Ford Taurus SHO V6: Unveiling the Marvel of Six-Cylinders

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When Ford made the decision to produce a high-performance V6 in the eighties, they turned heads when they asked Yamaha to develop and produce it.

The Ford SHO (Super High Output) V6 is a DOHC engine produced for the Taurus SHO from 1989 to 1995. The engine was produced as a result of a contract between Ford Motor Company and Yamaha. The engines were made in 3.0L and 3.2L displacements, producing 220 hp and 200 - 215 lb-ft of torque.

The early nineties were a turbulent time for the American consumer. With unemployment rising, many families watched their purchasing power deteriorate. Even the election of a new President who promised to fix the economic woes of middle-class families could not bolster the nation’s confidence. Yet, as bad as Americans felt, car companies struggled, too. Consumers began to reject the offerings of US-based automakers in favor of more fuel-efficient and reliable imports. Though the Big Three attempted to win back buyers, many of their attempts were brushed aside. The late eighties and early nineties saw the competition for car customers heat up. Many import manufacturers were opening up plants inside the US borders, offering affordable sedans and small SUVs that fit American family needs. One of the most prolific attempts to win back customers came from Ford with the development of the SHO V6. Ford banked on Japanese motorcycle maker Yamaha's ability to help them restore the muscle car glory of the sixties and seventies. Let’s take a closer look at the Ford SHO V6.

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The Evolution Of The SHO V6

Even though the Ford Taurus SHO V6 was introduced in 1989, its development began about five years earlier when Ford enlisted Japanese motorcycle maker Yamaha to design and build a high-performance engine. While the initial plan was to use the SHO in either a mid-engine sports car or a souped-up version of the Ranger, the engine ended up in the FWD Taurus. (Ford did produce a one-off version of the SHO Ranger with the help of Roush Racing).

The early versions of the SHO V6 engine featured a 3.0L displacement. Ford engineers had been working on a new 3.0L engine in the mid-eighties called the “Vulcan.” Yamaha used this engine as the primary platform for their design. There’s no doubt that Yamaha took its experience in making concept engines for Toyota and other companies and applied its precise engineering skills to build a quality, high-performance engine.

In 1993, Ford added a new displacement to the SHO family, selling both the older 3.0L and the new 3.2L engines simultaneously. While the 3.0L continued to be the standard engine, the newer engine with its larger bore (3.62 inches) was an option that could be ordered from a dealer, depending on availability. At the time, the Ford Taurus was the most potent FWD sedan on the planet.

The production run of the SHO V6 lasted only a few years, but sales were successful enough to lead Ford and Yamaha to create a 3.4L SHO V8 for the ‘96 model. The V6 SHO engine was scrapped in favor of the more powerful motor, but after killing the SHO in 1999, Ford brought it back with a 3.5L Eco-boost engine in 2010. (The Ecoboost was not developed in partnership with Yamaha).

The Features Of The Ford SHO V6

When Yamaha designed the SHO V6, many people considered it a work of absolute perfection.

The motor had a cast iron block with aluminum heads and a 24-valve DOHC configuration. The engine was oversquared with a variable-length intake manifold. The SHO engine was a powerhouse for a V6, producing 220 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0L SHO had a redline of 7,000 rpms and turned the Taurus into a raging bull, able to knock out 6.5 second 0 - 60 mph times.

Yamaha used the same bore and stroke as the Vulcan base engine (a 3.5-inch bore along with a 3.15-inch stroke), but they changed almost everything else. The motor had strong internals, dual overhead cams, and 24 valves (two intake valves and two exhaust valves per cylinder).

Ford mated the new motor to an MTX transmission, and did not offer an automatic transmission until it released the 3.2 variant in 1993. In the first couple of years (‘89 - ‘91), over 15,000 SHO Taurus models were sold, which exceeded Ford’s expectations.

One of the great things about the SHO engine was that it was a very efficient engine, burning fuel cleanly, enabling the car to get an astounding 34 mpg on the highway. (This was an excellent figure for a V6 engine).

In 1993, Ford decided to increase the bore size to 3.62 inches while retaining the same stroke (3.15 inches). The power did not improve due to a weaker cam setup. However, Americans embraced the new motor, as sales for the ‘93 - ‘95 Taraus SHO increased nationwide.

Ford discontinued the SHO V6 in 1995, working with Yamaha to develop an all-aluminum SHO V8 for the 1996 model. The V8 had a displacement of 3.4L, but the engine was not very good. Constant reports of camshaft from its sprockets began to surface, and in 1999, Ford scrapped the SHO until a rebirth in 2010.

The Specs Of The Ford SHO V6

The following list of specifications for both the Ford Taurus 3.0L and 3.2L SHO V6 engine are listed below.

Specification 3.0L SHO V6 3.2L SHO V6
Production 1989 - 1992 1993 - 1995
Model Ford Taurus Ford Taurus
Displacement 3.0L (182.2 cubic inches) 3.2L (194.7 cubic inches)
Cylinders 60 degree V6 60 degree V6
Block Material Cast iron Cast iron
Head Material Aluminum Aluminum
Valves 24 valves 24 valves
Cam Position Dual Overhead Dual Overhead
Bore 3.5 inches 3.62 inches
Stroke 3.15 inches 3.15 inches
Horsepower 220 hp 220 hp
Torque 200 lb-ft 215 lb-ft
Fuel Injection Sequential Sequential
Ignition Electronic Coil Pack Electronic Coil Pack
Compression Ratio 9.8:1 9.8:1
Interference No No
Timing Belt/Chain Timing Belt Timing Belt

What Are Some Of The Engine Issues With the SHO V6 Engines?

As great as these engines were, some issues have been reported with them.

Oil Leaks

There have been reports of leaking gaskets on the front seals, valve cover, and oil pan gaskets. While any engine can develop leaks if not properly maintained, the SHO engines have a history of minor, inconvenient oil seepage. If you discover an oil leak, it is best to use an aftermarket gasket, as the technology has improved in the last thirty years.

Camshaft Failure

The 3.2L SHO used a milder cam setup compared to the 3.0L. Since this is the case, the camshaft gear can slip and create damage. Since the SHO is an interference engine, severe damage can result from this issue. Most owners try to swap the camshaft from a 3.0 to a 3.2 or have the gears welded or pinned.

What Are The Favorite Modifications Made To The SHO Engine?

Many owners of the 3.0L believe that swapping the 3.2L into their Taurus will create more power since the later engine has a larger bore, but this is simply not the case. The 3.0 has a more aggressive intake camshaft, and both SHO engines share the same power outputs.

While some aftermarket purveyors make turbos, any attempt to increase the power of the high-performance SHO will likely cost you money. Ensure that you have upgraded both the suspension and braking systems before working on improving the power output of the engines.

What About the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 in the 2010 SHO?

Ford introduced the SHO nameplate for the Taurus again in 2010 after over a decade of absence. While the new Ecoboost motor was not a Yamaha engine, it was a direct-injected twin-turbo powerplant that produced 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The engine used a Garrett twin turbocharger and was sold with a Performance Package that included upgraded suspension,  steering, and better braking and stability control systems. The SHO Taurus would be the basis for Ford’s line of SHO Police Interceptor vehicles that were produced in 2013 - 2019.