by Jon Mikelonis and Matt Wilder
Most might not realize that the introduction of Ford Taurus
for the 1986 model year kicked off a revolution in exterior
styling which has influenced every automotive manufacturer
targeting the general public to this date. The impact of the
Taurus on domestic and foreign body design was so intense
during the second half of the 1980's, that consumers were
often heard mumbling, "It looks like a Taurus",
on non-Ford showroom floors. In fact, Taurus styling cues
still resonate in most four-door midsize sedans today and
is recognized as one of the most ground-breaking models in
Ford history. A fairly unrecognized Taurus that strayed far
from the pack during the 90's was the performance-oriented
Origins of Taurus SHO
Undeniably one of the most successful cars of the 80's and
90's, the Taurus was and still is an unsuspecting family oriented
mid-sized sedan. Unsuspecting until it was the subject of
courageous improvisation for the 1989 model year. Improvisation
that resulted in dropping a 220 hp Yamaha DOHC 3.0L V6 into
the sedate Taurus and backing it up with the Mazda built,
but Ford designed, MTX-IV manual transmission. Ford called
it the Taurus SHO (Super High Output). There are several stories
behind the conception of the SHO, all of which fall somewhere
between fact and theory. The story that is most widely accepted
among SHO owners is that Ford was developing a sports car
in the early to mid-80's to compete with the Fiero, MR2, RX7,
and 240/280/Z cars. The sports car was called the GN-34. Ford
worked with Yamaha to produce a light yet powerful modern
engine for the world class two seater. Unfortunately competition
was going away and the market for 2 seater "fun"
cars was gone before the project was completed. The contract
with Yamaha remained and Ford needed a place to put these
motors, so they decided to make a "sport" version
of the Taurus. For introduction into the 1989 model year,
engineers stuffed the chassis with the Yamaha V6 along with
the MTX-IV transmission. In order to round out the SHO performance
package the special submodel got a stiffer suspension, four-wheel
disc brakes, alloy wheels, ground effects, full power accessories,
side lumbar supported leather seats, and a redesigned dash
with a 7000 RPM Tach. The SHO was complete.
Evolution and Curtain Call
The Yamaha V6 and the SHO made the cover of all enthusiast
magazines in 1988 and occupied slots on many "10 Best"
lists for at least the first few model years. Despite these
facts, the general public was ambiguous with regard to the
SHO. For most, the midsized four-door sedan was schizophrenic.
With the "techno" Yamaha built 3.0L and a 5-speed
mandatory, there was definitely a conflict between the practical
body/chassis design and the performance drivetrain. Just how
we like them, but not necessarily a good fit for Joe Average.
The Taurus SHO evolved from 1989 until it was discontinued
after the 1999 model year. There were significant changes
that affected the SHO's personality along the way, most notably
being the availability of an automatic in 1993, the replacement
of the 3.0L V6 with a 3.4L V8 in 1996, and the discontinuation
of the 5-speed manual in 1996. As with most performance machines
the first distinction owners make is between automatic cars
and manual cars. SHO owners refer to their automatics as ATX's
and manuals as MTX's. Additionally, there exist three generations
of Taurus SHO. Generation I (1989-1991), Generation II (1992-1995),
and Generation III (1996-1999). The classes are not necessarily
honored by Ford, but among SHO people the delineations are
logical and created for good reason.
to SHO Aficionados)
|The stealthiest of all
Taurus SHOs, these model years were offered exclusively
with the MTX-IV Mazda 5-speed transmission. Exterior SHO
identification was minimal.
primarily by more prominent performance styling and the
optional automatic with 3.2L which started in 1993.
by overall Taurus redesign, introduction of 3.4L V8, and
discontinuation of the manual transmission.
Similar to the differences between the owner of a 1969 Mach
1 and the owner of a 1974 Mach 1, there do exist subtle differences
in attitude between owners of early model V6 manually shifted
SHOs and owners of late model V8 automatic SHOs. One expert
says the Taurus SHO evolved from relatively tougher origins
into the automotive equivalent of a corporate jet before it
was dropped in 1999. Another factor that may have lead to
the eventual demise of the SHO was the high sticker price.
For example, a 1990 SHO was over $24,000 which puts it in
the low $30,000 range in today's standards.
Despite the differences and changes in model years, all SHOs
are specialty cars that attract a unique enthusiast and collector
determined to be different. As a bonus, the shear volume of
standard Taurus and SHO parts cars at the wrecking yard have
made the SHO a practical project for the experimental "hands-on"
The SHO Must Go On
As an indication that the SHO will be around for a long time
to come, July
2005 celebrated SHO National Convention Number 14 in Indianapolis,
Indiana. The convention is produced by Don Mallinson and the
SHO Club. This years
event drew more than 110 SHOs from over 40 states and Canada.
Owners take their cars on a real road course, race tracks,
and to major drag strips. SHO enthusiasts take great pride
in driving their cars across the country, even with some having
more than 200,000 miles on them. One owner that made a 5000
mile round trip from Nevada to Indiana for this year's convention
in a 1990 SHO, was Matt Wilder.