NASCAR question regarding Ford Taurus

As I understood it, the cars that run in the NASCAR Winston Cup series had to actually be manufactured.

By that, I mean that when there was a Pontiac Grand Prix coupe in Winston Cup, Pontiac was selling a Grand Prix coupe.

So what’s the deal with Ford and the Taurus? Ford doesn’t make a coupe version. Did they do this because Ford killed the Thunderbird?

The NASCAR Ford Taurus is not a coupe. (It doesn’t have any doors!) It’s a (heavily) modified version of the standard, four-door Taurus. NASCAR rules do require that any manufacturer’s entry into competition be based on an actual “stock” car* (no off-the-wall concepts created especially to beat the socks off people at Daytona), but as the entry must also fit within NASCAR’s rather strict specifications (as to wheelbase, weight, clearance, and various other measurements). Not a single one of the cars on a NASCAR track in modern times has much of anything to do with the car you test-drive at the sales lot.
*It doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual stock car that is currently being manufactured - it has to be “late model.” This is especially noticable in the lower echelons of NASCAR’s system, as the Winston Cup and Busch series have stricter rules regarding the setup of the cars and therefore tend to have modern cars every season. But the Thunderbird was “grandfathered in” and legal to run throughout the 1998 and 1999 seasons, despite the Taurus’ introduction in 1998 and the lack of production of stock T-birds in those years.

The NASCAR rules on the “stock”-ness of the cars being run seems to make less and less sense over the years. Every car run has to fit a template specific to its manufacturer type to qualify to race. That way all of the Fords are shaped the same, all of the Chevys shaped the same, etc. But this season, all of the cars, no matter what make, have to fit the same template! If you took the logo sticker, the faux-grill sticker, and the the faux-headlights stieckers off of the cars, you’d not be able to tell which make of car was being driven by whom.

mcbiggins, that’s not entirely true. While all cars do have to fit the “common template,” each make has its own front fascia (nose piece) and rear bumper cover. The “greenhouse” area is the biggest focus of the common template car.

The main complaint about the Taurus when it was introduced was that it doesn’t exist as a street car in its NASCAR form. NASCAR allowed Ford to adapt a 4-door car because otherwise, Ford would have left NASCAR (although there was some talk of using the Lincoln coupe.) The allowance was extended to Dodge for the Intrepid, although the Chevy Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix are still coupes.

And for the record, the only stock parts on a Winston Cup car are the hood skin, roof panel, and rear decklid. NASCAR rules forbid those parts from being manufactured by teams. For a while, all the cars shared the floorpan from a Ford Galaxie 500 (this was in the late 80s) because it was the most adaptable to this application.

NASCAR’s manufacturing rules are odd. For example, in the late 1980s, Chevrolet wanted to put a “bubble” rear window on the Monte Carlo race car because it helped aerodynamics. To make it legal, NASCAR required Chevy to produce such a street car. Thus, the Monte Carlo Aero Coupe was born.