Hammer Time: I Am Not a Monster!

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time i am not a monster

I hate trash. Unfortunately we live in a society that is waist deep in it, thanks to “planned obsolescence” and the unfathomable cost cuttings of the day. Case in point? Well, a ten-year-old Ford Taurus [pictured here] recently went through a Carmax auction. I bought it for $200 and, yes, it actually runs quite well despite the elephant man front end. The engine has been given regular changes over it’s 109k miles. The transmission shifts smoothly enough (for now) thanks to its recent replacement. And the interior isn’t in bad shape at all. So why did the owner decide to get rid of it and later sell at auction for so little? Read on.

First off, most Tauruses were absolutely terrible cars for their time as it applies to durability. I mean really REALLY bad. So bad that when most dealers see a 1990s Taurus or Sable go through the auction, they automatically assume that something’s very wrong with the powertrain and keep looking elsewhere. The transmissions? AX4Ss and AXODs were notorious for their self-destructive nature. The AX4N in this one is far better but not by all that much. Engines? The 3.8L V6 engines were an absolute dream for mechanics seeking work. The Vulcan 3.0s were far better but largely underpowered. This one has the highly preferred 3.0L Duratec which has greater horsepower but far trickier maintenance.

The overall powertrain for this particular Taurus is more blah than outright money pit. It definitely beats the Dodge Intrepid (worst engines of the modern era) and most Mazda 626s (worst trannies, period). Since it has 109k miles and the tranny has already been replaced in the recent past, this one is likely to last for a few years before the ghost of Nasser catches up with it.

As far as looks, this Taurus looked like it got into a fight . . . and lost. It looks like something that would obviously be hidden amongst the sagebrush in its current incarnation. However the damage was entirely cosmetic and centered around the very front left bumper area. A hood, front bumper, quarter panel, headlight and fog light were all found on Craigslist for the princely sum of $100. An hour’s worth of dismantling and re-mantling made the car almost as good as new. One $200 paint job later (the public equivalent is $500) and the Taurus was ready to go—to have a tune-up, oil change, and emissions done.

So what do we have now? In essence, we have a car with 109,000 miles that will sell for $2000 cash retail and about $3500 as a finance deal ($500 down, $50 a week for 60 weeks). One of my employees has driven it through the 200 mile “test drive” to make sure everything remains as it should be. So far, so good. But not really. If Ford hadn’t been penny pinching back in the day, you wouldn’t see them being sold like stinking fish at the auctions.

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2 of 39 comments
  • Eric the Red Eric the Red on Mar 23, 2009

    I bought a '99 Taurus new. Not one item has broken in 10 years. Not even a light bulb or a fuse. Has 150k miles and still runs great and looks very nice. I take care of my vehicles and I would propose that most cars bought for a low price are not as well maintained. I know several people with similar Tauruses that did have transmissions go out, but they were all over 150k miles and upon questioning they had NEVER had the transmission oil changed! This car is well known by many people to be a bargain. Not a lot of money for a solid, safe, reliable, appropriately powered vehicle. It does not make any aspirations to be a sports car. It is good transportation!

  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Mar 30, 2009

    Just as an aside, a Taurus of this vintage and miles will typically have an 'asking' price of around $2995. Cash customers tend to be very focused on the absolute bottom line and will negotiate accordingly. Finance customers are typically concerned about the down payment, the interest rate, the monthly payment... and whether the particular vehicle fits their budget. Overall the interest rate will typically work out to anywhere between 10% and 15% given the person's credit history. In Georgia the maximum interest you can charge is 17%. But typically most dealers will add various fees to inflate their overall return. In fact, Carmax now charges $149 for the processing of their paperwork even though the transaction cost of processing the title is $18 and the cost of a temporary tag is approximately $2.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)