Flip This Car: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO—Part Six

By Christopher Smith

September 12, 2010


As of 11:31am on Sunday, September 12, 2010, my relationship with the vehicle affectionately known as the Old ’89 drew to a close. As the previous five articles in this series suggest, I had plenty of fun behind the wheel. But now, the burning question is whether or not I actually flipped this car right and proper. Of course, I’d be a lousy scribe if I answered such a question in the first paragraph, so first, a bit of suspense.
These last few weeks with the Old ’89 were by no means passive. My drag strip outing never materialized, but the SHO and I began commuting approximately 600 miles per week starting mid-August, all in air-conditioned comfort. The unwritten law of auto sales (conceived so far as I can tell by a chap named Murphy) went into effect when the SHO developed an occasional but very noticeable misfire, shortly after the first round of sale postings hit the interweb. For about a week I tried to track the cause, which finally set a coil failure code in the EEC memory. The culprit turned out to be the SHO’s intake-mounted ignition module, which priced out at a whopping $200 for a new aftermarket replacement. Fortunately, the local boneyard had an excellent used example waiting for me. Five minutes and $37 dollars later the Old ’89 was back to its reliable, unstoppable self. Not that it ever stopped, even with the misfire.
The plan for this car was to have it sold somewhere around Labor Day, and to that end, I entered the big sales push a couple weeks before the holiday. By the time September rolled around, I’d had several interested parties that I felt were ready to buy, but time/distance constraints kept them from the pivotal test drive. I did manage to meet up with a young shopper for a soggy viewing and road test, but he didn’t seem to be aware of why the SHO was different from the Taurus GL he already had. So when he returned from the test drive looking like someone took a fireplace poker to his backside, I suspected he probably wouldn’t take the car. Perhaps he took my advice and stomped it in first gear from 3000 revs, which in the wet conditions likely had him instantly bouncing off the limiter while torque steering in several directions at once. In any case, he nervously shook my hand, said it was “very fast” but that he didn’t have the money right now, and left without so much as a counter offer. Anyone who has spent time in the world of auto sales can tell when someone isn’t interested, but this guy was straight-up spooked, or at the very least supremely intimidated, which I found oddly amusing. I shrugged it off and proceeded to put another 500 miles on the car before today’s sale.
And actually, the sale was rather unexpected. Late last night, while streaming episodes of Knight Rider (yeah, the cheesy new one that’s rather like watching a train wreck), the distinct chime of my email inbox told me I had a new message. After reading it, my sixth sense for sales told me this person was serious, and wouldn’t you know, the buyer actually showed up the next morning as advertised. This was another younger guy who wasn’t even considering the SHO until a friend pointed it out online. He confessed that he was considering some other notable performance machines that had a bit more in the way of machismo; I could tell that he wasn’t particularly impressed with the look of the SHO, but then he went for the test drive. This time, the sky was clear and the roads were dry, and to make this already long story a bit shorter, it was his first SHO experience behind the wheel. When he returned from the 20-minute fun run, he couldn’t get his wallet out quick enough.
Okay, enough banter. I spent five months with this 1989 Ford Taurus SHO, racking up 4844 miles and generally having a blast. The car set me back $800, and with the replacement DIS module and a new negative battery clamp, my parts investment totaled $217.75. That brings the total monetary investment in the Old ’89 to $1017.75.  
The car went to its new home today for the bargain price of, wait for it, $1400.
Is that a successful flip? Considering the hours of labor I invested in refinishing the wheels, restoring a shine to the weathered finish, patching the rust at the gas door, and cleaning/repainting that fabulous intake manifold, one might say that $1400 wasn’t enough. Of course, the only things the SHO really needed were items that could’ve been replaced in just a couple hours. The rest of the work is something us car guys like to call therapy, and if you’re like me, that’s something cherished, not charged for.
For five months I drove a car that offered plenty of cornering bite, enough forward thrust to atomize the front tires, good fuel economy, a voracious V-6 engine, comfortable seating, compliant road manners, and even chilly air conditioning. I took it to a national car event, met other owners, had a blast, and then drove it some more. It wasn’t just reliable, it was Old Faithful reliable, and though it wasn’t the prettiest ride, it was pretty enough to elicit props from a couple classic car drivers at a gas stop near Gaylord, Michigan. I did it all for an investment of just over $1000 dollars, and then I pocketed an extra $382 bucks from the sale, which will go straight into the next car.
As far as this enthusiast is concerned, mission accomplished. And then some. 
I’d be totally lying if I said I haven’t had second thoughts about the sale. In fact, it was very hard to get behind selling this car; that could well be why it took me longer than expected to find the SHO a new home. I didn’t want it to leave, and therein lies the single biggest danger to buying, enjoying, and flipping inexpensive cars. Sometimes it gets complicated. Sometimes you fall in love.
What’s next for Flip This Car? I’m already well on the way to finding the Old ‘89’s replacement for an all-new FTC series (we’ve been talking about it in Flip This Car: The Short List), and that will be coming very soon indeed. So then, it's time to raise our glasses. Here's to the memories of the Old '89, and to the new car waiting in the wings—including new problems, new mysteries, and yes, new adventures. The SHO has set a very high bar for this series; I can’t wait to try and top it.
1989 Ford Taurus SHO final update
Vehicle status: Stronger than ever, and enjoying a new home in southern Michigan
Miles driven: 4844
Observed fuel economy (90 percent highway): 26.9
Tire tread depth: 7/32 rear, 6-5/32 front
Broken parts since the last article: DIS module ($37.10 used)
Total parts investment: $217.75
Total vehicle investment: $1017.75
Sale price: $1400
Total profit: $382.25
FTC: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO articles:
Part One: The introduction
Part Two: The repair
Part Three: The road test
Part Four: Prepping for the SHO convention
Part Five: At the SHO convention/prepping for sale
Part Six: The sale