At the press conference for the 2010 Ford Taurus, CityFlight.com auto reviewer Lyndon Conrad Bell had the good fortune to spend some time with Earl Lucas, lead exterior designer for the automobile.
A Dallas native, the affable Lucas has been drawing cars since he was three years old. He credits a visit to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit with awakening him to the fact that he could indulge his childhood passion and make a comfortable living doing so.
Majoring in transportation design at CCS, Lucas had an opportunity to work with some of the best design professionals in the auto industry. After graduation, Lucas designed aircraft interiors, some of which were commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei. In the Sultan’s planes, Lucas also got to incorporate another of his passions, jewelry making. The Sultan’s planes were decorated with gold, platinum and other precious jewels.
In addition to the 2010 Taurus, Lucas also did the 2003 Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition.
Bell asked Lucas some specific questions about the Taurus.
CityFlight.com: What was the jumping off point for the design of the Taurus, what were your influences?
Earl Lucas: The jump off point for me was research on the history of Taurus. From the start, we knew we wanted something more upscale because we were told that this would be our flagship product. Designers are influenced by our surroundings, in my case, fashion, architecture and music. Designers have a ton of shapes already in the memory banks, but for me, there is something about the right music that lets the ideas flow.
CF: What aspect of the design are you most proud of, that you consider most distinctive?
EL: The element I am most proud of is the fender, to “A” pillar, to hood relationship. If you look at this part of the car, it has more sculpture than most of our competition has on their entire car. This is a very complicated area that makes and sells the car as being sporty and muscular.
CF: When you’re doing a mainstream car like this one, obviously you have to design in as broad an appeal as possible. Looking at your drawings of the car, it appears you initially envisioned the look as being more aggressive. What did you have to dial back to make the car more mainstream, and how did you do it?
EL: That sketch is all about making a strong statement with the face of the car. I wanted some attitude. If you start with a ton of flavor at the beginning, when you go through all the reviews, customer reveals and design re-thinking you will still have a very confident face remaining. We started with an overtly menacing look and it grew into the final product that is strong and confident. Not a bad place to end up.
CF: One detail that struck me as I was walking around the car is how the character line that runs down the sides of the car continues through the fuel filler door. Love it. Begs the question though, how much does the consideration of manufacturing processes influence what you do? How do you get the engineers to press forward something that may not have been done before, if you feel strongly it will make the car more desirable?
EL: The character line that goes through the fuel filler door was a major push. Luckily, we had the direction from senior management to do a class leading design. It is amazing how much the design group can influence the car with help from the right folks within the company. In the past, if the design team proposed something like that, engineering would do a cost analysis and the program manager would probably explain to the designers that we could not afford to incorporate this feature. The design group would then have to go back to the drawing board. Now we’re told to create a car that will make a statement and engineering gets on board early to understand the design element and figure out how we can work together to keep these features. It’s a totally different day at Ford.
CF: If you were customizing the Taurus, say for a SEMA type thing, how would you dress it?
EL: If I were customizing the Taurus, I would want to add more length to the car between the wheels—say, about two to three inches. I would then do a set of 22s, but keep the same profile rubber. See, I want a bigger wheel but not more rubber. I’d lower the car about an inch, and set the wheel offset up so the wheel is brought out to meet the fender lip in top view. To finish it off, I’d go all black chrome with the body painted black.
As fly as the new Taurus’s basic shape is, we can assure you there will be no shortage of customized Taurii at SEMA this year. With any luck, maybe Lucas will get to do his dream car for the show too.
Lyndon Conrad Bell is editor-in-chief at On Wheels Media. Read more of his car reviews on the On Wheels Inc. website.