned the “boring is safe” lesson even better than Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The lesson learned should have been that oval windows create huge, insipid, completely foreseeable blind spots. The cars still weren’t particularly interesting looking, just obviously inefficient in packaging and visibility.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I still see mid-90s Accords and Camrys almost daily. No need to picture them, but the Accord of that generation was attractively styled in my opinion. A friend’s family bought pretty much every generation of Accord, and I far preferred that one to the ’91 and the ’98.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        Don’t those mid 90′s cars look the same as the new ones. How do you know you’re not just seeing ones that are only 2 years old.

        (yes I’m being a bit facetious but I think my point is made)

        As for Taurus’s except for the SHO (and not even that one that much) I never cared for them. They just never appealed to me, heck I’d rather have had a minivan than a Taurus.
        /shrug

      • 0 avatar

        I disagree on the ’96 oval-window Taurus. I thought it was an interesting idea badly executed. The orignal Taurus, on the other hand, was imo, a great design, among the best sedans of the ’80s, and among those I would expect to see represented at places like Hershey in 10 years or so.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Volt 230, Prior to the bubble Taurus the Explorer had pretty much taken the title as best selling “car” in the US. Ranking #3 in sales in a number of years after the F and C series trucks. So it ie easy to see why Ford’s focus shifted away from the Taurus.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        I agree, they also kept the theme going to the oval radio in the dash. (Hard to replace with an after market stero)

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        To me the front of the oval Taurus looks like the face of a catfish.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I actually think the oval design has worn well, but I’m largely judging it from an exterior standpoint.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      I don’t need to picture what they look like cause I see tons of them driving around on a daily basis

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      An aunt bought a brand new ’97 or ’98 SHO. Black with a gray leather interior. Chrome wheels. I remember thinking that car looked fantastic at the time (I was 12), although the interior already looked cheap to a tween (?) in the 1990s. It was bought back at around 2 years old under the lemon law due to something in the oddball 3.4L V8 being very poorly made. Several years later, I think they recalled them. Perhaps the camshafts broke several times or something. It was replaced with a Camry, then another Camry, and now a 2010 Fusion. So there IS life after poor quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      They can look OK – if they are in good condition and have the chrome “pie plate” alloy wheels. Too bad most of them came with ugly hubcaps. To me, the wagons look better than the sedans, and I suppose that is why Ford didn’t redesign the back of the wagon for 2000.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought the oval-themed dash was also pretty interesting. Remember, the ’86 Taurus looked shockingly different when new, and Ford was trying to stick with Taurus tradition a decade later. By then, however, the Toyota-ization of American tastes had progressed a lot further.

      • 0 avatar
        jellybean

        Ah, yes, I totally agree. I had forgotten about the ’86 dash. It was as fresh as the exterior. Sort of looked like the surface was turned inside out. Even the seats had a new shape.

      • 0 avatar
        autojim

        The oval dash had its issues – it was one of the first high-volume cars without a DIN or double-DIN radio — in fact, the bulk of the radio was under the package shelf in the trunk and only a control head & cassette or CD player was in the dash at all. This didn’t affect many new buyers, but as folks wanted to upgrade the sound, they found themselves having to either custom-fab something, or later, the aftermarket started making replacement dash pods that housed a DIN radio and allowed you to transfer over your HVAC bits from your existing dash.

        It worked, but it was an added expense and complication, and when combined with the catfish front end that got the inevitable “That’s *weird*, Mabel” reaction in middle America, as you say, more folks started going with safe.

        Ford turned down the front-end weird in ’98 with the fresher fascia, but it took the ’00 major freshening to bring it back to semi-normal, and by then the underpinnings (which largely dated back to the original ’86) were getting very long in the tooth.

        I’m also wondering what sort of insurance rate rise the ’96 DN101 saw over the earlier DN5 chassis, as the DN101 had a composite radiator support (with integrated fan shroud!) that had a habit of shattering in front impacts that would have just bent a metal one a little bit.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      I remember when the Taurus was redesigned, the head of the team proudly announced that the Ford oval would be carried to every possible aspect of the car including the rear window, dash and on and on, that redesign began the decline of the model.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        The decline had little to do with the oval shape. The car was more expensive than competing Japanese cars, offering little or no advantages. Then, in 1999 some serious decontenting began. Gone were the rear disc brakes and dual exhausts, even on premium models. The SHO version with its DOHC V8 Yamaha engine was axed past 1999. The car descended into mediocrity until it became reantal-only vehicle at the same when the competitors were making serious progress.

  • avatar
    JEM

    The junkyard era for the early Taurus started long, long ago – a decade ago. It’s difficult now to find, for instance, good first-gen SHO parts in a junkyard.

    What killed the Taurus was not the SUV, but the ’96 Tuna Taurus and Ford’s tendency to run away from what they perceive as ‘damaged’ nameplates. The Camry and Accord ate Ford’s lunch until the Fusion came along to fill the old Taurus slot in the market. The current “Taurus” is some kind of sedan-shaped minivan that’s more of a Crown Vic replacement.

    Likewise the Volvo 240 is getting thin in the yards now, there’s more 850s in the local pick-n-pulls than earlier cars.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Am I wrong in believing that the ’00 Taurus refresh reignited the sales for the name? Perhaps not to early-90s levels, but I can’t throw a rock without hitting at least three on the street. Sure, 90% of them were fleet cars, but there sure were alot of them made. Thanks to the fantastic AOD tranmission’s inability to last past 110k miles and the sub-$2000 value of an ’00-07 Taurus with that mileage, I’d say a Junk Taurus Renaissance is just around the bend.

    There’s a PRISTINE 80k miles ’92 LX wagon for sale nearby at a BHPH lot known for selling what you’d expect to find in a junkyard. Burgundy over burgundy over burgundy over burgundy. Every part is the same nasty color, from the body to the dash to the steering wheel to the velour seats. Autoclimate and that wierd electric fog-free windshield to boot. Looks too clean under the hood to be sold where it’s being sold at. Of course they’ll finance a dead squirrel for the $2995 asking price.

    Relatedly, I remember hearing in around ’97 that those early-90s wagons would be totalled if the curved rear glass was busted. Cost something like $4500 for a new part at the dealer, plus labor to install. The electric seatbelts were also a big-ticket item, and I believe repairing them was getting close to the value of the cars at that point, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      IIRC, sales definitely improved with the ’00 restyle, but they never came back to the levels of the early-90s. The 1996 restyle killed a lot of the sales magic the Taurus nameplate had, and it has never really recovered.

      I actually liked the ’96 restyle. A friend had a loaded LX with the V6, and he had great fun driving it throughout the Southwest with nary a problem in two years of high-mileage ownership. The interior started looking a bit ratty by 70K, but that was as much his fault as the car’s.

      I’m not aware that the Taurus ever had electric seat belts. The Tempo/Topaz did, but if memory serves Taurus went straight to a driver-side airbag in 1990, and two front bags in the ’92 restyle (I think the passenger side airbag was optional for a year or two after that) that fulfilled the passive restraint requirements of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Right you are, my bad… I believe the seatbelt comment should have been attached to the Escort, not the Taurus.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        In 92 the passenger airbag was optional, and then a couple of months into the model year Ford offered a “safety package” that bundled the passenger airbag and antilock brakes. I still have a 92 so I will attest that they sure can last, and at least for me, repairs have been minimal. These cars depreciate so much that they often not worth the trans rebuild at 130K. Higher value cars like Accords are worth the trans rebuild so they get the opportunity to run for another 100K. For those Taurii that do get the rebuild, they live for another 100K too, at least those with the Vulcan. Just look at the high mileage posts at Taurusclub.

    • 0 avatar
      JEM

      The ’00 was an improvement, but it was a vastly decontented fleet car and the profit per unit must have been minimal.

      Given the pace of advance in the late ’80s and early ’90s the ’92 car needed to be mechanically what the ’96 was. Instead, it was a minimal refresh with a heavily-thrifted interior. The ’96 might have been competitive mechanically and it was much better built than the earlier cars but it was…shall we say, an acquired taste aesthetically. And, of course, after the first year Ford panicked and started stripping content out too. By ’00 you couldn’t even ORDER rear discs any more.

      We won’t talk about the half-hearted ’96 SHO, a nice enough car but hardly ‘super’ anything.

      The glass that would cause the car to be totaled was the Instaclear metallic-film windshield that went into a few Tauruses and more Sables. It was a huge amp draw, requiring a substantially different electrical system too.

      • 0 avatar
        roger628

        The early versions of these windshields, in mid-70s T-Birds and Lincolns, actually had a second alternator.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Instaclear had a special controller that transferred the car’s electrical load to the battery and let the alternator run more or less unregulated to produce much higher voltage – 70 volts or so IIRC – since current draw at 12 volts would be very high. Should the battery’s voltage drop below spec, the system would disengage and return the car to alternator output. I believe the problem with this system was the very high cost of the windshield itself and the too-common failure of the coating on the glass. Most smart people who experienced a coating failure simply cracked the glass and made a windshield claim with their insurance company…

  • avatar

    The dearth of Camry I can understand, but I’m wondering where all the Wranglers go. There are, literally, none at local yards. Cherokees are present, but not Wranglers. But they were selling since 1986!

    I am a total beginner at this, and I opened my illustrous scavenger’s career by querying around for a rear bumper for JK. You can laugh now.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      You kidding? They’re all totalled or being driven around! About a year ago, I had a Jurassic Park-fueled fantasy of picking up a somewhat beat YJ. 4-cylinder/5-speed 4WD combos with over 150k and “some rust” were bringing over $4000! I had more like $1000-1500 in my mind. Nice ones, with modifications, are still all over Craigslist for upwards of $7-8k. I didn’t want mods, and well-cared-for ones don’t come any other way. My fantasy died quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Yep. This phenomenon is why I ended up with a Land Cruiser over the Jeep. I had to search for a poverty pack model but ended up paying less for a vehicle that is arguably more capable off road.

    • 0 avatar

      There was a story just this week or last that the Wrangler has the highest resale value of any nameplate. At a certain point they just stop depreciating. It has probably helped that they were ruggedly constructed and didn’t have too many electrical bits. Maybe loaded up examples of the current one will prove an exception.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I was delving into my stored collection of automotive literature over Thanksgiving and ran into a car buying guide from 2005. In it were the nameplates with the best resale and worst resale, 1 year out. The best was the RAV4. In ’05, Consumer Guide had the ’04 model depreciating by a mere 4%. The Wrangler was in the top ten for year-old models. The stretch is even worse as they get older, at least for the YJ and TJ generations.

        Worst depreciation 1 year out in ’05? The 2004 Taurus was at the top (bottom?) of the list with 59% in 1 year! Staggering… Of the 20 on each list, 14 of the lowest-depreciation were foreign nameplates (3 of the six domestic nameplates were fullsize pickups and one was the Wrangler), while only 4 (3 of them Mitsubishis) foreign nameplates were on the highest-depreciation list.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      The only Jeep TJ’s YJ’s Wranglers etc., I see in junk yard are ones which have been utterly totaled in accidents – and they are rare. All other examples are still worth far too much money to end up in a pick-n-pull.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Pete,

      There are Jeep specialty junkyards that seem to snag all of the wrecked Jeeps (that aren’t completely obliterated) and then charge top dollar for anything that comes off of them – so much so that it’s often better to just buy new parts from the dealer. There’s one in Denver that quoted me almost the same price for a used foglamp as I could buy new. I guess there are people that are so petrified of even going near a dealer that they are willing to pay these prices (without doing any investigation whatsoever) or all of these specialty junkyards would go out of business.

      The question I have is: how do some cars (i.e. Jeeps, specific import brands, etc.) end up in specialty junkyards anyway? Is there a bidding process or “auction” market for these junkyards to snag these vehicles? If so, it probably explains why these specialty junkyards charge premium prices – they pay more up front to acquire the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @Wheeljack

        Yes I’ll gladly pay a junkyard more for parts like leafsprings or whatever. You get the parts immediately instead of overnight and possibly back ordered. I’ve actually had better luck with junkyard steering boxes and alternator as opposed to the rebuilt crap the dealer sells.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks, I’ll try to find smaller ones for jeeps. All I found so far were truck-oriended, and usually with names like “El Mexicano Truck Salvage” (no joke – I’m referring to one at Old Coors in ABQ).

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        DenverMike,

        Where the difference in price is negligable, I’ll take the new part every time even if it means waiting a few days. I’ve sacrificed in other areas in order to own several vehicles – needing a part immediately is just not an issue for me. I prefer to order parts online and save, even if it means waiting a few days for things to show up on my doorstep.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        There are insurance auctions held all over the country and people who haunt them to buy certain kinds of vehicles. I have a friend that buys Miatas and Volvos. Buys them fixes them and puts them back on the road. He sticks with a certain brand or model b/c he knows what it costs to fix them and where to source the parts.

  • avatar
    jellybean

    Aaah, the Taurus. I still remember when these appeared on the scene in 1986, I loved the design, so fresh, so cutting edge at the time. And the wagon blew me away, so futuristic. As an avid car design lover, this was progress, real progress. I loved the ‘jelly bean’ movement from Ford. But then things got carried away. The ’96 was bizarre, I liked it, but I knew lots of folks wouldn’t. I owned an original ’86 wagon, piece of crap (mechanically), but it was old when I got it. I Bought a 1999 in 2003, loved it, but it started to fall apart in 2004, sold it. I still like the design though, but it signalled the end of the jelly bean era, it was just too over the top. I marvelled at that oval back window on the sedan. Now they are mostly wrecking yard fodder, reviled by most. Too bad.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I suppose many Jeeps are brought back to life and find their way to third world countries.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Does anyone else notice that a typical Taurus/Sable always has sagging rear suspension? Even the 2004-2007 models (last of the “ovals” before the rebadged 500) are starting to sag.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I never see the first-gen Taurus/Sable anymore. Even a decade ago, they were becoming rare in the Midwest, and they were even uncommon during my two-year stint in rust-free Georgia. There are still some 2nd gen cars clattering around, but they’re pretty beat, and the 3rd-gens have mostly moved into hooptie status.

    I always liked the Taurus. It looked good and it had the right ingredients to compete with the best from Japan, but it was completely disposable. The component quality on these cars was just hideous.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    The company I worked for was purchased by Dupont in late 89, and as part of that transaction we all got company vehicles.

    At the time I thought this was pretty cool.

    Unfortunately the choice of cars was either a Taurus. Lumina or a Minivan.

    Over the years it eventually became just a Taurus or Caravan.

    I had a 90 Taurus that the transmission died on twice, the last time about 100 miles from home at midnight in the middle of nowhere. Followed by a 93 with buckets and a floor shift that I actually considered purchasing after the lease was up.

    Next up was a 1996 de-contented POS.

    Dupont spun us off in 97, I dumped that junker and went back to using my own car as soon as it was possible.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    It’s not a Camcord…but I sold my 1999 Protege (140k miles, drove it to Los Angeles from detroit…so typical rust buck crunchy metal underneath) to the first guy who called for $1250 last weekend…He was taking it to Guatemala.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    These cars were terrible for my family. We had a 1987 L model in a beautiful, lustrous robin’s egg blue, with blue corduroy interior– 2.5L HSC, 3-Speed Automatic. It was a lovely car with perfect trim– the MT-5s, LXs and SHOs tended to look garish, with their oval grille cutouts and wooden plates on the door velour in the 86-88 models.

    The car experienced every failure an automobile could, but it looked absolutely handsome doing it.

    In 2001, our family got the 2000 model re-fresh in SES trims. The dashboard would turn off at night, there were a lot of dummy lights on, and the power accessories began to fail by a few years time. It blew up after the technician didn’t tighten the drain bolt and it ran out of oil at 130k miles in 2005. It wasn’t going to last beyond 150.

    No one remembers the MT-5, but I believe it to be the Taurus to have.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    In the Atlanta market the absolute king of junkyard fodder has become the Ford Explorer.

    Tauruses often head straight to the crusher these days… especially with the prices for scrap metals . Well that and the relative infrequency of finding a Taurus with good powertrain components (Vulcan V6′s are an exception). Georgia’s heat does an absolute number on most of these vehicles.

    Explorers do last out here and if memory serves me right, they outsold the Tauruses through the later half of the 90′s and beyond. There was a lot of crushing done of Explorers after Cash for Clunkers. In fact, I saw junkyards where Explorers were stacked on top of the other three to four high. It was an incredible sight to see.

    Most of those were crushed. But plenty of others have come in to fill their place. Many of which are wrecks driven by former title pawn customers, and younger folks on the false pretense that the parents had given them a ‘safe’ vehicle.

    As for Tauruses, this is how they pretty much stack up as beaters.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/hammer-time-the-ultimate-tightwad-car/

    I’m surprised California has so many Taurae and Sables.

    • 0 avatar

      Most Explorers in California and Colorado go straight to the crusher, without stopping in the junkyard, because there’s not enough demand for parts.

      • 0 avatar
        87CE 95PV Type Я

        But Mr. Martin, I thought Coloradoans loved their 4X4s so to read that Explorers, Mountaineers, and Navajos go straight to the crusher is quite surprising.

    • 0 avatar
      otsegony

      Much as I enjoy reading Steven Lang’s posts here on TTAC and generally agree with them, I’m going to have disagree with him on the Volvo 240 series being the ultimate tightwad car versus a Taurus. I’ve had both (3 240s through the years) and I can tell you that the ultimate cost of ownership was much lower for my 2002 Taurus wagon then any of the bricks that I drove. The Taurus I bought in 2005 for $8500 with 70k on the clock. It was an SEL model that had all of the upgrades. I got it to 165k in 2010 before the laundry list of things needed to be done to pass inspection was going to cost over $2500. In the five years that I had it I put 2 or 3 sets of brakes on it, a few changes of tires and fixed several of the glitchy electrical mistakes, nothing else. The transmission and the engine and its ancillaries remained untouched. A typical Volvo experience on the other hand, was the ’86 GL wagon with 110k on the clock I bought in ’94 for $2500. It was durable, for sure, but it was never cheap to run. It required regular service visits to my friend the independent Volvo mechanic, for the many strange “quirks” that “they all had.” Among these were the biodegrading wiring harness, multiple windshield wiper motors and one very, very expensive heater blower motor (try living without those in a Vermont winter), an Overdrive unit (more costly than an entire Ford transmission!) and miscellaneous other bits and pieces like the tiny $15 air box thermostat that failed and took out two mass airflow sensors before being fixed. It was lucky that I enjoyed going to junkyards (Burlington had several that were packed with Volvos) and my mechanic didn’t mind putting in used parts that I sourced. I had the car for 2 years and had a glove box full of repair receipts, averaging about $400 – $500 a pop. Ironically, the Taurus was also much better in the snow than the Volvo, even with four Nokia studded snows. The one area that the Volvo shined was that at the end of the day I turned around and sold it for $2000, while it took me awhile to sell the Taurus for $300 to a neighborhood kid, and it was still under 10 years old.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Ots, you are comparing a 2002 Taurus that you only kept for five years, with a 1986 Volvo 240 that was bought when it was already as old as the Taurus. A Taurus built 16 years later and yet needed a ‘laundry list of repairs’ at the same age.

        But you are mostly right… Volvo 240′s are not ‘reliable’ vehicles. They are ‘durable’ vehicles.

        I have yet to find a 240 that didn’t need some work at some point. However the powertrains for them (along with most 740′s and 940′s) are virtually bulletproof if they’re given regular maintenance.

        Tauruses from 1986 thru 1999 have tended to be very sensitive to neglect. The powertrains aren’t as robust as it relates to durability (the Vulcan V6 is an exception), and they are simply far harder to work on and love.

        The point of my article was that the tightward car, is the one you consider worth keeping. Volvo 240′s have an endearing quality for their owners. Tauruses and Sables, not so much.

        For a wider breadth of opinions on the RWD Volvo’s vs 1990′s Tauruses, go to carsurvey.org and see what the owners say. I promise you the vehicles are polar opposites when it comes to durability and owner satisfaction.

    • 0 avatar
      87CE 95PV Type Я

      I notice in my travels to Savannah that the place seems full of 1st-2nd gen Explorers as well as GM Bodies mainly 1977-1996 Caprices and since I really like Caprices this is a nice sight to see.

      I will take your word about Atlanta Explorers since while I was there I did not notice a dominate vehicle like I had in other locals.

  • avatar
    sw2092

    Firstly, thanks for the ‘Junkyard Find’ series – by far my favourite column in any motoring blog. I love seeing what sits in US junkyards – lots of cars that I don’t get to see everyday, if at all.

    As for the Taurus, Ford Australia attempted to sell the ’96-onwards ovoid model here for a few years before giving up the fight. It tanked badly due to a few reasons. Ford Australia were basically ordered to sell the Taurus by Ford US. It was seen as a bit of a litmus test by the US to determine whether Australians would go for a large front wheel drive car instead of the Australian developed, rear wheel drive, Falcon (and Holden Commodore). They didn’t. Ford Australia was on a roll at the time, and the Falcon/Fairmont was a great looking, decent quality product. Australians weren’t ready to pay more for a front wheel drive car when the local product seemed better (at least for Australia) in every way.

    And to be honest, Ford Australia didn’t care – they weren’t going to saboutage the future of their own locally developed cars, so the Taurus was hardly promoted at all, and any potential buyers were allegedly steered towards the Falcon/Fairmont. The Taurus was totally outgunned and, with the even better new generation AU Falcon and VT Commodores due soon, Ford US admitted defeat and the Taurus was quietly dropped.

    The first irony is that the AU Falcon also had way-out styling, and was a disaster for Ford Australia. The second irony is that Australia has now fallen out of love with it’s large cars, the Falcon in particular, and it’s widely anticipated that the next generation Falcon will actually be a rebadged, next-gen Taurus…

    Personally, I was amazed to see how many of the wrecks that you pictured, many of them up the the early-mid 90′s, had rear drum brakes. Very low-tech. Australian Falcons had totally stopped using them by 1987.

  • avatar

    ’86 Taurus was a legend. I heard about it in 80s but never experienced it because was not in USA at the time so cannot compare ’86 Taurus with later incarnations. I have a book about ’86 Taurus. Taurus team made nothing less than revolution in the way how Ford (or GM and Chrysler) conducted business. Ford became most profitable company in the world and scared Honda and Toyota a lot. Toyota decided to fight back and imitated Taurus with new ’92 Camry – it was everything Taurus was but higher quality and refinement. It in turn scared Ford. But the problem was that by that time even though Ford had tons of cash – SUV were becoming hot and Ford also went to shopping spree squandering its future and unimaginable amount of money which could be instead spend on R&D on chronically non-profitable European brands.SO Ford postponed its answer to Toyota and instead decided to discount ’92 Taurus to take price advantage over Camry – and it worked for some degree. And the rest is the history.

    I also read the book about development of ’96 Taurus. ’96 Taurus was a late answer to ’92 Camry. Goal was to beat Camry by offering cool design because Ford simply did not have production system at place to challenge Camry on refinement and quality. Taurus always was about futuristic design and smooth refined ride. But Ford simply could not built same quality cars as Toyota.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I think the reason you found so many Tauruses is that you shop at the metal recycler owned yards. They buy by the pound sell a few parts to help the bottom line and shuffle them off to the crusher yet. The demand for the Camcord parts and the price that people will pay for them means they will appeal to the yards that keep them till they are picked clean.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Ford imported to Venezuela the first redesign, which was around 1991-2. I really like the style of that car, specially in SHO form.

    They imported the 3.0 car, and marketed them as a luxury item. The few that were sold (Toyota sold much more Camrys) can be found at a lower price than a Camry, near 92 Corolla prices.

    Down here I also see the oval ones from time to time. They added some lamps and modified the front ones for ADR compliance making them look uglier than even the AU.

    Japanese cars are very reliable, and can run for thousands kms, but I fail to see why people in the 3rd world (and I come from there) would buy a 300K miles cars that is also expensive to fix parts wise. I guess it has to do with the status a Japanese brand afford there. Fixing a worn out Toyota/Honda is an expensive exercise.

    I’ve seen 300K kms 93 Camrys here for dirt cheap and have thought about pulling the trigger a couple of times (they’re pretty), but I already know that a worn Toyota demands money, heaps of it.

    So right now I’m looking at the 3800 V6/4L60E/RWD combo.

  • avatar

    My first experience with Taurus (and Ford in general) was ’94 Taurus I bought used with over 100K miles when I came to US in 2000. It was basic GL trim with 3.0L Vulcan, 4-speed AT and rear disc brakes. It was a beauty to look at. But if you looked close it had lot of gaps what looked bizarre to someone who used to deal mostly with German and Japanese cars – actually GM cars were even worse in that aspect. But it was really cheap, beautiful and priced same as boxy Japanese cars from 80s. I just wanted good looking newer car for cheap.

    The problem was that as I discovered later – it was in commercial use according to Carfax with 100K as I suspect minimal maintenance miles. Anyway, I quickly discovered that it had unfixable AT problem – AT rebuild did not help – it developed same symptoms again after while. Engine also had oil leak which I fixed by replacing gasket but soon it started leaking again – it was a design issue, but not as critical as AT.

    Before coming to USA I used to idea that V6 in any car is a awe-inspiring premium engine of very powerful sport-sedan quality. 3.0L at Taurus proved to provide less acceleration and power than 1.6L I6 I had before in my European Toyota what surprised me a lot. Taurus simply did not accelerate fast enough and the even had a problem to reach speeds which are considered normal in Europe.

    I visited local junk yard couple of time for parts and yes even in 2000 there were enough second gen Tauruses there.

    After two years when I had enough money to buy new car I gave ’94 Taurus to my son who just learned to drive expecting it to be destroyed in short time. But my son proved to be careful driver but he actively hated it because it was slow and always had issues with AT. When AT started to leak dangerously too much I donated it to charity.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    My brother-in-law had one of those first Tauri, a weird blue-gray color. It started mixing its oil and water at well under 100k miles, but they fixed it and kept it anyway.

    I remember driving a maroon wagon right after the Taurus was introduced, and while we thought it was nice enough, we were already Accord partisans and bought another Accord.

  • avatar
    plee

    When I read about Taurus transmissions failing, I wonder if those cars had the ATF changed every 30K like the owners manual directs as mandatory maintenance. Here is my Taurus/Sable history:
    1990 Taurus GL 3.0, bought with 48K sold with 90K plus, no transmission problems
    1997 Sable GS 3.0 bought new, traded with 60K, no transmission problems
    2000 Sable LS Duratec, bought with 18K, sold with 125K, no transmission problems
    2004 Taurus SEL Duratec, bougth with 24K currently wife’s car with 87K, no transmission problems

    So is it because I always had ATF changed every 30K or am I just lucky?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      So is it because I always had ATF changed every 30K or am I just lucky?

      That is it on the nose. This is why Steve and Sajeev recomend adding a thermostat controlled transmission cooler on FWD auto trans vehicles over a given GVWR.

    • 0 avatar

      I knew couple of guys at work who owned Tauruses and were very happy owners. One even bought next generation ovaloid Taurus. I have 2002 Sable with 145K miles with no issues at not. But I maintain cars and everything else with German pedantism. Actually Swiss and German used cars are the best because they are perfectly maintained. Japanese used cars are also very good, but because are sold being almost new. But I would avoid buying cars from US (I mean if I lived in third world).

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      My sister and brother-in-law bought a pair of late 90s Tauruses and they both had a failed transmission within 10K of each other at the 100K mile point. Both cars were leased cars and dealer maintained until they bought them at 30K miles. Both received maintenance by the book with quality parts right up until the transmissions went to pieces.They fixed them both and replaced both cars with matching Buick Centuries. One one they sold to my grandmother, the other went away before 90K miles. By 60K my grandmother’s Century was a mess – needed struts, intake gasket, a/c compressor, and some other stuff. I bragged on that car too until about 58K miles when everything went wrong all at once. I was offered the car but said NO-WAY. My CR-V is still hoping along just fine at 228K. The other Century was fair until 90K when they sold it but it too started having the same problems my grandmother’s car was having.

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    OK, which 2 of these pictures don’t belong with the others? ;-)

  • avatar
    87CE 95PV Type Я

    Sheesh that is a butt load of Tauruses and Sables! Around here 1st gens are quite rare, 2nd gens getting rarer, and the 3rd gens are still crawling around in decent numbers.

    Perhaps I have owned my 95 Voyager too long, vehicles of its kind on the junkyard are getting rarer and rarer even in junkyards. That is what I get for living in New York.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    My parents still have a 1990 Honda Accord EX 5MT sitting in the yard with 120k on it. Still works and while they don’t drive it, they refuse to get rid of it because it works.

    Meanwhile, my driveway was home to a 97 Taurus GL for a while, and now a ’10 SHO. The 97 went to well over 200k before it had transmission issues, the ’10 has 21k miles on it and I love surprising unsuspecting victims at stop lights :)

  • avatar
    Joss

    I forecast current Accord/Camry will not prove as long term as older models currently not found.. The Great Recession must be a factor, they say there’s plenty pent-up for new cars owing to number of 20-year old clunkers still out there.

    The automatic was a Taurus weak point, so where will this leave CVT in 20 years? Heck ain’t CVT reduced components and lower RPM?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I always thought that the late 90′searly 2000′s Taurus’s weren’t so good, they’re not as room as the first ones (dunno why since the later ones are bigger), and my parents each had one at some point.

    My Dad killed his wagon bumping a curb and the tranny in my moms Sable gave out at 100k something.

    A local driving instructor uses one has his car for the lessons, thanks to the easy controls the Taurus suited that roll well apart from the uncomfortable seats.

  • avatar
    x-hdtestrider

    I remember sitting behind a white taurus station wagon, waiting to get on the freeway in L.A. The on ramp was up hill, and I thought. Oh great, this Jurassic park pilot in the station wagon is going to try to get on the freeway at 5 MPH. But then I noticed he had duel exhaust, and then in the same white body color was the letters “SHO”. When the light turned green, the old man put that station wagon in hiper drive and left me at the light wondering what the hell was that thing.
    Correct me if I’m wrong. But did some of the Ford Taurus have the 6 cylinder Yamaha made engines ?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No Ford never officially produced a SHO wagon though they may have built some for testing purposes. My guess is that the one you saw was done by the driver with a wrecked SHO and a regular wagon. For the most part it could be done as a bolt in exercise. The rear of the exhaust would likely have to be custom but you could drop out the entire power train, suspension and the exhaust back to the cats, out in one piece and pop it right in a regular model. The tricky part would be the wiring but definitely doable.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a ’93 SHO a few years ago and it indeed had a Yamaha engine.

      The 1st/2nd Gen Tauruses all came with a Yamaha V6. The sticks were 3.0′s, the automatics got 3.2′s. All SHOs were sticks until ’93, when an automatic (mine had the AXOD IIRC) finally bacame available.

      The driving experience was very much like the Cadillac STS4 a good friend owned, very smooth all the way to 120+ MPH before it started to act like it cared. Obviously the Caddy was much better appointed but the SHO engine and appointments made it a premium car.

      Problem was working on it. Electrical issues invariably led you to unplug the ECM and plug in a “breakout box” to help diagnose. I’ve been a GM/Mopar/Subaru guy all my life. What’s a breakout box!? Why can’t I just use my test light and multimeter through the entire process like GM?

      The tranny died and off to the junkyard it went. Never again…

      BTW Ford went to a small V8 with the ’96 SHO redesign. I have yet to find someone say they preferred the newer V8s to the old Yamaha model.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Plenty of these in that same medium blue were sold to gov’t fleets in CNG or gas. They usually had the police upgrade with HD suspension, cooling, larger brakes etc. 94-95 models had the extra slot in the front facia.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I call our local Pick-Your-Part (Now Pick-and-Pull, but I just can’t say the words) “Happy Sunbird Land” because I have a Sunbird of course. But, lately there’s way more H-bodies and A-bodies in there and J-cars are getting hard to find.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    After viewing all the pictures, I noticed that considering the age difference, there are way more first and second gen cars than I expected. Because of the age of the first two gens and the fact that Ford pumped out tons of third and fourth gen cars, I expected way more of the last two generations and that seems not to be the case. Could it be that because the depreciation of this car in its later years was so severe that is just was not worth fixing them? Since there are so many early generation cars in the yard, I am assuming they were used for many more years that the newer cars. That said, it is pure economics that drove these cars to an early grave. They just are not worth fixing which is a shame. I don’t know where these cars are culled from but rust sure is no issue. These cars don’t have bad body rust issues (subframes is something else) even in moderate salt states (I just got some minor perforation at 19 years). I also noticed that for the most part paint failure is also non-existent.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    For 3k$ I had a choice, a 528e, or a Taurus ? I chose the 528e and never looked back.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    As to why so many. Rental companies have already been mentioned, but don’t overlook govt purchases. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but here in Florida the state and most counties seemed to buy up every Taurus and Tempo that Ford could crank out.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Look at the mileage on some of them, over 120K, not ‘junk at 70K’ as some assume. But, it looks like most of them are Muppet faced 96-99, and not the 2000-07. Which may be too valuable for ‘U Pull’ yards just yet.

    And, this is just my opinion, it seems that cars from an early half of a decade stay on road loinger, since low income buyers would want a ‘decade newer’ car. Example, when I was in HS in 78-79, if you had a 70-71, it was like you had a ‘brand new car’, while 60′s were ‘beaters’. [Not counting muscle cars]

    So for now, a late 90′s car is a ‘wreck’, while a 10 year old 2002 seems ‘somewhat newer’. But then again, the frog eyed Tauruses are just plain ugly so not too many blue collar buyers.

  • avatar
    Distorted Humor

    All Those Volvo 240′s make me kinda sad – a ’89 Volvo 240 was my first car, and a solid one at that. Drove it from 75k-275k miles, with only a a few repairs needed. Sadly the windshield wiper motor died and I couldn’t justify spending the part cost to fix a car with almost 300k miles on it. Traded it in for a New Mazda3 in 2006 which is my daily driver and just hit 100k. I am sure my old volvo is now crushed with steel prices as they are. The trick we found was that there was a electrical gremlin that would short out one of the rear lights, and it was much less expensive to replace that bulb at inspection then keep changing out electrical parts to hunt down the problem.

    Sorry to bring up a dead message, but Volvo 240s have a soft spot for me car wise.

  • avatar
    miklo1968

    I owned a 1988 Mercury Sable LS with the 3.8 liter V6. It was 10 months old and had 19k on the clock when I bought it. The car was loaded with every option except for leather and sunroof. I paid about $11k for it and thought I was a financial wizard because I had saved myself over $8,000 buying a used Sable compared to the almost $21k for a new 1989 model. I begrudgingly purchased an extended 12 month warranty with the car thinking to myself that it was a waste of money. In hindsight, I realized that the Mercury salesman who sold me the car was doing me a favor because he knew what was in store for me in the near future. The first 9 months were trouble free and then I got the first of many recall notices from Ford Motor Company. The motor mounts were defective and were replaced free of charge but the Mercury mechanics found other issues while they were under the hood some were covered under warranty but most were not and I got socked with a repair bill of $300 for some BS adjustments to the throttle and other “tweaks”. Then it all began to go downhill one month after the warranty expired. The infamous 3.8 head gaskets began to leak. The water pumps and alternators were failing at an alarming rate. It began to run on 5 cylinders because the mechanics I went to hated mangling their hands trying to access the rear spark plugs and wires. Every interior option that was electric failed completely or had an intermittent issue and I repaired most of them. The Auto Climate A/C was the biggest culprit of electronic repairs and the root of most of the mechanical issues I had with the Sable. At 66k I was waiting at a stop light. The light turned green and I pressed the gas pedal when all of a sudden the car lurched forward about a foot and a loud bang came from under the hood. The 4 speed automatic transaxle just quit on the spot. Soon after at 71k the second set of head gaskets failed and both heads were warped and cracked. In addition the water pump seized and the radiator was shot. By now, 44 months of my 48 month loan had passed and I was going broke from the repair bills and the only thing that kept me going was the fact that in 4 months I can unload this monstrosity and go out and buy myself a new Honda Accord. That didn’t happen.
    With the giant repair bill for the transmission and the giant repair bill for the head gaskets so close together my ability to juggle the money to pay for everything became too much and the car was repossessed 2 months later and 2 months short of making the final payment. It took almost 10 years for my credit to recover and 15 years before I finally bought my Honda Accord.


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