“An automobile that evolved from a new way of thinking.”
Ford’s 1986 Taurus marked an almost unbelievable change from the Fox-platform LTD that it replaced. Gone was the rear-wheel-drive and squarish looks, replaced by something front-wheel-drive with Jack Telnack’s completely different design.
The Taurus definitely looked different on the road, especially for a Ford. Getting beyond the looks, the base engine on the Taurus was the central fuel injected (CFI—otherwise known as throttle-body injection) 90 bhp HSC 2.5 liter/152 ci inline four. Optional was the fuel injected 140 bhp Vulcan 3.0 liter/182 ci V6. Mileage with the base engine and the standard three-speed automatic transmission was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/24 by 2014 standards). Mileage with the top of the line V6 and four-speed automatic transmission combination was rated at 20 city/28 highway.
Standard equipment on the $9,645 (about $22,300 in today’s dollars) base Taurus L was … fairly basic. Exterior and mechanical features include halogen headlamps, power steering, and power brakes. Inside, cloth seats (either bench or bucket) were standard, along with a rear window defroster and an AM radio with two speakers.
- Intended to be the sportiest Taurus, the Taurus MT5 ended up being quite rare. It added a five-speed manual transmission with a floor console but paired that with the base engine. Power mirrors, intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, bucket seats, a tachometer, and AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were also included.
- The Taurus GL was the usual step up from the L and included the Vulcan V6 and the four-speed automatic as standard equipment. With a GL, you also got power mirrors, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers.
- The top of the line for 1986 was the Taurus LX (there was as yet no SHO). Beyond all the GL features, every LX included lower body cladding (you’ll have to believe me that it was at least a little hip at the time) and front cornering lamps. Inside, the LX came with air conditioning, power windows, and a tilt steering wheel.
Optional exterior and mechanical equipment available for every Taurus included 15-inch aluminum wheels, power antenna, power moonroof, keyless entry system, and an engine block heater. Inside, you could upgrade to six-way power seats, cruise control, and the Premium Sound System. An interesting option was the extended range fuel tank, which added 2.5 gallons to the standard 13.3-gallon tank—perhaps another 55 miles of range in the real world.
Options only available on the upmarket GL and LX models included an electronic air conditioner and leather seating surfaces (LX only).
A car that could have killed (or at least severely wounded) Ford if it had failed, the first-generation Taurus was instead very successful. Over 230,000 were sold in the 1986 model year alone, and the Taurus made Car and Driver‘s “10 Best” in 1986 in addition to being Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” (one of the few choices that MT made in the 1980s that hasn’t ended up being embarrassing).
Make mine Silver Clearcoat Metallic, please. If (as many claimed) the Taurus was imitating the Audi 5000, we might as well go all the way and use a proper German color.
Updated February 2019.