Hi guys--as most of you know, I've been in the market for a Gen III for a few months now and I've finally found one that I'm going to test drive and check out next week. I already know that the cams are an unknown so they will be welded ASAP after possible purchase.
Having owned a Gen II since new in August 94, I'd like to ask any of you who have owned both generations, why you like the Gen III better--because my months of lurking had taught me that you do in fact prefer the Gen III's. I am very loyal to my Gen II, but after totalling it last May, my replacement doesn't have the "love factor" I had with my previous one, and I have heard only praises about the Gen III.
The one I am looking at is high miles but very very clean. Maintenance for the past 2 years has been outstanding but prior to that is unknown. My experience with Carfax is that it doesn't tell you squat usually, and I don't have access to the Oasis. I have read the V-8 site extensively but would like even more opinions if you don't mind expressing them.
I'm looking at a 99 TG with tan priced now at $3100.
TIA for any and all opinions.
When the Gen III came out I hated them because they meant the demise of my beloved SHO V6 cars. But when I took over the club I knew I had to buy one and find out why so many people loved them. I found a clean 45,000 mile '96 in black (Ebony Satin or ES) with most of the bells and whistles.
Right away I took a near 1000 mile trip to Oklahoma to work on the Tulsa Convention, and before I got 100 miles I knew I was going to love this car.
The reason is it DRIVES so great! Solid, firm and confident. I loved the suspension (you don't have the two position struts in your '99, and I love them, but the '99 rides just fine anyway) and the steering. The seats were great for me, and I actually love the football radio/heater. Very intuitive with just a little experience. Great sound system and quiet.
I still love my 89 and 91 V6 cars and my son likes his 95 Automatic better than my '96, mainly because for someone that tall, the passenger seat is a bit cramped compared to the first two generations, but it is fine for me.
Now after another 70,000+ miles I still love the '96. IT feels like a new car still and I haven't done that much in the way of repairs. With the cams welded I have confidence in the engine. Everything else seems to be wearing well and looking good. I have grown to love the styling and feel it looks more modern than many cars made today.
Yea, there are faster cars, and the V6 SHO's are more of a hot rod, but with a pair of turbo mufflers and opening up the intake a little, this car sounds great! There is no way to make a V6 sound as good as a V8, and the V8 has a torque feel and smoothness that is just intoxicating. Yea, I love my V8 and my V6 Cars.
If the one you are looking at "trips your trigger" and makes you feel good driving it, then get it, get it welded ASAP and keep good oil in it on a regular basis. I recommend a tranny cooler also, not a huge one, but they help, and flush the fluid right away (unless you have proof it was done) and every two years at least. Even at that, the trannys are a bit of a weak point, but not every car has tranny problems, and lots of other brands have the same problems.
An extended warranty for the tranny might be a good investment, and for some of the parts on the engine, but once you weld the cams, you won't get any help there from a warranty, but you shouldn't need it.
Sound, ride and handling.
Well my preference is in the differences are (1) ride, but then mine is a '97 with SARC. You have to spend some money to match it IMHO. (2) The OBDII which though not flawless, is better then the "hit and miss" unless you stumble on some "old and experienced" SHOheads. (3) Interior is quite different, though if I were younger that radio would have deterred me as it is a PIA to change to an aftermarket head unit but I am at an age now where I do not value audio "noise" as high. I do miss the adjustable side bolsters though being a not so vertically gifted build. (4) The V-8 sound, just can't make the 6 sound like this. (5) Going 100,000 before maintenance, that being said I did lose my tranny at 75,000, one of the cams failed 10,000 later and the plugs were shot at 80,000 but it was one of the reason I bought it.
To expand on what the others have said, the V8 cars are just more refined. They're more pleasant inside the cabin, and don't have the propensity to become rattle boxes like the older cars due to the way they were constructed. Same thing with rusting/rotting; the paint and prep on the '96+ cars is far better and far less likely to rot out from under you if you're in the salt belt.
I find that the V8 cars are more of a pleasure to drive, but I also find that many V6 cars can be more fun to drive.
I think it's put best as, "what the Gen III lacks in the hole shot, it more than makes up for in sound, style, comfort, and handling."
-Alan '99 TG
I agree with just about everything mentioned so far.
I've always felt that if you want something with raw performance like a Mustang, you should just go for the Mustang. If you want something more refined and stately like a Town Car, get a Town Car. To me, the Gen III SHO fills that comfortable niche right in between.
Let's start with the basics. It's a roomy four-door sedan (talk about practical) and it handles well and has ample power to set it apart from the Camry and Accord of the same era, not unlike the Gen II. The Gen III has a superb crash safety rating, great braking performance, and despite the once ill-received aesthetics, the SHO appointments (bumpers, trim, interior) and overall shape of the car fit in pretty well with the styles that you see on the road nowadays--those are all things that IMO the Gen I-II fell short on. Sure, you're not fooling anyone into thinking your 96-99 SHO is an 05 or 06 model, but it is leaps and bounds beyond the Gen I and Gen II. To the casual observer, the Gen I-II may make a statement like "that guy/girl drives a beater!" (Keep in mind, I love and respect the Gen II, but *most* people just see an old Taurus that probably needs constant maintenance.)
Now, if you can't sit in a Gen III and instantly feel comfortable, there is something wrong with you. It accommodates all shapes and sizes. I'm 6'4", 200 pounds, and I have plenty of headroom and legroom. There are people on this list who carry a lot of weight/girth and feel just as comfortable in the car as anyone else. I can't tell you how many times I've come home from the bars and nightclubs with three or four passengers and had every one of them comment on how comfortable my car is. And when I nail the gas or brakes, it still goes or stops as well as you could expect, despite the full load.
I've taken trips where I've driven 10-12 hours straight with only two or three quick pit stops, and I don't feel overly fatigued afterward. The view from the cockpit helps with that too--there aren't really any blind spots on this car. The interior controls are well laid out. Some people complain about the dozens of buttons on the climate control and stereo, but once you've owned the car for a week or so and you have developed an intuition for the layout, you are happy to have a dedicated button for each function, rather than having to scroll through menus.
Let's talk money. Average prices are around $5000 for a good condition specimen with 60-80K on the odometer. Add in cams and the inevitable transmission rebuild and you're still under $10K. The cost of suspension parts, brakes, and other normal maintenance items are on par with comparable used cars. The Gen II is more maintenance-intensive, even with comparable mileage and levels of abuse. You can pick them up dirt-cheap, but you will be dealing with things that you would not be dealing with on the Gen III. I spent a while tracking down a tapping noise on my Gen III. In the end, I was able to fix it (even though it took a while to track it down!) On the Gen II, I would have given up, because there is so much more body flex in those cars, you can't expect to quiet everything down after 80K+ miles of wear and tear. The older Gens just aren't made as well.
There are many on this list that have moved on to newer, faster, and overall just nicer cars. The automotive industry as a whole is now offering a wide array of great cars that outperform the SHO in many aspects. But if you are looking for a used car that still makes you think happy thoughts several times a day, you'd be hard pressed to find a better value than the '96-99 SHO. :-)
(And this is coming from someone who has had a few maintenance headaches along the way. Without a supportive group like this one, I might be singing a different tune, but that is not a problem!)
I think folks have been both honest and candid, all with out bashing the early SHOs. I never owned a gen 1-2 SHO but I would like to add my 2 cents.
The Gen 3 is geared tall, for the highway. It is a refined scalpel for highway carving. It does fine commuting but most folks fall in love with the Gen 3 on their first long trip in the car. It is the singular mix of room, comfort, ride and a confidence giving poise at all speeds. Unlike most cars that become asthmatic past the double nickel the DOHC just pulls stronger and stronger at speeds well past posted "recommendations". In fact speed limits seem silly in such a competent car. One needs to learn to watch the speedo and a radar detector doesn't hurt. Fortunately the SHO is well known for its stealth. Hence the numerous urban legends of close calls.
Most folks have hit the well known high points, I mention one other they neglected. The keys of a Gen 3 SHO buys you instant membership in one of the nicest groups I know. I partly purchased my 97 new based on good times on SHOTimes. Damn I like this group. They are helpful and thoughtful to a fault. After working dozens of different places and attending 6 universities I enjoy this group as much as any community I ever found.
Simply I enjoy driving my SHO, as much as I ever enjoyed driving anything on 2 wheels or 4. It has a balance, poise and level of comfort that is very rare in today's cars. A 12 hour drive is joy in a SHO, half that in my Toyota truck caused back aches. Folks drove to CA convention from all over and had a great time.
I hope that helps.