Introducing the Taunus 17M — A rugged, stylish, well-planned car of character, from the Cologne factory
Over Whitson we covered -a big mileage in an eye-catching Ford Taunus 17M de luxe estate car and were left with a profound respect for this well-made, conveniently-sized vehicle, which has the additional appeal of possessing a character of its own, derived primarily from the unusual layout Of certain items of’ minor controls and bodywork details.
This German-built Ford Taunus is very similar mechanically to the Dagenham-built Consul, although its over-square four-cylinder o.h.v. engine is slightly smaller – 84 x 76.6 mm. (1,698 c.c.) against 82.55 x 79.5 mm. (1.703 c.c.) of the Consul II. This engine, giving 68 S.A.E. h.p., is entirely adequate. In conjunction with a threespeed gearbox it gives maxima of 31, 60 and 83 m.p.h., respectively, when pushed to its limit in each ratio, even in roomy estate car form. In fact, there is little point in going beyond about 50 m.p.h. in middle speed. Acceleration is quite adequate—equal, indeed, to 0-50 m.p.h. in under 15 seconds, to 60 in less than 24 seconds, the s.s. 1/4 mile occupying 22 1/2 seconds, which is good from a 1.6-litre car with such a spacious body. To this long-legged performance—the Taunus cruises naturally at between 60 and 70 m.p.h. without the driver pushing it, these speeds being recorded on a speedometer of truly commendable accuracy—is allied considerable ” character” (by which is meant that little difference that makes the car fun to own as well as enjoyable to drive), a very stylish appearance in rather the American style, today so generally worshipped, and notable economy of operation.
Other commendable items which should make the Taunus 17M many friends are its light weight of a mere 21 1/2 cwt., in spite of the substantial station-wagon body, and its modest price in this useful form of only £1,176 18s. 4d., pt. included. This price includes such equipment as heater, crash padding, screen-washers, clock, three-stage two-tone colour scheme. etc., while a push-button Motorola radio is available for an additional £40.
In some ways the Ford Taunus, is a bit ” agricultural.” The exhaust note is curiously harsh and remnant when accelerating in the lower gear, (but suggestive of effortless power in the same way as was the best of the pre-war Ford V8), the body emits odd rattles, and the ride over had going can be distinctly lively. Against these shortcoming, is the high-set driving seat, well planned minor controls, good visibiIity, and other factors contributing to lack of effort in driving the car.
On two days during the Whitsun holiday the writer had to drive almost 100 miles each day to the West Country and back. The Taunus made light of such work, contriving to put over 380 miles into ten hours, inclusive of several brief stops, over cross-country roads to dodge the holiday traffic: and it was not being driven as even a novice rally driver would expect to press-on. Under such conditions no one item of the controls stood out for special yet the driver enjoyed himself and was not fatigued. He had not thought about the seating, yet did not notice any discomfort after 10 1/2 hours of almost continual motoring, which speaks well for the design of the separate driving seat. Under these conditions the generous full-range was also much appreciated.
The estate car tested was the two-door version, access to the back bench seat being achieved by folding the squabs of the separate front seats, which not only fold forward but also partly inwards. Thest seats are upholstered in Vinyl (which causes stiction of one’s clothes and perspiration in hot weather); the squab-angle is adjustable by means of a thumb-screw. The back seat cushion is cut away to clear the rear-wheel arches and-there are reeessed arm-rests on either side, while the front doors also carry well placed arm-rests. Plastic “pulls” are provided for the rear-seat occupants incorporating the convenient coat-hooks usually found in German cars.
Forward visibility through the curved screen is extremely good, both the projections which carry the direction-flashers, and the front wings to which these flashers are attached almost as an afterthought, being in clear view, which helps when negotiating narrow traffic openings.
As an additional safety factor the side parking lamps are made to flash as well as the front indicators a sensible safeguard. Lighting arrangements on the Taunus are, indeed, designed for safety, for the substantial rear bumper carries inset refleetors, the number-plate is illuminated by a concealed lamp, and large rear lamps are incorporated in the modest tail-fins. While on the subject of lighting, when asymmetrically-dimmed the Hella headlamps provide an adequate flood of light which many on-coming drivers nevertheless mistake for sidelumps, so dazzle-free is the effect, while the main beam is good, if not outstanding.
The controls of the Ford Taunus are sufficiently interesting to merit a detailed description. The three-spoke steering wheel is dished so that its full horn-ring ibest actuated by thunl, it being inaccessible to a hand moved liver the serrated wheel rim.. The accelerator pedal was at first thought in he disconcertingly high-set but the driver soon became accustomed to this; the action is, however, rather heavy. The steering-column gear-lever extend, to the leftof the wheel on r.h.d. cars. It works like any other Ford change fairly smoothly and with a positive action, the change from top to third gear going through quickly, while lout tom gear. having synehromesh, is-noticeably easy to engage. The lever spring-loaded to the thirdand top-gear locations but reverse position is unguarded. Dagenham should be ashamed of itself for not providing the svnehrontede -botionk gear on British Fords.
The pull-on-and-twist-to-release handbrake is conveniently placed under the facia for operation by the left hand. A stalk the right of the steering cohunn works the flashers, which self-cancel. On the left above the gear-lever a similar stalk selects main beam from dimmed-headlamps beam when flicked on, which is very convenient and enables headlamp flashing to be easily employed as a warning when overtaking providing the lamps have been switched on. Further, this obviates the need for a foot-dimmer, so that a foot operated screen-washer is fitted. The lever is. however, a trifle too close to the wheel rim.
The minor controls take the form of six big pivoted press-buttons or ” piano keys” on the facia, three on each side of the steering column. Those on the left are concerned with tipot or fag lamp (if fitted). heater-fan .and screen-wipers, these on the right with sidelamps, headlamps and panel lighting. These buttons are somewhat inaccessible under the steering wheel but are a change from the more usual switches and provide a pleasant ” Americanised ” flavour. They work very smoothly and, like the other minor controls, have pictorial symbols explaining their functions. If the sidelamps are switched off the headlamps ore automatically extinguished. The warning lamps for full beam, also those for the turn indicators…are too bright. but Taunus owners no doubt deal with this by judicious use of insulating tape or Cellotape.
The Vdo speedometer, the accuracy of which has duly received praise, is of hooded segment-type, reading clearly to 100 m.p.h. in steps of 10 m.p.h. and containing oblong windows for total and trip (sans decimals) mileage recordings, fuel-tank contents and water temperature, also the ignition and dynamo indicator lights. Although the petrol gauge has no figures, being roughly calibrated in quarters, it is of the type in which the needle rises into position slowly after the ignition is turned on and reads with commendable steadiness. There is a red segment to warn of low tank contents. Another amusing Taunus item is that to zero the trip reading you just pull a little knob.
The only other minor controls are two buttons flanking the radio panel, for choke and cigarette-lighter, respectively, the latter, typically, carrying a picture of a lighted cigarette! Heater controls comprise two neat quadrant levers above the radio. On the facia sill is the radio speaker grille, with sunk lidded ash-tray incorporated; a circular sunk lidded ash-tray is provided on each side of the rear compartment. The accurate Vdo electric clock is matched on the other side of the speedometer by the ignition-key aperture. The key can be set, for the radio to work with ignition off hut the wipers and horn only function if the ignition is switched on, which we dislike.
A good roof-mounted Mirror, slightly blanked by the roof line, is augmented by a really effective right-hand external mirror, white two crash-proof anti-dazzle vizors are provided, which swivel sideways when required.
No door pockets are fitted, these being items from the past. but the Taunus makes up for this by having two containers. one on each side of the scuttle, which are absolutely ideal for earrying maps. There is also a generous cubby-hole, closed by a lockable metal lid, before the front-seat occupant. On the test car the lid had to be pressed in before it would open. Below the facia the bonnet-release toggle is more than normally accessible. The bright interior lamp is set above the mirror, there being no separate rear-compartment illumination. The lamp gives courtesy -action when the doors are opened. if required.
This description of the Taunus’ controls shows that the German built Ford posses coonsiderable individuality. Another point; both amusing and practical, is the location of the door handles at the front of each arm-rest, where they cannot be operated inadvertently and are neat yet fully effective. Externally, press-button: and rather sharp handle-grips are used. The doors, have strong ” keeps ” and shut well, if “tinnily”. The Windows call for four turns of the handles, which have swivel finger-grips, to wind them down, and (another point of neat Taunus detail) flaps fall to cover the gaps, when the window glasses are down-out of sight. There are quarter, glasses, the easily-operated catches of which have thief-proof buttons; rain-gutters are lacking. There are internal door locks and the rear side windows open slightly on stout catches for ventilatory purposes.
The estate-car body is attractively lean, if rather lofty, in appearance and its gay two-tone interior is matched by a smart exterior, substantial bumpers, a plated side ” flash” and white-wall tyres catch the eye. The back-seat squab folds down to provide the usual extra floor space, and loading is effected by dropping the rather high tail-board, above which is the rear window panel, which can be opened outwards on toggles. This is a better arrangement than a side-opening door and enables the window to he kept mien while driving, if called for by hot weather or loading requirement. The spare, wheel and tools live under the luggage-compartment floor, which is clear except for the intrusion of the rear-wheel arches. The back-panel handle can be locked. The load limit is 850 lb. inclusive of four occupants, and the virtual luggage dimensions are 5 ft. 2 in. X 3 ft. 2 in. with back seat folded. 3 ft. 2 in. square with it in use, although the panel can be used dropped to accommodate even longer loads.
The bonnet is spring-loaded and opens to reveal accessible dipstick. plugs, distributor and tillers, and the well-placed lloppecke battery. etc. In a Bosch fuse-box behind the radiator grille there is a fuse for each electrical circuit, while another good feature is the generous urea of the demisting vents at the base of the screen. The weather provided no opportunity to test the efficiency of the heater, but it is well spoken of. and wipers and fan are quiet. The engine always Started promptly, without any choke. It idled too fast but otherwise had 110 vices, and called for no oil or water over more than 1,000 miles.
This Taunus 17M is no sports car but its lack of appreciable roll on corners is appreciated by keen drivers: and if there is an oversteer tendency, perhaps emphasised by the type of body on the test car, this can be quickly corrected with the high-geared steering. The cam-and-roller steering is not in any way extraordinary, but it is quick (3 1/8th, turns, lock-to-lock, not counting a little free play), with mild but useful castor-return action and no kick-back. It is fairly light even when shuffling into an opportune parking space, but is rather vague in action. The suspension is by MacPherson coil struts at the front, long 1/2-elliptic leaf-springs with anti-roll bar at the back. The aforesaid level-keel cornering is obtained at the expense of stiff springing which transmits road shocks and a good deal of vertical movement to the body, causing some rattle and drumming, while the suspension becomes horribly embarrassed when encountering unmade roads. The gears are quiet but axle hum could he heard when the engine is pulling.
Performance is good, and top speed can be pushed beyond 82 m.p.h. although Ford modestly claim only 78 m.p.h. as a cruising-cum-maximum, no doubt with autobahn driving in mind. In this respect it is pleasing to note that a four-speed gearbox is available for as little as £10 extra, while if your wife is likely to use your Taunus you can specify a Saxoniat automatic clutch for approximately £52 extra. The normal clutch is light and reasonably smooth.
The petrol tank holds 9.9 gallons, giving a useful range of well over 300 miles. The consumption of new Regent Super came out at 32.3 m.p.g., driving fast. A lockable filler cap, unsecured, is covered by a flap in the rear off-side of the body. Incidentally, in hot weather the light interior and exterior roof finish was appreciated. The 112 sq. in. hard ATE self-energising brakes call for is strong push on the pedal, in return for which better retardation would be appreciated, us site they tended to pull slightly to the left and to emit a mild squeal after some useage. They are -the least attraetive feature of the car.
If suspension and braking are no more than average (although the lack of roll and quic.k steering make cornering enjoyable. espeeially for a car of station-wagon type) this does not detract Irmo the Taunus’ very tangible charm. ft is a car which will appeal to those who have an eye for a modern-styled, out-of-the-ordinary vehide and who have plenty of jobs for an economical, low-priced 1.6-litre estate car. The motor-racing fraternity, who have to travel with so much bulky equipment, will see the merit of this station-wagon, which gets on with it’s work willingly, has good ground clearance and comes under the Ford Service network, an additional point being that the Taunus 17M requires very little regular attention and pre-lubricated bushes taking the place of chassis greasers. We take a very good view of the Taunus and predict that this refreshingly ” different ” and economical car will sell steadily in the U.K.—W.B.