In the fall of 1980, Ford created Special Vehicle Operations
to develop and oversee Ford's Motorsport program, representing
a significant change in product philosophy at Ford Motor Company.
SVO was established to enhance the image of Ford products through
motorsports, and to apply race-derived technology and knowledge
to exciting new production vehicles. SVO demonstrates clearly
what then Ford president Donald E. Peterson meant when he said
that Ford wants to be known for building "driver's cars,''
and that Ford will be known as the company moving the American
automobile industry in a new direction.
Enough said. The men at SVO began their mission to build a
driver's car -- to show the world that Americans
could build a driver's car. And that is just what they did.
The high-technology, high-performance, limited-production Ford
Mustang SVO is not just another late-model Mustang with a cosmetic
package or fancy gizmos -- it is a machine designed to be driven
at high speeds on winding roads. It is a balanced, sophisticated,
race-proven automobile for the knowledgeable enthusiast. The Mustang
SVO has high-technology features that are simply not available
on most competitive products -- regardless of price.
Ford's Special Vehicle Operations developed the Mustang SVO by
applying track-tested technology from the IMSA Mustang race cars.
Mustang SVO Prototypes were raced in the 24-hours at Nelson Ledges.
Production SVOs are today still raced at tracks across the country
in both "street" and "competition prep" models.
Some day you will be sure to see Mustang SVOs in vintage races
A Very Special
Being a sophisticated driver's car -- clearly a car that was ahead
of its time -- it catered to a select group of serious drivers.
It has been said that Ford salesmen rarely sold a Mustang SVO
-- they were sold before the customer walked on the dealer's lot.
The Mustang SVO was a perfect example of the advertising slogan:
"The Machine speaks for itself."
Of the more than 400,000 Mustangs built from 1984-1986, a mere
9,844 Mustang SVOs were ever produced -- representing barely two-percent
of production -- making this unquestionably the most collectible
(and at the time perhaps the most expensive) Mustang that Ford
had built since the Boss Mustangs of the '60s and '70s. The Mustang
SVO is a car not understood by many. Fewer people even know of
its existence even today.
Many revolutionary developments emerged as a result of the Mustang
SVO and have since been carried over to other Ford and Lincoln-Mercury
The exterior incorporates functional aerodynamics. Its flush
headlights (introduced in the 1985-1/2 model year and the first
of the Ford product line to have them); a functional front air
dam; a hood scoop to provide air to the turbocharger's intercooler;
a unique dual-wing rear spoiler; and even the flush surfaces of
its aluminum wheels all combine to improve high-speed handling
and stability, while, at the same time, minimizing the penalty
of increased aerodynamic drag. In fact, nothing has been added
to the body of the Mustang SVO purely for styling purposes. Exterior
changes are functional, designed to enhance performance.
At its introduction in 1984, the Mustang SVO produced a whopping
175 horsepower from its small 2.3 litre, 4-cylinder engine with
its EEC-IV engine management system. But the men at SVO didn't
stop there. By 1985-1/2 and 1986, many changes were made throughout
the vehicle, and the little port fuel-injected, turbocharged,
and intercooled engine produced 200 bhp at 5000 rpm (205 bhp for
1985-1/2), and generated 240 lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. Now water-cooled,
the turbo is more reliable, and provides variable boost up to
15 lbs with lag being virtually nonexistent. A center console-mounted
fuel recalibration switch optimizes engine performance for regular
or premium fuel.
Also later in production, the standard 5-speed overdrive transmission
had revised gearing and was now linked with a short-throw Hurst-developed
shifter -- not since the Boss Mustangs, was Hurst involved at
this level in a Ford project. Factory equipment also included
modified front geometry and 15:1 power-assisted rack-and-pinion
steering. Rear suspension featured a limited slip, 3.73:1 Traction-Lok
axle. The Mustang SVO's suspension included many firsts -- it
was the first Mustang to have as standard equipment all of the
following: Koni gas filled/adjustable struts, shocks, and horizontal
dampers; 5-lug, 16 x 7 inch aluminum wheels; P225-16 Goodyear
Eagle VR 50 "Gatorbacks''; and four-wheel ventilated disc
brakes. (Finally, nearly ten years later, the very limited production
1993 SVT Cobra 'R' followed by all models of the 1994 Mustang
featured four-wheel discs!)
There are many ergonomic design
features incorporated in the interior of the Mustang SVO. Luxury
comforts include multi-adjustable articulated sport seats with
adjustable lumbar supports; leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel,
shift lever, and emergency brake handle. Power windows, door locks,
A/C, and Premium Sound stereo are also standard (although deleted
with the Competition Prep option). A special brake pedal was designed
to accommodate heel-and-toe shifting. A foot rest was provided
for added support for the driver under hard cornering. Car
and Driver magazine said "Its excellent driving position
was praised by all our testers. Much of the credit goes to the
seats . . . The smoothly operating controls, ranging from the
slickest shifter . . . to the heel and toe layout of the pedals
. . . ''
Mustang SVO Wins Praise
The Mustang SVO, is without a doubt, the most dramatic and completely-equipped
Mustang ever built by Ford. When asked to summarize the Mustang
SVO in a single word, John Clinard, then Marketing Manager of
Special Vehicle Operations, said: " 'Uncompromised.' It is
designed to be driven and enjoyed every day, yet it can be taken
to the track virtually as it leaves the showroom. Everything added
to create this car is there because it is functional. There are
'no gimmicks.' ''
When the 28 men of Special Vehicle Operations were done, they
had created what Road & Track magazine (October, 1983)
had called " . . . perhaps the best all-around car for the
enthusiast driver ever produced by the U.S. Industry.''
Its innovative suspension with adjustable Konis that brought
"Quad" shocks (SVOs built in December 1983 and later)
and four wheel disc brakes to the Mustang line-up 10 years before
they finally became standard on all new 1994 (and later) Mustangs.
Konis were finally again standard on one other Mustang -- the
very limited production 1995 SVT Mustang Cobra 'R' -- not since
then has Koni been standard equipment on any other Ford offered
for sale in the U.S.
There would be a few short years that a true performance Mustang
would be in the dealer showrooms. And then...
Demand proved that there would eventually be a new breed of performance
Mustang -- one where again simple understatement would be the
approach -- if it doesn't have a function, it doesn't belong.
These are concepts that came about again when Ford's Special Vehicle
Team (some say a "rebirth" of the SVO team) introduced
the 5,000 SVT Mustang Cobras in 1993.
Some Mustang SVO owners bought these SVT Cobras -- intrigued
by the high-output 5.0L V8 powerplant and 17-inch wheels only
to be overly disappointed by its inadequate seating, small disc
brakes (borrowed from the Turbo Coupe), and poor handling. Some
sold them soon after in favor of their original love -- the Mustang
SVO -- which is still considered by many to be the best handling
Mustang that Ford ever built.
This new generation of the Mustang SVO -- the SVT Mustang Cobra
-- is developing into a "driver's car" -- but at the
same time making just a few compromises so as to cater to a broader
market. (When talking to the layperson, some Mustang SVO enthusiasts
now refer to their cars as "an early SVT Cobra.") Sales
of the SVT Cobra are good, and have been maintained at 10,000
units per year since the introduction of the SN95 body style in
The SVT Cobra has matured considerably in a few short years
-- especially after trading-in its antiquated 5.0L pushrod engine
for a sophisticated, high-revving 4.6L DOHC powerplant introduced
in the 1996 model year. Also sporting a pair of stylish "nostrils"
in its new hood give it an even more agressive look to the new
305 HP package.
A fleet of Roush-prepared 1997 SVT Mustang Cobras are now the
"car of choice" at the Bondurant School of High Performance
Driving in Arizona where the cars are truly being put to the test.
1998 SVT Cobra (left) is showing-off its new 1995 Cobra 'R'-style
wheels, but otherwise is virtually identical to the 1996-97 models
except for a slight dashpad and center console revision.
The SVT Mustang Cobra, from Ford Special Vehicle Team, continues
to maintain its status as a refined, high-performance, touring
coupe with many modern luxuries. It is designed to live up to
the SVT hallmarks of performance, substance, exclusivity and value.