Review: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO (LeMons Racer)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
review 1989 ford taurus sho lemons racer

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.

Join the conversation
3 of 28 comments
  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Dec 09, 2010

    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"!!!

    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Dec 09, 2010

      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.

  • Olddavid Olddavid on Dec 21, 2010

    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....................

  • ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part.
  • ToolGuy Second picture: Do you like pegboard storage? (I don't.)
  • ToolGuy "WHAT???"(old 'I was in the artillery' joke)
  • ToolGuy Oh and this.
  • ToolGuy "The boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Hillingdon, and Harrow have likewise announced plans to take legal action to force a possible judicial review..."But: "In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire... Hurricanes hardly happen."