By on April 20, 2020

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI look for good examples of automotive history for this series, and today’s car certainly qualifies: one of the very first Ford Tauruses ever built, a car that came off the assembly line during the first month of Taurus production.

I found this option-laden ’86 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard back in February.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, door build tag - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDue to final-stretch delays at the Atlanta assembly plant, production of the radical new Taurus didn’t begin until the middle of October in 1985. The door sticker on this car shows it was built in that month, and the sequence-number portion of the VIN is in the low 100,000s (I’ve blanked out the final four digits). I’ve photographed two previous ’86 Tauruses in junkyards (this MT-5 in Arizona and this LX in California), and their sequence numbers were in the 150,000s and 250,000s, respectively, with build dates of March 1986 and August 1986. If anyone knows the starting sequence number for the Taurus, please share that information with us.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, decklid badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBuilt in Georgia, shipped to Wyoming, where it must have been one of the first of the futuristic new Tauruses seen in the Mountain Time Zone.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars were shockingly modern-looking when they first hit the streets, with their flush, Audi-like glass, big interior space, and aerodynamic lines looking nothing like the boxy LTDs they replaced. Ford sold millions of first-generation Tauruses.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one has the base-model L trim level, but that didn’t stop the original buyer from loading it up with plenty of options, including the 140-horse, 3.0-liter Vulcan V6.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, steering wheel - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCruise control!

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAM/FM radio with cassette deck and four speakers!

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, mud flap - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMud flaps!

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYes, even the tilt wheel and split bench seat made it into this creampuff.

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, speedometer - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord was still using five-digit odometers (not to mention 85 mph speedometers) in 1986, but I think the condition of this car’s interior suggests that 109,321 miles might be the true reading.


An American car with the shape and feel we’ve never seen before.

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88 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford Taurus L...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    It’s hard to believe that at one time this was the coolest, most innovated car on the road. The first time I saw it’s Mercury counter part, the Sable, sitting out front of a dealer I pulled off the road just to get a closer look. That lightbar in the front was right out of the future

    Outside of the Model A, T and Mustang this was Ford’s best idea

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      And then, just as Ford did many times before and again since, it allowed the ultra-modern Taurus to age with very few updates until it eventually became an also-ran.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Waiting for the next home run” vs. Toyota-style “have solid hitting throughout your lineup.”

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Well, they did crank out the first generation for six years, because it sold so well. Every bit of sheet metal was restyled in 1992, but the overall styling was similar – why mess with a winning product?

        With a couple more generations to follow, they were still selling over 300,000 per year into the next century. That’s hardly letting it wither on the vine. For an example of that, see Fiat, a master at selling the same vehicle unchanged until sales collapse, and then discontinuing it without a replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinB

      I was told by a Ford parts guy back in the day that the light bar cost over $1,000 to replace.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        That seems like a bargain compared to the cost of modern headlight assemblies

        • 0 avatar

          I am always amazed at the cost of things like this-you can’t get them anywhere else, so you are stuck with the grossly inflated price named by the factory. Compare to wheels…one wheel is always the price of 2.5-3 aftermarket wheels…just cheap enough that you don’t buy all four new. The price of that wheel is about one monthly payment, which scales from the 17k car to the 60k car…..
          I’m glad we no longer suffer DOT headlights, but they were cheap and easily fixable with E-codes….

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I bought third-party replacement headlight assemblies for my ~12 year old Toyota last year. (Halogen bulb headlights so not insanely expensive.) They were about $400 for both sides on Amazon (similar products and prices available from other auto parts suppliers).

            However, since COVID started, from now on my personal politics mean I am very carefully looking at the country of origin when I buy low priced consumer goods. The price I paid for the replacements a year ago might be a lot different than I might have to pay a year from now. I’ll just leave it at that.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Ford caught everyone flatfooted in the era, if the wanted to catch up. In all segments.

    Except by the ’90s they might have taken the movement too far. Jellybeans everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I was living in Atlanta when this came out, it quickly became Atlanta’s company car. Every corporate salesman had one

      • 0 avatar
        Sobro

        My first ride in one was driven by corporate salesman when I worked in Gwinnett County. I thought it was really nice. I remember the Accord vs Taurus sales wars in the late 80’s. Ford won many battles at that time but eventually lost the war.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Hey, my office was in Norcross and we had a fleet of these all in the same dark blue

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            I cross shopped an 86 Taurus with an 86 Accord sedan.

            Chose the Accord. Never regretted that choice.

            Meanwhile at the same time that I purchased the Accord, one co-worker purchased a Taurus and anther a rare Sunbird GT (turbo).

            Let’s just say that they had different ownership experiences and they changed vehicles long before I sold the Accord. To another co-worker.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            My mom purchased a used ’88 Accord shortly before I purchased the used ’87 Taurus that was my first car.

            The Taurus was by far the more comfortable ride, and it was much faster, but the Accord was better built, handled better, and proved more durable.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This car was responsible for rescuing Ford from a financial crisis. Ford bet everything on this car and it paid Ford back in spades. This is a very significant car in car history in that it changed what a midsize car was–before the Taurus GM was the leader in midsize cars. Very good find.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Not just modern looking but “shockingly” modern looking. Internet writers sure do love that word. Either that or they are easily shocked.
    My parents purchased a new Buick Century wagon in 1986. They didn’t even looking at or considering the “shockingly” modern new Taurus. I was…well…shocked.

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      I remember clearly thinking that Ford had copied Audi with this. A 5000 for the proles.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Ford is a master at copying the right car at the right time. It started with the Granada which was a copy of the Mercedes 240. Their ads even boasted about getting the look of a Mercedes for the price of a Ford

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the 5000 had the flush glass and thin trimmings, but style wise it was still straight lines and angles.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        I think it’s less Ford copied Audi, as they were working with the same wind tunnel-driven playbook. Check some of the detailing on the Ford Probe III concept (it predates the 5000 by a year) which lead directly to the Sierra, but also shows how Ford could get to the original Taurus on their own.

        Otherwise, VAG turned around and copied Ford with the grilleless ’90 Passat

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          Maymar is correct. It took years to design the Taurus because it was a clean sheet design. They were well into the design process when the 5000s came out, it only confirmed they were on the right track.

          But lots of automakers copied the grilleless design; while GM and Chrysler quickly slapped new nose caps with flush headlights built into them so they didn’t look obsolete overnight.

          It is a shame the Taurus line went off the rails with the 1996 redesign. At that point, the F-150 and the Explorer were the big sellers, so Ford just decontented it and let it wither for a decade.

          • 0 avatar
            1500cc

            I remember Car and Driver spent about a dozen pages fawning over the 1996 re-design like it was the second coming of Christ. I think they liked the first gen so much that they made up their mind beforehand to love the new one too, and didn’t recognize it for the turd that it was.

            That, or Ford just wrote an extra large cheque that month.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The ’96 was an excellent car at the time, ovals or not. Its real problem was that it was too expensive to make. It was priced a couple grand above an equivalent Camcord, which was a reversal from the pricing situation for the second-gen car. And there was little room to discount. Customers wouldn’t pay the price.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            Ford zigged when they should have zagged. Toyota took advantage of the Camery’s bulletproof reputation to decontent it and lower the price at the same time Ford worked to match them in the build quality, and raised the price at the same time. They had no choice but to decontent the Taurus to try and match the Camery’s price point, but Toyota displaced it as the most popular sedan, and Ford never got their market share back; but instead focused on SUVs and pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      “Internet writers sure do love that word.”

      Yeah, it’s way past time to put this word out to pasture for a long while.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        as long as we can send “agricultural” and “plasticky” along with it.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          As long as we’re not confusing agricultural with pile of soviet crap, I like my agricultural IH 345; over-built, durable, trustworthy. All things I want in my purchases. Wish I could buy similar products in future purchases.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “agricultural” and “plasticky” are car-reviewer code words for “I need to say something bad about this car but I can’t think of anything concrete.”

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @JimZ, writing about auto journalism clichés, “I need to say something bad about this car but I can’t think of anything concrete.”

            It’s a little more than that, it’s a way of saying “I need to say something bad about this car but I don’t want my gravy train to dry up.”

            Sorta part of the origins of TTAC as a counter to the mainstream automotive press, who knows where their bread is buttered, and accordingly write glowing reviews of practically all new cars. Er, *varyingly* glowing reviews.

          • 0 avatar
            retrocrank

            I sure liked my Cub. Had a belly mower, plow and wheel weights. And just in case I had occassion for some belt work, I had an H (upgraded to Super H engine guts) in the barn…good old girls those red tractors.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            It’s easy to tell what the mainstream reviewers really think of cars if you read between the lines even a little bit.

            The real problem with them is that all they care about in their heart of hearts is acceleration and 10/10ths handling, so if you are looking for other qualities you won’t get much information about them.

        • 0 avatar
          Wodehouse

          and the silly, meaningless “bleeding edge” and “cutting edge” should be buried at the same time.
          The correct term is “leading edge” and “forward edge”.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    These were nice cars; could have been better if they had offered an AWD version (like the smaller “version”—what was that called?), especially the wagon. For the 6 of us who would have rather had a wagon than a minivan or pickemup.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Who was building AWD cars in 1986 except Audi?

      I owned three Taurus/Sable wagons, two of which were bought well-used. All had the 3.0 Vulcan which never seemed to wear or fail to start first time. They may have been The most practical vehicles I have ever owned. Cheap to operate (25 mpg day in and out, cheap parts), not flashy but really dependable.

      This was an outstanding vehicle. It’s a crying shame that Ford didn’t do it justice over the years.

  • avatar

    Remember reading/hearing somewhere that the then new Taurus was chosen for use in the first Robocop movie due to it’s “futuristic” looks. Only a few additional pieces of body cladding were added to make it work for the movie.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      That is correct. There is one of the Taurus Robocop police cars in the Hollywood car museum in Branson Springs, MO. There is another Taurus there from another show, can’t remember what it was.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    In 1988 we cross shopped a new Taurus wagon in gold with tan cloth, a new Chevy Caprice wagon in maroon with maroon vinyl, a new Chrysler Town and Country in green and fake wood with grey cloth, and a program ’87 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser in blue and fake wood with blue cloth.

    The T&C I recall being WAY too expensive. In 2020 dollars we were looking at ~$30k and it was something like $45k.

    I was still pretty young but I remember thinking I would hate riding in the Caprice in the summer. It was nice out when we were looking and the vinyl felt stiff and unpleasant. I also seem to remember it having a weird smell.

    The Taurus was what I preferred (if the T&C wasn’t an option) because of how it looked. There was still buzz surrounding it. Even then I didn’t love the color combo. But it definitely felt like a new car where everything else was pretty ordinary.

    We ended up with the Olds which lumbered around for the next 15 years.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    85mph speedos are more practical than the 160mph ones on new cars.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Amen! I do not understand the value of a speedo that greatly exceeds the car’s actual top speed. In the old days it was presumably to impress buyers by making them think “wow, that 240Z can sure go fast!” but come on, nobody thinks my Volvo SUV can go 160 MPH. Maybe they decided it was cheaper to make a single speedo pod for both MPH and KPH, and since 100 KPH is only 62 MPH, that means big numbers?

  • avatar
    JimC2

    The aerodynamic headlights were a big change from the old replaceable sealed beams in mainstream market cars. Taurus wasn’t the first to market with these but there were more first year Tauruses on the road than other makes and models with those modern lights. (Unfortunately, as we gradually learned, the plastic ones would turn milky… not sure what material the ones on the ’86 Taurus were made out of but a lot of Fords had this problem in a bad way.)

    I remember the Sables had cornering lights (did Tauri too?). That was an uncommon but so useful feature.

    I remember being very impressed by apparently how little effort the V6 needed to move these cars, compared to contemporary American four cylinder + automatic small and midsized cars. If you lived in a city that didn’t have much hustle, the engine might not see much more than 1500rpm all day long. It felt like a return to the old V8s and big sixes that had faded away, but with the fuel consumption of a post-fuel crisis four.

    Something else that Ford got right with these was their four speed automatic transaxle. I think that was very significant because GM’s and Chrysler’s first four speed autos were hit and miss. Remember how GM sort of rushed lockup torque converters to market (and they got those right) and sold a lot of cars with the optional 3 speed + lockup instead of 4sp overdrive. When Chrysler brought out the 1994 Neon as their new small car, it had a 3sp automatic and no 4sp option. During the late 1980s and into the 1990s while the Taurus was selling like hotcakes, Chyrsler’s A604 had had so many problems that they didn’t have any confidence in have a reliable pint sized 4sp ready in time for the new Neons.

    @retrocrank- you might be thinking of the Tempo AWD. There weren’t very many of those. I think they were sort of an answer to the contemporary Tercel AWD and a few other AWD small cars, like some of the automakers were throwing a bone to their faithful customers who wanted an AWD car but maybe didn’t want to change brands to Subaru or didn’t want to spend a lot on an Audi…? I dunno…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Something else that Ford got right with these was their four speed automatic transaxle. ”

      The AX4N was only marginally better than the A604 reliability-wise. These things clogged transmission repair bays in the 90s like Odysseys and Accords did in the 2000s.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I think they just meant they got it right by offering a 4 speed when others still had 3 speeds. the fact that the transaxle was a piece of s**t didn’t come up until later.

    • 0 avatar
      justVUEit

      The Taurus had available cornering lights although I don’t remember it as too common an option. I know the SHO had them as I was interested in the SHO and test drove a few of them but never pulled the trigger.

      The 4 speed automatic in these was trash. Just about everyone I knew who had a Taurus or Sable with the 3.8 had the tranny die a premature death, my own Taurus included. Mine died before 60k miles. All I ever got from Ford was deny, deny, deny, even though there were so many examples of dead transmissions in these things. I sold mine right after the rebuild given the unreliability of the transmission and the 3.8 itself. I really liked the design even if my ‘L’ was a bit sparse on features. It’s a shame the mechanical issues did it in. I guess the 3.0 was a far more reliable machine.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        The four speeds in these were that bad? I don’t remember them having such a bad reputation, not in the first few years they were on the market, but it was a long time ago and I never owned one of these (off the top of my head there was one friend, one friend’s parents, and one family member).

        @danio3834 and @justVUEit, thanks for the course correction.

        • 0 avatar
          gasser

          I had a 1987 Sable station wagon bought new and only driven by me and the wife (i.e. no honing). I also had bought the 6 year, 60,000 mile extended warranty. My Sable had the transmission replaced TWICE under warranty, as well as a new head gasket (3.0, not the 3.8) new A/C compressor and a variety of other parts (Front end would NOT stay in alignment) until at 7 years when my wife got out of a tow truck with the Sable on the hook and told me she was NEVER going to drive it again. I traded it for a new (1995) Windstar. The Windstar was supposedly built on the Taurus/Sable platform, without the benefit of being beefed up so the little brakes needed replacement about every 7,500 to 10,000 miles).The transmission, however, ran for 7 years, so I was relieved.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @gasser, thanks for the good and the bad anecdotes.

            This is a very unusual internet discussion. By conventional wisdom, I was supposed to double down on my arguments and start calling you guys mean names… and you guys were supposed to respond in kind.

            2020 gets weirder by the day.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            By conventional wisdom, he jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Most people would likely have the reverse experience given those vehicles. Sort of like me having a 305 TBI Chevy crack a ring land at 40k and require a rebuild but putting 300k on a much maligned Ford 2.9.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          JimC2 the AXN transmission was problematic until about 1995. Most Taurus/Sables died from transmission failures; the more powerful 3.8 V6 put an even greater strain on it and made failures worst.

          My 1995 Taurus wagon still has the original transmission at 25 years and 205,000 miles, but it hard shifts at times, and the torque convertor whine is worst than an electric car. But I rarely drive it now, and then just around our community.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          I had a friend who was a service manager at a Ford dealer in the 90s. He told me to stay away from anything with that 4-speed slushbox.

        • 0 avatar
          ColoradoFX4

          The thing about the AX4N was you absolutely had to change the fluid every 30k miles, something Ford was not all that upfront about.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Unless you were deep in the auto repair industry or had connections, bad news traveled stupid slow.

          Even today, with info everywhere, consumers still step into stinkin piles of Ford DCT powershift cars.

          I worked at a Ford dealer in ’88 and every 3rd car (or anything) that came in on a wrecker was a Taurus with a bad trans.

          Even more tragic was the Taurus SHO with the pitiful Tempe/Escort 5-speed manual. The Taurus auto was an engineering disaster, but the SHO trans (manual only) wasn’t just a shame, or insult, but a crime.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            The early 1990s Lemon-Aide Used Car Guide had nothing good to say about most of the early Chrysler or GM 4 speed automatics. Maybe I didn’t read the Taurus part (or maybe I did and I just forgot). The author took a lot of pride in sticking up for the consumer but nobody is perfect (everybody wants to be objective but we all have biases or hang on to old information).

            I don’t remember what Consumer Reports, or other similar periodicals, was writing at the time.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The AXOD in my ’87 worked perfectly when I bought the car at 60k. It began to slip sometime around 95k-100k, and from that point on I did frequent fluid changes to try to postpone the inevitable a bit. The fluid changes did help! But by the time I traded the car at 155k, the (Vulcan) engine was also failing, but the transmission sometimes couldn’t complete a 1-2 shift going uphill. It would slip like crazy and then bang back into first gear.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        They were standard on the SHO and LX, and optional on others (you would occasionally see them on a MT-5 or GL).

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Yep. When I was young and dumb I thought the Vulcan was a ridiculous engine: only 140 hp from a V6, are you kidding me? Some ways into parentville, I got an obscenely loaded 1996 Mercury Sable wagon with the 24-valve V6 that everyone agreed was the hottest thing this side of a V8 SHO. It might have been, if it hadn’t been paired with gearing more suited to a diesel than a high-revving multivalve engine: plant your foot, wait for it, whee!, wait again… My employer bought a fleet of base Tauri right about then, 140 horse Vulcan and all, and to my dismay they felt considerably stronger and easier to drive around town. Nice big shove from a stop and off you go. Literally no difference between half throttle and full throttle, but that was okay, because half throttle was just fine. It was an education in the value of low-revvin’ torque.

  • avatar

    This was the first non boxy sedan and more stylish then Chrysler’s boxy K-car

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      We owned several K-cars in our family as well as the Taurus wagon. The original K-cars felt light and tinny compared to the Taurus; with exposed screw heads everywhere you looked inside. The Dodge Spirit I owned was much better, but still not as good as the Taurus/Sable. But the Chryslers were also thousands cheaper; which is why I bought the Spirit instead of a Taurus as my first car. But I would much rather have Mom and Dad’s Taurus over any of them.

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    It’s crazy to think back when these were built. I mean, you couldn’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting one. They were EVERYWHERE. Ford nailed it with these.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    Ford is ultimately the best example of feast or famine company there is. They ebb from brilliance to idiocy like no other company. Right now they are being driven into the idiocy area with the skill of Nasser without the hair.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yup I watch every Ford product release with an eye of “is this going to be STUPID or BRILLIANT?” I loved my 1997 Escort Wagon and my 2004 F150 but it seems like you have to take a “wait and see” attitude with Ford.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Makes you ask “What happened to Ford?” They were knocking it out of the park back then – Taurus/Sable, Mazda based Escort, Mark VII, newly energized Mustang, a new sporty Probe GT. On to Lincoln LS…then…not too much that lead the pack anymore. A few signs of life here and there but that was the end of that.

    That car obviously spent its life in a garage. I’m willing to be it drove there. I guess Grandma died and the kids just dumped it. Sad. I guess that’s the future for my mint relics.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Makes you ask “What happened to Ford?” They were knocking it out of the park back then – Taurus/Sable, Mazda based Escort, Mark VII, newly energized Mustang, a new sporty Probe GT. On to Lincoln LS…then…not too much that lead the pack anymore. A few signs of life here and there but that was the end of that.”

      same as always happens. new CEO comes in, decides the company needs to do things “his way,” then everything goes off the rails. Don Petersen fostered the environment which led to the Taurus and other successes, Trotman had to change everything up and threw it into shambles, then Jac the Knife came along to finish the destruction.

      • 0 avatar

        This and Ford overpaid for, and I would add was fooled into buying, so called “Crown Jewels”. Total waste of capital and time and add there Explorer fiasco. So Ford run out of money. Went from being richest guy to desperately poor.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    My father was a salesman who was on the road every other week. He got one of the first year Tauruses (Tauri?), but sadly with the 4 cylinder, which was what his company specified. I remember the day his Taurus L arrived. After looking around the stripped-spec car he said, “What the hell does the ‘L’ stand for? Lights?!?” We all laughed thinking about someone who bought a non-L version holding a flashlight out the window to drive at night.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      The four cylinder in these is a sort of automotive infamy footnote for having a slightly worse fuel economy rating than the bigger, more powerful six.

      • 0 avatar
        gasser

        There also was an MT-5 model offered, for at least the first year. It featured the 4 cylinder engine and a five speed manual. My friend bought one of these for his wife who wanted a bigger car to carry an infant, but insisted on a stick shift. (This was 1986 when young wives know how to drive a stick.) He only kept it a year, the 4 cylinder was overtaxed for the car.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          We’ve gone all this way without any mention of the SHO? We’re slipping

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            OK. I’ll bite. I bought an SHO new in 1992 (a very modest refresh of the original pictured here) and kept it for 10 years, which should tell you what I thought of the car. The 3 liter Yamaha V-6 made wonderful sounds as it revved freely to its 7000 rpm redline, pulling hard all the way.
            The car had two weaknesses: the clutch was supposedly source from a Mazda 4-cylinder pickup truck. In any event, the throw-out bearing on mine failed pretty early. After a lot of haggling with Ford I managed to get a 50/50 split on the cost of replacing it. The weak clutch was a known issue.
            The second issue was that the front brake discs were a little small for the weight and capabilities of the car; and the stock ones were made out of cheap metal that warped under hard use. An aftermarket shop that frequented sourced ones made from better metal that did not warp. After the 3rd generation car came out, the fix was to replace the front spindles which would accommodate bigger discs.

            What eventually led me to sell the car was that the plastic lining of the interior of the gas tank was coming off and clogging the fuel pump. The cost of replacing the fuel tank seemed prohibitive to me at the time, on a 10-year old car.

            I made many runs between my home in Bethesda and my mountain house in Canaan Valley, West Virginia in 3 hours flat — a distance of 210 miles door to door.

            Of course, the car was impossibly light by today’s standards so it couldn’t be replicated. The 3rd generation SHO with the V-8 and slushbox underperformed the original in every metric. My guess is that it’s because it was a heavier car that the extra horsepower, torque and brake swept area didn’t fully compensate for.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I remember what a revelation this was when it launched. If you need a good laugh, watch this Chevy Celebrity dealer training video from 1989. By this time, the Taurus was eating the Celebrity’s lunch.

    https://youtu.be/C7ULzp454Ps

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    – This was Ford’s flirtation with W. Edwards Deming and statistical process control.

    – Ford jumping out in front vs. being a ‘fast follower’ terrified the other OEM’s. [There was a low-level fable overhead at GM about GM having to do a last-minute restyle of some model because it looked too much like the Taurus and wow-things-could-have-been-different, but the timing is all wrong – sounds more like sour grapes.]

    – Pretty much directly lifted and used as the ‘car of the future’ in RoboCop. [In contrast, for Demolition Man, GM provided a bunch of *concept* vehicles.]

    – The attempt at ergonomic design with the cruise control switches (raised bumps and depressions) is better than a lot of current steering wheel switch designs.

    – The pseudo-fender skirts on the wagon are part of the reason you can’t buy a wagon today (fender skirt curse).

    – Am finishing “Car” by Mary Walton [TTAC required reading] which documents the development process of the 1996 ovoid Taurus. It is interesting, but depressing because you know how it is going to turn out. Ford management was very displeased with the book.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Deming… so much could be said about automotive production back then.

      Japanese branch plants (Honda, Nissan, later Toyota) started sprouting in North America a few years before the Taurus came out. Their philosophical differences made for good material in the automotive press, the business press, and the mainstream press. People were curious about their different approach to quality control. The worker calisthenics they did in some factories were quite a novelty too, hehe, remember hearing about those for the first time? GM began their Saturn experiment almost the same time as the Taurus came to market, when the rest of GM was not yet ready for so much change… All that stuff made for good journalism fodder but there was a popular opinion that American car companies were stuck in an industrial age mindset.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      I have also read Mary Walton’s “Car. A Drama of the American Workplace”,
      and have to agree that is a must-read for car nuts.

      It has been several years ago when I read it, but if my memory serves me well, FoMoCo didn’t like the book for some reason, and forbade embedding journalists in future projects.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering Ford’s cost structure in no way Ford was able to make the same quality car as Toyota for the same or less price. And they knew that. It was doomed to failure from the beginning. So the idea was to make more stylish car.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That car looks to be very restorable – good thinking to conceal the VIN.

    These were amazing at the time. My parents had a 90 3.0 that lasted until 2010 and finally became unsafe due to multiple electrical failures. Before that it was surprisingly reliable.

  • avatar
    ColoradoFX4

    Vulcan, power everything, A/C, cassette, rear defrost, this is a pretty loaded L. Almost wonder if it would’ve just been easier to just get a GL.

  • avatar
    ColoradoFX4

    The thing about the AX4N was you absolutely had to change the fluid every 30k miles, something Ford was not all that upfront about.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Are you sure this is an L and not a GL? There were lots of individual options available, so the interior content and the V6 make sense, but I didn’t think you could get an L with contrast-paint bumpers or amber turn signals. They typically had black bumpers and some very ugly single-color taillights.

    In any event this car is significantly better-equipped than the ’87 GL that was my first car, although my car had the rare center console with floor shifter option.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Update: I see now that the doors do indeed say Taurus L. I’ll chalk this one up to it being a very early build. I know there were some weird build configurations right at the start.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    What’s with the day-glo paint on the a/c service valve under the hood? Is that to indicate that someone recovered the R-12 refrigerant, and that it’s safe to open the system?

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I know this is picky, but I thought that the Taurus L did not have the tri-color taillights.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    October 1985. That was the month and year that Marty McFly traveled back in time to 1955 in Doc Brown’s DeLorean. FYI.

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