With a development budget of $3.5 billion, the Taurus was Ford’s most expensive project ever. It was also a Hail Mary for the company, which was in financial trouble.
And the SHO was the fastest version of the Taurus.
If the Taurus failed, so, too would Ford. It was so important to the success of the company that Ford restructured the engineering and design teams to work together on the new family sedan.
The Taurus’s design was so revolutionary that Ford kept its previous mid-size sedan, the LTD, in production at the same time, just in the new car failed — as the other American car executives predicted it would. Instead, Taurus was an enormous success, eventually becoming the bestselling car in America. The performance version, the Taurus SHO, used the same basic 3.0-liter Vulcan V-6, but instead of pushrods, it used four overhead cams and 24 valves. The DOHC 4-valve heads were designed, manufactured, and assembled by Yamaha in Japan.
The SHO used a Mazda-sourced 5-speed manual and was the most powerful front-wheel drive sedan in the world. The only four-doors quicker or faster in America were the BMW M5 (E34) and 750iL. It was a performance bargain.
But although Ford sold around 400,000 Tauruses per year, it didn’t come close to its target of 20,000 SHOs annually. Except for the first year with the new, optional automatic transmission and larger 3.2-liter SHOgun engine.
Why didn’t the SHO sell? Well, because it looked like a Taurus — then, the de rigueur family sedan for the person who didn’t care about performance.
So the SHO was a victim of the Taurus’ success.