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What Is An SVO Mustang?

The SVO Mustang was first debuted as a prototype in 1982 at an endurance race and later released as a production car from 1984-1986!

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  • History Of The Mustang SVO

Early Beginnings

The Ford Mustang 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 Body 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".


History Of The Mustang SVO - History Of The Mustang SVO

SVO Production Years

With the 1970's oil crisis putting pressure on Ford Motor Company muscle car sales, they were forced to make a change to make their performance line more appealing to the general public. Fast forward to the 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 like Porsche or BMW, 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 Fox Body Mustang, engineers showed no interest in the mass-produced 5.0 V-8 Mustang GT and opted for a stronger, turbocharged four-cylinder found in the Ford Mustang II. This smaller engine not only helped with fuel economy but also helped reduce overall weight and improved weight distribution. This updated high-performance four-cylinder engine featured an electronic fuel injection system and intercooler 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 the 1985 model year, changes to the motor netted another 30 horsepower bringing the total output to 205 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The new SVO also got an update to its Borg-Warner five-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 limited-production numbers:
1984 SVO Mustang

  • 4,258 US Models 250 Canadian Models 4,508 Total Made
1985 SVO Mustang
  • 1,496 US Models 19 Canadian Models 1,515 Total Made
1985 1/2 SVO
  • 428 US Models 11 Canadian Models 439 Total Made
  • 1986 SVO Mustang
  • 2,906 US Models 476 Canadian Models 3,382 Total Made
  • All SVO's
  • 9,088 US Made 756 Canadian Made 9,844 Total Made all SVO's
  • (Thank You To User Stratdeath from Allfordmustang.com)
    History Of The Mustang SVO - History Of The Mustang SVO

    SVO Differences

    While the SVO looked somewhat similar to the Mustangs of its time, there were quite a few key differences and specs:
    • 15:1 Ratio Power-Assisted Rack & Pinion Steering System
    • Limited Slip 3.45 7.5" Traction-Lok (1984)
    • Limited Slip 3.73 7.5" Traction-Lok (1985-1986)
    • Venitlated 4 Wheel Disc Brake System (Sourced From Continental Mark VII)
    • Specialty Designed Pedals Used To Aid Heel/Toe Shifting
    • Complete Koni Suspension (Adjustable Struts and Adjustable Shocks)
    • 5 Lug Axles/Hubs
    • 5 Lug 16x7" Aluminum Wheels with Goodyear tires
    • Adjustable Sport Seats With Lumbar Supports (Leather or Cloth Only In Charcoal Gray)
    • Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel
    • Suede Effect Dash Panels
    • Unique Cloth Material For Door Panels
    • 140 MPH Speedometer (No Numbers Past 85mph)
    • 18psi Boost Gauge
    • Fender Flares/Spats
    • Unique Sail Panels
    • Tail Lights (93 SVT Cobra)
    • Unique Headlights
    • Wrap Around Front Facia
    • Narrow Body Side Moldings
    • Unique Hood w/ Functional Hood Scoop
    • Biplane Wing Rear Spoiler
    History Of The Mustang SVO - History Of The Mustang SVO

    SVO Color Codes

    • Black (1C) - 1984-1985-1986
    • Dark Charcoal Metallic (9W) - 1984
    • Silver Metallic (1E) - 1984-1985-1986
    • Medium Canyon Red Metallic (2A) - 1984-1985-1986
    • Jalepeno Red (2R) - 1985-1986
    • Dark Sage (4E) - 1985-1986
    • Oxford White (9L) - 1985-1986
    • Dark Grey Metallic (1D) - 1986
    • Shadow Blue (7B) - 1986
    • Medium Charcoal Metallic (1B) - 1984
    • History Of The Mustang SVO - History Of The Mustang SVO

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    Buy 1984-86 SVO Mustang Parts

    SVO Mustang Parts

    Shop the best in restoration, performance & styling for your 1984-86 SVO Mustang Fox Body at LMR.com! From 1984-86, Ford produced the iconic 2.3L SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) Mustang which quickly became a fan favorite of Mustang Enthusiasts everywhere! Featuring the reliability and economy of the 4 cylinder turboc... more

    SVO TECH GUIDES

    History Of The Mustang SVO

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    About the Video

    What is an SVO Mustang? | 1984-1986 SVO History & Specs

    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!

    Published on 2022-07-20
    In this LMR "What is" video, Landan talks about the history and specifications of the SVO Mustang! Enjoy the video and let us know what you think about the SVO!