The Idea

The Ford Taurus SHO was somewhat a peculiarity in the automotive world, and still is. The initial idea was conceived in the 1980's, the progeny of Ford Motor Company and Yamaha. Ford and Yamaha entered into a contract for the development and production of a high tech V-6 powerplant to be used in an exotic sports car. The sports car project died but the contract survived and Ford was obligated to complete the deal.

After what I am sure was copious amounts of alcohol, the decision was made inexplicably to put the engine into a high-performance version of Ford's high-volume mid-sized sedan, the Taurus. It is believed to have been due to their lack of a car to compete with the German made BMW 5-series. And so the SHO was born.<\p>

The Debut

The first Taurus SHO hit dealer lots as a 1989 model year (MY). It sported "24V DOHC" badging, aggressive styling accents, dual exhaust pipes and the letters "S H O" emblazoned on the rear bumper. It was available in standard Ford colors, and could be outfitted with various options including leather and a sliding moonroof. There was no automatic transission - only manual.

Sales were never all that spectacular. This was by all accounts a tragic miscalculation by Ford execs. Anyone in the market for performance was buying the popular Mustang GT, and the Taurus was selling like hotcakes but only to the family crowd. Most who bought the SHO model just wanted a top-of-the-line Taurus. A few buyers actually were looking for an alternative to the BMW 530i and other european sedans, but not a lot. This trend was to haunt the SHO throughout its 11 year tour of duty.

The Evolution

The Taurus SHO went through two major makeovers - once in MY 1992 (known as Gen 2) and again in MY 1996 (known as Gen 3). The first was mostly cosmetic updates to the sheet metal, as well as the front and rear fascias. The second was a radical redesign, when Ford introduced the oval look, which was met with mixed reviews. At the same time they put a small V-8 in to replace the V-6 and took away the manual transmission. (I will not mention the 3rd generation any further due to lack of knowledge.) There were also minor updates to the interior and exterior from time to time, which the savvy could use to distinguish one model year from another. The 1991+ (commonly referred to as a "Plus") came with a fiberglass "bulge" hood, spoiler, different paint options, and for some an improved shifter. After MY 1992 the manual transmission was joined by an automatic.

The Car

Basically the Taurus SHO was a so-so car wrapped around an amazing engine. The Ford Taurus, like every other high-volume production car, was no engineering marvel. It shook, rattled and rolled, thanks to its cheap construction and weak suspension. Parts were fond of breaking long before they should. The SHO was little better in stock form. But the engine...oh, the engine!


Opening the hood rewarded one with a view of the heart and soul of the SHO. Almost all of what you would see is the incredible intake plenum devised to extract the very last drop of power. This is commonly referred to as the "snakes", as the visual effect is similar to a nest of vipers.

The Yamaha V-6 consisted of an iron block with six cylinders arranged in a sixty degree V configuration and hemishperical aluminum heads. It had dual overhead cams and 24 valves total. What this means is that each bank of cylinders was topped by two camshafts which operated 6 intake valves and 6 exhaust valves each. Total displacement was 3.0 liters for manual transmission models, and 3.2 liters for automatic (This was devised to compensate for parasitic losses inherent in automatic transmissions). The ingenious intake system was made up of a mass air flow {MAF} sensor feeding air through the throttle body into two large surge tanks, which subsequently emptied into twelve runners, two for each cylinder. Vacuum actuated butterfly valves would open the secondary, shorter set of runners at about 4000 RPM, resulting in an alteration in dynamics more favorable to producing torque at higher engine speeds. Fuel delivery happened via electronically controlled multi point fuel injection, and spark was delivered by an advanced distributorless ignition system (DIS).

The 5-speed manual transmission in the Taurus SHO was a carryover from the much lesser Ford Tempo. Though nothing impressive, it got the job done. The automatic transmission was similarly unremarkable: four speeds with overdrive and a floor shifter.


Unibody construction made up of mostly sheet metal with some plastic cladding. Major plastic parts included the skirting and front/rear bumper covers and air dams. Most model years featured clearcoat paint. MY 1993 and later came with a rear lip spoiler standard.


The interior in the SHO was Taurus standard issue. Tan, grey or (I believe) black. The bench seat in the back could accommodate two adults quite comfortably, three slightly less so. The front bucket seats offered excellent support, with adjustable lumbar and side bolsters for added stability. The center console provided an armrest with storage. Cupholders in earlier model years were just the sort that pop out from beneath the stereo, later replaced by ones molded into the console. The stereo was a standard Ford or an optional JBL deck. Basic controls were located on the steering wheel for convenience. The JBL option also included upgraded speakers with a subwoofer under the back windshield.

Common Problems

The Taurus SHO can often become a money pit if not properly maintained. Unfortunately for you, if you have recently bought one you probably got it used, and this is beyond your control. So, here is a heads up on what you might expect

Accessories - those little gadgets on the front of your engine like the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioner and so on - do not tend to last long on high performance engines what with all the extreme conditions they have to put up with. Expect to replace them on a fairly regular basis if your driving has any kind of soul.

The weak manual transmission is another problem spot. There are parts you will probably never see, like the differential pin, that will inevitably fly loose with no warning and wreck everything inside. The automatic can have its share of problems, but not so many. For both, half shafts (commonly known as CV joints) can sometimes require repair.

The brakes and assorted suspension components are all Ford, so don't be surprised when the calipers stick, rotors warp and bushings fall apart.

Watch for oil leaks around the valve covers, the oil sensor, spark plug tube seals and (heaven forbid) the rear main seal. These are notorious for leaking and can result in collateral damage like sensors, starter motors and such.

Speaking of sensors, with any driveability issues those are what you should check first. The throttle position sensor, camshaft position sensor, crankshaft position sensor, vehicle speed sensor and coolant temperature sensor are among things that can cause odd symptoms that are hard to track down.

Odd things. You might see condensation droplets in your headlights. Use a dremel tool to drill a small drain hole in the bottom of the housing. If your air conditioning runs warm, the clutch that engages the pulley is not making contact. Take off the pulley and remove one of the shims from the hub and you are back in business (it's easier than it sounds). Also, after changing a coolant thermostat, you may experience overheating due to air lock in the system. Strange as it sounds, you may have to rock the engine and squeeze various coolant hoses to remove the bubble. For the love of all things beautiful, do not run the car with the temperature gauge anywhere near the red! Aluminum heads warp easily and can be expensive to fix.


This is what this car was all about: performance. While it was no Corvette or Porsche, it was and still is a force to be reckoned with. At the time of its release, no other mainstream sedan could touch it. Now, only the best can surpass it in numbers, and arguably there is still nothing like it in terms of pure driving exhilaration. Piloting the SHO conveyed a soul factor of 10.

The 3.0 V-6 produced 220 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque. The all-important torque curve was very broad, thanks to the dual-runner intake. It would wind all the way up to 7200RPM before the computer cut the fuel injectors. Although it was capable of higher engine speeds, the engine was tuned so that power peaked around 5400RPM. Anything much higher would be of little use. The 3.2 V-6 had similar characteristics, but with slightly more power. With manual transmission, the SHO could accelerate from 0 to 60mph in about 6.5 seconds. Quarter mile times ran in the low 15 seconds. Automatic transmission SHO's turned out times roughly a second higher. The car could reach 145mph and beyond. I can personally attest to this.

Handling performance was quite decent, unlike what you would expect from a mid-sized sedan. The unibody was surprisingly stiff, with little flex. MacPherson struts on all four corners did well at dampening suspension travel. Skidpad performance was accordingly excellent, with scores between 0.85 and 0.89 G's. Its favorable handling attributes made the SHO acceptable for autocross use.


Compared to the Ford Mustang, the Taurus SHO lacked woefully in aftermarket support. Thanks to a small but enthusiastic fan base, however, there are a number of modifications available to enhance the driving experience. There is a speed shop in California called The SHO Shop devoted almost exclusively to the car. Other outlets are available as well, like the club-owned Cincy SHO and a small operation called SP Performance.

For those on a budget, there are a few modifications to begin with, some costing nothing but a little time and effort. Removing the ungainly silencer cone and/or box from the driver side fender is a popular one. At the very least it results in a pleasing intake growl, and possibly a few extra horsepower from eliminating the restriction. To further improve the air intake, add a high-flow OEM filter replacement, such as a K&N or Fram. Do not compromise the airbox, however, by doing things like drilling holes in the side to "increase flow". You will only draw in warm engine bay air, which is bad for performance. Upgrading spark plugs and wires, and enhancing the grounding system with low-gauge wire can potentially improve ignition performance, so it is worth a try. Doing all of the above-mentioned modifications will cost very litte, but don't expect a huge gain either.

One can spend significantly more for only a little more improvement, but this doesn't deter the amateur enthusiast. Remember, most modifications will compound each other's benefits, so don't lose hope if one thing doesn't shave a second off your quarter mile time. What you want to do is focus on the intake and exhaust unless you really have a lot to spend.

A good place to start is to eliminate the airbox and replace it with a cold air intake (CAI). The SHO Shop offers a popular setup that will isolate a cone filter from the warm engine bay. You can also find one elsewhere, or do it yourself. In conjunction, you can also replace the stock MAF housing with one that is larger. The idea is not so much to reduce restriction but to improve the sensor's resolution. The stock unit measures 55mm, and aftermarket replacements go all the way up to 80mm in diameter. The next component downstream is the throttle body, which is much more of a restriction than the mass air flow sensor. It can be taken to a machine shop and bored out, or just replaced with one from a place like The SHO Shop that has already been done. This modification is widely debated, so use your own discretion. The final stage of intake modification is the intake plenum itself. Through a process called extrude honing, where abrasive clay is forced through the runners at high pressure, the throughput of the intake runners can be increased. This should be accompanied by replacement of the secondary butterfly valves. By doing all of this, you are making more oxygen available to the engine to mix with fuel, theoretically resulting in an increase in power.

Similar importance must be placed on assisting exit from the engine through the exhaust. Exhaust dynamics are a bit more complicated, however. The goal is not to reduce restriction as much as possible, as it is with the intake. Actually, the engine depends on what is called backpressure to make torque, especially at low engine speeds. Eliminating too much backpressure results in lost torque and thereby lower performance. Instead concentrate on improving flow characteristics. Exhaust exits the engine from two sides of the engine. The stock exhaust system does a poor job of facilitating this exodus. There are replacements available for pretty much every part along the way: headers, Y-pipes and catalytic converters. Headers can be very tricky to get right, but the latter two are quite effective. Replacements for the exhaust piping from the catalytic converters back are known as cat-back exhaust systems (almost poetic, isn't it?). They rely on larger pipes and smoother bends to carry the exhaust gas on the rest of its journey. Whether configured the same as OEM or in true dual or single forms, these systems vary in quality and effectiveness. They can also be moderately expensive. Finally, the mufflers may be replaced with a variety of different aftermarket units, the main difference being sound. Sound is an important consideration when selecting an exhaust for the SHO. Being a 60-degree V-6, it can sound quite terrible if done wrong, and that is very easy to do. Sometimes this requires some experimentation.

Without going into more serious modifications, what remains is the engine control module, or computer. Yes, much of the modern car's performance characteristics are determined in that little black box. Those characteristics can be altered through a "chip" plugged into the service port of the computer. There are products available from the big makers like Superchips and Hypertech that achieve modest gains (5-10hp) through modified fuel and ignition tables. If that isn't enough for you, about twice as much money can buy you a custom unit called a Lifetime Performance Module (LPM) programmed by Ted Breaux, a really smart guy that knows a lot about Ford's programming. The LPM can be tailored to your specific car, and can be reprogrammed when you add new modifications. This is a powerful tool.

In the end, intake, exhaust and computer modifications can afford you possibly 20 or so extra horsepower and probably an appreciably better driving experience. One might also inexpensively add underdrive pulleys and a lightweight flywheel if mechanically inclined. If you are really hungry for speed you can spend and get a whole lot more. A popular trick is forced induction, pressurizing the intake charge using a supercharger or turbocharger. These are basically small turbines, driven by either engine power in the case of a supercharger, or heat transfer from exhaust gasses as with a turbo. Virtually always done in conjunction with many, many other mods, forced induction results in massive horsepower gains, between 50 and 100 percent or more. It also puts immense strain on engine internals, requiring replacing things like pistons and connecting rods with forged components. Clutches and transmissions are also often heavily fortified. Similar considerations are required for the addition of nitrous oxide injection, which can add 50, 75, 100 or even 150 horsepower depending on your intestinal fortitude. One mustn't undertake these kind of modifications without understanding the ramifications. What you will have is a street-legal race car, not a daily driver to shuttle the kids back and forth. On the other hand, this car's four doors and ample passenger space lead some owners to evilly cross these two opposite worlds.

Lest I forget another important realm of modification, let me mention handling upgrades. As nicely as the Taurus SHO rides, one may feel led to take advantage of the many options available for modification. Tokico, Koni and some others make a more firm strut, and there are stiffer springs available from Eibach and The SHO Shop. The strut tower brace (STB) is as self-explanatory as it sounds. It is a solid brace that attaches to the tops of the front or rear strut towers to reduce body roll. Subframe connectors (SFC's) are pieces of metal welded between the subframe and the unibody underneath the car to stiffen it up. The brakes can be improved as well. A low-budget option is to use the calipers and rotors for the much larger Lincoln Continental. Otherwise, there are aftermarket kits available as well that will have you stopping like a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. When you replace the tires, spend a little extra for a high-performance V- or Z-rated tire with a high traction rating and a width of 225mm. You will thank yourself later, especially if you throw in some wider and/or taller wheels and shorten the sidewall.

Oh, and one last thing to add. The most radical modification of all is to replace the entire car. That's right, just rip the car right off that beautiful engine and put another one around it. Ford did this with an experimental Ranger pickup truck and also with a small number of Ford Festivas, retermed Shoguns. Jay Leno has one of the latter. They are extremely rare. Other transplants include antique hot rods and open-wheeled race cars. If memory serves correctly, there was also a radical concept car that featured two SHO engines welded together to create a V-12. Imagine that.


If you have made it this far, I applaud you. Either you own one of these amazing cars, are looking at purchasing one, or are just a glutton for punishment. There is a wealth of information available on the Web, I urge you to go and find it. There are also a lot of great people to meet who share this one thing in common.

For my knowledge of this car I owe thanks to the SHOTimes fan club, and also to my 1992 Taurus SHO that I so regretfully sold 2 years ago. My love affair with that car almost cost me my marriage. Buyer beware!

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