We’ve been a fan of the Mustang SVO all the way back: we personally witnessed Ford race them in the 24 hour endurance races in 1982 and 1983 at Nelson Ledges (read our extensive write-up here, with unique pictures from the events), and soon thereafter we bought our own off the lot. We had an event coming up in two weeks at Watkins Glen, needed a better ride than our miserable 1983 Mustang GT, and bought the SVO. At 17 thousand US dollars, it was a lot more expensive than our GT, but was track-ready with big 5-bolt disc brakes all around, good sprint rates, and adjustable Konis straight from the factory. As well as better aerodynamics, improved ergonomics, and seats with large bolsters for excellent support. It had far better brakes for track work, and didn’t require a complete rebuild before, during, and after each day of the event – as the lowly GT did with its tiny brakes. And it was faster than any V-8 Mustang thru the 1986 model year, and easily out-handled them. It was a truly modern car, and well ahead of its time. We’ve been looking for a good example to add to our collection.
So we always watch carefully for SVOs on the road and in shows. This example was being shown at the January 2013 Cars and Coffee. It was very clean and well-preserved – although unfortunately not 100% stock.
The SVO had several styling changes over pedestrian Mustangs, including the signature – and very functional – biplane rear spoiler (originally designed by Ford aerodynamicists for the Probe series of research cars). Funny story: we once had an old couple follow us into a parking lot when we were driving our original SVO in 1985 – they asked what the spoiler was and had thought it was some sort of picnic table.
Also note the side sail panel – functional, clean. The SVO engineers and stylists used the motto “form follows function” and the entire car means just that. Everything had to be functional, and function was far more important than styling.
The Mustang engine was a 200 horsepower (this in the days of 220 horsepower Corvettes!) iron and block and head 2.3 liter port fuel-injected inline 4 with vane-type airflow measurement (state-of-the-art then, before mass air became available) turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. With architectural roots going back to the famed 2 liter 4 cylinder from Ford of Europe, and a special stronger block and internals unique to the SVO, this was a very well-built engine. If the SVO had stayed in production – meaning if Ford dealers knew how to sell it – then we would have seen a factory DOHC aluminum head in the 1987 model year. Prototypes had been built and tested!
This is an interesting car… the owner bought it just recently – with 5000 miles on it. Five Thousand. It came as shown here, with a couple of minor changes under the hood as shown. One that is difficult to see is the aluminum head. The owner hasn’t pulled the valve cover yet to see if the head also has a roller cam, but it’s likely.
The factory airbox is missing: it’s normally on the left fenderwall and draws cold air from inside the fenderwell. This example has an aftermarket filter to suck hot air from the engine compartment.
The intercooler was effective, although at certain speeds the aerodynamics sucked in air from the hood scoop and at other speeds it flowed in reverse. The improved version of this same engine used in the 1987-1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe used a larger and more effective intercooler. That part is a bolt-on mod for SVOs, and is a popular update. You’ll notice that this car is missing the front “Y” bracket.
The SVO front end was designed for aerodynamics. Government regulations didn’t allow Ford to use the intended “aero” headlamps on the 1984 and early 1985 models… the late 1985 and 1986 models were the first to use them. The hood, fenders, and front cap were unique to the SVO, as was the entire driveline and the interior.
The 16×7 (the largest wheels available on any Mustang then) wheels were also designed for aerodynamics. 16″ inch wheels were exotic stuff back then, only the Corvette used them among American cars. That would change a year later, but was state-of-the-art then. The SVO also used state-of -the-art Goodyear tires, first sourced solely from Europe and later from America (this in contrast to the miserable Michelin TRX tires used on the Mustang GT).
The back of the SVO received unique badging and taillights. Similar taillights – but not identical – were seen several years later on the 1993 SVT Cobra Mustang. The SVO lights were handsome, functional, and restrained. As was the entire car – it was a Mustang for more mature and sophisticated owners.