By Dave Turner
By the late 1970s it was becoming obvious that Ford had to re-appraise their situation if they were to survive the prevailing financial trouble that the entire US motor industry found themselves in. It was decided that a mid-priced medium family size vehicle with definite European characteristics was the solution and a team consisting substantially of Ford people, some with only European experience, was put together. The result was a whole series of cars with softer and more aerodynamic shapes that began with the 1983 Thunderbird and followed by the next generation Mercury Cougar, the Tempo/Topaz range, the Lincoln Mark V11 and culminated with the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable that made their debut in December 1985.
Costing $3 billion to develop the new Ford and Mercury sedans and wagons put the emphasis on a smooth outline with flush fitted lights, bumpers and glass, together with transverse engine and front wheel drive. The new Ford and Mercury twins set a new standard for US car design and styling. Replacing the Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis these new cars had no external brightwork, no duo-tone paint, and even lost the traditional grille so long established in US car production. While the Ford was conceived with new technology to the fore, it was still intended to appeal to the traditional family buyer and fleet operator and had a conservative flavour. The Mercury on the other hand combined the same engineering but offered a more futuristic style, with its full-width laser light bar in place of the traditional grille, wraparound rear window, and invisible window pillars.
Engines were 3.0 litre V6 with 4 speed overdrive automatic transmission or a 2.5 litre four cylinder with five speed manual or three speed automatic. The four cylinder cas was aimed mainly at fleet use. It was offered in three trim levels, L, GL and LX. There was also MT5 (manual transmission five speed) which combined the four cylinder engine with the slightly better trim of the GL, front bucket seats and the instrument cluster from the Mercury Sable. The L appeared in the 1986 sales brochure with a slatted grille in black plastic. Despite being Motor Trends “Car of The Year” for 1986, Taurus sales were initially rather slow to take off but by 1987 they had become the best selling passenger car in the US.
For 1988 the 3.8 litre Thunderbird V6 engine became optional but for the following year the MT5 that pretended to be ‘sporty’ was replaced by the SHO “Super High Output” model and that could certainly claim that description. Employing a Yamaha tuned version of the 3.0 V6 coupled to a Mazda built manual five-speed transaxle it was claimed to be capable of 140mph and an eight seconds 0-60 figure. Apart from an appropriate badge the shallow air intake slot above the centre of the front bumper and subtle aerodynamic touches around the lower edges were the only external evidence of the higher performance.
1992 brought about the most significant changes since the first 1986 examples. New sheet metal provided modified front and rear styling treatment and added over three inches in length. Front light assemblies were both shallower and longer while a flat central licence plate location was provided in the front bumper. The sedans rear light clusters were now higher than before, the licence plate lower while the trunk lid had a pronounced lip. The SHO got a unique front end featuring even shallower light units with square corners. At the other end of the Taurus spectrum both the four cylinder engine and L Series were dropped this year.
A complete facelift took place for 1996 with ovoid shapes being the main theme resulting in the ‘jelly-bean’ tag whilst a new 24 valve dohc Duratec 3.0 litre engine replaced the 3.8 litre. Overall length went up again by five and a half inches while a new entry level was created called the G series. A 3.4 litre V8 was employed in the peppy SHO for 1997 and at the same time the ovoid look was made less extreme by opening the front air intake a tad and inserting a horizontal bar carrying a Ford oval badge, the twin oval below-bumper openings giving way to a single larger opening, again with a horizontal bar across.
1998 saw a re-aligning of trim levels, entry was the LX, while SE Sport and SE Comfort mixed and matched mid-range choices and the V8 SHO provided the sporty angle. Gone for 2000 was the ovoid look, from the side view, the cars look unchanged but both front and rear now looked quite bland, a larger oval grille with heavy chrome bar at the front and quite plain but quite attractive rear end. Line up was now LX, SE, SES and SEL. In 2004 the oval grille became slightly more angular but a couple of years later things were slowing down for Taurus, the range now being limited to only SE and SEL models from 2005.
In that year Ford had launched their next contender in the flagship big sedan arena, the Five Hundred. This had a higher stance and was aimed at some sort of cross-over market – featuring a 3.0 V6 in three levels – SE, SEL and Limited with optional all-wheel-drive and at three inches longer than the Taurus was no doubt intended as its replacement. By 2007 the range was down to just SEL and Limited and guess what? In 2008 the same car with a new grille was launched as the all-new 2008 Taurus in the same SEL and Limited choices. The SE version was back for 2009 but a wagon arrived called the Taurus X, a distinctly different vehicle and certainly not an adapted Taurus sedan. The SHO came back for 2010, with a 365bhp EcoBoost 3.5 twin turbo V6 and the Taurus itself was once again claimed to be all-new.
By this time Fords unwillingness to provide sales brochures makes detail study of their range almost impossible and no doubt has the same effect on ultimate sales, a strange policy very hard to understand. It would appear however that new front and rear treatment changed the character of the Taurus in 2010 while a further restyle took place for 2013.
Considering the Taurus was for many seasons the best selling car in the US, very few models seem to have been produced. It was also inevitable that as Taurus was used as a police vehicle, toys of them would come in that guise.
Motomax cashed-in with Robocops by producing a Taurus sedan decked out in matt black as in the film together with the necessary lights and push-bars. In MAR 243, John Quilter took a leaf out of this collectors book by converting examples not only to a civilian sedan but also into a Taurus Wagon.
Remco Toys are usually associated with toddler age toys, and despite a take over by AHI in 1971 after going bankrupt and a subsequent take over by Jakks Pacific in 1991 the name Remco continues in use. A reasonable plastic toy of the early Taurus Sedan was produced in the early 1990s, with the inevitable Police and Fire Department stickers together with various associated sirens and flashing lights. To create a stock version stickers can be peeled off but the additional lights etc leave holes that have to be filled but worse, a pair of those police push-bars were included in the plastic moulding and have to be ground away. At least the wheels faithfully depict the standard wheel cover while the interior accommodates the batteries that power the various lights.
A similar, but diecast, toy came with a stick-on label under the base declaring it was fromToysmith of Auburn Washington although the black plastic base features a ‘Double T’ motif that could suggest a Tins Toys origin. A strong pull-back motor was featured, the resulting collision with furniture or other household object triggers a button set into the front bumper and that flings open both front doors. Once again stickers can be peeled off and holes filled although the wheels on these toys are of a generic pattern albeit of appropriate size with rubber tyres.
Processed Plastic Co of Montgomery Illinois was among the few toy manufacturers still operating in the US when they produced a big plastic Taurus Wagon for sale through WalMart but have since closed down in 2005. Again this was a police toy but was otherwise quite an acceptable miniature Wagon and its simple construction captured the shape of the real thing quite well. A roof rack and lift-up tailgate are featured but some holes in the roof require filling while wheels don’t resemble anything in the Taurus catalogue!
A kit for a Taurus Sedan was produced for model railroads by Williams Bros of San Marcos California. In 1:87 it was made in clear plastic so the builder had a choice of trying to mask off the window areas prior to spraying, or alternatively brush paint by hand, neither being a particularly successful operation.
The interest of the folk at AMT and MPC were eventually prodded into Taurus consciousness with the arrival of the high performance SHO and both promos and kits of it were duly offered for 1989 and the following two seasons. The rear licence plate on the promos identify the year, although when Ford gave the SHO a central wheel cover with the appropriate initials for 1990, AMT made the correct mod to theirs. Despite this, their 1990 catalogue was not updated.
Moving on to 1996 and the ovoid Taurus, the only miniature so far confirmed is another model railroad accessory. This time from Atlas with an excellent stab at the distinctively styled car and finished in authentic colours, the example to hand being in Rose Mint Clearcoat Metallic and depicting the optional five-spoke aluminium wheels. The German VF (Volker Feldkamp) range was recorded as having listed a couple of ’96 Taurus, a sedan and a wagon but their actual production has yet to be confirmed.
Tins Toys have recently produced a few relatively modern Fords as inexpensive 1:35 scale diecast toys. Mondeo, Puma, Crown Victoria and a 2004 Taurus Wagon are among these and the Taurus features opening front doors and lift-up tailgate in typical toy-like manner. Illustrations may be misleading but all their Fords appear to be a tad ill-proportioned in that they may be a bit on the short side.
The Greenlight brand puts out a few models of more recent Fords, and include a 1:24 2010 Taurus SHO complete with opening front doors, trunk and hood, detailed beneath the latter is the 3.5 litre twin turbo boost V6. From the same stable but in 1:64 is an all black 2012 SHO from another film – this time “Men in black”
Description of Illustrations.
1) AMT 1:25 plastic kit from USA: 6265 1989 SHO, the only year id. being on the outer wrapper.
2) AMT 1:25 plastic kit from USA: 6065 1990 SHO.
3) Processed Plastic 1:14 plastic from USA: 9130 1986 wagon returned to acceptable civilian guise from a police vehicle.
4) Greenlight 1:24 diecast from China: 50222, 2010 SHO.
5) Greenlight 1:24 diecast from China: rear view of 2010 SHO.
6) AMT 1:25 plastic promo from USA: 6066 1989 SHO.
7) AMT 1:25 plastic promo from USA: rear view of 6066 showing the year id on licence plate.
8) AMT 1:25 plastic promo from USA: 6048 1990 SHO, same as the 1989 model apart from the year on the rear licence plate and the SHO on the wheel covers.
9) Tins Toys(?) 1:37 diecast from China: 2532, 1986 sedan, label stuck to underside reads “Toysmith Auburn WA. pull-back police car. “ the plastic base is embossed with double ’T’ Section in front bumper triggers the front doors to fly open on impact. Otherwise it is returned to civilian guise.
10) Greenlight 1:64 diecast from China: 44640, 2012 SHO, underside marked “Men in Black” but other than black finish appears stock.
11) Williams Bros. 1:87 plastic kit from USA: 1996 Taurus 4Door, clear plastic body requiring painting.
12) Atlas 1:87 plastic from USA: 1274, 1996 Sedan
13) Atlas 1:87 plastic from USA: rear view of 127
14) Remco 1:38 plastic from China: 1986 Sedan, the front end having been returned to something approaching the stock shape.
15 and 15 a-d) Tins Toys 1:35 diecast from China: 4617, 2004 Wagon.
|Motormax||China||1986 Sedan Robocop||1:43||Diecast|
|Remco||China||1991||1986 Sedan Police/Fire||125mm||1:38||Plastic|
|Toysmith||China||2002||2532||1986 Sedan Police||129mm||1:37||Diecast|
|Processed Plastic||USA||9130||1986 Sedan Police||305mm||1:14||Plastic|
|AMT||USA||1989||6066||1989 SHO promo||189mm||1:25||Plastic|
|AMT||USA||1990||6048||1990 SHO promo||189mm||1:25||Plastic|
|Williams Bros||USA||1996||538||1988 Sedan||55mm||1:87||Plasitc Kit|
|Atlas||USA||1274||1996 Sedan||57mm||1:87||Plastic Kit|
|Tin Toys||China||4617||2004 Wagon||140mm||1:35||Diecast|