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The Taurus SHO is a rare kind of car. The acronym SHO stands for Super High Output. At about 220 flywheel horse power stock, that may seem like a little extreme for the power output but in 1989 if you wanted a fast sedan you'd have to buy a BMW. It is plenty fast enough though to warrant a decent sized following, eight years and counting beyond the discontinuation of the trim level. SHO slallom
Engine Most of the interest in this car is due to the V6 engine. It is a Yamaha and Ford designed 183ci 24 valve dual overhead cam naturally aspirated power house. The heads and intake are aluminum and the shortblock is iron, the intake being the eye-catcher. The intake is huge by any standard.
Other than the studs, bolts and hoses it is all aluminum. The dual stage runner design is set for the long tubes to intake air during standard operation but once the car hits around 3950 RPMs the butterflies open and the powerband shifts to the right for another surge of power.

My car is an odyssey all by itself. I bought it in October or November of 2002 from a junkyard. The man there said it had engine trouble, and they were correct. It was useless. I still liked it though, and it seemed a lot nicer than my 1987 Taurus GL. I flirted for a little bit with dumping the Vulcan in it to make a sort of faux SHO but I lost the steam on that idea when the cops tagged my project and towed away the donor car.
Now I should mention that my experience prior to this operation was limited to changing brake pads, shoes and installing a water pump in a 1994 Topaz GS. That didn't stop us! I started dismantling the car piece by piece. My friend and I had really nothing but some sockets and youth going for us. Insanity commenced and we are still paying for our mistakes.
The first and longest lasting issue were the locknuts on the wheels. Not having any power or know-how, I started slicing the front two up. Eventually I mangled the drivers side one so badly I had to cut a hole through my wheel to chop the entire stud off. Don't do this.
Eventually we managed to jack up the front of the car and remove the engine, complete with subframe, transmission and suspension. Without getting that wheel off we couldn't remove the transmission in the engine bay. Once we had it out this way we seperated the engine and tranny (my friend and his dad lifted it up off the subframe with a chain and a bar). I got $200 for it though, which was probably more of a sympathy present.
I was renting the spot where the car was from a buddy I used to live with and I had to move it. I didn't have a garage but my brother had a two car, but only one car! He graciously offered the space to me. If only he had known!
Subframe, engine, suspension removed from car
Locknut progress number 1
Side view on Alki
With it at my brothers house things started going faster. I purchased an engine on eBay for $360 which, unfortunately was not as fresh as I had hoped. It had been sitting out for who knows how long and all of the aluminum had oxidized and the shortblock was a rusty. Looks aside we started taking the engine apart, eventually tearing it down to the shortblock and checking the connecting rod and cap bearings. Those looked good though I plastigauged them to be sure. Once they were smothered in assembly lube we torqued the caps back up and flipped the engine around to look at the pistons.
Luke vs. damper bolts Plastigauge
Dirty! Dirty! Dirty. Everything, everywhere is dirty. The block, the pistons, the subframe, the steering rack, the knuckles... So I start by cleaning the pistons. The engine stand was priceless in this entire process; the stand made turning and moving the engine almost effortless.
Once I finished cleaning the pistons I started going at the lock nut again. Still to no avail, but I was getting farther.
Back to the engine, I started checking cross hatches, piston rings and cleaning the head gasket material off of the block. I didn't end up planing or checking for warping, but I couldn't see any evidence that would lead to that from the engine's looks so I just ended up hoping that all would be well. When I got the heads on they appeared to seat very well.
One of the very large sticking points we had on this engine was the frozen damper bolt. We tried air tools, long wrenches, holding the other end with a crowbar and a bolt in the flywheel but nothing worked. Eventually I just packed up the engine in the Impala and took it to my buddies house. His dad stood on a breaker bar and had his son hit it with a 4 foot sledge hammer. That worked!
Dirty piston
Locknut progress number 2
Loading engine in the Impala
This was a turning point for me. A problem that had plauged us longer than all but one other was finally taken care of. I was now able to start repairing things! No longer were we attempting to take something off, now we were able to put new things on and start rebuilding it. First to come off was the oil pump. I cleaned the surfaces all up and replaced the front main seal and the gaskets. The timing belt tensioner was also replaced.
Heater core comparison The longest auxiliary project during this rebuild was definitely the heater core replacement. Starting with the dash, I hunted around and found every screw I could to take out. In retrospect it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Once I got into the dash I pulled the HVAC plenum, replaced the blower motor and the core and reglued the halves back together.
We just couldn't get any satisfaction putting things together. This was a detour in my rebuild. We went from just fixing up the engine to the more expensive part of replacing most everything that touched the knuckles. The steering rack, outer and inner tie rods, the lower control arms the sway bar endlinks and the wheel bearings. I ran out of money to do the struts and springs. Luke cleaning the subframe
And I finally got that wheel lock off.
Cutting the wheel lockHole in wheelWheel stud
Now the engine is being cleaned, the dash is back together for the most part, the subframe is being cleaned and I'm starting to amass parts. At this point we're into the three year mark and I've spend about $2000, including the car and the engine. The transmission is in unknown condition, I don't have a clutch or axles and I still haven't piloted this thing. We slowly trudge on purchasing things slowly like the steering rack, the control arms and various hardware to replace the broken or misplaced bolts and brackets.
I started experiencing a level of despair that eclipsed the other feelings felt during the course of this rebuild. Only once since then have I sunk lower. I was at a point where I was married and trying to provide for a family. I had to leave a job do to circumstances and got a lower paying job that wasn't very good. Also I really was not up to this project. My experience is lacking and that is an incredible understatement. I am a computer tech, and cars are completely different. In addition with the project spread over the time and two different locations I had no idea where brackets went and where I put those bolts and these bolts and so on. I came very close to saying I was going to scrap the project, but stopped short. Part of the problem is that neither my wife, who originally hated this car brother or friends would let me stop since I had spent so much time, energy and money. It took time but my will returned and we continued.
The subframe took a very long time to clean; probably longer than doing the little bits on the short block. The reason being not even Simple Green could cut through the grease and dirt left by the engine and the various suspension parts. Part of this was my fault because we snapped the joints off the CVs in our haste and that grease is not meant to go anywhere. Dirty axles
Masking the short block
Masking the heads
Luke spent most of the time cleaning the subframe and removing the axles and knuckles from it while I started cleaning the metal on the short block and masking the machined edges and taps for painting. At this point I decided that a nice silver color would be in order. Silver and black on a "titanium" and black car was decidedly appealing.
Masking the shortblock, heads and especially the intake was no easy feat. More than skill it took patience and ingenuity to mask off all of the machined edges, bolts and holes. It would be disaster to accidentally get paint in the internal parts of the heads and a major nuisance on the studs and tapped holes.
The end product was worth it though.
Shortblock painted Side view of the shortblock
Engine painted
Luke and I did the painting, and after that was done we moved to other projects. He decided to go put the interior back together again. The low coolant light housing was broken, and replacements appear to have been all year specific so we ended up just glueing the bulb in and hooking it all up. It would be a long time until the interior was back together.
Along this same time I managed to pick up a couple new recruits. The cutest little butts on the side of the pecos. Where ever that is. I'm sure they are. Or at least that's what I tell their mother...
And I would like to point out that I actually got their mother to help. Not only did she provide some support in wrenching but she applied the RTV to the block prior to installing the oil pan. I think that its a personal victory for her. Women's Liberation! If only I can get her to do her own oil changes, but she tells me "that's man's work". Figures.
Luke hard at work
Little people
Go Team RTV, GO!
Now around this point I was at a loss. I still had a ton of parts (I had two engines, mind you) that were not attached, an empty engine bay and a whole lot of absent time. I was driving 45 minutes to church, 15 minutes to my brothers and another 45-50 minutes back, which ended up taking too much time. So to that effect I decided to put the engine in the car. It actually wasn't very hard. It took about 2 hours to get it settled in properly and torqued down. The most annoying part was holding up the tranny side of the engine since the tranny wasn't in it.
Loadin' her up again
Central Command Center Headquarters Base
Now that my engine was being held up by wood blocks, I decided I should tackle the transmission that I have neglected up until now. After I unsuccessfully tried to crack open my own tranny case I took it down to a Federal Way shop and they inspected it, cleaned it, showed me it and gave it back. They said the 1-2 synchros were getting a bit worn down but were still useable so I just had 'em tighten it up and give it back.
Once we installed the tranny it become too hard to go back and forth between Bothell when I could just do the little stuff at home, so I got my friends to load it back up (same ones who loaded it the first time, four years before!) and took her home.
The first night I had it home I worked from 6 until midnight, and the same the next night. However that was the most grace I was going to get since I was abandoning my wife with my kids. I cleaned up the engine bay, tightened all of the connections I could find, tried to add every little device that I thought was missing. Got to fill up the fluids, using Redline in the tranny, AMSOil in the steering, Castrol in the engine (probably a good $100 in just oils), and Propylene glycol for the coolant mixture. Eventually once everything was buttoned up I could start it.
*cough* *cough* Well this was expected to an extent. We dropped a tiny bit of oil down the cylinders and, well, it worked. However the bigger problem was the idle. It was HORRIBLE. There's a pretty funny video that I made that I will link to here. Nonetheless, the idle would immediately go up and down, up and down, up and down like a sine wave every second or two. Found out that my X2J was bad. Pulled it out on a whim from my friend and it smelled like burnt soldier. I guess the magic smoke escaped under cover of the oil smoke! We replaced it with the original 90 computer and I instead of the sine wave RPM, if I didn't hold the accelerator it would just die. I solved that one too. You see back, way back, before I even took the original engine out I had taken the MAF sensor out, inspected, cleaned and broke it. I didn't realize the implications at the time but my sweater caught on one of the electrodes and snapped it. I replaced the MAF with the 92 that came with the engine and it worked perfectly!
Did you hear that? We had successfully performed an engine swap over the course of FIVE YEARS! That was pretty big to me. The story ends here, but that's not entirely true. This project is going on and on, and will probably never end. I have a list of broken things, a wish list, and being that it is getting older and older I will work on it until it does or I do. Or I sell it. Either way, it was an experience I will never forget, and if not for the car, I know more about it and engines in general than I ever could have learned on my own.
For the full, unadultered gallery, go to here for the official gallery that spans four years. Thanks for reading! Check out the technical sections and email me if you noticed problems, inconsistencies or whatever at dmf at meumonus dot com.