The Sad SVO Story

Some of  you know that my wife & I have a little coonhound companion named Mabel that requires lots of attention and copious amounts of food. She's a great pooch and our morning walks have become something that we really look forward to, especially since the addition of a walking trail near our house built on an old railroad line that's no longer used. While walking over the past year or so, Mabel & I have noticed a very sad little 1984 or 1985 Mustang SVO parked on the street in our neighborhood. It rarely moves, the hood is always popped, and there's a healthy amount of oil stains underneath it. I've never seen it run, although its tires hold air and it appears to be complete. The turbocharged Fox looks sad with its broken turn signals and peeling paint. Its as if its been given a death sentence and is waiting for the governor to grant it clemency...but that hasn't happened yet.


Call me sentimental, but I feel for the little thing. The SVO's are rare cars, and this example isn't rusty at all...just well-worn. With a paint job, it could be a nice cruiser but instead it just soaks up the rain, sun, and snow. In the wintertime it frequently got plowed in by the village snowplows. While its missing the original metric rims and Gatorback tires, it still sits relatively straight on its American Racing wheels and skinny Generals. The glass and interior aren't bad either.

Yes, this car has blended into the background of our daily lives. Just another old car sitting on the street that nobody moves. (We live in that kind of neighborhood). We pass it all the time and I just shake my head and think about making the owner an offer to buy the damned thing...but reality eventually sinks in. Even though I cut my teeth on Mustangs and own a 98 Cobra, there was no way I could save this poor SVO. Sarah & I already own 4 cars and 2 of them need a ton of work. Plus our kitchen and bathroom need updating, and we only have a one-car garage. No dice. Nada. Zip. Zero.

On a walk the other day, Mabel & I approached the SVO like we usually do and noticed that someone had finally seen enough of it. A call to code enforcement was made and it was tagged with a yellow ordinance violation sticker for not having a valid registration sticker and being parked on the village street, which is illegal. Its days were numbered, or so I thought. 

For those of you looking at these photos and asking yourself "What the heck does he see in that old piece of 80's junk?" that's a fair question. But to be honest, this is what I see.

When the SVO debuted in 1984, it was a refined version of the Fox body Mustang chassis, built for speed and handling. The Special Vehicle Operations department of Ford formed in 1981 and over several years worked out the final production version of the Mustang to rival all Mustangs. It was to be an economical sports car. Oil was getting harder to import and more expensive by the day in 1981, and sales of the Mustang GT were...pffft. Ford was going for an aerodynamic European-style road car that Americans would love. On paper, it looked like a slam-dunk:
The SVO was equipped with Koni shocks, wider five-lug 16 inch rims shod with sticky Goodyears. Its turbocharged and intercooled 2.3 liter 4 cylinder made 175 horsepower, or 10 more horsepower than a 302 powered GT model of the same era with way better fuel economy. Speaking of economy, the SVO included an octane selector on the dash so you could adjust performance for the fuel you used. They also had a distinctive front clip with "aero" head lamps, a unique interior, Marchal fog lamps and pinstriped rear tail light lenses and that Ford Sierra RS Cosworth-like dual wing rear spoiler that set it all off. If you had a Mustang GT but thought it was all bark and no bite...the boosted SVO was your car. It would cost you, though...a lot more cabbage than the GT. Naturally, people were cheap so they only spat out 9,502 of these little buggers in their 3-year run. But even today the attention of most Mustang enthusiasts turns to the V8 Mustang GT cars, ASC's and Cobras. The SVO is still the odd man out because it has 4 little cylinders and a funky front end.

What people should know is that many features on the car eventually morphed into the 1987-93 Fox Mustang design, such as a cleaner version of the front fascia. The 5 lug axles and rims became standard equipment on the Fox's last hurrah, the 1993 SVT Cobra. Later SN95 models incorporated the 5 lugs starting in 1994. Power adders & intercoolers became part of the game in 1989 with the Fox-derived Thunderbird Super Coupe and Mercury Cougar XR-7. And the quad shocks and handling improvements penned for the SVO pushed the Ford engineers to eventually develop an IRS system for the aging platform with the 1999 Cobra. That advancement (and an Eaton supercharger) helped buy Ford 5 more years before going all out on the current S-197 Mustang. The SVO should hold a place in history for making Ford and American enthusiasts expect handling in addition to power.

To wrap up the story of the sad SVO in my neighborhood, it eventually moved into the driveway of the owner, where I'm sure it will remain parked until either two things happen.

1. The owner will decide to fix it up and start driving it.

2. I walk up to his house tomorrow with a stack of cash and make him an offer he can't refuse.

Anyone got a line on some cheap storage space?  Happy (walking) trails.



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