This week, John J. “Jack” Telnack, former Ford vice president of global design who first penned the design of the ground-breaking Ford Taurus, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford LTD

Ford LTD

A New Design Philosophy

You had to be there to appreciate it. By that, I mean that in order to really appreciate how much different the original Ford Taurus was and what it meant to the image and bottom line of Ford Motor Company, you’d have to “return with us now to those (less than) thrilling days of yesteryear."

Back in the early ‘80’s, Ford Motor Company found itself lagging behind both General Motors and Chrysler in bringing to market modern front-wheel-drive vehicles. Sure, Ford had an entry level car, the Tempo, but its mainstream sedan was a slab-sided rear wheel drive sedan called the LTD, itself a descendent of the Granada, another sedan known chiefly for its early advertising campaign in which Ford tried to compare it to a Mercedes-Benz 280.

1986 Ford Taurus

1986 Ford Taurus

Enter the Taurus

Telnack, himself, explained his design inspiration this way, “It was my time in Europe that influenced me to expand and push for a more functional approach to vehicle design that considered aerodynamics and its contribution to fuel economy. It started with the ’79 Mustang, which was a real departure in terms of aerodynamics. That led to the ’83 T-Bird and Cougar, which paved the way for the Taurus.”

In its inaugural year, the Taurus was named Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1986. It was also named to Car and Driver’s Ten Best List the same year – the first of 7 appearances for the Taurus. Derided by no less than Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca as a “jelly bean car”, Ford sold over 200,000 copies of the milestone design in its first year. On its way to saving Ford, more than one million Tauruses were sold in the next three years. By the time the company was finished producing the first generation in 1991, more than two million of the iconic vehicles had made their way through dealer showrooms to  customer’s driveways.

Hats off to you, Jack

According to a statement from Ford, when he was informed of the upcoming induction, Telnack responded, “I was surprised, deeply touched and honored that they selected me. I’m sure the Taurus was a big driver in this decision.”

Yes it was, Mr. Telnack, and all of us here at thank you for designing it.