Well I'll certainly say this - it beats the hell out of the last version of the 500/Taurus.2010 Ford Taurus designer has Dallas roots
01:25 PM CST on Thursday, February 19, 2009
By TERRY BOX / The Dallas Morning News
Ford designer Earl Lucas, who as a boy labored over model cars at his home in Oak Cliff, felt certain he had nailed "the look" for the critically important new Taurus sedan.
As design manager for the Taurus, Lucas oversaw the complete revamping of the sedan's exterior, he said Wednesday at the Dallas Auto Show after the Texas introduction of the striking 2010 Taurus SHO.
His assignment was daunting: Make the car more exciting, sporty, appealing and profitable.
In short, return the Taurus to the lofty position it enjoyed 20 years ago.
But its first in-house unveiling – to a group of high-level Ford executives – was decidedly less than a success.
"They said, 'If that's the best you can do, we'll cancel the whole program,' " said Lucas, 38, who attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas with singers Norah Jones and Erykah Badu as well as jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove.
Lucas, a big, good-natured man unfazed by challenges, sat down with his designers and figured out how to fix the car – so well, in fact, that the new Taurus has been featured on the covers of at least two major car magazines and is viewed as one of Ford's most significant new cars in decades.
"We learned, and I've got the bruises to prove it," he said.
On Wednesday, Lucas beamed as he described the little design details that appear to have made the new Taurus an early success.
The Taurus – which took 2 ½ years to complete – debuted last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"I was so proud to see that car come down the ramp," he said.
"You illustrate the car, you do it in clay, but there's nothing like seeing it in metal."
Lucas' mother still lives in the Dallas area, as do many of his high school friends. "I miss the Texas heat," he said.
After graduating from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Lucas took a job in Austin designing aircraft interiors and later worked as an interior designer at Lear Corp., a major supplier to the auto industry.
He joined Ford Motor Co. 10 years ago and designed the interior of the Ford Flex crossover vehicle.
But, he said, he had been lobbying hard to do an exterior when he was assigned the Taurus – about as big a design job as you could land at Ford.
Auto industry consultant Wes Brown, among others, appreciates Lucas' work.
"It's got a real nice profile," said Brown, an analyst at Iceology in Los Angeles.
"From a pure concept and design standpoint, I think the Taurus has tremendous potential."
For Lucas, the Taurus is the pinnacle of his relatively short career.
"We were told to usher in a new design that would extend to other vehicles," he said.
"It doesn't get much more exciting than that."