By on January 10, 2019

Tell me — do you enjoy luxury, power, and a high level of standard equipment, all wrapped in a family-friendly sedan package? If so, it sounds like today’s Rare Ride might be for you.

It’s a well-preserved Ford Taurus SHO from 1990.

Ford modernized the American sedan market with the introduction of its slick, aero-friendly 1986 Taurus sedan and wagon, along with its upmarket Mercury Sable sister. With the new product flying off dealer lots, the good people at Ford readied a new experiment.

The foundations of said experiment were set years before, when in 1984 Ford signed an agreement with Yamaha. The agreement specified that Yamaha design and build a V6 engine based on the existing Ford Vulcan powerplant for use in a performance Ford model.

While the engine would come from an external source, Ford turned in-house for the rest of the project. It tasked the team which would later design the Mustang SVT Cobra with creating a performance version of the Taurus. The resulting car would be a short, limited edition run of vehicles using the Yamaha-supplied engine.

Visually, the team distanced its creation from the regular Taurus with revised front and rear bumpers, fog lamps, lower cladding, and the hood from a Sable. Changes to the interior came in the form of specially-designed sport seats, which had more bolstering than the standard car and were covered with perforated leather.

When Yamaha finished with the Vulcan V6, the revised engine revved to 7,000 rpm and produced 220 horsepower, up from a stock 140. All SHOs utilized a Mazda-sourced five-speed manual transmission, which made for an impressive 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 143 miles per hour. The first SHOs went on sale for the 1989 model year.

While Ford intended the project as a single-year exercise, the SHO proved very popular with customers. It racked up over 15,000 sales in its first year, which caused Ford some second thoughts. The company put the SHO into regular production the following year, immediately ordering more special engines from Yamaha.

The first-generation SHO set the stage for future generations, but proved short-lived. It arrived in the second half of the original Taurus’ lifespan and was replaced by the second-gen-based SHO for 1992.

Today’s Rare Ride is a pristine silver example (the most common color) from 1990. This SHO traveled just 65,000 miles in 29 years. Loaded up with keyless entry, moonroof, and excellent lace alloys, this one asks $5,500.

[Images: seller]

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78 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1990 Ford Taurus SHO in Stunning Silver...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Beautiful car, but needs new rear struts and springs to cure the SAS. It appears to be in pristine condition otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      When are you buying it?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I thought it might be his

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Nahh, my next vehicle purchase likely wont be another Taurus, unless it’s to repair and sell, or use for parts for my 1995.

        I’d be more inclined to buy this:
        https://tucson.craigslist.org/cto/d/tucson-1996-ford-contour/6788096112.html

        Or maybe this:
        https://mobile.craigslist.org/cto/d/mobile-1983-oldsmobile-ninety-eight/6770841740.html

        Honestly, a Prelude SH, early TSX or even just a manual Accord is more likely.

        • 0 avatar
          SirRaoulDuke

          Beware of the oil starvation and spun bearings in the 2.5 Contour. Avoid long, hard sweepers. Ask me how I know lol.

        • 0 avatar
          brn

          Had a ’00 Contour with the 2.5L. It’s not the most powerful thing in the world, but it spins up real nice and never had an issue. Sold it to my neighbor, who eventually sold it to another neighbor. 200K on it now. Other than an alternator, never had a drivetrain issue. Did have a wheel fall off through. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I *thought* the rear looked too low as compared to my memory of these as new. Thank you for confirming.

      – – –

      Anyone else dislike dealership stickers or placards up until a car reaches a certain age, at which point they become historical and therefore non-objectionable?

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I also dislike them, they’re the first to go when I buy something so equipped.

        Replacing the rear struts/springs on my 1995 dramatically improved its looks. I had no choice but to replace the front ones first, and the replacement units had more coils, which exacerbated the rear end sag. It looks correct now: nose down, tail up.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          I put Koni inserts in my Sable, along with the sway bars from a first gen SHO. Add in better ball and socket end links, the car handles incredibly well. Sadly, the lower spring mount on one strut rotted out and the Koni inserts are no longer available…so the front now has KYB quick structs.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I agree. They shouldn’t be there, I tell dealers not to put them on there when I buy a new car. But even though it’s ugly, it’s somehow part of the cars charm now.

        • 0 avatar

          Only if the dealer no longer exists, or is otherwise known -think Royal Pontiac, or one of the other famous CPO tuners of the 60’s. I have told my dealers “no stickers or emblems” yet, except for my last car, I always got the plastic plate frames anyway, which hit the recycle bin as soon as car came home.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    The 1996 Ford Taurus with the Yamaha V8 is the one I always lusted for…as long as I could acquire one prior to the engine committing suicide by cam timing sprocket failure.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_SHO_V8_engine

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You may be better off, I’ve never heard a good thing about the DN101 SHO implementation.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yeah, they were bad news. The V8 used hollow camshafts, with the cam sprockets swaged on them. After awhile, the sprockets could walk, sending the valve timing off and potentially causing the pistons to crash into the valves. The fixes were to either weld the sprockets to the cams, or drill holes and add roll pins to pin them in place.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m not old enough to really remember the first two SHO generations when they were new, but there were some schoolyard arguments about the late 90s SHO V8 vs the Grand Prix GTP.

    • 0 avatar
      bluegoose

      The Yamaha V-8 was an abject disaster. It had a high number of cam shaft failures that would grenade the engine. The V-6 SHO was better. This SHO is a gem for a Ford fan. Most people have no idea what this car truly is.

      Mopar started the souped up experimental Corporate Sedan with the Shelby Lancer in 1987 which produced 175HP. Ford came up with Taurus SHO in 1989. Dodge answered with the Spirit R/T which had the Turbo III motor with heads designed by Lotus that was rated at 225 HP in 1991. It was an American attempt to match or beat the performance of imported performance sedans. It didn’t really catch on. It was fun while it lasted.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Once people became aware of the need for welding the cam sprocket, that issue went away. Were there any other issues with the Yamaha V8? It was quite the screamer…

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I had just started my first real job out of college, and in the fall of 2000 my local Ford dealer had a couple of 1998 SHO’s on the lot each with about 15,000 miles on the clock. I test drove one and wanted it badly, but decided the $18,500 was too much. Always felt I dodged a huge bullet. Kept driving my ’93 Taurus for a couple years, then bought a ’96 Grand Marquis from the same dealer for a mere $7,700. Daily drove that one for over 10 years.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    I want it. Bad.

    It’s a shame Ford lost the ambition to build and design vehicles that were outside the box like this. The New Explorer is a perfect example. It’s nothing more than another bland SUV in a sea of bland SUVs.

    The original SHOs (not the fake 2010+ SHOs) were special. They had soul. They had one of the most beautiful engines ever made. They were unique and were a performance machine.

    Ford needs that drive again.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Why don’t we wait a bit to see what the new Bronco is all about

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      100% Agree! A friend of mine in high school…a very well off friend…got one of these new and let me drive it. It helped that I was one of the few that knew how to drive a stick!
      This, and the Maxima SE with the 5-speed of the same era, were the peak of affordable, fun sports sedans. BMWs and the rest of the Europeans were a little out of the price range, but those two models were just so much fun, and you could bring your friends with you.
      The SHO just has a pure, analog feel that is lacking in all of today’s cars, save a few Lotuses and other niche cars. Stick shift, real power steering, few frills, and an ear-to-ear smile when you floor it. No waiting for turbos, no letting the computers sort out when to shift and when to brake, just you, the stick, and the road. God I miss that…
      And I know this model SHO doesn’t have many miles (what barn or garage was it kept in???), but it still looks like some serious care went into it. The seats look good – no cracking and fading, the body looks decent, and even normal wear and tear items like the seat belts still look new. Anyone who buys this one will be the better for it. It’s hard to believe that we can think of 1990 as “They don’t build them like that anymore!”

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      The new Explorer is rear wheel drive, with available AWD. This makes it quite different compared to the Asian rivals.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      The new Explorer is rear wheel drive, with available AWD. This makes it quite different compared to the Asian rivals.

    • 0 avatar

      That is not going to happen with a Furniture salesman running Ford. Ford’s lineup today is pretty grim.

    • 0 avatar
      cantankerous

      This statement is true of most automakers today. In almost 50 years of driving I have always managed to find, purchase, personally maintain/repair, and enjoy driving cars that struck a reasonable balance between excitement and practicality, that appealed to my enthusiast soul without draining my bank account or making me look or feel foolish about being seen behind the wheel. The fact that my daily driver — a 2-door sports coupe that I purchased new — is now nearly 14 years old says less about how much I like the car than it does about the fact that virtually NOTHING being sold today by any manufacturer appeals to me in the least.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    I love these cars but this particular example is trying so hard to look like an E30 BMW that it hurts.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Its completely stock, so how is this particular one any different? Oh, I see the fake twin kidney grilles and round headlamps now, duh.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I am curious where you see the resemblance. Never owned this gen SHO but have spent a lot of time around them (Friends father growing up sold Ford’s) and I have owned an E30. I’m not seeing it. Much as I love this gen SHO though, it couldn’t touch my old E30 touring. But I’d love to have one.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        Actually, I made a mistake. I didn’t mean the E30, I meant the E36. It’s the side to rear profile, specifically how the rocker panel extensions, the bumper lips, and the black bodyside molding interact with each other. But the E36 came out in the same year as this car’s release, so obviously it couldn’t riff on it. It’s just one of those “Man, this particular example looks a lot like the silver E36es I saw a lot.” This fellow’s example on bimmerforums should have what I’m talking about.

        https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?1863067-A-small-beach-side-photoshoot

        The front ends obviously don’t look alike, but that’s not where I got the feeling of deja vu.

        FWIW, I’m used to my SHOs looking more monochromatic (without the black colored molding). Was black molding only for the silver ones?

        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/1st_Ford_Taurus_SHO_–_10-03-2009.jpg

        I knew someone with a green 91 SHO, although it was a few years past its prime when he had it. It could hang with the Trans Am I had back then very well.

    • 0 avatar

      If anything it looks like Audi rather than BMW – not even close.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    “It tasked those who designed the Mustang SVT Cobra with creating a performance version of the Taurus.”

    The Taurus SHO preceded the 1993 Mustang SVT Cobra by five model years. You may be thinking of the 80s-vintage turbocharged Mustang SVO.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    It’s hard for younger readers to know how radical this thing was. Zero to 60 in 6.6 in the malaise era was unheard of for an attainable sedan. C/D referred to it as “liver-twisting acceleration.” Plus, the thing screamed like a race car or a motorcycle. The seats and spoilers looked the part, too.

    My boss had one of these in cherry red and I was jelly-legged with equal parts admiration and jealousy. The premature failure of its clutch only slightly dampened his ardor or mine. Good times.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      1990 is a little post-malaise, but your point is spot on. In the context of the time, these skewed far less “sporty Taurus” and far more “attainable analog to the M5.” The five-ish-year-older Pontiac 6000 STE was a credible effort, but its performance numbers were more on par with those of the contemporary 528e.

      A friend had an SHO as a hand me down from his father, and 15+ years later he still regrets trading it in.

      – – –

      Just went to the C/D article you cite. “Still not impressed? Then you should know that no sedan in the under-$20,000 price range can touch the SHO’s sizzling performance. In fact, the only production four-door sedans faster or quicker than the SHO are BMW’s $71,000 750iL and $51,000 M5. The SHO outperforms such premium-priced performance sedans as Mercedes’ 300E and 560SEL, the Audi 200 Turbo, and the Saab 9000 Turbo. And it completely outclasses all other sedans in the $20,000—$30,000 range.”

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      People also forget how revolutionary this generation Taurus was as far as American cars go. I know people point to the Vulcan V6s and what not but there had never been an American car anything like this at this time. Just the solid think the door made was unheard of out of Detroit. Again, you may say it wasn’t on the level of the Japanese yet and you’d be correct in many ways, but it really was the first domestic that presented at least a viable alternative to them and the sales reflected it.

  • avatar
    jesse53

    I had a awesome used one in 2005, drove it from Indiana to Long Island and back on vacation. It was comfortable and a blast to drive. We sold it when the clutch was starting to slip and decided to get something newer.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    “and the hood from a Sable”
    Help me out. Whats the difference?

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Wow, I was around at the time, and I had no idea there was a difference:

      Taurus: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/1st_Ford_Taurus_GL_sedan.jpg

      Sable: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/1st-Mercury-Sable-sedan.jpg

      I’m guessing the dimensions, attachment points, and inner skin were exactly the same, but it does look like there’s some variation in the outer skin.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I think he might mean that it shares the front bumper facade with the cornering lights. The Sable also had the full width lighted panel.

      The seats on the SHO are similar but not quite the same as the Thunderbird SC. with the extra bolstering and adjustable lumbar support.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I thought the gen 2 got the sable hood and fenders. Wasn’t aware the gen 1 did.

    • 0 avatar
      ryanwm80

      I didn’t know the SHO’s had a Sable hood either. The difference is very subtle. The center area of the Taurus hood was every so slightly lower, which is separated on each side by an angled surface that has two relatively sharp creases running from front to back, but the angle of the surface that separates the inner and outer areas is so slight that it can be overlooked in photos or a passing glance. The Sable hood appears totally smooth except for an obvious indentation from one shock tower to the other, and for an extremely small peak / crease in the dead center of the hood. One detail I like about the SHO is the pattern on the dash – it’s like a metallic grid of dots (instead of the woodgrain. That pattern was unique to the SHO, but I think it was also used in the Thunderbird SC.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    The creases were slightly different, the leading edge is contoured differently. It’s very, very subtle, but different.

    I had a ‘91 in white. Wonderful experience owning that thing. And, as someone stated earlier, one of the most beautiful engines ever created outside of Italy. I had always wanted to mount one in a glass-topped coffee table for my man cave. Just gorgeous to look at.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Nice looking car… similar lines to the robocop Taurus ( 87 ) . I had a 2004 Taurus as a company car for a number of years , it was nice but the lines on the earlier ones were nicer !

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    As GM was shredding any semblance of a renaissance that the B-Bodies, G-Bodies, and GMT-400 platforms were providing at the time, Ford could do almost nothing wrong in the late 80s.

    The Escort GT was at least remotely credible in the class.
    The Ford Probe is now chuckled, but was radical in performance, features, design and price point.
    The Mustang GT had return the V8 engine to some form of former glory.
    The Taurus SHO was in a class unto itself.
    If it didn’t say Toyota, the Ranger was it.
    The Ford Thunderbird was a work of art – especially in turbo coupe form
    Lincoln Mark VII
    Lincoln Continental
    Panther platform everything

    The only thing Ford was fumbling at was a bread and butter sedans (the Tempo was woefully outdated already compared to Japanese) and no viable answer to the Caravan/Voyager – beyond making the minivan uncool with the debut of the Explorer. OK fine, the whole Merkur experiment was an abject failure.

    If GM had a small peak (or dead cat bounce) in the early to mid-80s, Ford was nailing it in the late 80s to early 90s.

    The performance numbers from the Taurus SHO were simply unheard of during this era.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I could not have said it better. What the hell happened to this company’s direction? When it was drunk with SUV cash it went crazy.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford really was king of the world nearly 30 years ago. What the heck happened?

    • 0 avatar

      “Ford Thunderbird was a work of art”

      Yeah, but Ford executives did not think so. As far as I remember CEO punished team for cost overrun and creating credible BMW competitor.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The Turbo Coupe he is discussing was a Fox Body T-Bird. The One you are thinking of was the 89+ MN-12 car. The sunk a ton of money int that platform just in time for the whole “personal luxury coupe” market to die. I have owned a few. You can tell they spent money on the platform, but you can see some places they cheaped out and it is heavy. The post refresh ones were the biggest offenders. The Lincoln version is by far the best, air suspension woes aside.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Truly timeless styling.
    I got to drive one of these SHOs briefly here at 9000 feet elevation. It felt a bit less powerful than my 90 laser turbo, but the power delivery over the entire RPM range was is far more linear.

  • avatar
    Brandon Tomasik

    The Yamaha V6 has no resemblance to the Vulcan other than it’s a cast iron block. Yamaha scrapped the Vulcan block and produced their own.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I owned one of those, same color too. The engine was magical, the shifter/transmission was garbage, perhaps the worst ever, and the color was the opposite of stunning silver. More like mud shade. However overall the car was better than many recent model family cars.

  • avatar

    This was made during a much better time for US automakers. In this era Detroit produced more cars than both the Germans and Japanese. Now Detroit has lost its own home market to the imports. In fact, GM is 60% smaller than it was in the 80s. GM has slipped from 1st to 4th in international sales since 1990. As for Ford they are now out of the passenger sedan business altogether. I guess things were going better for Detroit even during the malaise era which predates the Taurus by more than five years.

  • avatar

    This was made during a much better time for US automakers. In this era Detroit produced more cars than both the Germans and Japanese. Now Detroit has lost its own home market to the imports. In fact, GM is 60% smaller than it was in the 80s. GM has slipped from 1st to 4th in international sales since 1990. As for Ford they are now out of the passenger sedan business altogether. I guess things were going better for Detroit even during the malaise era which predates the Taurus by more than five years.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    This is one amazing time capsule SHO. 5500 is almost too cheap, there can’t be many out there period, let alone in this shape.

    These were amazing cars in their time, especially from a domestic manufacturer.

    Corey, time to find its (possibly) more rare competitor:Dodge Spirit R/T

    https://forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?3970127

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I had an ’89 SHO for a few years in the mid-90’s that I ended up with from a wholesaler friend of mine. I didn’t particularly like the Taurus in general but what I thought was cool about the SHO was that it was a high performance variant of a car that pretty much no one thought of as high performance. I think I remember mine having the standard Taurus wheels (maybe 89 only?), but I like the wheels on this car better. That price is awfully tempting.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Did the SHO get the svelte taillights before the regular Taurus. Those don’t appear to match the headlights.

    When I was looking for cars at 16, cheap (as in inexpensive to buy) was a big factor. I’d been trying to save up and wasn’t too successful. A 1994ish Taurus or an older 1991ish Crown Vic were high on my list. However, I recall the head gasket failures my mom had out of her 2 vulcans (a 94 Taurus and later a 94 Sable). That effectively dropped it out of contention. I always liked the looks of these, post refresh when they streamlined the front and back a bit more. I confess that I’m not as knowledgeable about them mechanically as some on here.

    I ended up with an 93 Aerostar that a friend’s dad bought for $50, put a $75 part in and sold for $700 in 2005.

  • avatar
    James2

    No pictures of the engine?!? To me that intake manifold was The Bomb. Today, though, unless it was Italian they would cover it with some anonymous piece of plastic.

  • avatar
    someoldfool

    50+ posts ahead of me, I wonder if I should bother. I had a 91 for about 8 years. The most fun car in all the ones… well not as much as the XKE, but more than the SS396. It was great, you could really tell when the secondaries opened at 3800 rpm, your retinas threatened to detach. I often wonder what the car would be like with modern computer controls. Today’s engineers can get 600+ hp from 6-7 liters, maybe with 2 valve heads and pushrods, what could they get from the SHO’s engine?

    Couple of comments, the engine itself was supposed to be good for 9,000 rpm but the alternator and power steering pump were not, so the 7,000 limit. And silver? really? the color of worn asphalt? UGH. Mine was black.

    Oh, and no one mentioned replacing the heater core. I never had to, phew. Repair cost up to $1,000 in 1995 dollars. Knew a guy who could beat the book times by removing the windshield and going in that way.

  • avatar

    I had 1994 Taurus with Vulcan V6 bought used with 100K miles. Vulcan just did not move the car – it was embarrassing when driving on freeway. It was the worst engine I ever experienced. I cannot imagine how you can make performance engine out of Vulcan. At least it should be DOHC.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    If John did decide to buy another Taurus would it be correct to refer to his cars as Tauri and not Tauruses. Just curious.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My wife had a 2000 Taurus with the DOHC. The difference is night and day between the Vulcan and the DOHC. DOHC you almost forget it is a V-6–it is more like a V-8. Great engine.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    loved my 1992 Silver automatic SHO. It was very fast for the time and had awesome seats. Reliability was definitely an issue as it spent a month out of the two year lease in the dealership and I had to jump start it at least 5 times from my wife’s trusty Honda Accord. Despite all of above, it ranks amongst my favorite cars.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    loved my 1992 Silver automatic SHO. It was very fast for the time and had awesome seats. Reliability was definitely an issue as it spent a month out of the two year lease in the dealership and I had to jump start it at least 5 times from my wife’s trusty Honda Accord. Despite all of above, it ranks amongst my favorite cars.

  • avatar
    Steve

    Wow this brings back memories of my 1991 SHO (Electric Red/tan leather). The Yamaha engine was like a work of art providing incredible (for that era) performance. Seats were really comfortable and the JBL stereo was awesome. But mostly it was kind of an upscale Taurus with plastic body cladding. Had lots of fun with it for a time but it got old with expensive insurance, tires and maintenance. After dealing with car theft (unfortunately the car was recovered) , clutch replacement, and timing belt service I realized this was a poor choice for a commuter ride. With my mid life crisis over I traded the SHO in 1994 for a special order Contour with the 2.5 V6 5 speed. One of the first ones built. Almost as fun to drive as the SHO with a more reasonable price of admission. Lots of recalls on the Contour but overall it was reliable daily driver. At 165,000 miles it was still running well when my daughter totaled the car. A sad end of the Contour but I was impressed how it held up in the crash with no injuries.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I wonder if anyone put the Yamaha SHO motor in the Taurus based 88-95 Lincoln Continental that had the 3.8 Vulcan? That would be quite a sleeper.

  • avatar

    How this is better than proper RWD Ford Scorpio with 3.0L DOHC engine? Scorpio looked similar but cabin was of German level of quality and it was very fast as far as I remember.

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