You want a fast, great-handling sport sedan? Buy a Ford Taurus.

Yes. You heard me correctly. I didn’t stutter. Would you like to own a domestic sport sedan for less than $5,000 that is fully capable of putting Fox Body and SN95 Mustang GTs to shame? Then look no further than the top-selling car in America throughout much of the 1990s. While a regular Taurus is anything but unique, the high-performance Taurus SHO is a different story. Produced from 1989-1995, the Taurus SHO features a 24-valve 3.0L DOHC V6 engine built by Yamaha. Yes, this bull had a little more kick than the pedestrian 3.0 Vulcan V6 found in most Taurii.

Now 25 years later, it’s hard to understand why Ford decided to undermine the legacy of the Mustang by purposely making their four-door family car faster than their halo pony car. As it turns out, the creation of the SHO might have never been Ford’s true intention. Rumor has it Ford was developing a mid-engine, two-seat sports car called the GN34. In the mid 1980s, Ford signed a contract to have Yamaha design and build the engine, but the GN34 never came to fruition. With the terms of the contract still intact, Ford had to find a home for the Yamaha engines and it needed to happen sooner rather than later. After what I can only presume to be a decision made under the influence of heavy narcotics, the suggestion was made to house the beast under the hood of a Ford Taurus. Thus, the SHO was born.

With 220 horsepower and a 7,300 RPM redline, the SHO sounds closer to a Formula One car than your typical V6-powered sedan. While acceleration was a bit lethargic at low RPMs, vacuum actuated butterfly valves would open the secondaries at 4,000 RPM. At this point, you better have both hands white-knuckling the steering wheel throughout the rest of the power band. Although it’s open for discussion, I’m quite sure the term “torque steer” was named after the SHO.

In summer of 2013, after begrudgingly making my Riviera withstand its first ever winter in snowy Columbia, I purchased a 1992 Taurus SHO 5-speed to serve as my “SHOplow” from December through March. I purchased the car from the original owner for a mere $1,500 with on 72,000 miles on the clock. It had been driven in many Kansas City winters until the the brake lines rusted out sometime in the early 2000s, where it became a rather large yard ornament for the next decade. I replaced the rotten brake lines with a nice used set from the junkyard for $20, and the car was back on the road. The struts and subframe bushings were shot from sitting so long, so I snatched a brand new set of Monroe Sensa-Trac struts, Eibach lowering springs and aluminum subframe bushings on Craigslist for a grand total of $450. To help the car look a little more modern and aggressive, I stumbled upon a set of rare 17″ Cobra R wheels in the 5×108 Taurus bolt pattern for $400 and bought a new set of Cooper RS3-A all-season performance tires for $500 to complete the handling package.

SHO

If it isn’t apparent by now, I have a tendency of falling in love with projects and going a little overboard. The rare black interior was in excellent shape throughout, except for the seats. Instead of buying cheap covers, I wanted to do a two-toned red and black theme to match the exterior of the car. I had an upholsterer re-foam and re-cover the seats in my design for $600, bringing the car’s grand total to just a hair under $3,500. Although the aesthetic modifications like the interior and wheels could have been spared, a low-mileage sports sedan capable of out-running and out-handling cars five times as expensive was definitely worth it.

SHO INterior

photo 8

If you don’t mind a little paint fade and subframe rust, this Taurus was the perfect budget build. If you’re intrigued by the sleeper status of the SHO, they are available on Craigslist, shoforum.com and Facebook’s Taurus SHO Marketplace for dirt cheap. Although they have a dedicated cult following, collector status has never quite latched on for some reason, making it a great candidate for Stop Dreaming and Drive.

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