1984 Ford Mustang SVO hatchback coupe

Yesterday’s Hemmings Daily blog had an entry on the Mustang SVO, titled “Was this America’s most misunderstood sports car?” I’ve updated one of my early posts to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“Sophisticated performance for the knowledgeable driver.”

With the announcement of the 2015 Mustang and its available EcoBoost turbocharged inline four, my mind turned back to the 1984 to 1986 Mustang SVO.

Created by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations department, the SVO was an admirable attempt to take a different and more advanced approach to the pony car market. This version of the Fox-body Mustang was built around the Lima turbocharged and fuel injected 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four making 175 bhp paired with a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed manual. By the standards of the day, this combination yielded a reasonable 19 city/26 highway (it would be 17/24 by current standards) and a respectable 7.5 second 0-60 time.

Other modifications over the standard Mustang included ventilated four-wheel power disc brakes (replacing the Mustang GT’s front disc/rear drum setup), and a Koni suspension system featuring adjustable struts and shocks. 16 × 7 inch aluminum wheels with 225/50VR16 Goodyear NCT tires (a size still readily available) were standard for the first year—Gatorbacks didn’t become available until 1985.

You could have the interior in any color you wanted as long as that was Charcoal, but you did get to choose from the standard cloth or optional leather seats. Standard features included adjustable sport seats with lumbar support and a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. Air conditioning ($743), a cassette player ($222), power door locks ($177), and power windows ($198) all remained optional—this was 1984, after all.

The exterior featured an SVO-specific front grille, a hood with a functional scoop, and a “dual wing” spoiler that was also unique to the SVO.

Mustang SVO page from the 1984 Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

With a base price of $15,596 (about $38,800 in 2018 dollars or about what a well-equipped 2019 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback goes for), sales did not come close to meeting Ford’s hopes—less than 10,000 buyers took home a Mustang SVO over its three years of production. The reasons for its relative failure where many, but I think the most significant problems were:

  • The average Mustang buyer was happier with a Mustang GT, which, with a base price of $9,578, cost substantially less.
  • The potential buyer of a vehicle with turbocharged and intercooled four, four-wheel disc brakes, and an adjustable suspension wasn’t looking to Ford for this car.

It is interesting to note that Ford was much more successful in the 1990s and 2000s in selling high-end Mustangs. They’ve also done decently with the 2.3 liter (there’s a coincidence!) 310 bhp EcoBoost turbocharged inline four which first became available in 2015.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Mustang SVO in #1/Concours condition is $21,900, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $10,100. Make my SVO Silver Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.

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