30 years ago, June 18-20 1982, Ford debuted the Mustang SVO to the world in the form of two engineering prototypes competing in a 24-hour endurance race: the Quaker State Oil Longest Day of Nelson. This SCCA-sanctioned race, held at the well-known (and very humble) club race track Nelson Ledges in Ohio, isn’t with us anymore but was well-known and beloved in its time. The event offered classes for what at the time was known as Showroom Stock cars, as well as future production prototypes, to race.
The SCCA Showroom Stock class in those days was just that: cars that were literally straight from the showroom, with only safety equipment added. Race tires were not available in those days, so whatever street tire came in the stock size would have to be used. Ford Pintos were very popular then because of their crisp handling and easy availability of replacement parts. We personally knew one racer who leased his from a local dealer and had several crashes over the years.
The Prototype class was something new to the SCCA, and it was controversial both inside the SCCA as well as outside. The intent was to generate excitement by allowing manufacturers to bring a prototype of a car that would be built within the next two years. It wasn’t intended for high-end or exotica, but for future versions of cars already racing in Showroom Stock. The Corvette wasn’t allowed into the event until 1985, and even then only under pressure from GM, but the Mustang was the perfect fit since it has already been racing in Showroom Stock since 1979. Racing would indeed improve the breed.
Ford brought two prototypes to the event with the idea of fast-tracking their development under the stress of racing, as well as to show the public the direction that the Mustang was taking. And to ensure that good publicity was spread far and wide, Ford arranged for Car and Driver and Road & Track to each have their own identical car. The magazines selected their drivers from amongst their own staff, which resulted in a mixed bag of skillsets. Road & Track had Innes Ireland, for example, and there was no question of the skill there. Each magazine also brought nearly their entire staff to crew their pits, cook for everyone, and cheer on their (hopefully) winning team.
And we were there ourselves, working as an SCCA-licensed Pit Marshall. That meant that we were working in the pits, right in front of the Mustang SVOs, and saw everything. We also got to meet our favorite writers from both magazines. What an incredible weekend! Read more
The complete story of this event is hosted on our main website here: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-ford/special-report-svo/index.html.
It is updated whenever new facts come in, so please check that page frequently.
If you were at Nelson Ledges for these events, I want to hear from use. Please use the Comments form to contact us.
Located at Napoli Classics in Milford, CT: http://www.napoliclassics.com/
We’re not associated with the dealer; we found this while browsing. It reminds us of our own Indy Pace car, with the same 302 and 4-speed manual. That car served us very well on the race track and in the occasional auto-x.
This dealer wants $13k for the car, and I believe the original cost was something like $8900. And that only 2400 were made in this combination.
The car appears clean, although it’s not 100% stock. Somebody added a splitter after the single cat and a semi-dual exhaust system from a later Fox-body platform. And it doesn’t have the aircon the dealer lists. Other than that, it appears to be in pretty good condition. I would recommend that the potential buyer carefully examine the sunroof drain lines – mine were missing from the factory and there was rust bubbling up around the sunroof opening. Ford’s build quality back then was terrible.
And here is my own ’79 in action at Nelson Ledges in the 1980 timeframe. Those were the days!
Yes, a 1985 Maserati Biturbo (pronounced “bee-turbo”) has been turned in to the cash for clunkers program. Unbelievable, right?
No. I remember that way back in 1984, at one of the early 24 hour endurance races at Nelson Ledges, somebody brought one of these to compete. I think it was Car and Driver, although it was a long time ago and I don’t remember who it was amoungst all the competitors. So you’d think they’d clean up, right?
No. It wasn’t the legendary Maserati un-reliability that did them in this time. It was absolutely unbelievable godawful structural integrity. The car flexed so badly in the turns that the gas tank split wide open. Yes, I saw it – I was standing in the middle of the pits as an SCCA Pit Marshall.
Even the lowly Pinto (which was a nice little car, except for one little problem) required somebody to hit it in the rear before it might develop a leak (and several competed in these races without issue). But the Maserati delivered a full gusher just from driving around a few turns.
So, yes, it was a POS then and should have been recalled. It’s amazing that one could end up like this – sent to the great beyond by the
Obama Healthcare Program cash for clunker program.
For those of you who weren’t born yet, the Biturbo had a 90-degree V-6 (inherently unbalanced) with a 3-valve head and two turbochargers. Strangely, those blew into a 2-barrel Weber carb. It was quick, but it couldn’t last.
Check with Car and Driver for the going rates on used Biturbos: http://usedcars.caranddriver.com/used_cars/Maserati/Biturbo
May 1980. Yes, you saw that right – 1980. With the Corvette Cleveland club at Nelson Ledges. I was in college at the time, had already been autocrossing my Mustang for a few months, and heard there was a “way” to get on a race track. I was already working grid and a couple of other specialties with the SCCA, so I was already familiar with Nelson Ledges – at least the parts I had worked on.
But how do you drive in a track event? No idea at all. When we walked the course and we talked about “diving thru the turn” we obviously didn’t talk about corner entry, apex, or exit. We didn’t know what to inflate the tires to (but we did know not to inflate them to the high-40s autocross setting!). Camber in the front suspension was a big mystery, just starting to unfold, and camber in the turns wasn’t even thought of. This was pure beginner time.
But this humble event (Nelson ledges is a small course and we didn’t even hit 100 MPH) started a hobby that a has lasted for 28 years, across multiple states and countries.
Unfortunately, no pictures remain of that event. But here is a picture from an event 2 years later at Nelson Ledges:
Note the old timing tower (since replaced)… and the generally ramshackle appearance of the place. And that was the attraction. Nelson was and still is a “club track” – not much to look at, but fun times and good racing. On a low budget – camping is the norm and there aren’t any fancy hotels to be had!
No discussion of Nelson Ledges can be had without mentioning their classic 24-hour endurance event. I was there during the glory years of 1982 and 1983, when factory teams raced in the event. Ford competed in the events with their Mustang SVO prototypes:
- http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-ford/special-reports/svo/svo-at-nl/page-1.htm (suggest <right click> and <open in new tab>)
I came across an unusual ad tonight while reading about Ferrari’s disaster at Monaco this morning. An ad running on a USA Today webpage invited me to Ohio for a motorsports getaway.
Since so many of my earliest motorsports adventures were in Ohio (Nelson Ledges), this sounded interesting. See the ad presented by the Sate of Ohio here: http://www.discoverohio.com/racing_06/main.asp
Nice site… but Nelson Ledges is nowhere to be found! What kind of a car enthusiast wouldn’t know about Nelson Ledges?
From *way* back when: me driving my 1979 Mustang at Nelson Ledges. The date was sometime in 1982.
I don’t remember much about the event… I think I managed to get to just under 115 at the end of the main straight. If you’ve been reading thru my site, you already know the details of this car: a 302 V-8 and 4-speed manual. Ford’s own Indy 500 Pace Car. It had been modified with adjustable KONIs, large sway bars (Quickor Engineering – back when they did car suspensions), and springs from a source I can’t remember anymore. Along with a 3:45 limited slip diff (taken with the entire axle from a Fairmont cop car – and featuring extra large cop car rear brakes). Goodyear “Wingfoot” tires (instead of the factory Michelins). Factory Recaros (real German ones, even featuring Porsche checkered cloth) made for a great driving position. Also ”true” dual exhaust (custom fabricated, replacing the factory single), and a large dual-snorkel air cleaner from an ’82 GT, the net total was a really nice track car for that day and age.
Nelson Ledges isn’t a particularly unique track – there are any number of little club tracks in existence. The facilites are terrible, the track isn’t in very good shape. But, who cares, this is racing and all of that can be expected. Instead, it’s the people at the track who make it what it is – especially the folks who put on the infamous Longest Day of Nelson Ledges events back in the eighties.
From what I understand, the track is still there and is still pretty much the same. It’ll probably continue unchanged for another 50 years.
I don’t remember the name of the group who ran this particular Open Track event, but it was my third year of experience at the ‘ledges and I was getting to know the track fairly well. The best was yet to come, however. This was also the first year I attended the Longest Day of Nelson Ledges 24 hour endurance race the track. I worked as a pit marschall in the Ford pits – and Ford brought the SVO prototypes to compete. Needless to say, it was tremendously encouraging to my own efforts to watch theirs.
At this early point, I still hadn’t run the track in the wet, but I did know that would be an issue someday. There were several treacherously slick parts of the track even when it was dry, especially coming out of the back carousel (which also, very inconveniently, had a perpetually enormous pothole right in the wrong place). My “moment” would come in 1986, in an event run by a group out of Toronto, which was run despite a 100% downpour. I had a major league “off” entering the main straight just after the carousel. I saved it and was safe, but managed to pick up probably 400 pounds of mud.
That also just happened to be my last event ever at Nelson Ledges. Fortunately, life took me out of the area to Texas and everything has changed for the better since. I did make it back up to that general area for an event at Watkins Glen once and haven’t managed to make it back up there with a track car since. I’d like to hit the ‘ledges someday again!