1992-1995 2nd gen Ford Taurus SHO review

With the 4th gen SHO about to be released, I thought it might be fun to look back at the history of this model, and see from whence it came. This new gen has some mighty big shoes to fill, as the 2nd gen SHO (1992-1995) was one of the most highly respected US sports sedans in history.

Always one to avoid preposterous looking setups, the 2nd gen SHO (Super High Output) looked just enough different from its rental car clones that people knew you had the sporty one. A few extra body panels, specific rims, and most notably an honest 5 speed manual stick sprouting from the center console informed the world of your driving priorities. Later in 1993, Ford made an automatic transmission with a slightly higher displacement motor (3.2 vs 3.0). The automatic trans eventually started outselling the manual trans model, IMO diluting the purpose of the SHO but making it more attractive to the mainstream. Just for the record, that's not necessarily a good thing for a performance-oriented machine.

Inside, sportier front buckets helped hold the driver and passenger in place for the more extreme maneuvers one was likely to perform in the SHO, while the rest of the interior was standard issue Ford fare. Lifting the hood revealed one of the coolest looking 7000 RPM engines this side of an exotic, built by none other than Yamaha. It was rated for 220hp.

Firing up the SHO revealed an entirely different nature (as expected) from the generic mobile. It made all the right noises and never sounded overstressed, even on banzai runs to its high redline. Inch the clutch out to get the SHO moving on its way and you found a broad torque curve with power everywhere on the tach. The shifter, while slightly vague, is still far more preferable to the true enthusiast than the slushbox.

Handling, while good and definitely an upgrade from the base models, wouldn’t challenge Europe’s best. Still, it was enough to be playful, and definitely went beyond what you would expect from anything with the Taurus nameplate. All in all though, it was quite fun. Look for worn out suspensions if looking to buy these days and remember that the most current model is 14 years old. Brakes weren’t much better than stock, and consequently had a hard time standing up to ‘enthusiastic’ driving.

For the truly hardcore, upgrades were plentiful and it was easy to turn the SHO into a fire breathing monster. The only limitations was the FWD platform – with all that power flowing to them torque steer was the inevitable result. Care needed to be taken to preserve the transmission as well. Auto transmissions were regarded as slow and somewhat sloppy, while manual transmissions could only take so many 7000 speed shifts before grenading.

Cost of ownership was reasonable as long as routine maintenance was performed. There was a big service due every 60k miles (water pump, timing belt, upper gaskets, upper valve adjustments) that was not cheap. Nor were clutch replacements. But the cars were dependable. Even today it’s not hard to find good examples with over 150k miles on them and still running strong. While straight line numbers can be equaled or bested by many mainstream machines today, the 2nd gen SHO was certainly a bright spot for Ford as they showed the world that you could have fun without breaking the bank.

Today you’ll find 2nd gen cars at all price points from $500-$5000, and in all conditions from non-running and beat to maintained and with all records. They can make a fun, stealth runabout that can still interject some fun into your journey. Look for ones with documented recent maintenance. Having to do a 60k service or replace the clutch can add a significant percentage (or even multiply) the initial amount spent. If a 60k service cannot be confirmed, negotiate accordingly if you’ll be relying on it for day to day travel. Run away if there is excessive blue smoke – a sure sign of a worn out and/or abused engine. Like most other performance cars, spending more at the outset for a quality example is generally the course of wisdom unless you like to tinker and can perform the required repairs yourself.

I have to say this was my favorite Ford from the 90’s. Ford did a nice job of creating a fun sport sedan geared (when equipped with manual trans) to real enthusiasts. No, it wasn’t perfect and didn’t have the finesse of the Euro sleds, but it was a fun and memorable car that could still be used like a real car for everyday shuttling around. In all the times I had the chance to drive one, it never failed to put a smile on my face. This car had ‘the formula’. Even for jaded enthusiasts like myself, that’s enough to earn it a high recommendation.


john1224 said...

I have had 3 SHO's and my last i bolted up a turbo on it man that was a fast sho it was a 91 mtx in jewel green i have been seeing the new SHO's out and hope to see one with some sweet mods done! The new SHO has big shoes to fill and a reparation to keep as a sleeper...

Chris said...

Sounds like a sweet car John. I'm sure it was a sweet ride.

This was brought to my attention recently Thought you might find it interesting.

Jason Zuress said...

I took the picture of the white SHO back in 2003. :) I also had a supercharged SHO on E85 and CCW Classics. Now, I am helping a customer break more SHO records.

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