$750 Hot Rod: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO

The other day, I swore to myself I had enough projects. I was content; there was a solid combination of rarity and variety in my stash and I shouldn’t want for anything else. Then, I found a sweet Volvo 940 Turbo Wagon at a local salvage yard that I could have for a song, and then Barn Finds reader Michael spots this stupid cheap first-generation Ford Taurus SHO here on craigslist! I feel myself turning into a hypocrite by the minute. 

The SHO is an easy car to love (if you’re me). A big, boxy 80s sedan powered by a screamer of a motor built by Yahama, channeled through a manual transmission and projecting all the excitement of a blender to uninformed eyes. It’s a sleeper sedan, of which there are very few I don’t like. Though there is no such thing as a cheap SHO, there is such a thing as buying one cheap enough that your exposure to risk is minimal.

The key here is maintenance. SHO’s have very specific maintenance schedules and usually require a more expensive service around 60K miles than most owners aren’t willing to cough up the dough for. Hence, they end up for sale and the cash-strapped next owner doesn’t do the required servicing either. They think, “Hey, I bought a Ford Taurus – it shouldn’t cost anything more than an annual oil change!” Well, sorry to inform Joe Broke, but that fancy motor does need some extra love and attention.

We’re offered very few details on the mechanical health of this SHO. It’s recently received a new clutch, and doesn’t have an exhaust past the cats. Other than that, you’re going to have to call the seller or get down to Tampa Bay, Florida, to see what else has been addressed in this SHO’s 86,000 miles on earth. The seats are OK, at best, but the body appears rust-free. If you’re as tempted as I am by cheap-yet-expensive cars, let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Jeff

    Have you ever seen a Taurus? They’re FAR from big and FARTHER from boxy…geez. That being said if I was anywhere near I would have bought this in a flash.

  2. Larry K

    And…..gone.

    • Mike

      That was a deal….a serious deal….

  3. Jack L Teague

    I loved my 92 SHO for 240,000 miles, but other than the Yamaha engine, maintenace could be a beast. Inbetween maintenance issues, that car was a blast.

    Like 1
  4. jaygryph

    Even for someone just needing parts to repair theirs this was a great deal.

    Many of the regular Taurus parts are super easy, cheap, and plentiful to get. The engine specific stuff has a big fanbase, and there is at least one team that races these in 24 Hours of Lemons.

    I imagine it won’t take long for this to vanish, actually it already has I think, because that’s an outstanding deal if the paperwork is in order.

    I bet it sounds great with the exhaust lopped off behind the cats.

  5. Bill

    Your first two sentences, I’ve got enough variety and rarity. Lol. I said the same a month ago, not working to well. Bought another. The only way that can happen is stay off eBay and craigslist, and now this dang barn find , I’m screwed . But I’m good with it. Love the barn find.

  6. healeydays

    Had an old boss who bought one new. 1st day he brought it into the office, he and I took off from work for a couple hours to go play with the thing. The car was a blast. I use to travel for work around then and would always be renting Tauruses and this car wasn’t even in the same class. He went on to buy a couple insurance totalled cars as spares and even though we’ve lost touch, I’ll be he’s still playing with that Yamaha…

  7. gbvette62

    We bought a black SHO new in 89. It was a ball to drive, and truly was a sleeper. Unfortunately, it was probably the worse car we ever owned. The problem wasn’t with the engine, though it was annoying that the timing belts barely lasted 50,000 miles. The issue was that the rest of the car around the engine, was junk.

    We went through 2 clutches in less than 20,000 miles. The dealer blamed my wife (she drove it), claiming she didn’t know how to drive a manual. This was BS as she had only ever driven manuals, in the 18 years before buying the SHO, and she was never rough on clutches. Other SHO owner’s I met, had been replacing clutches too. Eventually Ford recalled the SHO, and replaced the clutch with an “improved” design.

    Every time I got in the car, there seemed to be another screw, nut or bolt on the floor, that came from some unknown place. My wife loved the car, but after 5 years and 90,000 miles, it was in need of an AC compressor ($1800 plus labor), the power antenna and one power window had stopped working, it was due for it’s 4th clutch and another timing belt too. There were probably a few other things I’ve forgotten. We traded it in and got $2000 for it.

    I know cars break and wear out, but the SHO stickered for over $20,000, $5,000 more than a similar Taurus LX. The SHO was a fun car to drive, but in the end, it really was just was an expensive, exotic engine, in a very average car.

  8. Ralph H.

    My brother owned an 89…seemed to be very rough riding…but didn’t own long due to mechanical nuisances..

  9. JohnM

    I didn’t know you picked up a 940 turbo. Let me know if you have any questions, I know them front to back. What put it in the junkyard? Bad brakes or tie rods or something? Worn out paint and interior?

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      John, I haven’t yet. Considering it once the yard comes back with more info. It’s not junked, a retail customer sold it to the yard. I’ll post it up here with questions in the near term.

  10. RicK

    Think it was in ’97 I took a used ’91 SHO that was for sale for a test beat, was a private party, seems like there was two levels of SHO, not sure if it was trim or what, I know this one was the higher level came stock with a Kevlar hood and some other bolt on spoliers or something, anyhow they let me take it out by myself so I really put it through its paces, didn’t think it was that fast, I mean it revved but it was only 220 hp, anyhow I passed on it and I’m still not sorry. But I always wondered what the later model V8 SHOs performed like, never drove one, you sure don’t see any around any more. My driver nowadyas is a ’07 Mustang GT 4.6, it’s 300 horses and will boil the tires, I’ve run it at the Friday night drags and my best time is 14 flat, nit bad for a bone stock rig with street tires, The SHO was nowhere near as fast

    • RicK

      Wow, a new V-6 Charger is under 15 seconds in the 1/4 mile.

      Amazing how times have changed and what we think “fast” is regardless of boiling tires :)

    • Lee

      Rick, You are comparing a family sedan, which is nearly 20 years your mustang’s senior, to a pony car of a different generation. That’s not quite fair. I will put my ’10 Taurus SHO (which is only 3 years newer than your mustang) up against your mustang in any format you like. And I’ll smoke it.

      Like 1
      • Bill

        Lee, I also have a 2007 mustang GT 4.6 and I raced a new SHO Taurus on the street from stoplight to stoplight 3 times and he could not keep up. its a big car it cant keep up with a mustang..

        Like 1
  11. Howard A Member

    I had a friend that had one of these, forget the year, couldn’t care less. He knew , for me, it was the Taurus that made me stop looking at modern cars, and was heck bent on proving to me what a cool car it was. The engine had plenty of steam, set me back, sounded nice, but I was not impressed, and I’d love to have shown him, his crappy car ( with a fancy motor) is a now $750 beater. Electronic nightmare. Good luck.

    • Keith

      Howard thank God you said “couldn’t care less” instead of “could care less”. Kudos to you for being one of those rare people who get the saying correct!

      Like 2
  12. Blindmarc

    I’m sure someone on the Tampa bay Taurus forum jumped on this. They have big following & support group.

  13. Royal Ricci

    Incredible car. My best friend almost bought one of these in 1988, but the electronics behind the Yamaha heads scared him off. Thing was mint too, and BOY did it have power!!!

    Too bad this one is already gone.

  14. David Miraglia

    As luck would have it. Back in the late 1980’s when the Taurus first came out.
    I rented out the garden variety six cylinder version. The Taurus was smooth. Now
    if they only had a V8. When I heard of the SHO I wish I had the dough for one.

  15. Rustytech Member

    That was a deal for any running and driveable car. For an SHO that was a steel!

  16. jimbosidecar

    I owned an ’88 SHO from new, did quite a few track days, still loved it, and in 1990 raced one in the IMSA Endurance series. We got bigger wheels and tires for racing and that was about it. They held up just fine, and very competitive.

  17. Tommy

    Fun and a blast to drive…..here’s mine in storage sitting at 111k miles.

  18. Ray G

    I purchased a SHO in 1995 (3.2 liter with an ATX) it was my patrol car in Hawaii as a member of the HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT (my sudsidized vehicle) only police department that susidizes patrol vehicles in the nation,still have it. Sho-girl has over 250.000 miles and is still a strong runner (with modifications now about 500 hp) retired from HPD, moved to Vegas and brought her with me, my daily driver (would rather get rid of my wife of 40 years then SHO-GIRL

    Like 1
  19. Ray G

    Taurus SHO the ANGRY BULL

  20. Jim

    Great car, I was Srv Mgr in a Ford dealer during the nineties, they were a learning experience. They had normal Taurus issues but the engine, intake system and electronics were very different, only a few of my techs were comfortable with them. For the guys comparing them to Mustangs in a drag race, they really shined on a road course with minimal bolt on mods, in stock classes they smoked most rear wheel drive cars. Besides they were made to hold a family not two guys and a lunchbox(Mustang). Yes the Ford clutches sucked, aftermarket units lasted way longer, especially if the flywheels were resurfaced properly and then replaced and indicated onto the crankshaft, not tightened down with a 1/2″ air gun set on max. The Yamaha engine required more maintenance and a little finesse but they ran like crazy when tuned right, add an aftermarket chip to the processor and it would surprise most hotrodders. Great buy for someone and they have quite a following.

  21. Grizz

    I had a SHO for a few years in the early 90s, great engine and drive line, the rest of the car was awful, lots of issues with AC, exhaust, power windows, and rust, pretty well gave it away with only one door working and one window working, the motor was still wonderful. I miss the sound of that motor.

  22. HeadMaster1

    These were quick in there day, but my 92 Spirit RT would leave them in the dust all the time……..

    There are a LOT of people converting these to RWD, using the same SHO engine, and I’d guess a few mustang parts in back…do a web search, very cool car after conversion

  23. Veloce33

    Rick, I owned a V8 3rd gen SHO very briefly. More of an executive express than the factory hot rod the early SHOs were. Engine was smooth and sounded great, but overall disappointing. Also, it was only available with an automatic.

  24. mick

    I have a 1989 sho in mint condition with 55k miles on it. Is it worth $4400?

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