By on November 8, 2021

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord introduced the high-performance version of the Taurus sedan— the SHO— in the 1989 model year, and enthusiasts rejoiced over the cheap new factory hot rod that blew away far more expensive European sedans. I’ve documented quite a few discarded SHOs during my junkyard travels, but this is the first ’92 I’ve photographed. Why is 1992 special for the SHO? Simple: It’s the final year for the mandatory five-speed manual transmission. Here’s one of those rare cars in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYamaha had been building organs and pianos for nearly a century when Ford hired the company to design a hot-rod version of the ho-hum Vulcan pushrod V6, though of course it was the screaming two-wheelers bearing the tuning-fork logo that interested Dearborn. Finally, an engine with a cooler-looking intake manifold than the Porsche 928, and 220 horsepower plus a 7,000-rpm redline from a naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter V6 was very impressive by the standards of the time (the 1989 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde’s 3.0-liter V6 made just 183 horses, though its exhaust note made all other V6s sound like ailing bovines).

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the time this car was built, the wearers of green eyeshades in the Ford Empire saw that many dollars were being left on the table due to the lack of an automatic transmission in the SHO. The Great Slushboxification of the American Road had been well underway for decades, and many American car shoppers absolutely refused to consider any car with three pedals. Something had to be done, and it was: for 1993, the Taurus SHO could be bought with an optional four-speed automatic coupled to an engine bored out to 3.2 liters (and tuned to make the same 220 horsepower as the 3.0 but with 15 extra pound-feet of torque).

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, pedals - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe manual transmission remained available in the SHO through 1995; the 1996-1999 SHO had both a V8 engine and an automatic-only configuration and the 2010-2019 SHO epilogue had a twin-turbo V6 and six-speed automatic.

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThere had been a facelift for 1992, corresponding to the Mercury Sable‘s redesign (the 1989-1995 SHO used Sable front body parts), but the real change in SHO philosophy happened for the 1996 model year, when the car got softer and generally more about luxury than shredding tires.

In the early years of the 24 Hours of Lemons, we learned that the 1989-1995 Taurus SHO is a very quick car on a road-course race track (in stark contrast to the 1996-1999 SHO).


We also learned that the SHO V6 tends to explode in spectacular fashion when road-raced, and that SHO transaxles disintegrate more spectacularly— and more frequently— than any other gearbox in 24 Hours of Lemons history. Did I mention the constant failures of SHO hubs and axles on the track?

Either due to the word about the SHO’s racing blow-uppityness spreading or the fact that Lemons racers used up just about every junkyard engine and transmission on the continent, we don’t see many of these cars on Lemons tracks today.

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, radio and HVAC controls - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFactory CD players were still considered high-end luxury items in 1992 cars, subject to constant theft danger on the street. This single-disc player with “Premium Sound” speakers added 502 bucks to the car’s $23,889 price tag (that’s about $997 on a $47,450 car in 2021 dollars), and it didn’t sound anywhere near as good as the audio rigs that come as standard equipment in the most miserable econoboxes today.


Rewards the driver like no other performance sedan (although the Dodge Spirit R/T had a higher top speed).


No Spirit R/T could have done this, though. In fact, the only Spirit R/T to have entered a Lemons race never managed to turn a single official lap.

For links to better than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, please get towed into The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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34 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 Ford Taurus SHO...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In retrospect that cabin (instrument panel and seating) is better than I remember and at least for me, more functional and better looking than most current offerings. Analogue, dials, cloth, matching colours, and no Ipod screen stuck on the top of the panel.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    It hurts me to see that in the boneyard. I guess it is simply a matter of them being notoriously difficult to wrench on combined with them just not being especially fast by today’s standards. One of my teenage car posters in my room though.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      It may not be fast by todays standards but it certainly has infinitely more soul and it has an engine that looks better (and sounds better) than any midsized sedan that’s been sold since.

      A 1989-1995 Taurus SHO vs a modern Fusion Sport or 2010+ SHO? I’ll take the 1989-1995 every single time.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you, then I will take Fusion, even with 2.0 EB.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          And I am sure you will enjoy your soul-less blob.

          • 0 avatar

            I am scientist and know that mechanical contraptions like cars do not have a “soul” whatever you define by that term.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            ‘mechanical contraptions do not have a “soul”‘

            Dear Scientist, please explain two recent phenomena for me:

            – Was cleaning my tools* after a repair (doesn’t always happen, but it sometimes does) and as I was setting one tool back in place the next in line started vibrating in anticipation. (Looked like it was going to jump into my hand.)

            *Recommended: “Tub O Towels TW90 Heavy-Duty 10″ x 12″ Size Multi-Surface Cleaning Wipes, 90 Count Per Canister”

            – Spent part of the day working on Vehicle C (my most recent registration), and the next time I went to start Vehicle B (my daily driver – for now) it exhibited a problem which it hadn’t before, and hasn’t since. (I attribute this to jealousy.) Vehicle C also got the ‘good’ parking spot, if that is relevant to your analysis.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My manager (who was in his 50s at the time) bought a new 89 SHO. It was pretty awesome compared to other cars of the time, and was a real sleeper.

    It made a big impression on me as a young engineer, so that I hardly recall what my other managers since then have driven – except for the G8 one guy had, which had a similar theme as the SHO.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Car and Drivers 1989 review compared it to the Mustang GT (which over 100mph the SHO was faster) and the BMW 5 series.

      It’s in the same realm as the 1992 Viper, SRT-4 Neon, the Cyclone, SSR, etc. Totally bat sh*t crazy product that, on paper, makes no sense at all. But they did it and it quickly gained legendary status among the automotive world.

      We don’t see vehicles like this anymore except from Dodge and Ram/Jeep. It’s a shame.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I bought my ’89 used while in college, from a shady lot that (it turned out after the purchase) had removed all the non-visible parts of the factory JBL stereo system and artfully concealed some very poor-quality bodywork. Turned out the first owner had gone through four (4) clutches in the span of 68k miles and treated the car accordingly. My ownership experience with the thing was exactly as you’d expect from that history: it was the least reliable car I’ve ever owned. At various times, it lunched a manual transmission, two A/C compressors, two power steering pumps, a water pump, an alternator, a radiator, and a couple of front axles. Stuff in the interior was always failing (but fortunately I could repair that myself).

    But I kept it for six years and put over 90k miles on it anyway.

    When it was working, it was stupid fun, with rusted-out mufflers that made it sound like a weed-whacker on crack and all the torque-steer shenanigans you could imagine. It was also a comfortable highway cruiser (important as during part of that time I was doing Seattle-Portland round trips every couple of weeks) and the Yamaha V6 never failed to start. I made the clutch in the car when I bought it last for my entire span of ownership.

    A shame that such a well-planned product was wrecked by Ford engineering and build cheapiness. Still a lot of fond memories.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      In fairness, the non-SHO Taurus went through parts at about the same rate. The special SHO parts were probably the most reliable ones in the car, LOL.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I came to the SHO from an equally hoopty non-SHO ’87. It was no paragon of reliability either, but it was better than the SHO. It ate alternators and cooling-system parts but I never lost a transmission, an AC compressor, or a PS pump.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    All those good handling parts made it to my 92 Sable…I’ve surprised many a BMW on the offramps…thought about getting “SHOBLE” plates back in the day but never did.

    Brakes on these cars are marginal at best for high speed use.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    My grandfather had two SHOs. A red 1989 and a green 1994 (with the auto). Absolutely amazing cars. Very unique, one of the only good sounding V6s made, very quick, and very much a sleeper. The Car and Driver 1989 review was gushing of the SHO, comparing it to Mustangs and 5-Series.

    It’s a shame 1995 was the last year of the true SHOs. The 1996-1999 was let down by Ford’s styling and unreliability (curse those cam sprockets). The 2010 with the Egoboost had no soul and was in no was special. Just a lump with a little bigger engine. Nothing unique about it.

    I hope that beautiful intake manifold was removed and hung on the wall. It’s literally artwork.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    this is a 30 year old car. i grew up in the 80s. an equivalent car would have been from the 50s… and they were already gone by then. these are still coming home to roost.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    People forget that this thing was pretty much hot garbage. The list of issues Murilee lists above is right in line with the reports I got from everyone who ever drove one.

    A ’89 Maxima was RADICALLY better, wasn’t much slower, and didn’t fall apart.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      A used ’89 Maxima, at the time I bought my ’89 SHO, would have cost more than twice as much as the SHO. And, unless I could somehow find even a bit more to upgrade to the ’92 Maxima with the DOHC engine, ti would have been significantly slower.

      Hot garbage it may have been, but it was also a sport sedan I could afford to buy as a college student.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Bought one new in 92 and kept it 10 years. Article fails to mention that Yamaha makes some outstanding 4-stroke outboard boat motors in all sizes and power ratings.
    The clutch, sourced from a Mazda 4-cylinder pickup, was the weak point in the drivetrain. The throw-out bearing on mine failed at 60K miles. I talked Ford into sharing the cost of replacing it. One of the most balanced FWD cars I’ve driven. Because of the linear power delivery of the N/A engine torque steer was manageable (unlike my ’02 Saab Aero which changed lanes for you if you used full power to pass).

    It was underbraked, like most Ford products of that era. The stock front discs warped easily, but my local SHO shop sourced some German (?) replacements which were better metal and didn’t. Unfortunately, the only way to get bigger brakes was to replace the stock spindles with 3rd generation SHO spindles when they became available.

    I did not have any big repair issues, other than the one clutch bearing failure.

    For its era a very fast car needing only a little more brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Ford actually did some engineering and worked hard to reduce torque steer. Equal length half shafts are to credit for that. But your experience is pretty typical. Good cars and very little issues.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    “This single-disc player with “Premium Sound” speakers added 502 bucks to the car’s $23,889 price tag (that’s about $997 on a $47,450 car in 2021 dollars), and it didn’t sound anywhere near as good as the audio rigs that come as standard equipment in the most miserable econoboxes today.”

    Uh, I would take issue with that. Ford Premium Sound wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Is this claim based on your experience, or second-hand reports?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “Premium Sound” as shown here was the base radio option in the SHO, driving six whizzer speakers off four channels in the receiver (the front four speakers wired in parallel) at about 5 W RMS per channel. It was “premium” only in the sense that it had 5 1/4″ door speakers, unlike the base Taurus which had only 3 1/2″ dash speakers serving the front. (In general, the pictured SHO doesn’t appear to have any options beyond what was included with the SHO trim.)

      The uplevel audio option on the SHO was an externally amplified JBL system that would push about 20-25 W RMS into each channel, with low-end JBL speakers. It wasn’t extraordinary but sounded decent for a factory radio.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Well, this is kind of where I am going with it. In the SHO, if you upgraded the audio, I think you should have gotten a JBL system (which was a step up from standard Ford Premium Sound). Additionally, the car in question shows a single-unit CD player … but I remember the CD player in a 1992 being the add-on unit that sat below the radio, replacing the cupholder & coin tray. Like this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/234207000920?hash=item3687d33958:g:dWIAAOSwsvFhUhRF

        That suggests that the radio here isn’t original, unless it’s an additional option I didn’t know about?

        The upgraded JBL audio also had a subwoofer, and I think the front speakers were 2-way.

        Point being, some of the audio setups in these cars were better than the audio in some modern cars. The generalization was what I took issue with.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      “Is this claim based on your experience, or second-hand reports?”

      Murilee knows a thing or 47 about car audio.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        For once he is right.

        JBL was the uplevel audio system for the 1992-1995 models (I don’t believe the 1989-1991 1st gen had a higher end audio system). My grandparents 1994 had an amp (or two?) and a sub mounted between the rear seats. It was ok. The louder the volume went the lower the bass got. Dumb move by Ford but it is what it is.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          My fully equipped ’89 was equipped with the JBL system (at least, it was once a guy parting out a crashed car helped me replace all the parts the shady dealer had removed). It had an external amp, but no sub, just a couple of two-way 6x9s in the rear deck.

          Honestly the sound quality was not all that different from the JBL system in my 2016 Highlander: better than an average factory radio, but nothing special.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    Not a SHO story but the tale of two Tauruses. In one of my govt jobs I was issued two identical Taurus police pkg cars. I didn’t even know there was a police pkg for them. They were 95s or 96s and identical in color and equipment. The only way to tell them apart was the plates, one had govt, the other had “straight” plates. Why I was given both of them I’ll never know. But those things would howl!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Those had the Essex 3.8 engine with a different intake and exhaust that allowed them to breathe a bit better and make 160 (I think?) hp instead of the standard 140. They were typically sparely equipped so they were pretty light, and reasonably quick by the standards of the time.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Never

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    My 1992 Taurus SHO automatic is one of my favorite cars. It was fast (for the time), sounded good, had a nice ride, great seats, and looked good. Only issue was reliability. Out of the two year lease, it spent a month in the garage and most of the issues were electrical gremlins that befuddled the dealer.

  • avatar
    VX1NG

    Fun fact: Tim Allen’s character drives a 1990 Ford Taurus SHO in the movie The Santa Clause, I imagine that was requested by him due to his love for cars.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Jesus God I wanted one of these back in the day because it was the best of the breed, which I was pretty intimately familiar with having owned:

    ’90 Ford Taurus L
    ’93 Ford Taurus GL
    ’95 Mercury Sable LS (still have this one)

    They weren’t the greatest cars ever made, but they were pretty good for their day. Drove the ’95 Sable to work today and she never fails to fire right up.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    I remember when these were introduced, Ford dealers had no idea what to do with them. A local Jacksonville FL dealer, King’s Crown Ford had 5-6 in stock, mostly black on tan but one particularly sharp silver with I believe black interior. I was wheeling a Mustang GT convertible and thought a sedan would serve me better as a car used for both work and pleasure. Several test drives later I ended up in the salesman’s cube getting the screws turned on me. First they added a $1500 “market adjustment” based on limited production and demand… what? You have 6 of them, not paying it. Then they lowballed my Mustang, a near perfect ’88, 5 speed, dark red over white top and interior. They insisted “nobody wants a convertible anymore”. The result was they wanted my Mustang and 12k for the leftover ’89 SHO. After wasting 3 hours at this dingy dealership i grabbed the keys to my 5.0, put the top down and left the parking lot in a cloud of expensive Goodyear Gatorback tire smoke. The salesman called me the next day repeatedly at work trying to get me back but never would agree to my number, which was 9k and my GT. The Mustang was stolen from my apartment complex about a year later, I thought about replacing it with the SHO but settled for a clean, low mile Celebrity Eurosport V6. I frequently regret not finding a more reasonable dealer especially when the updated ’92s came out but by then I was married, had a mortgage and settled for another used GM workhorse in the guise of a ’91 Bonneville LE. Once Ford bolted an automatic to that glorious V6 I felt they’d sold out and I lost interest. The later versions did nothing to change that opinion. Now I’m waiting for a build date on my manual, Sasquatch Bronco and hope I’m not disappointed again.

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