Design Notes - 1986 Ford Taurus…and Mercury Sable

It seems some automotive corporate types actually understand the benefits associated with granting stylists room to breathe. Ford’s former vice president of design, Don Kopka, is responsible for the late 70’s to mid-80’s series of Probe concepts, 1983 Thunderbird, 1984 Tempo and 1986 Ford Taurus. Noticing a pattern?

Mr. Kopka liked aerodynamically-focused, ahead-of-their-time designs. But some of the stages leading up to the final product were a little rough around the edges.

The jellybean profile
Okay, anyone that knows me or that has read my very first post on here knows that I’m a GM fan. But not exclusively. I have a love of all things to do with autos. The reason I’m bringing this up is because, being a Ford topic, my level of knowledge decreases and the chances for me to make a mistake increase. Thus, I’ll be a little less wordy than usual (maybe that’s a plus to some people).

1986 Ford Taurus styling sketchFirst off, this information is sourced from the March 1985 edition of Motor Trend magazine. There is an article on the new 1986 Ford Taurus (pages 33 to 38) and Mercury Sable (pages 40 and 41). Then, from pages 42 to 48 (minus a two-page Merit-brand cigarette ad), the magazine discusses the design process, including several sketches and photos.

1986 Ford Taurus styling sketchThe images above and left were drawn by the same artist but the article didn’t provide descriptions or even captions. However, based on the date of another sketch, and dated photos, I’d place these two from very late 1981 to sometime in 1982. That’s just after Ford’s new sedan project started; it was code-named: Taurus.

The three dictates for the Pre-Program Taurus studio were a transverse front-wheel-drive configuration, capacity for six semi-full-sized adults, and a useful production life of at least 15 years.

The magazine described the earliest Taurus sketches as depicting short-trunked hatchbacks. Apparently because of a strong push from Ford’s marketers, and a desire for reduced wind resistance, Ford favored the five-door configuration. The first Taurus clays, some of which are shown on the following pages, were all hatchbacks.

1986 Ford Taurus styling sketch

It Seems the whole hatchback idea went away for two reasons, there were concerns over body rigidity and the designers were doing their job really well.

1986 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable

What I mean by that is, some of the designers were becoming quite ingenious with their hatchback shapes, making them look un-hatchback-like. While still incorporating the versatility of a fifth door, they were sculpted to appear more like a traditional notchback (a car with an upright rear window and a trunk lid).

In doing so, it seems they’d inadvertently created a signature Taurus profile, according to the article. When combined with the body strength concerns, the hatchback idea was abandoned thereby changing Ford’s plans to a four-door, notchback configuration.

Continued on page 2, below.

Pages: 1 2 3 4