1991 Ford Taurus L: What a family car once was
As a child of the ’80s, my memory lane trigger is set off by certain cars. Volvo 240s, Volvo 740s (because my parents owned several during that time), bustle-back Continentals (Grandma Ruby and Grandpa Bob had one), and then there’s the ones I remember simply because there were a TON of them on the road at the time. Two that really stand out: the Fargo-era Cutlass Ciera is one. The Ford Taurus is the other—the original, I mean.
By anyone’s standards, the debut 1986 Ford Taurus (and its slightly flossier light-barred Mercury Sable sibling) were a revelation for American passenger cars.
Many, many words, and even a book, have been written about the Taurus/Sable twins, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. The Taurus technically replaced the midsize LTD/Marquis, which had been a revised/face-lifted version of the 1978 Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr twins. They were new, super modern, and very stylish, to the point that many thought they looked ugly and/or weird. Circa 1986–87, I remember my mother saying the two ugliest cars at the time were the Taurus/Sable and Volvo 740/760. Well, they were both kind of ahead of their time and their stood out. But time breeds familiarity and, later on, Mom decided to trade in the cream yellow ’86 Volvo 240DL wagon for a wine-red-over-tan-leather ’89 740GL wagon that was sitting in the showroom at Lundahl Volvo in downtown Moline, Illinois.
So there I was, on the Book of Faces, and I get a direct message from a friend of mine, Jason Peters, out in the Pacific “Northwet”. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, his shop refurbished an absolutely GORGEOUS 1978 Ford LTD Landau pillared hardtop with the über-rare power sunroof.
As he began, “Hey Tom! I hope 2021 is treating you well these days. I’ve picked up another clean, low-mileage survivor and thought I’d see if you had any interest in writing about it? It’s a little more modern and not anything fancy, but—it’s a 1991 Ford Taurus. 43,000 original miles—I believe these to be turning-point cars for the industry and certainly a contributing factor to FoMoCo’s success in the 1980s.”
“It was bought brand new and serviced its whole life at Skyline Ford in Salem, Oregon. A base-trim Taurus L in Light Titanium with Titanium cloth upholstery. The only options are power locks, A/C, and it does have the dealer installed Ford Cruise Control and still had the instructional guide for it hanging on the rear view mirror!
“It’s an AM/FM only car and equipped with the 3.0-liter V-6. After a small bump on the driver’s side front bumper, the children decided it was time Mom stop driving. They put new tires on it (whitewall no less, but faced inward) and donated the car to Oregon Public Broadcasting for auction.
“I saw the car on Facebook Marketplace and the gentleman selling it had just picked it up it at auction.”
“He brought it over for me to see and it was as nice as you could ever imagine a 20-year-old middle of the road family car to be. Not a scratch aside from the little bump on the front bumper!”
As you might recall, 1991 was the last year for the first generation Taurus. In ’91, 302,577 Tauruses were built, which is not too shabby! The model hierarchy started with the L, like our featured car. Base price was $13,352. As you went up the list, you had the $13,582 GL, the $17,373 LX and the top of the line $22,071 SHO (all prices are for the sedan version, there was no SHO wagon, by the way). All ’91 Tauruses were V-6 models; the four-cylinder engine had been discontinued after the ’90 model year.
It was still a time when a diverse assortment of interior and exterior colors mattered, so one could get their Taurus in a number of attractive combinations. Exterior colors included Light Titanium, Twilight Blue, Amethyst Frost (as seen in the above brochure picture), Garnet Red, Oxford White and Mocha Frost. Interior trims were equally interesting, with such choices as Black, Crystal Blue, Titanium, Currant Red and Mocha.
Quite a switch from today’s black, gray and silver choices, with black, gray or tan interiors. So what is the modern equivalent of the Taurus, with tippy-toed, ill-handling crossovers taking the once-ubiquitous sedan’s place? Probably a silver silvermist Explorer XLT with black mouse-fur trim. Oof. Can I go back to the ’90s?