SHO-down: 2 Generations of Ford’s Super Sleeper, the Taurus SHO

For October 10, 2020, our used car find is not one but two great-looking examples of Ford’s famous sleeper sedan, the Taurus SHO. One is a first-generation 1989 model year with a 5-speed manual transmission and 46k miles. The other comes from the second generation (1993) and features an automatic gearbox and just 41k miles.

Here’s what makes these cars special.

The Ford Taurus was a revolutionary vehicle when it was released in 1985 (as a 1986 model), ushering in a new era of aerodynamic styling and a renewed focus on quality at the Dearborn automaker. It was a hit with both buyers and critics alike. Car and Driver immediately named it to its 10 Best list, calling it “friendly to look at, functional to use, and full of the world’s best technology.”

But the engineers weren’t done yet. They were busy working on a Super High Output (SHO) variant, which appeared four years later, sporting a beautiful high-revving 24-valve V6 engine from Yamaha, applying 220 hp to the front wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox. The powertrain was capable of launching the sedan to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds — faster than anything else in its class.

The SHO also featured unique bodywork and badging, as well as a host of suspension upgrades that help it to handle surprisingly well for something based on a cushy family sedan.

MotorWeek’s John Davis it called the SHO “the first true American sports sedan” in this video review at the time:

The SHO was updated substantially for 1992, when the Taurus launched its second generation. Changes include updated styling inside and out, though it takes a somewhat keen eye to spot the differences. Ford’s designers apparently didn’t want to mess with success and kept the overall look largely the same.

Under the hood, the same Yamaha-built V6 returned for the second generation, still making 220 hp. The most notable update to the mechanicals came in 1993, when Ford introduced an optional 4-speed automatic transmission for the first time in the SHO. It proved to be a popular choice, opted for by about two-thirds of buyers at the time.

While a manual gearbox is always cool, especially in a sleeper sedan, a SHO automatic is well worth consideration because it comes with a slightly larger 3.2 liter V6, which makes the same 220 hp but ups torque by 15 lb-ft to 215. This means that slushbox version holds its own with the manual in overall performance.

The examples we found for sale today feature the best of both worlds. One is a first-year car with the manual gearbox. The other is a first-year automatic. Both look extremely clean inside and out and have fewer than 50k miles on the clock.

So which is the better buy? It’s a tough call.

The first-year car is likely more collectable because it represents everything that made the SHO a revelation when it first hit showrooms. And the rather high asking price of $11,500 certainly reflects that.

The second gen car, on the other hand, has even fewer miles and is offered for $3600 less. That’s a substantial difference, especially if you don’t mind the automatic gearbox.

But perhaps the best idea is not to choose one. Instead just buy both. That gets you two great examples of a great American sports sedan for less than $20,000. Which is a heck of a lot of car — or cars — for the money.

Vehicle 1 Details

  • 1989 Ford Taurus SHO
  • 46k miles
  • 3.0 liter V6 engine (220 hp)
  • 5-speed manual transmission
  • silver on grey leather
  • for sale by owner for $11,500
  • Tiburon, California
  • link to craigslist listing HERE

Vehicle 2 Details

  • 1993 Ford Taurus SHO
  • 41k miles
  • 3.0 liter V6 engine (220 hp)
  • 4-speed automatic transmission
  • silver on grey leather
  • for sale by owner for $7900
  • Spokane, Washington
  • link to craigslist listing HERE

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