“Wow, what make of car is that …?” Difficult to say these days. With a few exceptions. There was a time once when each make of car had its own unique look. And there were (and still are) a number of faces in the crowd that stood out from all the rest – not least because of the design and arrangement of their headlights. Our mini-series will take a subjective look at some of the most spectacular designs and some of the weirdest, some long forgotten and some that are still on the roads today. Today it’s the turn of a car that your parents perhaps once had. The Ford Taunus 12M P4 – “old almond eyes”.
It’s one of those cars that you see from behind and wonder what on earth it could be. Beautiful almond shaped rear lights and a chubby round body with lots of metal. Fortunately, if you get a little closer you will see “TAUNUS” in thick metal letters, revealing its provenance from Ford’s German factory in Cologne. Viewed from the front (and that’s what this series of articles is all about, after all), you can’t help falling in love with this relic from the 60s. It looks so desperately sad and friendly you want to tell it not to worry, things will turn out fine. Big round friendly 6-volt headlights, and between them a shiny set of chrome teeth, with the corners of the mouth turned down slightly. Looking a bit like Frau Merkel, to be honest.
The 12M (M for Meisterstück or Masterpiece) was a highly desirable item at the time, at least in Germany. Designed originally by the parent company in the USA as a small family car, the “Cardinal”, it was dismissed as too small in its home country so the Cologne plant was “allowed” to build it. It had an unconventional but rugged V4 engine, transversely mounted leaf-springs and lots of room inside. A fantastic amount of space, in fact. Bench seats front and back, and two-tone paintwork and upholstery, just like on the other side of the pond. Steering column gear shift, aluminum and steel, decorative strips and a large trunk to swallow a mountain of luggage. What more could anyone want from a car? Compared to the ever popular VW Beetle the Ford was a luxury limousine, and alongside the latest Opel Kadett it looked just as good, just different. The Federal Republic had a new strong mid-range with a somewhat sad expression. But it has left a permanent impression to this day.
A P4 will only rarely appear in your rear-view mirror these days. Drivers of this landmark vehicle tend to stick together and help one another resolve any problems with spare parts and repairs. Like other cars at the time in Germany, the Taunus had a 6-volt electrical system. Fortunately you can now even get 6-volt H4 lamps which not only ensure you can be seen at night but also give you a reasonable amount of light on the road. The original headlights are simply no longer powerful enough for traffic conditions in 2016. The world has moved on, and in terms of headlight technology the Osram team keeps developing new lamps in record time that make your night-time journeys brighter. Much brighter than in 1966. So when you look lovingly on your four-wheeled friend this evening, spare a thought for the Ford Taunus. It is the grandfather of many technical innovations, and if it learns that someone somewhere is still thinking of it, then it may look just a little bit happier.