Ford Mustang SVO

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Ford Mustang SVO
1986 Mustang SVO gray.jpg
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
AssemblyDearborn Assembly Plant, Dearborn, Michigan
Body and chassis
Body style3-door liftback
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord Fox platform
RelatedFord LTD
Ford Thunderbird
Mercury Capri
Mercury Marquis
Mercury Cougar
Merkur XR4Ti
Lincoln Continental
Lincoln Mark VII
Ford Mustang
Engine2.3L I4 turbo
Transmission5-speed manual
Wheelbase100.5 in (2,553 mm)
Length179.6 in (4,562 mm)
Width69.1 in (1,755 mm)
Height52.1 in (1,323 mm)
SuccessorFord 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 one of the fastest, and the 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 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 body style in the postfastback era were major issues. The Mustang had also been considered to be replaced by a joint engineering effort with Mazda, but Mustang enthusiasts protested, and the car that had been prepared to replace the Mustang was eventually introduced as the Ford Probe.

Ford began to make a major push forward with the Mustang in 1982, nearly completely reinventing 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.

1985½ training article

Turbocharged power[edit]

Still ultimately concerned with issues such as fuel consumption and emissions, SVO engineers opted to pass over the venerable 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 and Ford Mustang II. The installation of the four-cylinder engine helped with weight distribution, due to the engine being installed perpendicular to, and behind, the front axle, thereby improving handling. Endowing the engine with an advanced, computer-controlled fuel injection system and an intercooled turbocharger system helped push power output to 175 horsepower, fairly high for the time. In addition, a "fuel grade" switch was added to the dash, allowing the driver to adjust the vehicle's performance level depending on whether premium or standard grade fuel were being used, as the engine was not installed with a knock sensor. A factory-installed Hurst shifter was made standard to improve feel and quickness. 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 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 five-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 Continental Mark VII) 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 front struts, rear shocks, and horizontal rear dampers replaced the setup used on the Mustang GT. Five-lug, 16 × 7-inch aluminum wheels with P225-50R16 VR Goodyear Eagle "Gatorback" tires were standard, as well (originally with German Goodyear NCT tires, and later Gatorbacks). The rear disc brakes, the five-lug hubs, the 16-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 cloth) 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, air conditioning, and a premium stereo system, options not 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.


Media related to Ford Mustang SVO at Wikimedia Commons