Friday, November 14, 2014

4k: Patience is for Chumps: 1998 Ford SVT Contour with Taurus 3.0L

The SVT variant of the Ford Contour offered tight suspension tuning on an already competent chassis to make one of the best-handling front-drive cars Ford ever sold in North America. However, its extra 25 horsepower over the regular V6's 170 happened near redline, and torque remained the same at 165 ft-lb. Impatient, rev-wary owners rarely felt the difference. Luckily, Ford Taurus performance is here to save the day! You'll probably never hear those words in succession again. Find this 1998 Ford SVT Contour with 3.0L Duratec swap in Grand Rapids, MI for $4,000 via craigslist.

The 3.0L swap is a common remedy thanks to the plug-and-play application and plentiful supply. This power plant has just 50,000 miles and probably cost less than a a good taxidermy job (speaking of stuffing small things, check out that cramped engine bay). Sables, Escapes, Jaguar S-Types, and the Noble M12 all use a Duratec V6. Some Aston Martin Vantages use two. Stock output isn't much higher than the SVT Contour's 200, but the torque flows stronger and earlier through a 5-speed manual.

While the engine was out, the owner must have capitalized on the opportunity to have some fun. A Quaiffe limited-slip differential is a must for front-drive Fords. Revised fuel supply system, a grabbier clutch and lighter flywheel, stiffer motor mounts, ample breather mods, and a professional tune should net a healthy 240 horsepower, if not more. New brakes, rear sub frame, battery, and gorgeous SVT Focus wheels sweeten the already saccharine package.

The owner is selling it due to lack of use, followed by this ominous prophecy: "If it doesn't sell by the first snow, it will stay in storage for the winter and won't be for sale." That was two days ago, or right before two-thirds of the country were introduced to an arctic blast of winter unpleasantry. Hopefully the seller is merciful and would still offer this cheap performance commuter to a torque-addicted enthusiast. 

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PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. These are really more fun than they let on. I had the same year, albeit not the SVT variety and I was really pleased. The car did take time to build revs, but that could be solved with a lightened flywheel. The 3.0l swap mentioned is kind of a misnomer. The 3.0 block actually bolts up to the SVT heads and intake since they were of the same design. The difference in hp between the standard 2.5 and the SVT amounted to an extrude honed intake, dual exhaust and better flowing heads, hence the difference being at high RPM. I had paint issues on mine where it absolutely started bubbling on the roof due to rust. Yeah. Another issue I had was the controller that changes from long intake runners below 3500rpm to shorter ones above was pretty much non functional during the summer time. It is a huge issue and sucks power since it keeps on the long runners above 3500.

    They do handle very well for a FWD car, although I would definitely make sure this one has the ABS. It was supposed to be standard in that model year on all V6 cars, but mine didn't have it. Also of note, this car has a 2900~ lb curb weight too which in that year model the only FWD that could touch it was a Maxima

  2. If you are going to go to the trouble, why not put in the SHO V-6?

    1. Because the 3.0 Duratec V6 shortblock is a bolt-in, whereas the SHO V6 is a completely different design and won't even bolt up to the MTX-75 transaxle.

      Because the SHO V6 for all its pretty intake won't make any more power unless you wave your platinum card over it and recite the CVV five times.

      Because the iron-block SHO V6 is a heavy mutha (we talking about SHO!), easily a hundred pounds heavier than the aluminum-block Duratec.

      The SHO V6 is a fun motor, but like the BMW S38 it's a snapshot of the state of the end-of-the-'80s art and there's few places where it's really an optimum choice.

      There's also a very, very, VERY long list of stuff for that motor that is virtually impossible to find new (welcome to specialty Ford ownership) so building SHO motors means scrounging an inventory of used ones for good parts.

  3. Ah, one of my all time favorites. A friend of mine had one in college (SVT Contour). The thing was an absolute blast, except for a sticky 3rd gear syncro that didn't like to be no-lift upshifted.

    One weekend probably 15 years ago I borrowed his car while he borrowed my wagon to help move his gf. I used it to drive from West Lafayette to Chicago with my (then) girlfriend. She liked the car, loved going fast, and I was an idiot eager to show off my "skills" and bad judgement/recklessness.

    At 3am on a Tuesday, the streets of Chicago are as deserted as they'll get, so I took a few racing lines around corners at track-speeds on the cross-streets between Michigan and Lakeshore. I still have a scar on my right knuckle from hitting the stock head-unit's faceplate during an "enthusiastic" shift where my hand kept going while the shifter remained stationary right on the cusp of 3rd. When I returned the car and fessed up, my friend just laughed, showed me a similar scar and said he was on his 3rd head unit (and 2nd syncro).

    Still, I miss that car. Don't remember much about the girl, but the car is etched upon my brain as one of the top 10 cars I've ever driven.

    My friend did the Duratec block with SVT heads swap right before he offloaded it. It didn't do anything for him, and started to get unreliable, so he traded it on an SVT Cobra that he still owns to this day.

    Phew, sorry for the long-windedness. I just love me some late 90's SVT action. Great find, awesome car.

    1. Edit: mind was thinking "week" fingers typed "weekend". Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  4. @ RyanM great story, thanks for sharing.

  5. It could be a really nice driver.

    I'm always skeptical of specialty Fords, because Ford likes to discontinue parts about six weeks after the car leaves the showroom. I've been burned by that a couple of times. I'm not sure how the SVT Contour does on parts availability, it shares a lot of its mechanicals with the Euro ST220 so there's potentially at least something of a pipeline. The first-gen Mondeo/Contour/Mystique had a very good chassis, and the $1500 Quaife is a huge help.

  6. I know of one going for $700. Mostly clean interior aside from a missing dome light, slightly ripped C-pillar trim around the rear seatbelt (probably some yahoo fighting the belt), and the leather coming off the shift knob. Body has a scrape/dent on the drivers side rear fender, and the engine needs a new readiator and likely water pump to boot... seems like a prime project for a swap like this, even if the condition is a little less stellar.


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