Ford Mustang SVO

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Third generation
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1984–1986
Assembly Dearborn, Michigan
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door liftback
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford Fox platform
Related Ford LTD
Ford Thunderbird
Mercury Capri
Mercury Marquis
Mercury Cougar
Lincoln Continental
Lincoln Mark VII
Ford Mustang
Engine 2.3 L turbocharged Lima I4
Transmission 5-speed manual
Wheelbase 100.5 in (2,553 mm)
Length 179.6 in (4,562 mm)
Width 69.1 in (1,755 mm)
Height 52.1 in (1,323 mm)
Curb weight 3049 lbs [1383 kg]
Successor Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
1986 Mustang SVO
Rear view
Mustang SVO 1986
86 SVO engine bay

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 1970s.


In the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970s, the American muscle car had effectively died off, the result of rising fuel costs, stricter safety standards, and emissions controls. Many vehicles of the muscle car era were discontinued or detuned to keep them in compliance with new regulations and to meet the rising demand for better gas mileage. Although still in production, Mustang performance had significantly reduced; diminished power output and Ford's seemingly complete inability to come up with an attractive body style in the post-fastback era were major issues.

In 1979 Ford redesigned the Mustang completely, 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 the company's racing program and the production of limited-edition, high-performance street-legal vehicles using technology from the race vehicles. Officially, the division was called the Special Vehicle Operations department, but the public came to know it simply as SVO(S-V-O). 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.

1985½ Training Article

Turbocharged Power[edit]

Concerned with issues such as fuel consumption and emissions, SVO engineers opted to pass over the production 5.0 liter V-8 in lieu of an updated, turbocharged, and stronger version of Ford's 2.3 liter inline four, originally used in the Pinto. Using a computer controlled fuel injection system and an intercooled turbocharger system, power output was 175 horsepower, fairly high for the time. In addition, a "fuel grade" switch was added to the dashboard, allowing the driver to adjust the vehicle's performance level if premium or standard grade fuel was being used. A factory installed Hurst shifter was made standard in order to improve shifting.

With fine tuning and the addition of a new water-cooling system, power output rose to 200 horsepower (149 kW) for 1986 (205 horsepower (153 kW) for 439 85.5 SVOs). Also the 1985.5 and 1986 SVO had new "aero" headlights. These headlights were designed for the 1984 model, but regulations would not allow them to be used until the mid-1985 update. The vehicle's standard Borg-Warner 5-speed manual transmission was updated then as well, receiving revised gearing to match the new 3:73 rear end ratio,

Mustang SVO horsepower and torque ratings by year
Year Power Torque
1984 175 hp (130 kW) @ 4400 rpm 210 lb·ft (280 N·m) @ 3000 rpm
1985 175 hp (130 kW) @ 4400 rpm 210 lb·ft (280 N·m) @ 3000 rpm
1985.5 205 hp (153 kW) @ 5000 rpm 248 lb·ft (336 N·m) @ 3200 rpm
1986 200 hp (149 kW) @ 5000 rpm 240 lb·ft (330 N·m) @ 3200 rpm

The Overall Package[edit]

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, 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 (sourced from the Fox platform Lincoln Continental) replaced the GT's disc/drum setup (a first for the Mustang), 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 × 7 inch aluminum wheels wearing P225-50R16 VR Goodyear Eagle "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 (406 mm) wheels, the quad-shock rear end (early 84 units used a solid steel traction bar with a rubber cover), and the Konis were used on the SVO before any other Mustang.

Interior was only available in charcoal grey (leather or velour) and 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 grille and hood that was only used on the SVO line, thinner side moldings, smoother sail panels behind the rear quarter windows, small rear wheel spats and a biplane spoiler that was also unique to the SVO. The pinstriped taillights introduced on the SVO were later used on the 1993 Cobra model as well.