By on December 4, 2010

A top speed of over 140mph. Zero to sixty in less than 7 seconds. A composed suspension and jellybean-sleek sheet metal that still looks handsome after all these decades. That’s the 1989 Ford Taurus SHO, but Sergio Perfetti’s example is more than the sum of its historically relevant parts. And not just because it’s won two consecutive endurance races in the 24 Hours of LeMons on a $500 budget.

This LeMon-y SHO is never trailered and 100% street legal, with current Texas tags to prove it. Adding insult to injury, this SHO passed two LeMons Judges staff on the way to the track, cruise control set at 80+MPH. Why so fast? It has a full complement of creature comforts: heating and ventilation, power windows, a heavily padded race seat and a complete dashboard. Wear a cool suit (LINK:, hit the road and this Taurus not only lives up to it’s billing as the “Car That Saved Ford”, it’s SHOs (sorry) why Alan Mulally’s sees the original Taurus as case study for his turnaround plans.

Once the aged mechanical bits are fully sorted out. Starting off as a project car that sat for years in a backyard with a tree through its windshield, Sergio’s SHO has seen mechanical failures aplenty, but (most of) that is in the past. Perhaps the Taurus gets better with age?

The answer is both obvious, and not. Given the Yamaha V6’s reasonable (220hp) power, somewhat accurate gearbox and no Big Brother nannies, this SHO is fun on Road or Track. But here’s the kicker, it has the “good” stuff missing after 1989: heavy (but vague on-center) steering and an imposing rear anti-roll bar. Like every non-Mustang Ford since Don Peterson’s tenure, those not interested in understeering off the road must buy the Dearborn’s initial public offerings for true hoonability.

Not all was perfect in 1989. The LeMons SHO grabbed the larger front brakes from the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII. There are race-spec pads, a NACA duct for the intake, larger wheels with (LeMons-spec) street tires, a quartet of used aftermarket shocks along with that heavy roll cage. But these changes don’t detract from the experience of cruising down the highway, windows down, on a summer afternoon in a…Taurus.

Which I did through the first three gears at full-tilt, reaching speeds far superior to most (cheaty) LeMons cars of the non-V8 persuasion. But too bad the SHO’s performance is merely admirable by today’s 250+hp family car standards. While third pedal’s long travel implied there was a paper-thin clutch afoot, the LeMons SHO had no problem passing SUVs on the highway. Blip the throttle, do a quick 5-3 downshift and whiz by. But do try and wave to the SHO’s adoring fans, as a raced prepped Taurus is rare on public roads, turning as many heads as a Ford GT. Just not for the same reasons, so smile extra big to compensate.

Back to the heart of the matter: handling. Unless you need active handling nannies as a CYA measure, the LeMons SHO is easy for anyone to drive. Mid-corner torque steer is minimal (yes, really) and triggering understeer is difficult in urban driving. I took a few clean curves and was impressed with the SHO’s flatness going in, and sheer rev-ability on the way out. I was delighted by its composure in early apex and heavy throttle situations: in plain English, drive like a moron and/or attempt to pass in a corner and the LeMons SHO won’t kill you.

Which equates to a nose that pushes when pushed, but adds the reassurance of trailing-throttle oversteer when needed. In LeMons speak, the SHO has the grunt of V8 muscle cars, but induces oversteer when you lift off the throttle, not the other way around. Which has distinct safety advantages in this zero-barriers-to-entry, positively looney Motorsport series.

I should reiterate: this SHO won two LeMons races in a row, using (mostly) OEM-spec parts and without the benefit of a trailer. Credit Sergio and his sharp-witted yet modest team. They, like any SHO owner, know when the stock 18-gallon fuel tank needs a pit stop, and are one of the sharpest crews around. That explains the multiple top ten finishes on track, and the number of well wishers in the pits.

While LeMons is full of cheaters, my SHO experiences over the years failed me, as I cannot find anything “cheaty” on this Taurus. Considering the amount of money spent to R&D a screamin’ sports sedan for daily commuting demands, it makes sense. The 1989 Taurus SHO is still an attitude adjusting, benchmark beating sweetheart. Adding a bunch of nice guys to this SHOroom (sorry) stock Ford sedan and it makes sense: reliably winning on the track over two decades after the Taurus’ introduction is a multi-generational homerun. When Detroit does something right they really, really nail it.

Sergio Perfetti provided the vehicle reviewed, and more of Tony G’s Taurus photoshoot is here

Readers who follow TTAC on Facebook had the opportunity to ask questions about the LeMons SHO. If you would like to ask questions of reviews in progress, check out our Facebook page. Fans, here are your answers:

Patrick: Racing brake pads aside, LeMons teams insist that regular maintenance is all you need, on a more frequent basis. Tony: Passengers have plenty of legroom, they merely lack a seat. TTAC’s Steven Lang: if you like well-done engine hot dogs, because it’s on track for at least an hour at a time. TTAC’s Megan Benoit: If I can pick up a chick in this Bull, I will marry her on the spot.

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28 Comments on “Review: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO (LeMons Racer)...”

  • avatar

    But no answer to the all-important question of how many and where are the cup holders.

    • 0 avatar

      Zero.  That’s what cool suits are for.

    • 0 avatar

      Hello, there are cup holders in the center console. It’s got a rubber form fitting removable with tiny nubs (for traction, keep your drink firm)which is deeply set but the arm rest has to be pulled back, out of the way unless the drinks small then the arm rest won’t press on the drink.
      I’ve a 1989 Ford Taurus SHO, which I purchased from the dealer. The one I bought had fifty miles on it, so someone insisted that it ought to have zero miles, the dealer said 50 miles was typical as they check the cars on the track before they offer them for sale.

      I don’t know what story is true. But, I did get a 1989 Ford Taurus SHO with zero miles. Either the mileage was set back somehow or they got a new SHO.
      I was always happy with the car, the only time it fishtailed was exiting one highway to another where the ramps wet from rain; I traveled at a higher rate of speed than posted; but it was easy to manage/control. Unlike the Dodge Ram Truck, with the hemi engine where a flutter of snow lost control.

      I’m pretty excited about this site, I didn’t know where to gather any information on this car. She’s still wtih me, she shined up great. When I drove her, after being told by a friend who’s a mechanic the engines probably frozen, I felt as though the steering either had to much play or it’d been a great risk to go faster ass steering didn’t seem real realiable.
      So, any advice is appreciated.

      • 0 avatar

        Hello again, please do not moderate the latest comment written minutes after the 1st. I requested moderation of the 1st/original because I re-wrote it. Being a 1st time reader, commenter, I will take care not to repeat the error.
        The newer comment, is more condensed, in my opinion. Thank you in advance & sorry for any inconvenience.

    • 0 avatar

      Please do not moderate this comment. It is the one I wish to post. Thank you :)

      Hello, I have 1989 Ford Taurus SHO which I bought new. It has 133,000 original miles. I keep it garaged & I use it rarely & locally because I am unsure of it’s realiablity due to what I shall mention later in this comment.

      Re: CUP HOLDERS — there is a space in the console which is located between the two front bucket seats. You insert the rubber mold, which is soft & pliable & is formed with two circles for two cups.

      QUESTION about New Car for sale having Miles on it: I don’t know if it is usual for a new car to have the fifty miles on it. The dealer said it was, but someone told me that would be a used car & to ask for one with in miles, so I did. The day I went there to take the car, it showed zero (0) miles. I am wondering, if the speed odometer can be reversed; or if it is true SHO’s are driven typically then offered for sale?

      QUESTION (reliablity) I would like to keep that car going. It’s washed, waxed & the original paint still shines. But, the steering is not has firm as I recall. Driving a slight bend in the road it gave the idea the wheel was not in sync with the turn, if anyone knows about this sort of topic, I’d appreciate some advice.

      Thank you for allowing me to post, & for your site, I had no resouces for the Ford SHO until now :)

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    That confirms what I’ve always thought about LeMons, better start with some of the most solid “bones” you can get your hands on.  Great job guys.  If only Ford had offered the V8 SHO with a manual transmission.  And there are still times I dream of a SHO Wagon, which at least Car and Driver actually created at one point for the first gen SHO.  (Dang remember when that mag used to be good?) Actually the created a bunch of boss wagon’s over the years.

  • avatar

    My friend’s dad got one of these when we were kids.  My friend called it the show car :)  His dad would always talk about how it was the fastest sedan under $40k (a very large sum in the 80’s).

  • avatar

    Introducing the 1989 Mercury Sable Cougar! Sorry….

  • avatar

    It really is a shame how Ford ruined the SHO (or as Ford says “SHOW”) name with the 1996-1999 and 2010-current models.
    That Yamaha engine was one of the top 5 engines of modern times.  No Detroit iron has seen an engine as nice as that since the (real) SHO went out of production at the end of 1995.

  • avatar

    The photography is particularly awesome for this review.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I see a cheater part… the police-Taurus grille panel. Has to be worth five hundred bucks all by itself!

  • avatar

    The yamaha V6 was more like a motorcycle engine than a car engine. If you look at the heads you’ll see the motorcycle influences, almost identical configuration to their inline 4s. I understand the automatic trans engine was better than the manual and swapping them is considered an upgrade. I’ve had the chance to pilot a few of these over the years and it’s easy to see why they are still desirable. It’s just strange shifting a Taurus manually, doesn’t seem right for some reason.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The motor for the auto-SHO was a larger displacement than the orginal 3 liter SHO-motor.  It was 3.2 liters, but rated at the same 220 HP.  My guess is that the extra displacement was for torque at low RPMs, which the 3.0 — not having the benefit of VVT — did not have in abundance.  It certainly seems reasonable that FoMoCo de-tuned the 3.2 a bit — perhaps to preserve the autobox it was connected to, and it seems possible that a little “software upgrade” to the ECM would add some cheap HP.
      A few simple bolt-ons would give you close to 240 HP from the original 3.0 motor: a revised crossover pipe, a larger throttle body, eliminating the silencer in the air filter box and replacing the whole business with some cold air induction, and a new cat-back exhaust.
      And when comparing that car to today’s family sedans that the original SHO weighed about 3200 lbs. , some 500 lbs. less than today’s “midsize” cars.

  • avatar

    Thanks TTAC for FINALLY getting around to writing up something on the the Gen-1 SHO!!!

  • avatar

    Did they discontinue the SHO in 1997 and then bring it back only recently? I’m not sure the history, but I don’t remember them being in the 02-07(?) model years.

    Also, is that V10 emblem in the second picture a joke or did they really manage to shoehorn a V10 in the engine bay? I can’t imagine an engine compartment designed for a V6 could take the extra bulk, but I could be wrong.

  • avatar

    I hate to date myself but I’ve owned a ’89, ’93, ’92, ’99 and a ’95.  I bought the ’99 for my Dad (he also had an ’89) when he was still driving but past the stick days. I still remember the twinkle he got in his eyes when I told him I got him another SHO. Still have the ’92 I hate to say it but it is my Wisconsin winter car.  I still love driving her althought she’s a bit of a rattle trap.  185000 miles and still going strong, these cars are very under-appreciated.

  • avatar

    Ah, my first car the 1989 Taurus.  Oh wait, mine had the HSC 2.5 liter 4-cylinder with 88 horsepower :(

  • avatar

    I had a blue 1994 SHO with a manual transmission.  I really miss it.  Running that thing up to redline was a real treat and dual length runner intake manifold was a sight to behold.  I’m still trying to figure out what ride would best recapture some of that magic.

  • avatar

    I take it the 3rd pic is the ‘as found’ condition of the car?  The fellow in the back of the pic looks like he is recoiling in horror.
    God knows what he found back there.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, and I am sure the car lived up to its LeMons’ name as the Red Rocket Ratsnest Revival.

      (It has since been re-themed so I edited the review accordingly. What’s in a name anyway, the Taurus SHO stands on its own merits.)

  • avatar

    Good to know that for all the “good” SHO parts, one must stick with first gen Bulls.  After that, the mix of what you got varied from time to time.  I guess they just used what they had on the line.  I bought a bunch of first gen SHO parts junkyard and (SHOSource) to use on my Sable station car.  Most thought I was nuts when I said I spent $600 for KONI struts for a station car that was 15 years old at the time.  After locking my bumper to the back of a few 3 series on the local curvy streets and seeing the annoyed look on the snob behind the wheel, i would have to say “money well spent”!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Awesome, just awesome.

      FWIW, this was the first ’89 SHO I’ve ever driven, and the steering was a bit firmer than the 1990, 1992 and 1994 models I’ve driven.  Plus, its been documented that the biggest bars were from 1989.

  • avatar

    These cars were amazing. I bought one for $200 with 181k miles that was supposedly transmission dead. I took a flyer, changer the filter, purged the torque converter, and drove it 30k miles. A more satisfying beater with a heater could not be had. Of course, expectations are quite low at that price point. I am hoping my $900 Mk. Vlll with gunk filled bags lasts as long as the SHO. Tune in tomorrow………………..

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