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Letter to Detroit Free Press

new 10/31/02

I read your recent article with interest. The camshaft failure is a known problem with a small percentage of the cars with high mileage. It can easily be fixed before it breaks by paying $500 to weld the cams.

Therefore, I was disappointed with the stance taken by many of the people at V8SHO.com, supposedly an enthusiast web site. They are signing petitions that they will never buy another Ford, etc. because Ford won't pay to fix the problem. None of the cars in question are under warranty - so why should Ford pay? When my 1983 Ford Escort experienced a cracked head at100,000 miles I didn't blame Ford - I fixed the problem! When my 1985 Pontiac 600STE spun a rod bearing at 85,000 miles I didn't blame GM - I fixed the problem! To hold a manufacturer responsible for every possible failure for the life of a vehicle is an untenable stance.

I don't think $500 is unreasonable to pay for preventative service - I just bought $600 of parts for my 1995 V6 SHO 60,000 mile service (timing belt, valve shims, water pump, spark plug wires). Also, the claims of$5,000-15,000 to fix the engine once broken are outrageous - a complete V8 SHO engine goes for about $300-$1500 on eBay or at a junkyard - figure another $1,000 for labor if you can't install it yourself.

Greg H.

Dear Greg,

When sold, it was not a "know issue" I special ordered my 1997 new.  Quite the contrary they bragged that the SHO engine did not even need a tune up for 100,000 miles. One may assume when the engine is the heart and soul of this "Super High Output" car it should last beyond its first tune up. 

Second, it is not a small percentage. Every SHO has 4 camshafts and any one of them might fail destroying the engine. Several folks have had multiple failures in the same cars because the NEW replacement cams are also defective. Ford sold about 19,730 96-99 V8SHOs, at best only 700 are active in an online enthusiast community. Of that community we can document 130 failures. 130/700 ~ almost 20%. When 20% of the engines don't last until their first tune up that is not acceptable.

Third, Ford did nothing to inform owners. To the contrary we have orchestrated 130 phone calls to the Ford Help Line in a week and all 130 owners were all told their failure was the only such type failure in the world. At the service desk they were told failure was because of neglect or abuse not design defect.

Fourth, Ford did not developed a fix or cure, WE supplied FORD with sample fixed cams for evaluation. Ford knows most dealerships lack the skills required to do the extremely technical cam weld procedure. The cam bearing clearance are uncommonly tight and the cam is a hollow tube. It is ever so easy to weld the sprocket, warp the cam and ruin the engine. Yet almost 400 owners have driven or trailered their cars to Douglasville GA to have this procedure performed - often voiding any existing remaining warranty.

It has been our experience that the majority of Ford service departments RUN the other way from servicing SHOs. They don't want to, don't have the skills to work on our complex cars and honestly the vast majority of us have given up on all but a handful of service departments.

Fifth, The unsanctioned repair procedure requires a 4 hour tear down to expose both heads, 6 expert welds and at least 4 hours to reassemble. The cost of $500 does not cover the trip to Douglasville GA, meals, hotels time or time off from work  Yet the majority of informed owners have made this preventive investment. Working on the lateral V8 in sandwiched in this chassis can only be compared to separating twins in the womb, it is NOT for everyone nor the best place for the local tire store mechanic to develop his mechanical skills.

Sixth, the engines are not cheap, I can also find cheap SHO engines, those that we replaced. For the record:

A new Ford crate engine costs $13,000 and Ford may be out of them
One owner in LA paid $23,000 for a dealership rebuild
A Jasper engine comes with pinned cams and cost $8,5000 - exchange
An "American Engine" is not rebuilt but is reputably low mileage cost $4,500
Dealer cost on just the full gasket set is $700.

You need special tools just to reinstall the 4 cams in time, I doubt 10% of the dealerships have them. Even fewer owners have them at home.

Seventh, It was not a entry level car. During the 4 years it was sold list price on a new V8SHO was $31,000. It cost enough to buy a 1983 Escort for each member of a family of four, or five, maybe six. Neither the Escort or 6000STE featured an all alloy 60 degree DOHC even firing V8.  Neither the Escort or 6000STE has a heritage or expectations of something like the V6 SHO which commonly go 250,000 miles between rebuilds and has the sedan ECTA world speed record in 4 classes.

SHO stand for Super High Output, the SHO engine makes 70 HP/L and the car featured an active suspension, leather interior, 4 wheel disk brakes, automatic climate control, heated mirrors and  ZF rack and pinion steering. it is just not fair to compare the expectations of SHO owners to Escort owners or 6000STE owners.

Eighth, it was not a inexpensive car. So say you spent six times as much for that Escort, it did not last until its first scheduled tune up,  and the repair cost more than the car was worth and Ford denied exactly the same thing was happening to every owner? How would you feel? And say only one place in USA could fix it but they were 2 days drive away?

As stated most of us no longer have ties nor loyalty to Ford because of this issue. Most of this small group of owners has fixed their own cams and forgot about it. The other 85% of the owners are not online enthusiasts. If their cams fail tomorrow Ford will tell them theirs is the only known case and tell them they abused or neglected their car.  Last month I got a letter from someone like that every other day. Those folks had a preventable $5,000 loss.  We care about them even if you don't. For every sad story I get we suspect another 3-4 folks just go home and we never know about it. Many folks have been bankrupted over this, several have divorced over the financial crisis. Just because you need a $13,000 engine doesn't mean you can forgo car payments.

In the past I could drop the oil pan in most cars and slide in a new set of main or rod bearings in an morning. As engines are much more complex repairs are no longer this easy or simple. As a group SHO owners over-maintain not neglect their cars. Per Ford, the average new SHO buyer was 55 years old, has some graduate school, married, professional and enjoyed a family income of $70,000+. We don't need the sympathy or understanding of Escorts owners, we just want Ford to stand behind their products. We think a motor of this pedigree should last beyond it's first spark plug change and Ford should not shift the blame and expense to innocent owners.

As a group we are very forgiving and understanding. We understand design defect and recalls. Had Ford treated us differently they may have enhanced our loyalty, already the highest of any Ford owner group, rather than given us the lie, deny and abuse shuffle.

Timothy Wright

Thank you for your well-written and thoughtful response. Your points are quite valid - especially the Ford service comments and your comments regarding Ford's handling of the issue. Even if Ford decided that they would replace the cams/sprockets with an improved design, it is doubtful that any of the dealerships would be competent to perform the service. Furthermore, as you state, if Ford had been more up front about the problem, there would have been the opportunity to improve customer loyalty instead of alienating a core group of enthusiasts.

Best regards,



I'd like to add something to this letter regarding Mr. Greg's comments you received.

After following this cam issue from it's very beginning. I looked on with certain anguish. You must realize that we, above and beyond all the certainly valid points Mr. Wright has stated, do NOT deserve this treatment or fear of our cars.

Take ANY other make out there, even ( gulp ) GM. I firmly believe that no other manufacturer would let this happen to any group of people who invested this much money into such a vehicle. Imagine BMW turning it's back on M3 owners who are complaining of a bad cam sprocket! You may say that comparing high dollar makes with Ford is a no-no, but Ford is the company that convinced us they were better. It's THEIR statement!

I am NOT at that point of giving up on Ford, I like too many other models that have had trouble free lives. My brother's Mustang endured far too much boost by way of a supercharger and constant rev-limiter hitting drag runs ( approximately 30,000 miles of this abuse, to be exact ) before finally blowing a few rings. Even with this issue, his Mustang, still running, would stomp me and my buttery-smooth and trouble free SHO into the ground. This is a testament to Ford's work. Not everything they do is bad. I think we all know that and would just like Ford to admit they have a human quality and say, "Oops! I'm sorry!, Let me take care of that for you."

Is that really A LOT to ask?

Damien Franczek
96 Rose Mist

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