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The Ford Taurus MT-5: The Taurus You Didn't Know About

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author photo by Bill Leedy September 2017

Over the years my father has owned several cars that seemed normal and mundane at the time -- but that turned out to be quite rare. This is a little history on one of those cars: the forgotten Ford Taurus. No, I haven't gone crazy, and I didn't come here from an alternate dimension where the Ford Taurus is a rare and revered car. I am well aware Ford made precisely 17 gazillion units of the Taurus over the years. I would not be surprised to learn that every single person reading this has in one way or another had a connection to the Taurus -- whether it was handed down by your grandmother, or your grandfather, or maybe your friend's grandparents, or whoever. They are everywhere and were the definition of anonymity until the bubbly mid-1990s redesign.

Anyway, enough bashing the bland Taurus -- back to the topic of today. Since you're reading this, you probably know about the SHO variant that began production in 1989 using a Yamaha-built 3.0-liter V6 and a mandatory manual transmission. However, what most people don't know is that there was a manual-transmission Taurus before that. Even more amazingly, it wasn't even the base trim level. The "L" was the rental-spec 4-cylinder, and the GL and LX were the nicer, V6-powered cars. However, in the middle of all that was the MT-5, imaginatively named because it came with a manual transmission and had five forward gears.

Unfortunately, unlike the GL and LX, the MT-5 only came with the anemic 88-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. At least you didn't feel like you went the stingy route once you sat down inside the car: It still had power windows, bucket seats and some genuine faux wood trim. It was even offered as a station wagon, though I suspect they only sold about five of those.

With the manual transmission also came an interesting device known to some as a tachometer, which handily measures the speed with which the engine rotates each minute to help the driver determine which gear to be in. Back in the day, all this could be yours for a mere $10,276! Although knowing my dad's background as a mechanic and his penchant for picking up broken cars, I'm guessing his purchase price was more like $276.

Thirty-six seconds of internet searching have led me to the conclusion that nobody really knows how many of these cars were made. It sounds like Ford made somewhere around 176,000 Taurus sedans in its debut year. If even half a percent of those were MT-5s, I would be surprised. It definitely wasn't the most popular car Ford has ever made.

I'm sure that this thing is slow, soft and boring compared to any modern car. But let's not forget that when this car came out in 1986, Ford was still making the LTD, Chevrolet's contribution to the midsize sedan market was the Celebrity, and Chrysler was in the middle of peddling the much loved K-Cars. No wonder they sold a ton of them. Although, just like today, nobody then was shopping for a midsize sedan with a manual transmission: The MT5 was only sold in sedan form from 1986 to 1988 (and as a wagon from 1986 to 1987) before cancellation.

To be honest, I don't remember much about ours other than that it was red inside and out and it once left us stranded because it was so down on power we couldn't go anywhere. It turned out that, upon further inspection, the catalytic converter was clogged and glowing an even brighter shade of red than the rest of the car.

So there you have it. If you come across a manual-transmission Taurus that doesn't say SHO on it, take a picture -- it's not fast or exciting, but it'll probably be the rarest car in your photo collection! Especially if it's a wagon!

Image credit: IFCAR

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Ford Taurus MT-5: The Taurus You Didn't Know About - Autotrader