The interior featured adjustable pedals, steering wheel and instruments. The shift lever intruding into the center of the contoured front bench seat is a puzzling detail. Sadly, the Contour was confined to the show circuit, and unlike the later Focus Concept, was never given a functioning drivetrain, or even more than one opening door. At the time it appeared, it seemed that a produciton car with this configuration would have hit the car design profession with an impact similar to what the Citroen DS 19 had in 1955.
What is less clear is whether such a car would have been embraced by Americans in the same way they'd adopted the original Taurus, or the way the French had clamored for the DS. For the 3rd generation Taurus which appeared for 1996, designer Doug Gaffka adapted the oval theme to body sections, window shapes and air intakes, and incorporated the subtly defined, shadowed concavity in the flanks which emphasizes length in the photo below. In order to line up the doors and fenders along this concavity, new sheet metal stamping techniques were developed. The new car received good road test reports, but never duplicated the sales success of the 1st and 2nd generation Taurus...
The divergence from the Contour show car may be traced to the proportions of the production car. Without the big wheels and short overhangs, the design loses its aggressive impact. The overall effect was user-friendly, but with more of the flavor of an agreeable bathtub toy than a roadgoing Lear Jet. It's a reminder of what can get lost in translating a prototype full of fresh ideas into a product adapted to available techniques and components.
All photos: Ford Motor Company