W​hy 1986 was a special year for Ford

T​he time when the future met the past

1y ago
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S​ince Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in 1903, it had met with a lot of important moments and thus defining its status in the automotive industry. For instance, in 1908, Ford introduced the Model T, the car that taught Americans what "car" was. It was very successful, and it just dominated the whole car market in the 1910s despite there were like a few hundred car companies across the country. It was the time when other small car companies counted their annual production figures in hundreds, and Ford counted them in hundred thousands. In 1956, it went public and brought the company to a whole new level, in terms of capital and the size. In 1964, Ford introduced the Mustang. The car that young people MUST own back in the day. All of these years marked the success and the great years of Ford. Except, there was a year that should have been counted in as well. In retrospect, it was as important as 1908. The year was 1986.

1​985 Ford Tempo

1​985 Ford Tempo

I​n 1985, the model lineup of Ford (just Ford, no mercury and Lincoln first) was dull. The newest vehicle on the list was the Tempo. Introduced in 1983, the Escort-based Tempo was Ford's attempt to downsize and modernise its dated Fairmont in order to compete with the European and Japanese rivals. It sold well. However, it was not something that could be called as "groundbreaking" or "revolutionary" . After all, it was a new car based on a 5-year-old platform. It still fell behind from its rivals. It just looked dated even when it was new. Apart from the Tempo, Ford didn't have much left that could link to "new". As Mercury was selling rebadged Ford model, like the Mercury Topaz, Mercury Lynx and Mercury Cougar. The lineup was dated as well. Things were a bit better at Lincoln. Their Continental Mark VII made its debut in 1983. Although it was based on the Fox platform, its styling was a massive improvement from the Mark VI. Gone was the old boxy look, the now aerodynamic exterior was futuristic.

1​983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI

1​983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI

1​985 Lincoln Continental Mark VII

1​985 Lincoln Continental Mark VII

W​ith that in mind, here we come the 1986 model year, which started from the August of 1985. This year, Ford brought the public a groundbreaking and tremendously futuristic vehicle. The 1986 Ford Taurus. After 34 years, it is indeed hard to understand how particular this car was. The Taurus was just another new sedan. However, there were a lot of differences to go. In short, it was Ford's Model T in modern days. In the early 80s, Ford accumulated billions of looses. Just to view the lineup of '85, Ford just couldn't get what its rivals were doing and was always a step behind. In order to save the company from dying and bankruptcy, it had to make changes. The changes had to be huge and essential. For example, a whole new quality level. Since the company was losing money, there was only a chance or two for the company to try. Ford put all and its final effort in this new project. Right from the beginning, the company took a different way to develop the car which revolutionized car development. In the past, there was no communication between the interior and exterior designers. Each did his part. This caused "mismatched" design frequently happened, which directly harmed the sales. To solve this fundamental problem, Ford formed a new team, dubbed "Team Taurus", to design the car together. Aside from this, Ford also conducted many different surveys in viewing the preferences of customers and average people. Customer input much helped Ford locate the position of the car and thus ensuring an initial success. In order to understand what Ford was missing from its rivals, Ford even disassembled numerous Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and BMW 5-Series. All of the painstaking works brought to a record-high $3 billion investment cost. At this point, Ford had nowhere to go, and the Taurus had to be successful. Otherwise, the car would be Ford's last car and the 83-year-old blue oval brand would have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A​ 1986 Ford Taurus

A​ 1986 Ford Taurus

"​The shape of tomorrow", "Totally new breed of car". The new car gained numerous positive feedbacks after its initial appearance in 1985. It was crowned as the most anticipated new car of 1986. The new car won Motor Trend " Car of the year" award for 1986. Things were looking great for Ford. Luckily, the public loved the Taurus as much as the press. For the 1986 model year, Ford sold over 200,000 examples. Ford's work finally paid off. The Taurus saved the company from demise. It also marked a brand new standard for all domestic sedans. No more dated boxy designs and live rear axels. Sleek, aerodynamic exterior and a rounded interior was the way to go. In the end, Ford sold over two million first-gen Taurus. The 1986 Taurus was the car that saved Ford. Without it, there would have no Focus and all the other great Fords in the 21st century. It was also one of the most technologically advanced vehicles on the road back in the day. Some say it was the car that reinvented cars. Treat it as the Tesla of its time. Something that was unheard of and was totally different from what was available.

O​ne particular thing that fascinated me to this year aside from the introduction of the Taurus was the insane "gap" between Ford's lineup. The picture above was a 1986 Ford LTD. The undoubtedly old exterior design and the ugly interior design were the complete opposite of the Taurus. It just blew my mind off when I knew that these two cars were parked in the same showroom sold as new cars. Frankly speaking, I think the look of the Taurus is still acceptable as something modern in 2020. However, the LTD was ancient, even in 1986 standard. This kind of scene was something that you would never see again as cars today got new generations in only a few years. If not, they would still get minor updates to keep things fresh.

1​986 also saw the introduction of the Aerostar. Ford's answer to the increasingly popular minivan segment. The famous slope-nosed exterior resulted in an impressive drag coefficient of 0.37. It was in a head-to-head competition with GMC Safari but was fell behind of Chrysler Minivans. It opened a new segment for Ford though Ford never gained any real success in the minivan market. 1986 was a special year for the Lincoln division as well. The Continental Mark VII was renamed as Mark VII and got the new LSC package. Horsepower increased from 1985's 140hp to 200hp. A whopping gain of 60hp in just a year. This made the Mark VII LSC notably a luxury car, but also a performance car. Something Lincoln was never involved. This changed the image of Lincoln too.

"Have you driven a Ford...lately?"

"Have you driven a Ford...lately?"

S​o here you are. 1986 was a fruitful, critical and vital year for Ford Motor Company. It experienced many new things. In the end, it once again ensured its position in the industry. The success in 1986 paved the way for the next 10 to 20 years and bringing the company into the 21st century safely. What do you think of the Taurus? Do you agree with its revolutionary status? Which 1980s Ford is your favourite? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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Comments (1)

  • Another car that was revolutionary that Ford produced in the 1980's was what the Sierra and Escort mk3 that they designed for Europe, the UK and other places like south Africa and New Zealand. These two cars created a scene in the UK especially as the Escort Mk3 was front wheel drive and styled differently to the previous Escort MK1 and MK2. The Ford Sierra though made even more of a scene as it was replacing the UK's favourite car the Cortina which was square and muscular in shape with a revolutionary aerodynamic jelly mould design which was futuristic looking like the Taurus. Once people had got over these changes Ford sold loads of Escort Mk3's and Sierra's in the UK. The same applies to the MK1 Ford Focus and MK1 Ford Ka in the 1990's.

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