Story as I understand it on Taurus/Sable. 3.0L engine was great, but underpowered. Came with a transmission that was not so great. 3.8L engine was a head gasket eater. Once they start, they seem to continue to go bad. Tranny behind that engine was supposed to be solid. Third option: SHO with stick shift! Yamaha engine for which Ford paid over $6k each. If ya need the automatic, find a 3.0 that has had the tranny replaced fairly recently and just drive a little slow.... but still faster than my diesel Benz.
I paid $1800 for an '87 300E that has some problems but seems to drive well and my daughter likes it . Then again, I saw a 400E on driving the highway this am for under $5k. Just keep looking.