Survivor Estate: 1990 Ford Taurus Wagon

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I can already hear the virtual catcalls from our readers on this one. But when perusing the online classifieds, I was shocked to see a first-generation Ford Taurus appear, and even more stunned to realize it remains in excellent condition. Check out this fresh-from-storage 1990 Ford Taurus Wagon here on craigslist, an example of a car that was once seen across grocery store parking lots nationwide and in multiple big screen flicks yet today barely registers on American roadways. 

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What happened to them? The Taurus was a staple of suburbia, at least until the Camrys and Accords came marching in. On my personal meter of obsolescence, I can’t remember the last time I encountered one in a junkyard, which usually captures the last remaining examples of a vehicle marching towards permanent retirement.  This Taurus has been in storage since 2002, which is perhaps the reason why it wasn’t prematurely put out to pasture by a simple bumper tap that likely totaled many of the cars still running and driving over the last ten years.

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Who remembers these? I rode home from Baltimore sitting on the rear-facing bench in a rental Taurus wagon (albeit a newer one) when we transported my brother to his freshmen year of college. As a kid, this was one of the coolest things I had ever experienced in an automobile, but as an adult, I’m sure I annoyed more than a few motorists who had to deal with my glassy-eyed stare as a I tried to comprehend how the car was moving forward but I was looking backward. This fold-down bench appears to be in excellent condition, as does the rest of the interior.

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With just under 100,000 miles, this Taurus Wagon has lots of family road trips left to perform. It’s nicely optioned, with the attractive mesh wheels and inoffensive blue-on-blue color combo. It wears Vermont plates but appears on the Harrisburg, PA craigslist, so I’m not sure where it’s located. The seller is asking for $2,500, which seems fair if the car is as good as it appears to be in the photos. Sure, you could buy a cute crossover vehicle, but I’d like to remember the glory days of when families traveled by station wagon. When’s the last time you saw one this clean?

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Comments

  1. Chris in Nashville

    I was actually just thinking how nice it would be if someone would make a real American wagon again… My daily driver is a 7 passenger crossover and I would swap it for a nice big American wagon in a heart beat.

    • Jerry

      They still do……the Ford Flex is the exact vehicle you’re talking about. I drive one, and consider it the modern interpretation of the classic 60’s thru 80’s big wagons.

      Like 1
      • Mike

        Sorry to say this Jerry, but the Ford Flex is nothing but a scaled down Ford Explorer. It is even listed as a Crossover. My Wife and I looked at one a few months ago, yes we bought a new ride, but the Flex was not for us. It is just another SUV Crossover, and I did not like it or it performance!!!

      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        I agree with you Jerry. We picked up one for the wife (a loaded gently used 2012), and she loves it. Although some folks will consider it “SUVish”, it in no way rides like one. It definitely feels more like the station wagon of old – roomy, smooth, comfortable ride, even with the 20″ wheels that come on the Limited version.

        Like 1
    • Barry T

      I have owned a couple of station wagons back in the day and I loved them. I also wish they still made them as I am no fan of SUVs or crossovers.

  2. piper62j

    Meh!! Boring and lacking in style.. IMHO, the only thing positive going for it is that it’s a wagon.. I agree with Chris.. We need more American made wagons available to us.. Cross overs and SUVs are ok, but appear big and bulky.. (I have one by the way). The Taurus never appealed to me due to the lack of styling..

    Nice find and a good car..

  3. piper62j

    Hey Jerry… Ford Flex still looks like an SUV to me.. Boxy and tall..

    • JamestownMike

      Boxy yes…….tall?……nope. Have you seen one in person?

    • Adrian Rice

      I have driven a Ford Flex for 35,000 miles over the past 2 plus years in Southern California. It’s a solid performer…forget about it’s looks…it very comfortable ride and I am not beat up on my 200-300 mile days like previous SUV’s…zero repairs…hauls lots of gear when I need it too…

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      The boxiness is what gives it the station wagon feel. Definitely nothing else like it out there. Ford has never made any ever to market these, or to differentiate them from everything else. Instead, they focus on the more profitable Explorer. Good, because I enjoy not seeing the same vehicle every mile.

  4. Bob S

    Hoping for a Tempo barn find next week.

  5. Frenchbuff Member

    Heck, I’m still driving my late father’s ’86 Mercury Sable wagon, with 172K miles on it and the original 3L Vulcan V6 engine. Had I known he was going to buy this first yr car, I would’ve told him to wait a couple yrs for Ford to work out the bugs – rule is, never buy the first yr car! But he did, and other than replacing the head gaskets at about 120K miles after overheating in Ariz. on a trip, it kept on trucking until I used it to bring mom and her belongings to Ca. after Dad died and it had been sitting for several yrs. A checkover at a dealer said it needed $3k for repairs, so did it myself with $500 in new radiator, waterpump, hoses, etc. Since then it’s become my towtruck, hauling NSUs and Citroens out of the Sierras on a dolly on gawdawful deadend unpaved mountain roads and tons of parts. Haven’t had to replace anything else other than engine mounts and the dizzy’s Hall effect ignition trigger which I acidentally ground up when I forgot to reclip the dist. cap to it and it chewed things a bit! Since then I’ve seen a whole lot of similar
    vintage Taurus & Merc-badged wagons & sedans all over California. Darn thing always starts. Oh, and the car made me money when i got rearended at a stoplight by an idiot on his phone who was driving a 2 week old box truck carrying crash repair parts to bodyshops! His insurance paid the cost of replacing the tailgate (turned it inside-out without touching the taillights) so I took a $3k check, yanked it out myself and banked the money. And it’s still running strong. Just avoid the 3.8L V6 cars – a disaster of an engine.
    Re styling: The Taurus was a helluva lot more aerodynamic in its day than a lot of other stuff on the road & may still be – & yes, bring back wagons!

  6. Rando

    I’d love to have a station wagon. Don;t need anything bigger, but the wagon would tote about everything I’d need to tote.

  7. Howard A Member

    You know, it’s funny, and just a matter of time before someone would think a Taurus would be collectible. This car was groundbreaking. It was the 1st of the “jellybean” styling, and to be perfectly honest, it was this car that I lost interest in modern cars. They were good cars, my brother and my nephew had them, and put a ton of miles on them. They loved coolant, and both my brother and nephew had head gasket issues. ( along with many others) But they moved families in comfort, and that’s what America needed. In the north, they were horrific rusters. Google “Rusty Ford Taurus” and you’ll see what I mean. Whole panels would fall off, so it’s a bit unusual to see one like this. Not even going to check out the ad, couldn’t care less about this car, but again, they were good cars.

    • Stephen

      My lord, you’ve been reading my car diary Howard A, my thoughts EXACTLY! I thought I was the only one that referred to it as the “jellybean” period.

  8. Bill

    They’re not in junk yards because the strut mounts rusted out and they all were crushed 10 years ago? I thought this was a pretty decent looking wagon in the day, but I’ll take a Vista cruiser over a taurus anyday.

  9. Harry Loyd

    The EGG CAR!

  10. Terry J

    Wikipedia: “The original Taurus was a milestone for Ford and the entire American automotive industry, bearing an influential design that brought many new features and innovations to the marketplace”. Scoff if you will, but the Taurus was known as “the Car that saved the Ford Motor Company”. Ford (like all American Car Companies), had lost their way by the 70’s. Introduced in 1986 it became the top selling American car, finally supplanted by the Toyota Camry. I had a ’95, the last “big Taurus”. The 3.0 Vulcan V6 is famous for reliability, with cast iron block and heads, and simple push rod overhead valves. It took Ford a while longer to get the tranny up to the same standards, but it too became a very good unit by ’95. A car doesn’t have to be collectible to be a “Milestone”. That rating does deserve respect in my book. Terry J

  11. BillB

    Bad transmission design on the Gen 1’s. The speedometer gear received more lubrication than the planetary set.

    • todd

      funny thing about that tranny was, it was purchased by ford from guess who???
      GM!!!

  12. Van

    Back in 93 I had a choice between a Taurus or an escort wagon.
    Easy decision, I’d still have the Escort if it hadn’t been side swiped.
    A thoughtful theif broke out the rear side glass so I wouldn’t be inconvenienced driving home without the radio.
    The glass was $1,200. You could have baught the same car at auction for $500.

  13. MH

    A REAL wagon is a Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon with the LT1. Now that’s a real car!!!

    Like 1
  14. Matt B

    We had a 1987 with a sunroof in white. I wanted an MT-5, but I don’t think they had them in wagon format. Several trips up and down the east coast until some interesting failures…transmission rebuild and throwing a rod on the DC beltway.

    One of three Fords and actually American cars that my parents owned. They had a robin egg blue Torino wagon and F100 pickup. Only the truck survived but my parents sold it after my sister was born. I loved driving this car and have some fond road trip memories, although most of those belong to my 1983 Subaru station wagon that I put over 200,000 miles on in two and a half years.

  15. grant

    Not sure this really fits here, but Tauruses are good cars, aside from the known issues with head gaskets and transmissions. I’ve owned 4 of them (one was a Sable) and I’m currently using a ’97 as a daily work car. Picked it up cheap ($650!) after an accident last fall. It won’t live forever, it’s showing 220k, but I’ve always liked these for a daily driver, and so far its dead reliable. They’re relatively comfortable, get decent milage, and the cops simply don’t notice them. Want to go undercover? Get a white Taurus, any body style.

  16. Warren

    In 1986, I was running the road for Ford and my company car was a black Sable wagon, very early production. It was such a different design, started many conversations whenever I would fuel up.

  17. Todd Zuercher

    Jeff – we still see plenty of Tauruses in the yards here in AZ but not a lot of the first gens anymore. And occasionally we’ll still see first gens on the road. Just saw a 2nd gen SHO at the picky last week.

    • Jeff Staff

      Probably has a lot to do with my region and its love of spreading salt on every road surface in the winter. Good to hear there are still parts cars hiding somewhere!

  18. Alan (Michigan)

    Begging for a SHO swap!

  19. charlie Member

    The 2nd gen wagon, all ovals, is in MY opinion, one of the styling successes of Detroit mass production, along with the ’49 Caddy and Chevy fastbacks, the ’53 –
    54 Studebaker, the Avanti, and the ’57 Buick/Olds 4 door hardtops. Head gaskets go on relatively new, 3 year old, 60,000 mile Subaru’s (warranty is 50,000) so don’t look down on an old Ford where they went at 120,000.

    • Jeff Staff

      Agreed. My Subaru went through two headgasket jobs in the 160,000 miles I owned it.

  20. al8apex

    BMW makes wagons but they woosed out and only make them in AWD format, stupid, IMHO

    2012 was the last year for a REAL (rwd, 6 cyl) 3 series wagon

    • Jeff Staff

      ….and those last-year models are becoming highly sought-after for that very reason.

  21. Mark H

    I had one several years ago, bought at auction, that had a fold out picnic table for the rear-facing seat group. I’ve never seen another so maybe it was rare? Long gone regardless so all is well.

  22. RMAU

    Many industry journalists, as well as executives at Ford and Chrysler , believed the Taurus was going to be a failure.

  23. Carl W French

    I had 3 of them as well (all wagons). Starting with an ’87 MT5 Wagon. Loved it but unable to figure out why Ford would only make them with a 4 cyl engine. They were comfortable and other than the tranny’s self destructing between 120 an130k they were bullet proof. My sone used to go to school in Northern Maine and there was a 100 mile section of turnpike between Bangor and Houlton where there was nothing so I would set the cruise at 95 and drink caffeine. the car did not care. They were comfortable and handled very well. I only got the base 3.0. The terminal common factor was the rockers would finally go away. I’d still have them if it wasnt for that. I changed out to RWD Volvo wagons (one of the 2 unofficial cars of Maine). With both wagons, I could haul home lots of 8′ long lumber inside so I have not needed a pick up as long as I had a tow hitch. I once brought home a 69 Triumph Trophy 250 (complete) in the back of my 240 wagon.

  24. Jubjub

    When these came out, they were shockingly different. I disliked them, however the design has aged gracefully and one in nice shape with lace wheels is striking. Bummer about the 3.8s and the trannies.

  25. FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972 Member

    I’ve owned an ’88 Taurus wagon, a ’99 wagon and an ’05 Sable wagon. Each one was pre-owned but all had low miles when I got them. I liked them all; comfortable, good handling, pretty good fuel mileage and decent get-up-and-go. The Sable was loaded; leather, premium 17 inch wheels and premium sound system. The Taurus and Sable wagons were dependable and trouble -free, I never had any real problems with any of them.

    I do like wagons. I acquired my first wagon, an ’86 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Cruiser wagon and liked the wagon concept so much I then moved on to the ’88 Taurus, the ’99 Taurus, the Sable and finally to my current wagon, an ’07 Dodge Magnum. I’ll have to keep the Magnum, there’s nothing to go to after that, nothing (so far) American-made with Magnum-like proportions.

    I could go back in time, though. A ’72 Ford Country Squire? A ’69 Torino wagon? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  26. Shaun Waite

    It’s sad these are rarely seen anymore. I really want to restore an 86 LX wagon in medium canyon red but these cars are too hard too find. I really hope one shows up someday.

    Like 1
  27. chrlsful

    lookin 4 the ’83/6 foxbodied waggy (my name w/ @aol behind it), but yeah, all the car writers liked the tarus – called it ‘coke bottle” shape (& jelly bean) U can still C it in all the Jap & europeans today…

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