Save or Scrap: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO

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I have this recurring problem where I look at honest, aged vehicles that have remained largely stock but also largely neglected – and I want to bring them home to safety. Take this first-generation 1989 Ford Taurus SHO here on eBay. One of the country’s great super sedans, it hasn’t been modified to drag race or ended up in the hands of some teenagers just looking for a good time. But it has been neglected for these last few years, and with an opening bid of $360 and no reserve, it’s tough to look away. 

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These factory hot rods blended the high-strung performance of a Yamaha-built DOHC six-cylinder with the widely-recognized looks of the first-generation Ford Taurus. It took a recipe that had been perfected by the German brands over the years and gave the U.S. a contender in the Q-ship category of hotted-up sedans. Factor in the boy-racer good looks with a Mazda-sourced manual transmission and you had a recipe that could deliver 60 m.p.h. in just 6.6 seconds. These SHO motors are known for generating a fairly hefty maintenance bill right around 60,000 miles, so I’d like to know a bit more about the history of upkeep before even spending $360 on it – the price the seller claims he’ll get if it goes to the scrapper.

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Sadly, this SHO won’t be rocketing to its 143 m.p.h. top speed anytime soon. That’s not because it doesn’t run – it does, and it even passes California’s stringent smog tests. However, a failed clip that secures the shifter cable to the shifter rod  prevents the SHO from being driven at the moment. It seems like a fairly minor repair to me, but as you can see from the interior condition, the current owner likely stopped paying the mechanic long ago. However, what is there reveals a car that hasn’t been hacked apart but will need lots of replacement components, from a new dash to reupholstered seats. If the price stays under $500, however, I could potentially see this SHO as an appealing long-term, low-buck restoration that you can drive.

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As a California car, it remains rust-free aside from some sun damage on the hood. The front air dam has been cracked, but I’m sure a rear-ended parts car would happily donate a replacement (might even get lucky and find a spare interior as well). I would hate to see this first-generation SHO go to the junkyard, as there just aren’t that many left. You can find later models in droves, but there’s something about the first run of a limited production model that appeals to me, even past the point of rational thought. The seller has listed this car for his dad, who likely just lost interest in driving the car or no longer wished to drive a stick. Either way, this car needs a savior – could it be you?

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Comments

  1. Carlton J. Madden

    Someday the first gen SHO might be worth something but I’m not sure I’ll live to see that day. In the mean time, I’d love to have the engine out of it. Would make an extremely cool engine swap for my ’64 Comet.

  2. Van

    Will this engine and trans fit in an early Ford Probe.
    I had a 93 Escort wgn and I wanted to put this in the back.
    I would keep the front engine and black out the rear windows.
    “OK if you insist I’ll race your Mustang ” (hee hee hee”

  3. RayT Member

    I always considered these strange cars: great engine and well set-up suspension in the wrong package. Nothing wrong with the design, but too heavy and — unusual for Ford — a ultility-grade interior with leather that felt and looked like Naugahyde. The cable shifter was lousy, too, with long throws and imprecise gates. There was nothing wrong that Ford couldn’t have engineered out, but they didn’t.

    I liked these — and I REALLY liked the SHO engine when Chuck Beck stuffed it in the back of a Ford Festiva to make the extremely quick, fun and scary “Shogun” — but not enough to want a hotted-up Taurus now.

  4. Martin

    “I have this recurring problem where I look at honest, aged vehicles that have remained largely stock but also largely neglected – and I want to bring them home to safety.”

    And I thought I was the only one with that affliction. Then the mental battle of “save an increasingly unique but seriously undervalued car” vs “You’ll never see the sunny side of this deal once you have it back to how it should be” begins. I too would love to see this car restored, as it will only become more of a unicorn as each day passes, but I have to agree with Carlton, I don’t think I’d live to see the day the car is really worth something, and that’s just sad. The right person, who could handle all the mechanical restoration, and has contacts to get the body done well for a decent price might do well on this car.

  5. fred w.

    SInce a donor car would cost almost nothing, this is a case where part by part doesn’t work, just get a whole Taurus with great interior and start pulling parts. Scrapyards are full of ’em.

    • MeToo

      Good point(s) all.

  6. Rick

    Demo derby! Then scrap it. Better yet put it in an all Taurus SHO demo derby (like the all Gremlin demo derbies they used to have in the early 80s)

  7. Claus Graf

    If it were in Houston, I would try and get it cheap. Fix it up. And drive it!
    I remember these sho’s had some sort of variable intake runner length system. Dependending on the engine rpm the air going in the cylinder would travel through different length runners.

    Save the Ford!

    The SHO must go on!

    Claus

  8. jimbosidecar

    I owned one for a few years and it was troublefree and I raced one in IMSA for a couple years. Great cars, if a little heavy, and for me anyway, as reliable as an anvil

    • Adam Hartlmeier

      jimbosidecar,
      Did you drive one of the Ninja Turtle SHOs?

  9. Blindmarc

    Taurus.com would be interested in this.

  10. Dan10
  11. CelestialGryphon

    I’ve seen that powerplant used in a few pikes peak hill climb rigs. Not gonna lie, but I’ve got an FC chassis somewhere that I could shove it with a turbo in.

  12. Bruce

    I bought a new one in 1991. I couldn’t resist since they were selling them for $15,995 when anything other than a base Taurus went for more than that. The only caveat was that they had to sell it as a demo. Mine had 12 miles on it when I brought it home, 1/2 of which I put on myself during the test drive. The ’91 was the last year for the generation 1, and there were quite a few improvements. It was an absolutely fantastic family sedan. At 220hp, it had more hp than the Mustang GT (215), though it lacked in the torque and weight dept. It was a smooth, sweet revving gem of an engine. I bought the tools and did the 60k belt and valve adjust myself. If I remember correctly, the dealers were getting 16-20 hrs of labor. It took me 35-40, but I was amazed at the precision of the design and the parts. Of course they were expensive, like $125 for intake manifold gaskets; $200 for spark plug wires; $250 for a water pump; $240 for valve cover gaskets (fortunately you could reuse the old ones); $125for the timing belt, etc. Fortunately my cousin was a Ford mechanic so he was able to get me a decent discount. I sold it around 2007 with about 100K on it. It ran extremely well, but was becoming impossible to find parts for. An engine from Ford, eve back in the early 90’s was $10k.

    The only one I would ever buy now would have to be in excellent condition.

    Bruce

  13. jaygryph

    If you want another oddball taurus, look up the police spec cars. They did in fact make real ‘robocop’ police tauri, for the departments that couldn’t afford the crown vic.

    I picked one up that had been in service with a small town police department well into the 2000’s. That’s a lot of years for a first gen taurus, let alone one being used as a cop car.

    They had rubber floor mats, the base base base model interior, bucket seats with metal shank plate in the back rest, a non casette radio, and extra thick steel wheels with dog dish type center caps. Oh, and a 140mph speedo.

    Under the car it used the sable bigger brakes, swaybars, and a host of other stuff. Basically, as far as I can tell from the one I had it was an SHO, with a base model exterior and interior, and a hopped up 3.8 V6 with high temp hoses and all the oil and trans coolers and stuff you could want.

    For what it was, that was a FAST car. I’ve owned a bunch of taurus’s and that car did not drive like any of them. I only ever took it up to 90 but it got there in a hurry, much faster than the other ones so I’m not sure if it was a different computer program or different internals, I honestly don’t know what was different about that engine and drivetrain but it hauled.

    The SHO would probably beat it, but maybe not. I imagine the cop cars were not top speed limited quite as low as the other vehicles.

    I almost regret trading it, but ended up with a chevy truck I still use regularly and have for years. I think I paid $400 for the Taurus, it’s main problem was one of the vacuum lines on the intake had a big crack and was sucking air. Patching that got it running pretty good.

  14. Prowler

    I bought 1991 mocha frost SHO new….that car was a blast passing on 2 Lane roads….drop it down a gear or 2 and just fly
    Most people didn’t really know what they were so it wasn’t hard to get the jump on someone at a red light…by then it was too late…they couldn’t catch up
    I drove mine 80,0000 miles before selling it….in that time I had 2 clutches replaced under warranty….replaced the cable shifter with rods. Under warranty…actually upgraded and 3 sets of tires..the front wheel burnouts were great.
    I always thought these cars would become collectable because they were so unusual….so in the early 2000’s. I picked up a 1 owner 1990 with 50k on the clock…black…about the best I have ever seen and pickled it and put it away.
    A few years later I bought a 1991 plus and put it away…..I really thought by now….25 years since being introduced they would have caught some air and start taking off…..but they show no sign of it….never see them at the auctions
    So I guess in the mean time…..I wait

  15. racer99

    I always feel that the interior of a car is an indicator of how well it’s been taken care of. ‘Nuff said. I think that if you wanted one of these a little searching for one in better condition would put you WAY ahead vs. buying this one with 150K hard and abused miles.

  16. Prowler

    I think Ford had one of the best sales ad ever for the SHO…if I remember right it said…….
    How do you turn you’re new Ford tarus. SHO Into.a high performance sports sedan….

    Drop the kids off…….

  17. Claus Graf

    As of this morning still no bids on the Taurus.

    I guess the SHO will not go on…..

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