|Mary and Raymond Hansen of Gillette
with their 1996 Ford Taurus SHO, which sustained an
engine failure just 16 days after the Hansens bought the
car at a local used-car lot. (Courtesy photo)
leave family fuming
GILLETTE, Wyo. -- Raymond and Mary
Hansen of Gillette decided to take their recently purchased 1996
Ford Taurus SHO for a drive in the Bighorn Mountains on a day in
"It was a beautiful day," Mary recalls.
But the trip turned sour when their
car's engine failed while they were driving down Powder River
Pass. In spite of the loss of power brakes and power steering on
the curving mountain road, they brought their crippled car
safely to a stop.
"We put on our seat belts and prayed a lot," Mary
The nightmare worsened when the Hansens found out repairs would
cost $5,000 more than they paid for the car just 16 days earlier
at a used-car lot in Gillette.
"We had it towed to our property, and it's been sitting
here for five months," she said in a recent telephone
interview. "It would be foolish to put $15,000 into a car
that you only paid $10,000 for."
The Hansens since have learned that engine problems with the
1996-99 Taurus SHO (Super High Output) are not an isolated
Timothy Wright of Decatur, Ill., established an Internet Web
site in 1997 dedicated to the SHO enthusiast. When complaints
started coming in about engine problems with the car, the issue
began to overshadow a love affair with the car among owners,
some of whom had been longtime Ford supporters.
"We are a group who thought we had a well-managed
domestic-car company we could believe in," he wrote on the
Web site, v8sho.com.
Wright estimates that up to 20 percent of the total production
run of 19,730 Taurus SHOs built in 1996-99 potentially have
suffered from engine failure.
"It is neither rare, nor caused by abuse or neglect,"
Wright said. "It is a design defect."
In October, Ford told business reporter Jeffrey McCracken of the
Detroit Free Press that the company knows about the problem, but
"only a small number of engines are potentially
As of last month, only eight complaints concerning engine
problems with the Taurus SHO had been filed with the National
Highway Safety Administration, McCracken reported.
A company spokesman told McCracken that Ford "regretted
that some customers are unhappy with the situation."
Attempts by the Journal to reach a Ford representative for
additional comment were unsuccessful.
"There hasn't been a recall, and there won't be a
recall," Hansen said. "They (Ford) won't take
According to auto.com, the SHO was a limited edition,
high-performance version of the standard Taurus four-door family
sedan, boasting a special interior, better handling and a
3.4-liter V-8 engine built for Ford by Yamaha of Japan. The car,
capable of a top speed of 140 miles per hour, sold new for an
average of $31,000, almost $7,000 more than a standard Taurus.
According to the Web site, the regular, non-SHO version of the
1996-99 Taurus was the third best-selling midsize car in the
country. A V-6 engine, also built for Ford by Yamaha, has seen
The problem with the SHO's Yamaha V-8 engine involves camshafts
that open and close valves inside the engine. Intake and exhaust
valves let in fuel and air to the cylinders or let out the
burned air-fuel mixture as exhaust.
A sprocket, or gear, turns each of the four camshafts in the
engine. But sprockets often have detached from the camshaft,
usually after the engine has accumulated more than 65,000 miles.
When the sprocket slips, valves can be bent and pistons broken.
If the car is moving at highway speeds when the failure occurs,
the engine is usually a total loss.
Hansen said there was little warning of their engine's failure,
which occurred at 88,000 miles on the odometer.
"There was a ticking sound for a couple hundred miles. My
husband thought it was because we didn't use high enough octane
gas. He put in octane booster thinking that would fix it.
"That was the only warning we had. We didn't have any
blowup. It just quit," she said.
McCracken reported that some owners said the telltale ticking
noise would come and go for weeks before the engine failed.
Still others said noise first would become noticeable seconds
before the car died.
Wright said catastrophic engine failure with the SHO is
avoidable by welding the sprockets to camshafts. The repair is
expensive, $500 to $600, but still a bargain compared to
replacing an engine. Wright paid $600 to have the sprockets
welded on his '97 SHO.
Hansen said she and her husband would have done the same repair
had they known about the problem.
"We want to get the word out so others don't have the same
problems that we've had," she said. "Someone's going
to get killed if Ford doesn't recall this car."
The Hansens traded in other cars and bought the SHO to be their
main source of transportation. The engine failure has put the
family into a financial bind, Mary Hansen said.
"We had to take a $10,000 loss," she said. "We
didn't take a vacation this year, and we probably won't have
much of a Christmas."
Contact reporter Jim Holland at 394-8415, or at firstname.lastname@example.org