No Cardinal for America
The Cardinal - or the Taunus as it was known in Europe - would have beaten by 15 years the first front-wheel-drive car to be introduced in North America by a Detroit automaker.
Rather than being ahead of the pack, Ford did not offer a small, fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive car in the US market until four years after the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, when consumers begged for four-cylinder engines that were stingy on gas.
In 1977, Ford imported the front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta from Europe. It was followed in 1980 by the front-wheel-drive Ford Escort, which was made in the USA.
General Motors introduced its first front-wheel-drive models, the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, in the 1960s. But they were large, luxury models.
The front-wheel-drive revolution in the USA began in the late 1970s when, fed up with fuel shortages and gas-guzzlers, consumers demanded smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
Chrysler began selling its Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon subcompacts in January 1978. GM debuted its 1980 front-wheel-drive compacts - the Chevrolet Citation, Pontiac Phoenix, Oldsmobile Omega and Buick Skylark - in the spring of 1979.
The Cardinal, which was meant to appeal to Volkswagen buyers who were snapping up Beetles at a furious pace, would be inexpensive, basic transportation. Ford anticipated selling 300,000 of the subcompacts a year.
Ford of Germany was developing the vehicle, and Robert S. McNamara, who was president of Ford in late 1960, wanted the vehicle for the US market.
It was supposed to make its American debut in autumn1962. Ford anticipated selling 300,000 of the subcompacts a year.
But McNamara left in December 1960 to become President John F. Kennedy's secretary of defense.
So Lee Iacocca was placed in charge of Cardinal development for the USA. Iacocca, who was appointed general manager of Ford Division in November 1960, recalled in his 1984 autobiography that he was underwhelmed by the Cardinal when he saw it in Germany.
"It was a fine car for the European market, with its V-4 engine and front-wheel-drive," he said in Iacocca: An Autobiography. "But in the USA, there was no way it could have sold the 300,000 units we were counting on. Among other problems, it was too small and had no trunk."
The other dilemmas: In the 1960s, fuel economy was a tough sell in the USA at that time. And the car looked like it was designed by committee, Iacocca wrote.
Upon his return from Germany, Iacocca told Henry Ford II that the Cardinal was a loser.
"We simply can't afford a new model that won't appeal to younger buyers," Iacocca wrote in his autobiography.
While it never appeared in the USA, the Cardinal was produced by Ford of Germany and was introduced in September 1962 as the Taunus 12-M. The front-wheel-drive economy car, with its fanless 50hp V-4 engine, was sold in Europe and other markets.
Assembled in Cologne, Germany, the two-door, five-seat vehicle had a top speed of 125kph, and the company said it would deliver 9 liters per 100km fuel economy.
More than 2.5 million were sold in Europe from 1962 to 1970. But it never got started in the USA.