The SVO was first teased in the middle of 1982 by Ford at the Quaker State Oil Longest Day Of Nelson race. The team brought two engineering prototypes to compete in this 24 hour endurance race. These prototypes were a Fox Chassis Mustang equipped with a 2.3 4 cylinder turbocharged motor and were going to be driven by Road & Track and Car and Driver.
During the first practice sessions, the crew ran into problems in the form of fuel issues. The team tried everything they could to get the problem fixed but could only get the car to run correctly with a full tank. Due to weight restrictions, they had to take a weight penalty from the full tank of gas when trying to qualify the car for a grid position.
After the first session, they switched out the rear anti-roll bar with a stiffer counterpart to reduce the unexpected understeer. Comparing notes to the Car and Driver team, the Road & Track team noticed that they were slower and had only 10psi of boost compared to Car & Driver's 12psi. In the final session of the day they noticed the car handled better but they were still slower than their other test car.
When the team returned for a night practice session, it was discovered that there was a faulty bearing in the turbo. The next day, the car performed much better with 11psi of boost and was ready for action. Between a rain soaked track and mechanical problems, the Road & Track team had a variety of problems plaguing their day and falling laps behind. The Car And Driver team experienced a motor failure at halftime. After getting their new motor fitted, they were back in the race and only 41 laps down on the Road & Track team. While the Road & Track team continued to be riffled with problems, the Car & Driver closed in. The Road and Track team was soon black flagged for spilling fuel and when pulling into the pits, the car briefly caught fire from the spilled fuel. While the last driver took his turn in the problem riddled SVO, the Car & Driver car slowed down to allow them to cross the finish line together as they had agreed before the race.
While it was not the way the teams had envisioned the race to go, they had both finished with running cars and surprisingly covered the same amount of laps throughout all of the problems faced by each crew. The team would later take what they learned from the races to develop the SVO for production in 1984. As Ford Motor Company states "racing improves the breed".
With the 1970's oil crisis putting pressure on Ford's muscle car sales, they were forced to make a change to make their performance line more appealing to the general public. Fast forward to fall of 1981, Ford develops the Special Vehicle Operations Department (SVO). This division of Ford was given the task of creating a sports car that both competed with entry-level European sports cars while still appealing to the American public and their desire for better fuel economy. The obvious choice was the Mustang as it already had a strong customer base and was well known for high performance capabilities.
With the pressure on the fuel economy aspect of the Mustang, engineers showed no interest in the mass produced 5.0 V-8 and opted for a stronger, turbocharged version of Ford's 2.3L 4 cylinder found in the Ford Mustang II. This smaller engine not only helped with fuel economy, it helped reduce weight and improved weight distribution. This updated motor featured an electronic fuel injection system and intercooled turbo setup giving the SVO a stout 175 horsepower. The car was also outfitted with a Hurst shifter from the factory to improve shifting. In 1985, changes to the motor netted another 30 horsepower bringing the total output to 205hp. The new SVO also got an update to its Borg-Warner 5 speed manual transmission along with a 3:73 gearing. The final change was "Aero" style headlights used in mid-1985.
In 1984 Ford released the SVO at a staggering $16,000. This was a surprise since the faster GT started close to $10,000. Here are the production numbers:
1984 SVO Mustang
Check out our YouTube channel for even more tech tips, installation videos, how-tos, and more. The best place to go for anything Mustang related!