Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford Taurus MT-5 Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 ford taurus mt 5 sedan

When I visit a car graveyard, I’m always on the lookout for three things: puzzling examples of badge engineering, crazy high odometer readings, and manual transmissions in unexpected cars. One of the rarest of all is a non-SHO Ford Taurus with three pedals, sold under the MT-5 designation for the 1986 through 1988 model years. After a decade of searching, I found my first discarded Taurus MT-5 in Phoenix, three years back. Now a junkyard near Pikes Peak has provided the second example of this extraordinarily rare Junkyard Find.

Strangely, the MT-5 wasn’t the very cheapest 1986 Taurus you could buy. The Taurus L that year had a three-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment and cost a mere $9,645 versus the MT-5’s $10,276 (that’s about $22,915 and $24,415 in 2020 dollars, respectively). The MT-5 had the same four-cylinder engine as the L, but came with bucket seats, better gauges, and a nicer steering wheel.

Americans were accustomed to automatic transmissions as costly upgrades by 1986, and so few bargain-seeking car shoppers felt that paying more for a manual transmission in an ordinary midsize sedan with a two-digit-horsepower engine made much sense. MT-5s gathered dust in the showrooms. Never mind that the overdrive gear in the five-speed gave the MT-5 much better fuel economy than the L— gas prices were in a screaming power dive around this time.

Nearly all first-gen Taurus buyers opted for the V6 engine, anyway, because the base 2.3 four-banger made just 88 horsepower. That was miserable stuff in a car that scaled in at 2,759 (sedan) or 2,957 (wagon) pounds. Yes, Ford sold— or at least tried to sell— MT-5 wagons, though I’ve never seen one in person. Four-cylinder engines were available throughout the 1986-1991 first generation of Taurus, but you won’t find many.

The HSC engine has an interesting story. Originally designed for the Tempo, it was two-thirds of the old early-1960s “Thriftpower” 200-cubic-inch straight-six engine that powered millions of Fords through 1984.

Once the Taurus SHO became available for the 1989 model year, the MT-5 got the axe; drivers who preferred manual shifting also tended to prefer lots of horsepower.

The car seems to be in pretty decent condition, with no rust and a reasonably nice Bordello Red™ interior. Since the Taurus MT-5 falls firmly into the “rare but not valuable” category, however, few cared when it took that final tow-truck ride to this place.

“Now there’s an American car that has exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

For links to 2,000+ additional Junkyard Finds, Junkyard Gems, and Junkyard Treasures, head over to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Join the conversation
5 of 34 comments
  • Imagefont Imagefont on Nov 16, 2020

    Interesting about the HSC engine, I didn’t know it was derived from the old 200 I6. I worked on a few of those, one in a 67 Fairlane and one in a Fox body Mercury Capri. They had integral intake manifolds and one barrel carbs. My 67 Plymouth had the 225 slant 6, which I rebuilt. They didn’t even give the HSC motor a cross flow cylinder head. That’s getting the most out of your ancient iron. I miss having a car with a straight 6, those things were buttery smooth.

    • See 1 previous
    • Blppt Blppt on Nov 18, 2020

      @tankinbeans I know what you mean about the Neon/3spd combo. The engine was lifeless below like 3500rpm, which means a 3 forward gear transmission was probably the worst match for that motor they could've come up with. It pulled pretty hard for its day as you ran towards redline, though, which is why the 5 speed model was like 3-4 seconds quicker to 60. That's just ridiculous. High 7s to 60 IIRC, with the standard SOHC engine with the 5 speed, and low 11s 0-60 with the horrid 3 speed auto.

  • Josh Josh on Jun 01, 2021

    Does anyone know why the MT5 here has different window surround colors (like the SHO) and black trim, vs. regular Taurii with chrome brightwork? I've also seen an '88 MT5 that had chrome brightwork. It looked like a GL from 500 feet away.

    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jun 02, 2021

      All the '86 and '87 MT5s had the body color surrounds. I expect it was Ford's half-a$s attempt to make a "Euro" product, kind of like Chevy replacing chrome with red on the Celebrity.

  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: https://robbreport.com/motors/cars/tesla-model-y-worlds-best-selling-vehicle-1234848318/and any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.