Derek And Doug's Fantastic Crapwagons: Ford SVT Contour

(The idea for this series based on the numerous emails sent between Derek and Doug, containing long forgotten cars that have fallen into a derelict state. While our intrepid authors would love to own these cars should they ever win the Powerball, they find it difficult to actually part with the funds required to take them home, especially given the significant reconditioning required. In addition, you’ll see the difference between a snow belt car and a clean car from the south, as both authors compare examples from their respective locales.)

Derek writes:

I remember the SVT Contour for two reasons. Car and Driver once named it as a contender for “Best Handling Car Under $30,000”, and BF Goodrich developed a special tire for it, the KD/W, and featured it prominently in full-page ad spreads.

Being partial to sedans, I have always had a soft spot for the SVT Contour. While it’s often dubbed the “poor man’s 4-door M3”, that’s little more than damming it with faint praise. The front-drive layout and the Blue Oval badge doomed this car to forever being considered a second-tier sports car, but I have no innate bias against front-drive cars or Ford products. The one thing stopping me from buying one is that most local examples are crap.

The Ford badge is probably a big reason why these cars saw their values plummet like Rosie O’Donnell in a skydiving accident. Many of them ended up rotting in fields, suffering at the hands of incompetent “Performance 2NR types” or winding up as ChumpCar entrants. Even the relatively clean ones have weird red flags like mismatched wheels. If the road salt and wet climate wasn’t bad enough, then Toronto’s “auto enthusiasts” can always find a way to take degrade a once great car.

Then again, there is this one. Not my first choice of color, and a little more than I’d want to pay. But at least the ad is coherent.

Doug writes:

It’s easy to find a Contour SVT in the Atlanta area, provided you’re OK with driving to the kind of faraway suburb where people have addresses like “11467 State Highway 82” and the most common house pet is a pig.

That’s because the Contour SVT was highly popular down south among drivers who realized it would be hard to fit a car seat in a V6 Mustang. Unfortunately, this means that every Atlanta-area Contour SVT has been through several owners, all of whom, at one point, posted a YouTube video of themselves driving the car that started with: “Watch this!”

But with a friendly climate and the car’s wide availability of parts, a lot of the local Contour SVTs are in reasonably nice shape. This 1998 model, for example, looks absolutely pristine considering its list price of just $4,000. And while the seller hasn’t posted the car’s mileage, he has provided his own personal guarantee of “drive anywhere,” which is really just as good.

This 2000 model, offered for just $2,999, also looks pristine, provided you’re OK with the facelift headlights. This seller also hasn’t listed the mileage, but he did note the car got a new clutch and new brakes at 108,000. He also says it “sounds great,” which is Georgia speak for “straight pipes” or possibly “hole in the exhaust that requires welding.”

There are a few more SVT Contours on Atlanta Craigslist, all of which boast similar condition and pricing. (As a bonus, some listings even include the mileage.) Down here, we sure know how to keep our SVT Contours. And our pet pigs.

Derek Kreindler and Doug DeMuro
Derek Kreindler and Doug DeMuro

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  • Wheeljack Wheeljack on May 25, 2013

    Back when I worked for Ford I had a 1998 Mystique Sport with the V-6 and a manual trans as a company car. 1998 was the last good year before all the serious decontenting started - my car had full 10-way power seats on both the driver and passenger sides. Having owned several Fiestas and 2 Merkur Scorpios prior, I was inclinded to like the Contour and Mystique. They had that "familiar" feel that all Euro Fords have, and the cars (in SE or Sport form) rode and handled brilliantly. The only thing I hated about it was the clutch pedal (hair trigger and grabbed right on the floor) and the way the engine RPM would remain high when you pressed in on the clutch - this is known as "dashpot effect" in the calibration community and it is done to reduce snap-throttle emissions if the car has a cheap catalyst with a very light precious metal washcoat on it. Thanks to these two conditions, driving the car smoothly was virtually impossible. One of my dealers got in a then new SVT Contour and I asked if I could take it out for a spin. What a revelation! The clutch pedal was much better sorted and offered better feel for what the clutch disc was doing. Most of the dashpot effect was also gone and the engine dropped back to idle rapidly in between shifts. Not only was it easy to drive fast and smoothly, but the already excellent handling was dialed up several notches.

  • Onus Onus on May 25, 2013

    My friends mom had one of these in 4 cylinder form until 2 years ago. Freaking destroyed the thing. To her and my friend it was just a pos ford. The one they owned wasn't that bad to be honest. But, it was a smokers car which made is disgusting. Anyway they had the timing belt go. Which was an easy fix with the zetec and no damage was done. I guess the shop said the transmission was going. Seemed fine to me i can't see it having changed in the few days since i had driven it. The inside though was small. But i fit. The plus side we finally have the mondeo again. Plus tons of the European flair has made it through to the us. For didn't change too much. Except we get the traditional automatic and bigger engines than Europe. Fair enough.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!