The last picture of a pre-production model from the article is of this wagon below. Now, to the untrained eye, meaning someone that hasn’t owned one, there is a pretty big difference between the car below and the one that was produced. About 17 inches worth of difference.

1986 Ford Taurus development - 1982-07-01 Mercury Sable wagon

Notice the angle of the rear window and the roof where they meet. There is a really attractive swoosh that looks far more contemporary than one might expect from a car design based on the July 1, 1982 date of the picture.

Apparently, that roof angle was too racy and offended those in sales positions. So, the designers compromised and moved the taper point (which was roughly centered above the rear wheel) rearward, about 17 inches. Below is a picture of a production 1986 Ford Taurus. Notice the less-angled rear roof line.

1986 Ford Taurus wagon

The car lost another rear-end design feature but that one was due to the feds.

The wagon styling model above wore tail lamps that stretched from the bumper to the roof pillars. Ford’s designers had intended them to do double-duty as high-mounted brake lights, mandated by the federal government for all new cars from 1986 on. The problem for Ford’s idea was that, meantime, the government decided the third brake light had to be center-mounted. So, Ford ditched the idea and lowered the lamps halfway down the rear of the car. I’m betting the final product looked better anyway.

The Motor Trend article states that the wagon’s design was “dialed in” by August of 1982. That’s absolutely amazing.

Again, not a huge Ford guy here but there have been some products from the Blue Oval that are sufficiently impressive to make me overlook labels. The Taurus/Sable line is one of those examples. When they were introduced in 1985 they were stunning. To find out these designs were almost complete by late 1981 and “dialed in” by mid-late 1982. That is incredible.

Below is a photo of a 1986 Ford Taurus.

1986 Ford Taurus sedan
There’s one last nugget from the article that I’d like to share and I’ll quote it below using italics. It’s just a glimpse into the many factors that can affect aspects of a car’s design. From page 48 of the March 1985 issue of Motor Trend:

Another feature that gives both the Ford and Mercury editions extra visual differentiation is the placement of the headlamps. One of the more expensive panels to tool up for on a new car is the radiator support panel, with tooling for a new rad panel costing up to $10 million!

A reason for the closely spaced headlamps on Ford’s Tempo/Topaz cars is these models had to share the same radiator support panel with the smaller Escort/Lynx cars. Even though the Taurus was a new-from-the-ground-up program, there was no way the corporation was going to let Ford and Mercury use different radiator support panels.

With this foreknowledge, they designed the part to allow the mounting of headlights in one of two positions. This means the lamp clusters on the Mercury can be fitted more inboard than those of the Ford version of the Taurus.

[Thanks to Ford Motor Company for the 1986 Ford Taurus photos and permission to display them in this post. Source article for this post, including images and information, is the March 1985 issue of Motor Trend Magazine titled, Design File: Ford’s Taurus, by Jim Hall]

Continue below to the photo gallery.

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