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News Record, Gillette Wyoming

new 12/15/02

Local couple might join lawsuit over Ford SHO

BY SAM HERLEY News Record Writer 

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Raymond and Mary Hansen bought a 1996 Super High Output Ford Taurus in June.

Now, the Gillette couple find themselves among 10,000 potential plaintiffs against Ford after. two SHO owners in Illinois filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Chicago alleging that Ford Motor Co. concealed a defect with the car's high-performance V8 engine which, causes engine damage and high-cost repairs.

The complainants in the lawsuit are Larry Eck of Wheaton ' IL., and Timothy Wright of Decatur, IL

The lawsuit charges Ford with two counts of fraud and one count of breach of implied warranty and says that Ford sold a vehicle "not fit for ordinary driving." The lawsuit also seeks class-action status to gather other SHO owners with the same problem.

The Hansens say they experienced the same problem while driving their new car in the Big Horns in June two weeks after they bought it.

Coming down Powder River Pass, the engine began misfiring. Next, the "check engine" light came on only moments before the power steering and power brakes in the car shut down.

With continual attempts to turn the key, Raymond Hansen couldn't restore complete order but managed to get enough of the car's juices flowing to control it and steer it down the hill to a safe stop.

Since the breakdown, the car has sat and continues to sit outside the Hansens’ home. After looking for auto mechanics, the Hansens say they found the estimated repair bill to be $15,000, plus labor.

"The price to fix them is more than the car's worth," Mary Hansen said.

When new, the 1996-1999 SHO normally cost $31,000, or about $1,000 more than a regular Taurus. A 1996 SHO these days typically goes for around $11,000.

"When we got it for $1,000 below the book, I thought we had a steal"', Mary Hansen said.

Because of the SHO's unique engine system, customers who suffer from the same problem as the Hansens, find that they're having to pay usually at least $2,000 and as much as $20,000 to make the necessary repairs.

See SHO TAURUS on page 22

SHO Taurus: Ford says it's working to reduce repair costs

Continued from Page 19

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In Gillette, away from a major city where the tight parts would be easier to access, the Hansens eventually found themselves to be among the most expensive cases of the SHO's flaw.

"I've talked to four or five mechanics in town, and they don't want to touch it," Raymond said.

The problem the Hansens found and the one behind the lawsuit apparently stems from the car's engine.

The SHO's valves that open and close to let fuel and gas enter the engine's cylinders are moved by a part called the camshaft, which gets rotated by a sprocket. The engine's designers meant to have the sprocket firmly attached, but in the SHO it can break away from the camshaft and cause the valves to stop moving.

The domino effect continues as the valves then collide with, the engine's pistons. At best, a piston or valve breaks; at worst, if the car is moving about 60 mph or more' the entire engine block can be ruined.

The problem seems to arise in the car most often after it has driven more than 65,000 miles. Some drivers have reported cases of about 40,000 miles, which is still more than the engine's 36,000-mile warranty.

The Hansens, whose own car broke down at about the 88,000‑mile mark, said the owner's manual to their SHO states that the car shouldn't need a major tune-up until it reaches 100,000 miles.

I would say if you make it at best to 90,000 miles (without any problems), you're lucky," Raymond Hansen said.

On Dec. 3, Ford Public Affairs Manager Glenn Ray issued the following statement in an e-mail to The News‑Record: "We are aware of the concern on a small number of SHO engines. Our investigation indicates the condition is not widespread. Many vehicle repairs were covered under warranty and we have been working with our supplier to reduce the repair costs for the small number of engines potentially affected by the condition."

Friday, Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes released the same statement and added that she "could not comment on any of the specifics'' of the lawsuit.

At Thunder Basin Ford in Gillette, a manager who preferred to remain unnamed for this story said the dealer had heard of the problem with some SHO's, But, he said, Thunder Basin has sold or worked with very few SHO's over the years and has not seen any, such camshaft-sprocket problems in cars from its lots.

"(The SHO) is not something we've sold a whole bunch of. ... We're always standing by and standing behind our customers," the manager said.

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