The Mustang SVO was a limited-production version of the Ford Mustang sold from 1984 to 1986, during which time it was the fastest, most expensive version of the Mustang available. Although it departed both physically and mechanically from any prior version of the Mustang, it held the same spot within the lineup, both in terms of performance over "lesser" variants and in prestige, as had variants such as the Shelby tuned and "BOSS" Mustangs of the 1960s and 70s.
In the wake of the oil-crises of the 1970s the American muscle-car had effectively died off, the result of ever-rising fuel costs and the advent of more strict safety and emissions controls imposed worldwide. As a result, the "big three" automakers (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Corporation), for whom muscle cars had been a steady and reliable source of income, began to suffer somewhat financially. Many of the great vehicles of the muscle car era had been either completely discontinued or had been painstakingly detuned to help keep them in compliance with new Federal emissions regulations and the rising demand for better gas mileage. The Mustang, although still in production, had suffered greatly through this time; diminished power output and Ford's seemingly complete inability to come up with an attractive bodystyle in the post-fastback era were major issues.
Ford began to make a major push forward with the Mustang in 1982, nearly completely re-inventing every aspect of the vehicle, which included putting a new emphasis on the model's sporty nature. Just prior to this, in the fall of 1981, Ford decided to form a division that could oversee both the company's racing program and the production of limited-edition, high performance street legal vehicles based on or taking technology from the race vehicles. Officially, the division was called the Special Vehicle Operations Department, but the public came to know them as simply SVO (S-V-O). Tasked with developing something that was both plainly American and competent to compete with entry-level European sports cars of the day, the team went to work on the new Mustang, deeming that it was the most obvious choice as a platform basis for a high-performance vehicle.
Still ultimately concerned with issues such as fuel consumption and emissions, SVO engineers opted to pass over the venerable Boss 302 in lieu of an updated, turbocharged, and stronger version of Ford's 2.3 liter inline four, originally used in the Pinto. Endowing the engine with an advanced, computer controlled fuel injection system and an intercooled turbocharger system helped push power output to 175 horsepower(130 kW), fairly high for the time. With fine tuning and the addition of a new water-cooling system, power output rose to 200 horsepower for 1986 (200 horsepower for 439 85.5 SVOs) In addition, a "fuel grade" switch was added to the dash, allowing the driver to adjust the vehicle's performance level depending on if premium or standard grade fuel was being used. The vehicle's standard 5-speed manual transmission was updated as well, eventually receiving revised gearing and a factory installed Hurst shifter to improve feel and quickness. Also the 1986 SVO had different aero shaped headlights. These headlights were designed for the 1984 model, but regulations would not allow them for another two years. One of the major downfalls to the turbocharged inline four was the lack of torque in comparison to the V8, which, in the eyes of former muscle car owners, was considered a severe disadvantage.
|Mustang SVO horsepower and torque ratings by year|
|1984||175 @ 4400 RPM||210 @ 3000 RPM|
|1985||175 @ 4400 RPM||210 @ 3000 RPM|
|1985.5||200 @ 5000 RPM||240 @ 3200 RPM|
|1986||200 @ 5000 RPM||240 @ 3200 RPM|
The Overall PackageRectify
In addition to the advanced engine, the SVO featured several key modifications over the standard Mustang to help increase performance. The front suspension geometry was modified, a 15:1 ratio power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system replaced the standard system, a limited slip, 3.45:1, 7.5" Traction-Lok axle was added for the first year of production (later models used a 3.73:1 ratio, 7.5" axle), a new, ventilated four-wheel-disc braking system replaced the GT's disc/drum setup (a first for the Fox platform), specially designed pedals were used to aid "heel and toe" shifting and a complete Koni suspension system featuring specially tuned adjustable struts, shocks, and horizontal dampers replaced the setup used on the Mustang GT. Five-lug, 16 x 7 inch aluminum wheels wearing P225-16 Goodyear Eagle VR 50 "Gatorback" tires were standard as well(originally shod with German Goodyear NCT tires, and later Gatorbacks). The rear disc brakes, the five lug hubs, the sixteen inch wheels, the quad-shock rear end, and the Konis were used on the SVO before any other Mustang
Interior features included adjustable sport seats with lumbar supports, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, shift lever, and emergency brake handle, power windows, door locks and A/C and a premium stereo system, options that weren't normally found on small American coupes. However, an optional Competition Prep package deleted many of those features to save weight.
The exterior had a unique front grill that was only used on the svo line, and a biplane spoiler that was also unique to the svo.
In the mid 1980s gas prices moderated and stabilized. By the time Ford was able to get the SVO to market the car became a casualty of this phenomenon. Throughout the production run of the SVO low gas price fueled sales of the V8 Mustangs which had the additional bonus of being up to five thousand dollars cheaper. Americans of that time period also had a taste for the torque that the big V8 had in spades. Cheap gas prices and the extra expense to buy the SVO left many unsold on new car dealerships. Total production for the 1984 to 1986 run of cars was 9,844 SVO Mustangs.