1989 Ford Shogun

May 14, 2007 7:21 AM

In the late 80s, race driver Rick Titus brought a nutty idea to Chuck Beck of California’s Special Editions, Inc. Why not stick a stock 3.0-liter, 24-valve SEFI SHO V6 engine in a Ford Festiva? Beck cut a hole in the rear floor and welded a tubular spaceframe to secure the engine under the hatch, then dumped a 17-gallon racing fuel cell and a really big radiator under the Festiva’s hood. The drive transmission was flipped to power the rear wheels, a new suspension improved chassis stiffness, and the mighty shoebox Shogun was born.

The original Shogun was fabricated using a salvaged 1987 Festiva body, which Beck augmented with prototype fender flares and spoilers, vented hood and rear fenders. The groovy look recalls the Renault R5, and the car is about as high as it is wide as it is long. Leather Recaro seats and a MOMO steering wheel make the cabin feel more like a two-seat racer, but with plenty of headroom and the air conditioning that came standard in the Festiva.

In its day, the Shogun allegedly outperformed the Ferrari 360 in both speed and cornering. Weighing in at around a ton with 220 hp, the car’s power-to-weight ratio is fantastic. It will clock over 145 mph, go 0 - 60 in 4.6 seconds and do a quarter mile in 12.9 at 100 mph. But all that power wasn’t enough for Jay when he was shopping for a daily driver to take him to his new job at “The Tonight Show.” So he had a dry manifold nitrous oxide system installed. Once he punches the laughing gas, Jay’s Shogun gains about 90 hp, to run at about 310.

The Shogun is such a modest-looking car, you’d never expect to see a celebrity behind the wheel. It’s the perfect stealth car - no one on the road knows quite what it is, nor how fast it can go. Jay claims the motor is pretty much bulletproof. He’s still running on the same plugs, the only maintenance, changing the oil.

Alas, only seven of the $48,000 Shoguns were ever produced, each painted a different color. Jay’s silver Shogun is #003, and he did indeed drive it on his very first day on the job as Johnny Carson’s replacement.

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