September 23, 2010

The 19th annual national Taurus SHO convention kicked off a week of Taurus tomfoolery on Monday, July 12 at Dearborn's DoubleTree Hotel, located just minutes north of Ford World Headquarters in Michigan. A good many years have passed since Ford played a significant role in the SHO convention; last year, Blue Oval representatives took a 2010 SHO to convention number 18 in New Hampshire, but by and large the SHO community spent the last 10 years in limbo, feeling as though Ford completely abandoned their sport sedan faithful. So when the company invited the next SHO convention to Dearborn with promises of special events and surprises, many attendees were cautiously optimistic at how a new relationship might be forged with the manufacturer, especially when the vast majority of convention goers weren't necessarily on board with the significantly larger, fourth-generation "EcoSHO." That didn't stop 2010 SHO owners from attending--and enjoying--the event, nor did it dampen Ford's efforts to rebuild ties in support of their new flagship. If anything, it just made the Ford reps try even harder to reach this small, but extremely dedicated, enthusiast group, and to that end, they were decidedly successful.

Monday was the convention's official welcome day, and as such, activities primarily consisted of showing up and showing off. Nearly all the 100 or so cars in the lot were driven as opposed to trailered, and the few that were piggybacked weren't car show queens, but track day warriors toting race rubber and enough tools to fabricate a mobile SHO factory. Ford stepped in with a hosted pizza banquet Monday evening--their first of many contributions--and delivered a pair of 2011 SHOs for the sunburned attendees to check out during the dinner. Opening-day activities capped off with a presentation from retired mechanical cut-away designer Alan English, who explained why making cut-aways isn't as simple as buying extra blades for your reciprocating saw.

Tuesday dawned painfully early, as the convention's traditional car show was reduced to just a couple hours in the morning, after which everyone was invited to Ford World Headquarters for lunch. Owners were in the lot as early as 7am, repositioning and polishing their rides for the professionally judged show that included numerous categories. In addition to generation-specific groupings, awards were given for best engine, best "road warrior," and for folks like Jonathan Richard from Granby, Quebec, there was a SHO-powered category, since his white 2002 Taurus didn't come stock with the lumpy-cammed, 3.2-liter SHO V-6 and five-speed manual tranny stuffed under the hood. His project car actually began life as a taxi, and according to Jonathan, the swap was actually quite straightforward. His 2002 Taurus wasn't the only cool frankensteined ride at the show, but it definitely stood out as one of the best.

Other car show highlights included a factory-fresh 1989 SHO with just 10,000 original miles, endless combinations of under-hood customizations featuring the Yamaha's exotic intake manifold (which still has the ability to shock and awe the motoring public after 21 years), MRT's oh-so-sweet 2010 project SHO built last year for SEMA, and one of the all-aluminum AIV Mercury Sable/SHO test cars that Ford built in the mid-1990s. Blissfully absent were massive wings, crazy body kits, and cartoonish paint jobs so often seen in the world of front-wheel drive performance. SHO owners may be a special breed of Ford enthusiast, but they definitely favor performance over flamboyance.

The party moved to Ford World Headquarters for an early lunch, dished out to attendees while Advanced Engine Design and Development Manger Brett Hinds gave everyone an in-depth look at the EcoBoost V-6. Following a Q and A session where Ford's North American Car Marketing Manager Steve Ling suggested a 400 horsepower SHO might be on deck, SHO owners, Ford employees and the media fraternized outside HQ for about an hour, snapping photos and chatting about all things Ford. A police escort soon arrived for the third adventure of the day, which took cars and owners to Ford's Dearborn Proving Grounds for a very special tour around the facility. The day's official activities finally wrapped with another tour, this time at the nearby Automotive Hall of Fame where yet another custom 2010 SHO--this one from the folks at Mobsteel--awaited enthusiasts inside. Wednesday was another early day, as most of the attending SHO owners trekked 25 miles north to Waterford Hills Raceway for a day of laps around the 12-turn, 1.4 mile road course. The event was tailored to novices as well as veterans; all four SHO generations took to the track in various states of preparation, from bone stock street cars to mildly-prepped track machines, with one very cool exception--a curiously painted first generation SHO originally constructed in the early 1990s by Woodstock Motorsports, purpose-built as a road course dominator. Originally one of four "Ninja Turtle" SHOs to compete in the Firestone Firehawk Endurance Championship, this particular machine was located a few years ago by Ryan Pasch of Chicago, who restored the old SHO to its original racing livery. Back in the day, the Ninja Turtle SHOs were quite successful on the racing circuit, though for SHO convention number 19, Pasch managed only a few hard laps before brake issues sidelined him for the day.

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