Car Review: Sleeper Status.

The term “sleeper” is a very special moniker in the car world. It is a status given to only a select few. A rough definition says that in order for a car to be a sleeper, it must give off the impression of being slow, dimwitted and generally lame when in reality, it is nothing of the sort. Justin Moore’s 91 Ford Taurus SHO has the characteristics of a true sleeper.

Purchased at the ripe old age of 15, Justin’s SHO has been in his life for nearly 10 years. It has traveled all over the country, but lives most of it’s life in the quite suburbia of Knoxville. Justin bought the car in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where it was sitting under a tree waiting to be saved from the crusher. The former owner, who Justin kindly describes as “an old red-neck”, had left the car sitting under that tree for two years. Suffice it to say, the SHO was not running.

Justin, a true car guy even at such a young age, performed a standard tune up to try and breath life into his new acquaintance. Plugs and wires did nothing, but a further inspection revealed that the car had jumped timing. Once that was addressed, his SHO was up and running and the proof was in the smoke.

“We used to call it ‘old smoky’,” said Justin. The original 3.0, Yamaha built V6 had bad rings and valve seals. The car smoked so badly that at the age of 16, Justin was given a ticket for passing a bus, only to find out that he received his ticket because the cop followed the smoke trail to Justin’s home.

Now, for those of you unaware, the Ford Taurus SHO is a very special vehicle. It was a joint effort between Ford and Yamaha that created the car and turned it into a cult classic. The 3.0 liter V6 made 220 hp and was matted to a 5sp, Mazda built manual transmission. Car and Driver Magazine recorded a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds. This was in 1989. There was a reason the SHO stood for “Super High Output.”

Justin is honest when he mentioned he initially wanted a Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T as his first car. It wasn’t until his dad pointed out the SHO, that his interest in the strange car began to grow. “My dad told me about how much faster the SHO was compared to the GS-T.”

With his dreams of the Diamond Star behind him, Justin was forced to bond with his Taurus fast. With in four months of owning his SHO, the bad rings and seals finally gave up the ghost. A new engine from a 93 was sourced and swapped in. Since then, the 93 engine has received new rings, bearings and crank and the car has seen three transmissions. It may seem like a lot of maintenance, but this is an American car built in the early 90s. As it sits now, it also has 300,000 miles. Justin purchased the vehicle with a lowly 143,000.

As of this writing, Justin has purchased another SHO, but this time it’s a second generation automatic with the larger, 3.2 liter block. The plan is to swap the 3.2 block into the first gen, which has suffered oil pump problems, anchoring it to its parking space. Once swapped, Justin’s SHO will be road ready once again, but it will be sporting even more torque.

Justin’s Taurus SHO can be easily seen as a member of his family. It has taken him across the country and too numerous towns. He has had a long list of other vehicles, including two other SHOs and turbocharged 240sx built by him. But none of those cars have made quite the impression as Justin’s pearl white, sleeper.

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