IT'S ‘SHO-OFF’ TIME FOR TAURUS SHO CLUB MEMBERS AT NATIONAL SHO CONVENTION #20 By Mike Laney / Ford Performance Group Photos Courtesy of Mike Laney / Ford Performance Group CHARLOTTE, NC (July, 2011) – Much like the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Steve McQueen's Bullitt movie, the Ford Taurus SHO has amassed an almost cult-like following. Introduced in 1986, the Ford Taurus had already established itself as one of America's most popular family sedans, but in 1989, a new Super High Output (SHO) version took the otherwise tame Taurus to another level.
Powered from the remnants of a proposed mid-engine sports car program, the Taurus SHO made the high-performance “sleeper” sedan accessible to an entirely new market of car shoppers. The SHO offered performance that rivaled the best sports sedans from Europe's premium brands, but did so at an affordable price in a functional, all-American package. It's this lasting attraction that leads members of the National SHO Owners Club to gather once a year for their national convention, a five-day celebration of everything Taurus SHO. ...read more >
Starting with “Convention #1” in Peoria, IL, back in 1992, the SHO Club has simply added another number with each annual convention in different locations, meaning the 2011 event would be known simply as “SHO Convention #20.” This year's show was based in Charlotte, NC, but the Monday kickoff party took place at Roush-Fenway Racing's Concord, NC, facilities.
Some 80 Taurus SHOs from all four generations were in attendance there for VIP tours of the amazingly impressive Sprint Cup shop as well as a barbeque dinner. The competitive types could also try their hand at a mock NASCAR pit stop featuring a timed tire change. It was a great opportunity for SHO Club members who haven't seen each other since last year's convention to catch up with each other, as well as for first-time attendees to meet fellow SHO owners. Once back at the Charlotte hotel, many owners stayed up late preparing their cars for Tuesday's big event, the car show.
The sweltering heat was in full force during Tuesday morning's “Car SHO” but the enthusiasm of the SHO Club members never wilted. From an extremely low-mileage 1989 model to brand-new 2011 EcoBoost SHOs and everything in-between, the club's annual car show is a mecca for enthusiasts of Ford sports sedans. This was the chance for SHO owners to show off their rides and reveal what separates them from the pack. Custom paint jobs, aftermarket forced-induction systems, gorgeously polished intake manifolds and more were on display – and it became instantly clear just how passionate the members of the SHO Club were about their rides.
Judging came from two fronts: Everyone in attendance got to vote on award “classes,” such as Best Paint, Best Engine and the Best of SHOw, but a small selection of SHO experts weighed in on club awards for “Gold, Silver and Bronze” recognition for each generation SHO. As the car show concluded, four lucky SHO owners (one from each generation) were chosen to park their cars in front of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which was the next stop on the event schedule.
While some attendees went off on their own adventures for Tuesday afternoon, most of the club joined up at the NASCAR hall in downtown Charlotte for an interactive history lesson on America's most popular form of motorsports. Kerby Haltom, David Janco, Lucien Frederick and Allen Short were the four SHO owners who were picked to have their cars parked in front of the hall of fame, which features a literal timeline of some of NASCAR's most famous race cars, plus interactive displays for NASCAR fans of all ages.
There, you can go for a ride in a race car simulator, test your skills as a member of a pit crew, or even experience what more than 30 degrees of banking on a NASCAR speedway actually feels like. It was quite apparent that even those who claimed not to be big NASCAR fans were still massively impressed by everything NASCAR's Hall of Fame had to offer.
Wednesday saw the action shift to Virginia International Raceway, or VIR, just over the NC border in Alton, VA. The trek from Charlotte to Alton took approximately three hours, but for the track dogs of the group it was well worth the drive. VIR is one of America's most beautiful and challenging road courses, and all who participated seemed excited to take on the 3.27-mile track's 18 undulating corners. Many of the SHOs in attendance had been highly modified for track use, including racing brakes, shaved tires and racing slicks, upgraded suspensions and highly tuned engines. This allowed several of these SHOs to turn lap times similar to modern sports cars.
Marcel Timmons' impeccable Green 2nd Generation SHO featured a custom built, high-compression V-6, which was easily among the best-sounding cars on track, SHO or otherwise. Not only did it sound mean, but it also had the speed to keep up with a 400+hp Cadillac around VIR. After a long day of lapping VIR under extremely hot conditions, everyone appreciated the chance to return to the hotel for a bit of R&R.
One thing that really stood out about this group of SHO owners – and which was extremely apparent at VIR – was the camaraderie and “family” mindset this club has. Several SHOs ran into trouble at the track, but upon returning to the paddock each was met with offers of help from the rest of the group. Once everyone knew the driver was unhurt, all would turn their attention to the injured vehicle, climbing around and underneath to diagnose and hopefully fix the ill-fated car. For those SHOs that got completely disabled, the group immediately began coming up with a plan to get the stricken car home safely. Many car clubs claim to be more of a big family than anything else, but few have displayed it more prominently than the Taurus SHO Club.
Ryan Pasch, the man who many credit as a driving force behind bringing back the Taurus SHO for a fourth generation, agrees with the “family” atmosphere in the club. “The car brought us all together, but even after people have moved on to different vehicles, they still come back to the convention, because of the people here,” said Pasch. “We would do anything for each other. There have been many times – even during this convention – when cars have broken down, and we always stop to get them going again. And we're not going to leave until everyone leaves together. Over the years, we've spent so much time with each other, helping each other through so many issues, that we're having fun with it. It really does make you feel like you're part of a big family.”
Thursday was the last full day of action for the SHO Club's National Convention #20, and it began with even more racing action. A two-hour drive led the club to the quarter-mile drag strip in Rockingham, NC – better known as “The Rock.” While a quarter-mile sprint may not be the natural habitat for most Taurus SHOs, you'd never have known it on this day. Bracket racing saw SHOs of all generations facing off on the 105+ degree day.
By the end of the afternoon, former SHO owner Tim Pavlik became 2011's “King of the Hill” albeit in non-SHO. In fact, a variety of non-SHOs were in attendance over the course of the week, but owners of each either previously owned a SHO, or currently had one which wasn't ready to run just yet. Evidence indeed that the feeling of “family” here is so great that even those who no longer own a SHO still want to come back to the convention just to see the great friends they've made over the years.
Thursday night's banquet marked the official end of this year's convention and allowed members to enjoy a relaxed evening together. Following dinner, SHO Club president Ken Mallinson began giving away awards and door prizes. Marcel Timmons' 2nd Generation SHO was the night's big winner, taking home a Gen-2 Gold Award, Best Engine, Best of SHOw (judged) and the coveted SHO-N-Go award. The SHO-N-Go award is given to the club member who had the best overall performance throughout the course of the entire convention. Timmons did well at changing tires at Roush Fenway Racing, scored strong in the car show, lapped all day long at VIR, and took it to the field drag racing at The Rock!
The highlight of the evening was a pair of banquet speakers. First up was Lee Holman of the Legendary Holman & Moody racing outfit. Having grown up around motorsports, Holman is an absolute treasure trove of incredible stories on just about everything Ford Racing was involved in during the 1950s and ‘60s. We’ve said it before, and we'll say it again – we could have listened to Lee speak all night long! Holman was also excited to talk about his company's latest endeavors. They've created a new division, “HM Performance,” which has been tasked with creating performance parts and packages for new Ford vehicles, including the Ford Fiesta, Mustang and Taurus SHO.
Up next came Steve Ling, Ford's North American Car Marketing Manager. The Taurus SHO has been a labor of love for Ling, which is why he was so excited to let the SHO Club in on all of the updates and advancements in store for the 2013 model year. A new 2.0L EcoBoost inline four-cylinder engine has been added to the '13 Taurus lineup, and promises excellent performance and fuel economy. Styling has been freshened throughout the entire model line as well, with significant updates to both the exterior and interior. The news everyone in the room was excited to hear about, though, was the new optional SHO Performance Package. The package features upgraded brakes, suspension, wheels and tires, SHO specific exterior and interior styling, and more!
By Friday morning the convention had ended, but many attendees stuck around to enjoy some of the area's other automotive attractions. Several headed out westward to tame the “Tail of the Dragon,” the beautifully scenic, twisty road in SE Tennessee that features 318 curves in just 11 miles! Others remained in the Charlotte area to take tours of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Holman & Moody's race shop and even some Traxxas Off-Road truck racing.
After having spent the better part of a full week with the Taurus SHO Club, it's clear that they're one, close-knit group of Ford fans. It's also safe to say that they possess a bit of a different mindset than your typical Mustang fan. The SHO isn't a traditional collector car, but that's exactly what the members of the SHO Club love about it.
Perhaps Kirk Doucette, owner of NorthEast SHO, said it best: “Being different is what the Taurus SHO is all about,” he noted. “Having a four-door car that can compete with most two-door cars is what we're all looking for. We want the car to be able to compete with just about every platform – and most of the time, we can make that happen! The SHO Club is made up of die-hard fans … and yes, some may see us as a cult. But when it comes to Ford sports sedans, there's no better group out there to share the passion!”