Though impressive in stock form, this V8 SHO from the SHO Shop was even more so, especially on the track.
The heart of the matter, a 3.4L V8 with a twisted bundle of snakes dual-runner intake. The noise made when the secondary runners kicked in greatly amused the gang of Miata drivers at Sears Point.
The 13-inch front Baer Brakes gave the SHO some serious stopping power. The rears were upgraded with cross drilled rotors and matching Carbon Metallic pads. This Taurus regularly out-braked lightweight Miatas at a local Miata club event.
By RICHARD HOLDENER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE AUTHOR
When first introduced, the SHO Taurus sported a nasty Yamaha-designed V6, replete with a dual-runner intake manifold, four valves per cylinder and distributorless ignition. The high-winding Super High Output 3.0 pulled like a healthy V8, especially once up on the cams. Perhaps the best thing about the SHO was the fact that the super sleeper sedan was blessed with a 5-speed tranny, something nearly absent in today's lineup of front-wheel-drive performance sedans.
Sadly, this list included the second-generation SHO Taurus, which Ford, in its infinite wisdom, saddled with a slush-box. Why take a marvelous new platform with superior chassis rigidity, add a larger motor with (as God intended) eight cylinders to improve the one complaint about the old V6 (a lack of low-speed torque), only to deny us the ability to hear the sweet music of the DOHC motor during a crisp downshift? If you're going to relegate us to self-shifters, have a heart and throw in a paddle-shifting quasi-Tiptronic, or a least a set of lightning rods (anyone remember those?) so we can pretend.
No such luck. Though the modem SHO is evolutionarily soft compared to the older V6 model, in much the same way as the Nissan Z, there are strong arguments in favor of new SHO ownership, especially a modified one. What's that you say, modified SHOs? Sure, just about any performance car out there has someone who wants to make it faster. Isn't that what performance cars are all about? That's where the SHO Shop comes in.
As the name implies, the SHO Shop in Huntington Beach, Calif., made a name for itself by supplying the early V6 SHO market with everything from suspension systems to superchargers. It was only natural for the SHO Shop to continue its line of performance products to include the new V8 car. Lucky for us, we got a chance to sample a V8 test car with numerous performance goodies, both on the street and at Sears Point during (of all things) a Miata Club event.
That the SHO was suitably modified by the SHO Shop directly affected our subjective opinions of the self-shifter, not to mention the lap times. With only a few minor bolt-ons, the automatic SHO motored around the famous track with authority, never breaking, overheating or showing any signs of distress. More on the driving impressions after we discuss the modifications that made it such a blast to drive.
While the SHO Shop has a ton of mods for the V6 cars, the V8 has proven itself much more difficult to modify. The mods to the test car were typical of most aftermarket tuners, and centered around the three main performance criteria: handling, braking and horsepower. The first step in improving the SHO was naturally to increase the power output. This was accomplished by installing an under drive crank pulley to reduce the parasitic losses in the accessories. Slowing down the accessories freed up some additional ponies.
Each performance component was thoroughly tested on the in-house Dynojet chassis dyno before making it available to the public. Working with the under drive pulley was a cold air intake system. The cold air system replaced the restrictive factory airbox with large cone filter. Knowing (through testing) that an open filter breathing hot engine air was less than optimal, the SHO Shop opted to enclose the filter inside a custom housing that sealed itself against the hood when closed. The housing ensured that the free-flow filter had a constant source of ambient air through an opening in the fenderwell.
Since the throttle body and mass air meter were already sufficiently large at 78mm and 80mm, the SHO Shop concentrated instead on the exhaust portion of the power equation. The exhaust is one area that the newer 580 has all over the older V6, and has to be heard to be believed. The rumble of a VS is definitely there, accompanied by the melodic shriek of a wailing V8. Think slightly subdued, older F1 V8 with a bit more bass. None of the older V6s, regardless of power output, sound anywhere near as good as the stock VS with the 580 Shop exhaust.
Another track trick performed by the SHO Shop was the removal of one of the three catalytic converters. The trio of cats restricted the flow of the VS. so removal of even a single cat seemed to improve flow enough to increase the power output. All told, the motor and exhaust mods were worth 27 hp to the wheels, from a peak of 185 hp to 212 hp.
Sure, the mild mods to the VS would never allow it to run heads-up with one of the older V6s equipped with the SH0 Shop Vortech supercharger kit, but it made a noticeable improvement in top-end power, something we took advantage of at Sears Point. During our visit, there was discussion about a supercharger kit for the V8, so give them a call to express your interest if you're of the mind that excess power is just enough.
With power up, the 580 Shop turned its attention to the suspension and brakes. The mods were minor but effective. The stock springs were ditched in favor of a set of custom-wound jobs, while the stock electronic shocks were retained. Running the shocks in full stiff mode made a noticeable difference in track performance, while the softer setting made the drive to and from the track a pleasant journey. When we left, the 580 Shop was working on a manual control for setting adjustment, which may be ready by the time you read this.
Another improvement in handling came from the addition of a larger rear sway bar, up from the 19mm stock diameter to 26mm. The rear bar reduced body roll and increased rear roll stiffness, reducing the front-heavy sedan's natural tendency to understeer. The SHO Shop also installed tubular rear control arms to reduce deflection inherent in the stock design. While the suspension mods may seem minor, when combined with the dramatic improvements in chassis rigidity offered by the platform, they made for one surprisingly rapid mode of corner-conquering transportation.
The two other notable changes to the standard SHO were in the rolling stock and braking apparatus. The stock wheels and tires were ditched for a set of 245/45x17 Yokohama AO32Rs mounted on 1 7x7.5 Team Dynamic alloy wheels. Though larger and wider than the factory 16-inch wheels, the 17s actually weigh about a pound less per wheel. The beefy rubber allowed some pretty high cornering speeds. Keeping all that speed in check was a set of 13-inch PBR brakes from the Sultans of Stop at Baer Racing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a set of brakes designed to stop a 400-hp ZR-I Corvette will work on a 250-hp Taurus.
The subjective opinion on the street was that the 3.4L VS still lacked low-end torque, especially compared to market competitors' supercharged 3.8L V6s (Pontiac GTPs) and the manual-shifted 3.0L (Nissan Maximas). Once the revs were up, the high-rpm VS pulled hard right to the shift point, a feeling absent in the pushrod-motored GTP and, to some extent, the 3.0L Maxima. A VS at speed is a joy to feel and hear. The SHO Shop-modified version of the Taurus was everything the stock car was, only more. All hunkered down with blacked-out 17-inch wheels and tires, the lowered sedan looked almost menacing.
Rather than head for our favorite stretch of back road for some serious canyon carving, we got the opportunity to really put the spurs to it on an honest-to-goodness race track. As luck would have it, instructor chores beckoned once again, this time at a Miata Club event at Sears Point race track, near Napa, Calif. Being the consummate SH0 enthusiast, Vadim Fedorofski offered up the services of his trusty VS SHO for testing during my Sears Point visit. Not one to pass up a chance for some hot-lap testing, I agreed to run the car hard but bring it back in one piece. The drive from Orange County to Napa gave me an even better indication of the road manners of the SHO. This thing seemed to be built to run triple-digit speeds for hours on end, not that I would ever run a car on the freeway at way over the legal limit- heavens no. This SHO just gobbled up the miles with nary a complaint, and got surprisingly good mileage while doing it.
Instructing the Miata drivers gave me an ideal opportunity to put the car through its paces, even with three other passengers on board. Next to the nimble little Miatas, the SHO sedan looked like a trawler, or at least a tug.
Important note to self: The usually prone-to-understeer SHO will oversteer with a full tank of gas and four passengers on the downhill lefthander, in a big way! Hoots and hollers were the order of the day. The more astute drivers were mighty impressed by the braking prowess as we passed right by their normal braking points only to throw out the anchor, trail in slightly and power out of the corners.
Praise came all day from the Miata drivers who watched in fascination as the SHO regularly circled the track at speeds that defied the Ford's girth. The springs, bars, and wheel and tire combo really showed their worth. The SHO maintained a relatively flat cornering attitude, thanks to the higher spring rates and larger rear sway bar. I did notice a bit of wheel spin in some of the turns, indicating that it might benefit from a limited slip diff (Quaife).
Perhaps the best display of the SHO's abilities came when I finally got a chance to wring out the car for all it was worth. No passengers, no lead-follow, just me and fellow instructor Gary Sheehan (driving his own Miata) going head-to-head. The 3.4L Taurus had power on the 1.8L Mazda, but weight was well in favor of the Miata. A 5-speed manual versus an automatic- no contest there. With pluses and minuses for both vehicles, it was going to be a good race.
About the only place the quick little roadster could gain ground on the SHO was through the twisty section of the track known as the esses. The power of the modified VS made itself known even on the shortest straights. The handling through every turn except the tight esses was flawless, but the most impressive feature was the time made up under braking.
15608 Graham St.
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The minor bolt-on modifications increased the power output of the SHO V8 from 185 hp to 212 hp. The power difference was both welcome and noticeable.
This cold air intake increased the power output of the V8 motor by 8 hp. Notice the rubber seal around the top that seals against the hood. Normally, the battery seals the inner edge, but this SHO had received a trunk Mounted battery.
Text from Mustangs & Fast Fords - Feb 1999