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.)
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.
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.
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- Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
- GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.https://www.lhd.com.au/lhd-insights/australian-road-death-statistics/
- Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
- Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
- Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
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.
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.