Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Con-Tourismo: 1999 Ford Contour SVT

The original Taurus SHO was a legend. 5-Speed, a Yamaha tuned engine and as fast as a Mustang GT.  When the RoboCop body style finally aged-out in 1995, the SHO badge was carried onto the newly crappy redesigned Taurus.  The rightful heir to the SHO bloodline, however, was to be found in a different model altogether.  Find this 1999 Ford Contour SVT for sale in Pittsburgh, PA for $3,600 via craigslist.

While Ford fans everywhere mourned the passing of the original SHO, those paying attention found a passable descendant when the Contour SVT appeared in 1998.  At nearly the same weight as the original SHO, FWD, 5-speed transmission, and a 24 valve V6, the new Contour SVT turned in nearly identical acceleration times.  Meanwhile, the V8 powered 1998 Taurus SHO was now available only as an automatic, was slower, weighed 400 lbs. more and was prone to camshaft-related engine failure at an early age.  

Not nearly enough performance buffs put their money down on a SVT Contour to make it more than an automotive footnote.  In spite of glowing reviews from the press and owners, only 11,445 of them ever rolled out of the Kansas City plant.  The year 2000 was the last for the Contour nameplate altogether.  

Decent examples of the original SHO are getting harder and harder to find each year.  If you can't track down the one you want, consider this Contour.  You might just find it to be the first generation SHO's true descendant.  

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  1. I owned and loved a silver '98. It was a no-brainer for me, is it replaced a '93 Sentra SE-R when I needed four doors. Aside from a known issue with water pumps (fixed with the replacement part) and the need for some owner-installed upgrades to body kit clips, these are very easy to own.

  2. A friend of mine whose father drove for Ford racing back in the late 90's / early 00's had one of these. Ford would give his family one new car each model year, of their choosing. So his garage was filled with all things SVT. This particular car, to me, was much cooler than his last 5.0 SN95 Mustang.

    We used to wind that thing up to redline on basically every shift. It was a glorious noise, and the car itself was very poised as we flew through traffic at a unreasonable speeds. His racing pedigree notwithstanding (my friend also raced, but for Turner/BMW, was a test driver for Porsche, and in his later years was an orientation-driver for rich guys who buy SLRs and AMG GTs and don't know what to do with them), these drives scared the hell out of me. But I will always remember how great the car took all of this abuse.

    I'll also remember the syncro locking us out of 3rd gear on no-lift 2-3 shifts. This would usually cause the driver's hand to fly off the gear knob and into the radio controls immediately in front of where 3rd was supposed to be.

    So not only would we miss the shift and lose forward momentum while grinding it loudly, we'd also turn the radio on. My friend, for reasons I'd discover later (not that there's anything wrong with that), had an affinity for listening to Paula Abdul, Gloria Estefan and Madonna very loud. This was quite embarrassing to my late 90's self... in a loud, red car on US 1-A in Ft Lauderdale on a Friday night... Madonna blasting through open windows as my friend fights the 3rd gear syncro and bounces the car off of the redline. I couldn't recline the power seats fast enough.

    Still, mostly fond memories. I'm just glad youtube and cellphone cameras weren't around back then.

    Oh, about the car - this is a fair price for an unmolested example of a pretty unique car that never quite got the credit it deserved. Slow by today's 250+ hp Camry standards, it's still a 200hp, fairly lightweight car that's a blast to drive and sounds amazing. The exhaust, not the Madonna.

  3. Super cheap price - I'm surprised it's still available. Never got a chance to drive one of these but would like one in my fictitious 20 car collection someday.

  4. Never owned one, known several who have.

    Great driver for a FWD. Not a lot of back seat room. More squeaks and rattles than it should have. Parts availability sucks like most limited-production Fords.

    Verdict: buy an E30 instead.

    1. Good luck finding a clean E30 at even double the price of this car.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. A valid point, but then that E30 is unlikely to be disabled for a month by the unavailability of some obscure shifter part available only for Euro-market ST220s and has to be ordered from the UK because US Ford has washed their hands of the product.

  5. Oh, and re third-generation SHO - I think I've said elsewhere that Ford must have had a bunch of short people in the executive offices in the '90s, 'cause most of the sedans that went out the door - the Contour/Mondeo/Mystique, the '96 Taurus, etc - in that timeframe had worst-in-class back seat room and particularly headroom.

    The decision tree that went into the '96 SHO was particularly curious, they spent all this money getting Yamaha to do this V8 that was just a Duratec V6 with two more cylinders, but instead of using the 3-liter Duratec bore and making a 4-liter V8, they used the 2.5 bore and made - yawn.

    The only rationale I can wrap around that is that the whole thing was defined by some executive deciding We've Spent All This Engine Money But We're NOT Spending One Red Cent On Transmissions, so they had to build an engine that wouldn't break the off-the-shelf slushbox.


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