RICK KRANZ

Is the '86 Ford Taurus worthy of classic car status?

The success of the Ford Taurus and its sibling Mercury Sable helped turn Ford's fortunes around.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Is the 1986 Ford Taurus a classic?

When you think of classic automobiles, Duesenberg, Cord and Auburn models come to mind. Certainly several Cadillacs, Lincolns, Packards and others fit that distinction.

My understanding is that under the rules of the Antique Automobile Club of America, Taurus can now be named a "classic car."

Eligibility requires that a vehicle must be at least 25 years old, meaning the 1986 Taurus is a candidate. The car must stand out as being a significant vehicle in terms of engineering, styling or other criteria.

The Henry Ford museum Web site calls the Taurus (and a sibling, the Mercury Sable) one of two of the most important American vehicles of the 1980s. The other is the minivan created by Chrysler Corp.

Back in the '80s, the silhouette on America's highways was the box -- General Motors' cookie-cutter approach to the Buick Century, Chevrolet Celebrity, Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra and Pontiac 6000 is a good example. Ditto for Chrysler K-cars.

With its fortunes tumbling around 1980, Ford Motor Co. gambled that Americans were ready to embrace something completely different. It abandoned the boxy-styled Ford LTD, introduced the Taurus and ended up triggering a design revolution. The Taurus unleashed the modern day aerodynamic movement, a sweeping change in design that was embraced by domestic and foreign automakers.

It was the first time the word "ergonomics" had been used in the context of a vehicle's interior, the relationship of the car's controls to the driver. The interior's upscale look and feel were a far cry from the lowly, boxy Ford LTD the Taurus replaced.

The success of the Taurus and the Sable turned Ford's fortunes around. Ford could not assemble cars fast enough to satisfy the public's appetite.

Kudos go to Jack Telnack and his design team.

Even today, a quarter-century later, the styling is fresh, contemporary.

My recommendation: The 1986 Taurus is an American classic.

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