The Lost V-8 SHO

A Review of Period SHO Spy Photos

The original Taurus SHO is long gone - although don't tell that to the SHO Club, whose members are still faithfully driving and modifying these long-out-of-sale cars.

At the time these pictures started to be published (~summer 1994, note copyrights), it was already reported that a new Taurus was on the way, and that the next Taurus SHO would have a V-8 engine. These pictures revealed the final car for the first time. Also, at roughly this same time, we had sold our first gen SHO (with 89k miles, we got $10K) and had no plans for any future SHO. However, while we certainly didn't know it in 1994, 3 years later we would be a resident of Redmond WA and needing a fast 4-dr with good wet and snow traction. So one day we'd be driving a SHO again!

You can read a review a comparison of our own two SHOs here.

The spy photo game was in full swing all the way back to the original original Taurus, where spy photographers could hardly believe their eyes at Ford's radically new mid-size car.

In the spring of 1990, this new generation prototype was snapped. The car appears to be a cobbled-together variation of the then-current production car, with the future Sable nose on it. You'll note the greenhouse is close, but  still different.

This is the first spy photo that we know of that shows the heavily updated Gen 3 SHO. This is an engineering mule, with the final front cap (cooling openings are more important than headlights), to test the cooling of the V-8 SHO engine.

The mule is built on the old Gen 2 chassis with a cobbled together body. It uses the early SHO wheels for purposes of testing the updated suspension geometry.

A number of car magazines at the time reported that this was indeed the final body shell and actually stated that new Government crash regulations would require these massive door handles sticking out. That of course wasn't the case, and they should have known better. Ridiculous assumption on their part!

These mules uses purpose-built bodies with simple (cheap to build) hand-rolled curves instead of the (very expensive to build) final production shells. They were nothing more than cobbled-together "mules" which would bear little resemblance (other than dimensionally and the complete underlying structure) to the final car. The door handles - and more importantly the crash infrastructure - were correct. But the thickness of the door was not and didn't matter at this time.

This was Ford's method back then for new cars - in just a few years from this point early mules of the DEW98 platform would take a similar course.

As development continued, the car got it's final wheels and the full front cap.

Sidenote: in September of 1989, a Lincoln Continental of the same era was spotted at Ford's proving grounds and was reported to be SHO-powered. Whether that was once the plan or not is not known outside of the company. As you may remember, the Continental did in fact end up using the Gen 3 wheels... but that could have been for contractual reasons.

In July 1994 we got our first look at the upcoming 96 Taurus interior. Clearly Ford was attempting to use a radical theme to uniquely define the Taurus, as they had with the original. As we found out later, this time it was "oval" everything.
AutoWeek reported in July 1994 that this was the upcoming new Gen 3 SHO front and back. It's actually a Sable front end on a Taurus rear half.

Since the Gen 2 SHO of that time used a mashup of parts from both the Taurus and Sable, perhaps they thought this would continue.

I saved the best spy picture for last - which is why I named this page "The Lost V-8 SHO".

This is the V-8 engine which was originally developed for the SHO. The engine reportedly made 88 HP/liter (for a very healthy ~300HP - and up from ~73 for the 1st gen engine) during it's development phase. For the mid-nineties, this was indeed very "high output" (today, the new Ford 3.5 liter V-6 started at 75 HP/liter). Not shown in this photo is a *very* large MAF, on the order of 80mm or larger. Note the single throttle body, the two resonance chambers, and the cross-over tracts at each end.

Here it is, production ready. What happened? Why didn't we get this? Nobody really knows. Eventually it was detuned down to 250 horses. Then, for production, it was detuned again, all the way down to a not-so "super high output" of 235 horses (73 HP/liter). As many readers know, the final SHO engine used the production 3 liter engine cold air intake - severely restrictive - and had several other restrictions as well.

So what was the problem? At first thought, the problem may have been the auto trans. It was never designed for this much power, although an updated version later ended up behind a detuned 4.6 4V engine in the Lincoln Continental version of the Taurus chassis. Perhaps the strengthened transmission wasn't ready in time?

Or, it may have been torque steer - which in the Gen 3 wasn't handled as well as it was in the 1st gen cars (to be fair, it had to deal with a lot more torque) with their harder bushings.

Or, it may just have been cost.  In any case, until somebody writes a definitive and well-researched insider story of the SHO, we'll never know.