Our Cars: 1957 Ford Taunus

Today’s Post by Asher Pavel

First some background: The Ford Taunus was sold by Ford of Germany and via Mercury dealers here in the US. The model line was introduced in 1939 and was named after Germany’s Taunus mountain range. It was offered in several versions until 1994. From 1952 to 1968 all German Fords were called Taunus and were considered part of the M-series, which stand for Meisterstück or Masterpiece. The models 12, 15 and 17M were powered by a straight-4 that was a carryover of the side valve-engine from the first Taunus series that was later replaced by an overhead-valve design similar to one used in the British Ford Consul engine.

I recently found this photo of my late mother’s 1957 Ford Taunus four-door sedan. My mother, Ethel Pavel, was a piano teacher who used her car to travel to student’s homes to give lessons. The Taunus was purchased from Kerbeck Motors, a Mercury dealer in Philadelphia and was about the size of a present day Toyota Corolla.

I believe the photo was taken in front of my parent’s home with either a 35mm Kodak Signet or a used 4×5 Speed Graphic. In those days I mostly shot E6 film and loved both of those cameras. Even as a 14 year old, the Speed Graphic let me take photos in places that the smaller camera may not have gotten me. One place it regularly went with me was to a restaurant that was owned by radio station WPEN in Philly that hosted a late night talk radio show six nights a week. Some of the celebrities I recall photographing there were Eddie Fisher, Maury Amsterdam, Billy Eckstine and others. All those transparencies disappeared in a basement flood some years later.

While not a great car, it had one fantastic feature: It has a three or four-speed (can’t recall which) manual transmission with no clutch pedal on the floor. It was an electric clutch. The steering column-mounted shift lever was actually a solenoid. When left untouched, it sent an electric charge to the transmission which caused metallic powder inside to solidify thereby engaging the gear. When the lever was pushed about a 1/4 inch, the electricity was cut off, the metallic powder became soft and the lever could be moved up or down to the next desired gear. Though not great for speed shifting, it was adequate for normal driving.

It was fun to ask my teenage friends to drive the car. Not seeing any clutch pedal, they assumed it was an automatic. Yet, no gear indicator could be seen anywhere. Not the sexiest or finest car but it provided us with several years of fun.

My mom’s last car, before she gave up driving, was a four-door Rambler.