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Used SHOs 

Thanks to Sheriff Buford T. Justice:


With production of the last SHOs in 99 Ford ceased production of one of the finest Grand Touring sedan it ever produced. It is a 4-door Pantera, only this time the engine is exotic and the chassis make sense for every-man and every day use. They are wonderful cars, and might still be in production if "brilliant" Ford marketing types hadnít done such a great job of keeping them secret. (Ford also botched the marketing of the Pantera, some things never change even in 30 years.) The 96-99 Ford Taurus SHO was a popular lease and program car. Many are returning to the market place for that reason. It is an uncommonly comfortable, competent and reliable (and affordable) for those who rack up the miles and then lease another car every few years.

The attraction.

Maybe you have heard the expression "some girls you date, some girls you marry?" We all go through the stage were we get fixated on performance numbers. We may flip to the last pages of Car & Driver where the table of recent road tests lives and highlight cars exceeding a certain performance cut-off. We all love to read road test of the latest fast-as-hell coupe. Then reality sinks in. They have only two seats, no trunk room, and while exhilarating on the race-track or for short drives they are a pain as a daily driver. Those are the cars you date. Collect them if you have room and money for several cars. What about a car with room, performance, comfort and reliability? A well made gun "points" naturally. A quality custom knife has a natural Ďfeel and balance." In the same way the most remarkable quality of a SHO is itís over all integration, everything not only works, but works well together. It is almost a Zen like harmony of driver with the SHO, and SHO with the road. It is a level of quality, not gimmickry typically found in German sedans but notably absent in domestic, especially GM cars.

96-99 SHOs are all V8ís, front wheel drive, with an 4 speed automatic transmission. If you want a ľ mile car this may not be the wisest choice. The SHO is a luxury GT. It is a poor manís Jaguar sedan. It handles very well, the brakes are great even up at 140 mph limit and it is a car that will run 140 mph with poise and comfort. It just is not a "hot rod" in the traditional American thinking. It is geared for high speeds not sprints. Red line in first gear is 47 mph, second gear red-line is about 75 mph and anything over 134 mph requires OD. It is a lot quicker than most cars, and gets 20 mpg at 85-90 mph. It is relaxed on any road (including the Blue Ridge Parkway) at two or three times the speed limit. Many folks get 24-25 mpg when they drive the speed limit on the interstates. The DOHC V8 engine makes music like a V12 E type Jaguar. The sound system is good but not outstanding. More than anything else, what the V8 SHO does well is cover 100ís of miles a day in comfort (at rapid rabid speeds) in complete safety and comfort.

It is a poised mountain carver or superslab ICBM, a scalpel worthy of a surgeon for removing the tedium boring uncomfortable miles from your life. That ainít everything in life but it can take the "sucks" out of every commute and makes every long trip a potential criminal adventure. SHOs are rare, even if Taurus/Sable is not. It is like being the only antelope in a herd with an after-burner. With a SHO you have options not given to most mortal drivers, you can both hide in the herd or leave Dodge in a hurry.

The demographics of initial SHO owners, married, 55 years old, well educated, professional, $65,000-$85,000 a year income promise an original driver who appreciates a thoroughbred. Owners, at least on this list tend to be enthusiasts who over maintain rather than under maintain their cars. For that reason I would not assume a car with moderate performance modifications were an indication of abuse, but may be a sign of well-informed pampering. Take a casual survey of late model Taurus/Sable drivers. As a general rule they are clean cut, mature and responsible types. Guess what, that is exactly what the police conclude too. Only 1% of Taurus were made with a Super High Output engine, oversized brakes, an excellent sport suspension and deluxe interior. Many SHOs were purchased by law-abiding seniors simply because they were the top of the line Taurus with the nicest interior and options. Police generally give them a lot of indifference - or just fail to notice them, because of this high stealth factor. They just donít get the selective enforcement other "performance cars" often get. That makes owning one that much more fun, what good is a quick car if big brother is always watching? The V8 SHO will transport five large adults in a level of comfort, speed and style. You can buy a faster car, you just canít find one as covert and capable at any price.

Ford spent a lot of money making the car light weight yet very solid. The chassis gets the highest crash test ratings, is silent and vibration free at 100 mph. The engine weighs only 375 lbs. The trunks lids are aluminum. (since discontinued for 2000-2001 due to cost) Shipping weight is 500 lbs. less than an Olds Aurora, which is about the same wheel base and target market, that weight hurts the performance of an Aurora. A new SHO sold for $8,000 more than a same year Grand Prix or GTP and one place to see the obvious difference is in the quality of the interior and general fit and finish. A Grand Prix or GTP interior will start to self-destruct in 6 months while a SHO interior should look almost like new even after 6+ years if it has normal care.

I have driven some nice (expensive) cars. For my money the SHO has the best seats for anyone who takes long drives. They are as good or better than any Volvo or Audi seats. They also fit tall drivers (6í1"+) and are easy to get in and out of. Almost all SHOs will come with leather seats, power moon roof, heated side view mirrors, and trunk mount CD changer. Many of us with SHO look for ways to improve performance, for example increase horse-power or improve handing. Having said that A SHO starts as a well-balanced car in every area, it is a car with out any glaring deficiencies or vices. Nothing vibrates, nothing drums, no wind noise intrudes, the car has proven to be very reliable, comfortable, and fun to drive. It is only once you get out of a SHO and try something else you notice the annoyances and deficiencies of other cars. A SHO is simply made they way a comfortable grand touring car was made to be.

What to pay?

It would be great for SHO owners if SHOs kept high resale value, truth is a SHO sells for little more than a same year and condition Taurus/Sable while they sold for a $5,000 premium when new. A clean late model SHO is worth shopping and waiting for. As of 12/00 this is average value and acceptable mileage by year based on info from NADA.

Year

Average Trade-in

Average Retail

High Retail

Low miles

High Miles

99

$ 16,575

$ 19,050

$ 20,125

29,000

32,000

98

$ 15,800

$ 18,150

$ 19,200

41,000

44,000

97

$ 13,300

$ 15,475

$ 16,425

52,000

55,000

96

$ 11,375

$ 13,475

$ 14,375

61,000

64,000

What to watch out for.

I would have a Ford dealership pull up a report of all maintenance and warranty work using the VIN on ANY car I was serious about purchasing.

The normal caveats apply to a SHO as would apply to any used car. Nasty cars get wholesaled. Reputable new dealers only sell clean cars; most of them are trade-ins. I would get references from friends and the BBB. Look at the worst cars on the lot and if they are nasty, yours is too. You just donít know it yet.

Has the car ever been hit? Starting in 1996 Ford invested a lot of money for a new stamping mill that stamps out a whole Taurus in two halves; left half and right half, stem to stern. That is why the fit is go good and the car has such a solid feel. If a car has had a cracked windshield replaced or a door ding bumped out that is OK, but a simple nose clip costs $3,000 in parts if the damage goes no farther than the radiator. If the front or rear impact zones have been crumpled and repaired I would not buy the car. I would want my body guy to look over any used car before I purchased it if I lack experience detecting body work. Any wind noise when the windows are up? Does the car track correctly? Either can indicate that a car has been hit. The factory paint on windshield wipers does tend to chip and peel. I would not worry about that.

Any body rust? My 97 has spent half itsí years in a garage, gets waxed several times a year and has NO surface rust. And I live in the rust belt. Rust to me would indicate high miles or odometer turn back. Windshields get tiny scratches in time. A new windshield may or may not indicate crash damage, it would cause me to double check the carsí body.

I have been a very active member of the V8 SHO community since May of 1997 and major problems and repairs are very rare for 96-99 SHO, the cars are uncommonly reliable, even by import car standards. (see also the NHTSA by year page on this site for all Taurus )

Some 96 owners (very few and not on this list) had problems relating to the unique complex "door-ajar" wiring which is fixed with a simple shot of WD40 to the sticking door latch.

Is the engine healthy? V6 SHOs (89-95) are free wheeling non-interference engines. If they tear a timing belt the valves donít hit the piston tops and no damage is done. V8 SHOs donít have that benefit. Ford replaced the timing belt with permanent timing chains that do not need adjustment or replacement. A V8 SHO with a timing chain problem will need a $5,000 replacement engine and that does not include labor. As a group we have only one major engine failure and if it was not NOS related it was on a car that was NOS equipped. I suspect the piston hit something it could not compress and the whole top end got torn up. Vadim at the SHO Shop has reported several calls about SHOs with cam/ cam gear failure. That amounts to a dozen out of almost 20,000 SHO built. If you have a SHO with a major engine problem it shout very obvious. A well-kept SHO, even a moderately well kept 96-99 SHO engine is problem free. I would leave any basket case SHO for the next guy, they just donít make financial sense.

Keep the coolant toped off with the correct stuff for an aluminum engine. Replace coolant when required. I did a full fluid change at 50,000 miles. Factory hoses should last 100,000 miles, on a low mileage car with replaced hoses I would suspect the odometer might be turned back.

A SHO subjects the battery to a whole lot of heat, and it fails with little warning. I would expect a new battery for every 35,000 miles. At $100 a battery I would load test any battery to check it.

Does the body/suspension squeak or groan over bumps? Does it need new struts? Struts last 50,000-60,000 miles in my case. Soon as I drove a SHO with new struts I knew mine needed replaced. It helps a lot to have something to compare to. New struts not only improved ride but also made the car a lot more stable at speed. Ford has a TSB, maybe a few TSBs related to front-end noise. Some SHOs get a subtle front suspension thump, which in my case was related to a worn front sway bar link, which was not a big-ticket item. Then a lower ball joint went which requires a whole damn spindle and that cost $500 parts and labor for just one side. Itís always worth have a good shop look at the front suspension if it is suspect.

For any SHO an extended warranty is a highly desirable. You are going to want some protection, not because the SHO is unreliable but because if something does fail it could be very very expensive. Any clean used car should come with some warranty. Except for private sellers I would feel much better if any lot had at least a 12/12 warranty.

Transmission shifts normally? A major transmission repair costs $2,500 - $3,000 including parts and labor. As mileage approaches 50,000 transmission concerns become important, some owners have no problems and other have had major rebuilds. My rebuild focused on the pump shaft in the valve body. Depending on the year Ford recommends ATF change either at 30,000 miles or 60,000 miles. You want this done, or proof that it was done at every 30,000 miles. I am told by my local transmission guru that any fwd car made by the big three is future revenue for him. A SHO has quite a few SHO specific parts but I donít think it true that a babied transmission will necessarily last longer. I think problems in my case were metallurgical and quality issues.

Does the power steering still have a smooth and precise feel? Ford does not recommend a power steering fluid change but our lab tests indicate this needs to be done every 20,000-30,000 miles or it may very well ruin your power steering pump. The power steering unit is an expensive German ZF unit that costs $700 plus labor to replace. Neglected cars can lack the smooth feel and noise free operation and may not self center well.

A lot of new owners of used V8 SHOs are dissatisfied with the handling of their cars. This is almost always related to poor quality tires. If the dealership replaced the tires with cheap ones or the original tires have become hard over time. Damn all pathetic car dealers for putting crappy tires on any SHO. More than any other car I have owned the SHO provides high return on investment for quality tires. The transformation is nothing short of miraculous. Ford recommends Z rated tires, and they donít get on a car by accident, they cost more and you have to know what to ask for and ante up the cost. Allow a $600 deduct to replace any crappy tires with something appropriate.

The brakes are generally trouble free, not prone to warp or fail. But a brake job is expensive if done correctly because the rotors are indexed to the hub and should be cut on the car. I would insist on Ford brake pads if the car needs new pads. Typical front brake pad life is 20,000-26,000 miles, rear pads every 35,000-38,000 miles. Short of exotic and expensive Carbotech pads the best parts are Ford replacement Nothing else gives the same service and margin of safety.

Headlights are not as bad as one my think, if you drive a used SHO at night. All SHOs come from the factory with the headlights pointed at the ground. Readjust them and use PIAA super white bulbs and the headlamps are all you could hope for.

I have been told that:
Did you know that a large majority of ALL SHO's have the rear camber set wrong from the factory? That's why so many wear on the inside prematurely. A lesser amount also applies to the front tires as well. (My dad's '96, my '97, my friend's '98 AND my '95 all had this problem). $100.00 four wheel alignment is a must. (thanks to Dave Garber)

But honestly I never had that problem myself.

The big news is the lack the news, 89-95 SHOs have a history of problems with heater cores, brakes, clutches, thermostats and a few other areas. Ford must have been reading their mail because buying a 96-99 SHO - by all reports has been a problem free experience.

My SHO is my first domestic in 2 decades. I knew they were quick and competent, but I also wanted something with Japanese level of reliability and quality Ė but not sterile and boring. I found SHOtimes and a car with a zealous cult following. Disproving the limits of genetics, Ford made a reliable performance sedan with a soul. Itís anything but the limp numb-nuts sedans and coupes Ford made in the 70ís and 80ís. I found a community of knowledgeable, courteous, fun-to-be-with car guys who shared this passion for a great car with a soul. As one may expect there is much we learn from one another, and directly benefit. What I never expected what a built in extended family that cares and helps each other and gets together each year at a national convention. Most cars are an appliance like a toaster, My SHO has given me more satisfaction than any other car I have ever owned and the SHO community has been a large part of that. May I recommend you become active in the online SHO community while still shopping? Folks can help you look for cars, even help you look a car over and they will know what is normal and can help you avoid buying a mistake.

Update A very good informative assessment of the Gen III, Tim!!! Outstanding. It also answers a lot of questions. I wish you could have posted this sooner before my recent purchase - would have saved me a lot of research..........<g>. My Gen II made me aware of a lot of things to consider, though. Your write-up will stir a lot of pride in the ownership of the Gen III. Your info on the site, as well as other respondents, really helped to confirm & get the High Idle Surge problem fixed! 

The Ford dealership report is called an Oasis (trying to get a full printed copy). I did get a quick review before I bought the '98 (already ran a Carfax) & all servicing was performed on time (coolant, brake pads, tranny, RS-A's (yeah), etc. - except the cabin filter was replaced after I bought it & need to flush the PS). I bought mine for just a little less than your posted Avg. Trade-In w/ 33k on the clock. The SHO's are grossly devalued - which was good for me on the purchase. The "Bank" appraised the '98 at $16,700 for the loan - sight unseen..... :) I also purchased the FORD ESP Premium care 6 yr / 100k (discounted) - just in case (got a FPS ATX w/ Transgo in my '93 a year ago at 103k after the planetary gears went at 30 mph - non-warranty)!

I really hate that I have to use the '98 for business. It will be a great reliable ride w/ the long distance work I have to do - but I just don't want to throw it out there to the elements & the public now........I will love the miles but will also hate to put them on, too.....heheh. I may be allowed to park it in the garage - IF - I scrape the ice / frost off my wife's van....hmmmmm.

Thanks for your efforts Tim!!! You have it covered.


Bill Hayward

 


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