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America’s Answer: 1990 Ford Taurus SHO

1990 Ford Taurus SHO

The U.S. has an impressive track record building everything from family sedans to pick-up trucks, and of course, the best muscle cars money can buy. But when it came time to fight the super sedans from Europe, we didn’t have a formidable response. Then Ford unveiled its answer to Deutschland’s finest by taking its popular family hauler and adding a curious acronym on the end – SHO, for Super High Output. Few of them remain on the roads in any form, but rarely do you see one as nice as this 1990 example here on eBay with only 60,000 miles. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Jim S for spotting this very clean example!

1990 Taurus SHO Interior

The trouble with performance cars, whether they have two doors or four, is that they tend to get used up. From the first owner to the fourth, rarely are factory hot rods purchased for trunk space or fuel economy. In my experience, this is exactly the fate that befell the SHO in every form. They became cheap to buy as used cars but still demanded more proactive maintenance than your typical used Taurus. The last first-generation SHO I saw was a black with gray leather example that had been relinquished to a salvage yard after many years of hard living. To see one still this nice is not an opportunity that comes often.

1990 Taurus SHO Engine

The Yamaha-built V6 engine is my favorite part of the SHO package, as it makes some glorious sounds and the intake runners rival Alfa Romeo’s for beauty. Even one of the more unloved SHO versions – the third generation – featured a gorgeous V8 engine built by Yamaha, which is unusual to find in any car, much less an American-made family sedan. This example is listed by Dennis Gage, host of the TV show “My Classic Car”, and he wholly admits he’s a bit obsessed with these cars which helps explain how he found such a pristine example. That should help put potential buyers’ minds at ease, as you’re buying a car from a well-known figure in the enthusiast world. Of course, if that’s not enough, the near-perfect interior with the SHO’s distinctive leather sport seats should do it.

1990 Taurus SHO

Although the second generation is the one I see the most on the roads, I would choose a first-generation like this one if I were in the market. This generation Taurus was a game-changer in the family-sedan segment, and I still think the design works well – especially when you add some aggressive aero features and attractive basketweave mesh wheels. I personally find the idea of performance cars with room for the family appealing; what about you? Does this fast Ford have two doors too many or would the extra space to bring some friends (with more room than a Lotus Elite) be worth it? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. jimbosidecar

    I raced one of these, dressed up as a Ninja Turtle in IMSA back when it was new. The engine is just about bulletproof.

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  2. Carlton J. Madden

    I always loved the look of that engine. There were a few Ranger GT pickup mules built but never offered for sale. I wanted one so bad as a teen into low rider pickups in the 80s. Even now I would dearly love to find one of the first-gen V6s to put in my ’64 Mercury Comet.

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  3. Todd Zuercher

    I love the first gen cars too and as a dedicated junkyard scrounger, I’ve seen far too many in the yards over the years. I think these cars have some of the most beautiful intake manifolds ever so I picked a nice one a few years ago as some “wall art” for my shop.

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  4. Chris A.

    After driving a standard Taurus getting into and driving one of these was beyond fun. Just a great ride, wonderful seats and the car was a real sleeper that surprised a lot of Beemers. Good to see one of them again in such good shape. And how about that Opel GT on the rack in back?

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  5. Patrick

    I purchased a blue on black 1992 SHO for the princely sum of $900.00 back in 2002. What a car! It was a recovered theft, hence the great price, but I was able to source the missing interior and wheels from a local salvage yard for less than $500.00 all in. I drove it for 2 years and loved every minute of it! It had lower miles and was bullet proof as far as reliability was concerned. With the 5 speed it was surprisingly quick for such a (relatively) large car. Would smoke the front tires to pieces as well but I rarely indulged in such childish behavior….NOT!! I miss that car and at some point would love to add another to the stable. Thanks for posting this Jeff!

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  6. cory

    I always thought the SHO meant SHO IS FAST

    but seriously, I can’t get past the Taurus part, and remembering all the beige hand me down tauruses that filled up the high school parking lots in my day

    but what really makes me mad about it, is that Yamaha made such a great engine, and never put it in anything anyone wanted. all I see is missed opportunities.where is my Yamaha v8 powered mustang? we might still have the t-bird if ford Yamaha had taken this motor a few steps further.

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  7. Alan (Michigan)

    I drove one of these in an autocross at a small lot venue many years ago. I was accustomed to front drive cars, just not this kind of power. IIRC, I manged to beat the owner, and he was OK with that, but upset that I had let some smoke out of the front tires. That part he seemed to be not happy about… A little extra power never hurt anything!

    +1 @ cory These engines are well engineered. Too bad there were not more spots where they could shine. A “special” using one would be great.

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  8. Catfishphil

    I so regret selling my ’89 SHO… drove it daily for five years. Fastest car I’ve ever owned.

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  9. Kevin

    Taurus is a great car, SHO, or the regular types. I’ve owned several, and they just last. Parts are plentiful, cheap to maintain. At first I was apprehensive, on the price, Seeing who is selling the car is impressive. He’s putting his reputation on the line.

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  10. Terry

    Many fine examples can be found at the annual SHO Club Convention. The photo is from the most recent event in Ft. Worth. This July we will be in SHOcago. Come join us!

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    • jimbosidecar

      Yes, I was invited to the event this summer. Our entire Ninja Racing Turtle Team will be there. And one of the race cars has been found and restored to the way it was when I raced it.
      In racing trim we did put bigger 255 50X16 wheels and tires on it. They filled up the wheel wells nicely.

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  11. Maestro1

    Jeff, I agree about sedans and wanted to refresh your memory regarding Chryslers in the mid sixties, when the Company was building very large very fast cars with disc brakes, Dodge Polaras, and Plymouth Furys. It was the Americanized version of the Mercedes philosophy; I have also owned a few of them, and the same holds true. They go like stink, stop right now, and are roomy and comfortable. If I remember correctly The Taurus SHO was the first in a more modern configuration, which also included Thunderbirds of the era. The logic still holds: put your hands on the car,look at its bones and hopefully it’s as goo as it looks

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  12. Andrew Minney

    We all have our own tastes – this is very similar to the late model English Granada.
    Thing is personally I don’t like fudged up cars. Styling is bland and stick in a rice burner motor or a german lump and people think it’s wonderful.
    The motor industry in the main lost its way after the 80s the world over. For designs the computer took over, the greens destroyed good engines and as a result we have some bland terrible cars with even sillier names.
    I would rather an all Ford Thunderbird than a Nissan Leaf or even a Chevy Volt.
    Bring back carbs and chrome and lose catalytic converters for ever.

    OK, ok I’m off the soap box now.


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    • jimbosidecar

      I disagree. The new Ford Mustang, Camaro, Challenger are pretty darn fast, handle reasonable well, and well other than the Camaro, look pretty good as well. I think this may be the golden age of the automobile, just like the late 1960s and early 1970s. I just wish they’d all lose some weight.

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      • David Zuniga

        And put some more feeling back into driving. The “muscle” cars are so detached from the road when you’re in them anymore, to water them down for market, that they feel about as bland as an air ride Cadillac. My 96 f150 is easier to tell when a tire loses traction than any other vehicle I’ve driven. And that includes sports cars of today

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  13. Left Shark

    Agree that this would make a good motor for many a swap. Anything with a well engineered chassis but a weak motor…

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  14. PRA4SNW

    I was the second owner of a ’91 SHO, loaded with all the goodies. I bought it in ’93 with only 24K on the clock from a Ford dealer friend who took it in on trade.
    Problem was, that everything on mine broke, and everything cost $300 or more to fix. I was paying more in monthly repairs than I was on monthly car payments. I swore that the next $300 repair would be the last, so when the $400 fan died, it got traded for a Maxima.
    Other than that, it was a very fun car to drive, and right up the alley for a guy who likes driving something you don’t see every day. Which explains some other cars I have owned – Omni GLH Turbo, Merkur Xr4Ti, etc.

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    • jimbosidecar

      Sorry to her this. Not only did I race one for an entire season, but my street car at the time was also an SHO. I had it for 3 years and about 80,000 miles when I sold it and never did anything to it other than oil, filter, plugs, and bigger wheels and tires.

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  15. Liam I

    Wow I just love the sporty look of these. I’d love one as my first car. Shame it’s nearly impossible to find one that hasn’t been butchered.
    And that’s coming from a teenager.

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  16. tom999p

    There was an identical one in my local junkyard last summer, totally complete, no dents/dings, in about the same condition as the one posted here :(

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  17. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I always heard about these being sleepers, the only thing that looks odd to me are the wheels/tires look too small and narrow in the wheelwells.

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  18. RoughDiamond

    Oh how I would love to go get the weekly groceries and run other weekend errands in this beast.

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  19. jimbosidecar

    Coincidently enough, I just got an e-mail from Livernois Engineering. They’re getting 600 HP from the SHO motor.

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  20. Brian C

    I bought one of the first gens at an auction years ago. Paid something like $1300 for it. The only thing I recall about it other than the great looking Yammy power plant was that it had so much torque steer, it would literally change lanes with hard throttle 1-2 shifts in the rain,….great fun once you became accustomed to it. Other than that,……I would like my BMW E28 back please.

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    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Given my most recent purchase, I enjoyed this comment immensely. ;-)

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  21. Retrogreg

    Terrific cars – owned two first gen cars back to back one white one green. People loved peering under the hood at the bundle of snakes. The only trouble I had was the green one, when mistakenly powered by gravity, was bent in half across a Eucalyptus after my middle daughter left the manual trans in neutral and neglected to apply the parking brake – a great ‘school of hard knocks lesson’ as she, her sisters, nor their brothers have made since.

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  22. charlie Member

    These, along with anything else that was “cool” or “hot” in 1990 have reached the bottom of their market and are on the way up in value. So if you have some decent dry storage, and not a lot of money, and twenty years to wait, you can’t go wrong with buying what was desirable then and hanging on to it, and having fun with it in the meantime. Cars of the 30’s (like Model A’s) are not appreciating except for the rare and exotic ones, like V-12’s, and the same for the 40’s – Lincoln Continentals with the original V-12 are going relatively cheap for a rare car for example. Cars of the 50’s are at their peak, relatively, and the 60’s are getting there. So if you have more desire than cash, go for the 25 year olds in good shape, you can drive them anywhere at 75MPH, shoulder belts, air bags (on some), dual master cylinders, crumple zones front and rear, steering wheel columns and dash controls that won’t impale you, a much safer drive than a ’55 Chevy.

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    • Ralph Robichaud

      Couldn’t agree more- that’s why I drive an 88 Mercury Grand Marquis- understated luxury, extremely well built automobiles, comfortable ,surprisingly nimble for the size, fair on fuel consumption, 20-28 mpg, reliable, low maintenance costs, and will run all day long at 75 mph.
      And, in every respect a much more satisfactory car than a 20 year newer Malibu.

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  23. RickyM

    Very clean looking car. Low mileage for a car of its age too. It will make a great buy for someone. Nice find Jim S ! (Although I would prefer the Opel in the background – sorry).

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  24. jim s

    starting bid is now $7500!

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    • hhaleblian

      How does that work? $6k was the opening bid now $7.5? I was a bidder at $6. Don’t need this nonsense.

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      • Alan (Michigan)

        Yea….. I noticed that. Not a bidder on this car myself, but it seems like a way to get some potential bidders/buyers to become a bit hot under the collar. And I don’t disagree with those people about the last-minute tactic, and how it might be received.

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  25. retrogreg

    agree – very shabby move, especially as I would have thought Gage would have had a reputation to protect, Greg

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  26. jim s

    sold for $ 7500!!!

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  27. Grizz

    I had a fast black SHO in the early 90s, the engine was marvellous, ran great and fast. The rest of the car was a disaster, I was replacing parts monthly and parts were expensive. When I finally sold it, the only door that would open was the drivers door (thank goodness), no AC after much money invested, lots of electrical gremlins and rust was taking over. I am happy to have driven one but happy it is gone too…………

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