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Timothy Wright - Engine Concern

new 5/21/02

1. VIN#s

VIN = 1FALP54NXVA258920 - purchased new - by special order in May 1997 at Wilson Ford Fairmont WV. I made special arrangements to be at the lot when the car was unloaded from the car-carrier. I took delivery with three extra sets of SHO logo front floor mats yet in factory boxes in the trunk. My SHO is a garage queen and has never had anyone eat, drink or smoke in it. I have 6 regional trophies from showing my SHO. I may not be the typical Ford buyer, but I fit right in with the SHO crowd.

2. Name, address, and good phone #

Timothy Wright, , - twright@one-eleven.net. I was the second V8 owner on the original SHOtimes. I started the V8SHO mailing list, and am currently the webmaster for www.v8sho.com.

3. Express your concern of the engine failures and your determination of the cause.

I have had several very bad service experiences at Ford Dealerships. A dealership will charge me, for cutting the rotors on the car, but they don't. I paid for a transmission service but did not get it. I had my transmission repaired under warranty at a dealership, they kept it for a month, did a very poor job. I had to take it some where else to fix the "repair" at my own expense. With 58,000 miles on the car I paid $100 to have a dealership tell me my original shot worn struts were "just fine" when I knew they were shot. Every time I called the Ford Customer Care Hotline I got no satisfaction. As much as I love my car, I have come to understand there is no less capable, less honest service department than Ford Service and the Ford Customer Care Hotline is entirely cosmetic. Even when the dealership is guilty of criminal fraud the customer hot line is of zero help. How is it that thousands of SHO owners call the Ford Customer Care Hotline to report cam failures - each to be told they are absolutely unique and no other such cases exist? I don't think my experiences are atypical, but because of my education and experience I am just more likely to catch a dealership when they are dishonest and incompetent.

In 1996 Ford's own projected demographics for the SHO owners were, 55 years old, professional, well-educated, with family income in excess of $70,000; a profile which is not too far from my experience. As web master and list moderator for this group I can tell you we have many judges, policeman, doctors, engineers, programmers and successful business owners, SHO owners don't abuse their cars, they are discriminating successful professionals, (and car lovers) who tend to over-maintain, and baby their cars.

As an engineer, I think the cam sprocket failure is a design issue, not related in any way to neglect or abuse. The asymmetrical sprocket has a side-load, which it is not designed to resist and once it travels any distance down shaft, slipping becomes inevitable. We have experienced too many well-maintained, highway-driven cars with engines that fail. Engines that never saw red line in their whole life, with impeccable service fail every day. Every V8 SHO has 4 cams and the failure of any one of them will literally destroy a very expensive motor in a heartbeat. If consequential damage is minor, repair or replace any one camshaft and that leaves 3 failure prone cam in place. We have had more than one car with multiple failures. We have had cams fail in every position, every year. Most fail at 70,000 - 90,000 but one 1999 car had cam failure at less than 30,000.

Our mailing list has 250 very active enthusiasts. Our owners directory has less than 700 members and our web site gets most of it's hits from the same ~ 700 owners. So of the 20,000 SHOs made between 96-99 the active on-line community is only about 700 and of this active community we have documented 80 failures. More than a few owners are Ford employees, hence several "name withheld by request" or non-reported reports. Not so well documented are the numerous stories of dealerships with 10-12 failures in their files, and callers who just don't happen to know their VIN off hand when they call. We know that the cases we can document well are just the tip of the iceberg. Actual failure rate must exceed 10%, and to those owners involved it is catastrophic. This month when the weather changed we got 7 reports of new failures in 14 days.

Unlike a transmission failure for example, which can cost "only" $2,500 cost for this cam sprocket failure have ranged $16,000 - $4,000 which has been a true hardship for owners in many cases. It can "total" an otherwise fine car. Help and support has been abysmal at the dealership and zone level. Owners are called liars, told they abuse or don't maintain their cars. Zone managers refuse their calls. They are told Ford has no history of this type of failure. In several cases they dealership was presented with a functioning engine with a noise and in the process of diagnosing the problem they ruined the engine. Sometimes they are told to run it until it fails, and when it does they are told a new engine costs $16,000.

4. What would you like for FOMOCO to solve this problem?

Next month Dodge will sell more PT Cruisers than Ford 1996-1999 V8 SHOs still exist. I have no doubt a strong business case can be made to just ignore the V8 SHO owners. Car lovers however, perceive SHOs as an endangered thoroughbred whose virtues and capabilities can only be fully appreciated in time, something truly very special, it is simply the finest executive express of its time and its prestige dictates a better treatment. In 1980 the camshaft in my new 1978 305 CID GMC Jimmy 4x4 had no lift left. I had been a loyal GM owner for 20 years. The family that owned the dealership and my family were very close. The zone rep offered me something like $300 and told me that GM did not care if I, or anyone else in my family ever buys another GM again. In a quarter century since I bet my family has purchased 50+ new cars but not one single GM product. Now when the clan gathers mine is the only domestic car to be found. The SHO was a test case, and honestly it has not so far gone all together too well so far. Not just because of a design flaw (which I can understand) but because it has become an example of how not to manage an adverse situation.

Ford has not yet demonstrated any responsibility, candor or even empathy. Whatever platitudes or ideals may exist at the highest management levels simply never reach customers. The cultural - customer relationship problems are far more egregious, and cause more hard feelings than the technical problem. Give us the credit to know when we are being treated very poorly.

In our experience, most of the time a failing cam sprocket gives about a month's (1000 miles) audible warning before failure. Line up 10 SHOs like we do at conventions and anyone can hear the difference before it fails and no tear down or inspection is necessary. If owners were cautioned to listen to their engine and seek help I am confident +90% of the most expensive failures can be avoided. The noise is subtle but perceptible. If at risk owners only knew to park their car and get help, $100,000's could be saved every year.

We have devised 3 types of field repairs intended to prevent failure. We have Locktited cams, welded cams and pinned cams. Using Loctite or welding the cams can be done in place, requiring about 8 hours or less for a skilled mechanic. Drilling and pinning the camshaft or replacing the camshaft requires maybe twice that much labor. As best as I know, only 2 cars have been done with Loctite, (but since welded). About 50 cars have had their cams welded. Less than a dozen cars have had their cams pinned. None of the cars that have taken preventive steps have experienced any failures. The welding procedure is highly dependent on access to someone with expert welding and mechanical skills, to not warp the cam tube or splatter wear surfaces. What Ford has been doing, replacing bad cams in engines with a new cam and leaving 3 old cams in an engine is not a good option since several cars have experience multiple sprocket failures. (If one cam goes, the others are going.)

When the head gasket (known defect) went in my V6 Toyota - Toyota fixed it. It is that simple. If I paid for 4 good cams when I bought my car, how hard would it be to give all the remaining V8SHOs 4 good cams? For me to purchase a set of off the shelf V8 Cams it is going to cost me $2500 - $4000 and then I would want to weld or pin them (which would void a warranty). I would as a minimum like to see Ford develop a small inventory of reliable cams for our cars, whatever the cost or distribution issues.

In my experience, few, damn few dealerships have the skills, or experience, or desire to do engine work on V8SHOs. I would rather make an appointment and drive 600 miles to have an experienced expert work on my car, than have every tenth dealership exuding hostility because I show up expecting them to work magic on my car. We neither want nor need every Ford mechanic in the world to be able fix our cams, 20, even 10 capable mechanics in North America would be ample.

As a last item, collectively we have learned a lot about the care and feeding of the cars we love, things not evidently anticipated by Ford that might benefit future offerings. We would love to have much better communications with Ford again, but the cam sprocket issue has closed every door for a few years now. I would love to get things back on track. I rather enjoy having my unique sleek exotic domestic at clan gatherings. I would much rather promote Ford than apologize for Ford. I so love the car.

Thanks for listening,
Just tell me how I can help,

Timothy Wright



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