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The Garage: Focus on Autos

Ford sends Taurus back into the ring

June 16, 2007|Martin Zimmerman | Times Staff Writer

The bull is back. Sort of.

Ford was showing off the 2008 Taurus in Westlake Village on Friday, but it wasn't the mid-sized jelly bean many may fondly remember from the 1980s and early '90s. The Taurus of today is a full-sized sedan -- based on the weak-selling Ford Five Hundred.

The lineage is a sensitive point with Ford execs, who emphasize the ways the new Taurus differs from the Five Hundred, including the fact that it has a new, up-gunned engine.

"We don't view it as a re-badged Five Hundred," says Jonathan Richards, the car's marketing manager. "We view it as a reintroduction of Taurus."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 20, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Car museum: An article in the Business section on Saturday about the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo said the nonprofit museum offered free rides in classic cars on Saturdays and Sundays. The rides are offered only on Sundays.

In any case, it's quite a comeback for a car that had both axles in the grave earlier this year after Ford consigned it to the scrap heap of automotive history, the victim of poor sales and a rental-fleet image.

That was before the automaker, reluctant to toss out two decades-plus of brand equity, reversed gears and decreed that the Taurus name would live on.

The new Taurus will arrive in showrooms next week, coinciding with a national ad campaign that will focus on the car's world-class safety ratings (the Taurus and several Volvo models share some physical characteristics.)

One of the complaints about the Five Hundred was that it was underpowered. Ford hopes the new engine -- which boasts an extra 60 horsepower -- will solve that problem, although the resulting combined city-highway mileage is a less-than-stunning 22 miles per gallon.

In the verdict of online auto site, the Taurus "is the best it's been in a long time."

The car has a base sticker of $23,995 (including destination fees). With its larger size, it will compete with the likes of the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon, leaving the Ford Fusion to battle the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and others in Taurus' old mid-sized sedan category.


A vintage ride for Father's Day

Looking for something to do Sunday with your dad? Try taking him for a ride in a car that's even older than he is.

The aptly named Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo is touting its (literally) hands-on automotive experience as the perfect Father's Day gift for car buffs and auto historians -- or the man who simply wants to relive his early days on the road.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, docents take visitors on a 10-block ride around El Segundo in one of four cars selected each week from the museum's collection of around 80 classic vehicles.

The Father's Day lineup: a 1941 Cadillac convertible, a 1932 Studebaker Commander sedan, a 1937 Packard touring sedan and a 1930 Ford Model A coupe, complete with rumble seat.

Admission to the private, nonprofit museum is free, as are the rides, although donations are accepted. Executive Director Laurie Lewis cautions that visitors are limited to one ride on especially busy days, and children must be at least 10 years old to go for a ride.

The museum was founded in 2002 by local mortgage lender and car collector Stanley Zimmerman (no relation to this reporter) and moved to its current location at 610 Lairport St. in El Segundo a few months back.

For more information, call (310) 909-0950 or go online at


Launch delay for next Prius

Toyota is delaying the launch of the third-generation Prius hybrid by six months to the spring of 2009, the Japanese press reports.

The automaker has never actually set an official date for the highly anticipated rollout, so it would not confirm that the launch was, in fact, being delayed. But the industry consensus was that the successor to the current version of the popular gasoline-electric hybrid would hit showrooms late next year.

Prius sales worldwide recently passed the 1 million mark. Sales of the car, which gets the highest mileage of any mass-production automobile sold in the United States, have jumped almost 100% this year as pump prices have remained above $3 a gallon.


Next week in Highway 1

* Throttle Jockey

* Susan Carpenter profiles the BMW F800S

* Rumble Seat

* Dan Neil is on assignment.

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