By on July 16, 2015

01
Imagine, if you will, that the beancounters in Dearborn had won the late-80’s battle over the enthusiasts and killed off the V8 Mustang in favor of what became the Probe. Forget the impact on racers and gearheads nationwide; no, the lyrical poet Van Winkle would have spun such different rhymes:

Rollin
in my SVO
with the sunroof popped
so my hair can blow

It’s been more than 25 years since Ford offered a turbocharged Mustang — and what a classic. It’s the ur-EcoBoost, better known as the SVO with 2.3 turbocharged liters and 205 Pinto ponies. Fewer than 10,000 of these were built between ’84 and ’86. This ’85-and-a-half model was the first to get the better looking “aero” headlamps, rather than the recessed units fitted earlier. For just under $13,000, this 25,000 mile example looks like a steal. There seem to be a few for sale around this price at any given time.

I have to believe these will start appreciating soon. Bear with me: it’s a top-of-the-line Mustang, with a real performance bump over the pedestrian models — so it’s no tape-stripe-special Mustang II “Cobra” limited edition — with enough unique bits that poseurs can’t “build” one from catalogs and junkyards. These will be sought after at the auctions in about ten years, I’d wager.

I have a neighbor that owns an SVO. I don’t know the year, as I’ve only ever seen the rear in the 10 years I’ve lived in the neighborhood. That unmistakable biplane rear spoiler catches my eye as I round the corner every day. I don’t know that it’s moved under its own power in all that time. Shame, really, though I can’t say much. I’m going on about two years immobile on my Miata-shaped garage shelf. Anyhow, I’d love to get behind the wheel and experience an SVO before all of them get parked and polished into oblivion.

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69 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1985.5 Ford Mustang SVO...”


  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Want. I dig those wheels too.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I do see these appreciating in value, but Im imagining the behind the wheel experience to be awful. Early stock Fox body dynamics (yeech) coupled with anemic power only accessible after enduring an inordinate amount of turbo lag. An important piece of Mustang history; a contrarian oddity; but most soberingly a blunt reminder of how far we’ve come.

    I would rather the XR4Ti…..

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      They handle better than the 5.0 version of the same year – the SVO had handling tweaks that the Mustang GT didn’t get. If people collect Fox-body Mustangs, and they do, then the SVO will be a must-have for serious collectors.

      http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/1985-chevy-camaro-berlinetta-vs-1985-ford-mustang-svo-comparison-test

      Back in the day, I had a Fox-body and talked a girlfriend into getting an XR4Ti. The latter felt like it was two decades more advanced than the former.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Cool link. Guy in High School traded his 84-ish Trans Am (305 CU IN in grey) for a Silver SVO. His Dad was a local doc, so he got new cars a lot. I remember it was a pretty sweet little beast, but none of us at the time could understand why the SVO.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I drove an XR4 with that same turno Pinto engine, decent chassis but the engine had a ton of turbo lag. Got super hot from insufficient breathing.

      Likewise owned an ’84 Mustang, felt like a shortened Lincoln more than a real sports car.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        If you look at the LX trim year equivalent to this thing, it’s very clearly a take on “small luxury convertible.” Like an alternative to a Thunderbird Town Landau!

        Also, I want a Scorpio.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Some folks on here (including Sajeev) claim that a 4-door Scorpio was available under the Merkur moniker. I could swear on a stack of Bibles that the only one sold in the U.S. was the XR4Ti through LM dealers. Was the Scorpio a Canada-only thing, or is my penchant for photographic memory of car offerings circa ’80s and ’90s going to hell in a bucket?

          Interesting also that these came with the sealed-beam headlights up to a point — don’t recall seeing anything but the aero units back in the day.

          Finally, the weird-shaped steering wheel against the blocky, Fox FairGranaStang dash is a hell of an exercise in cognitive dissonance!

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Nope. My neighbor in Virginia had two Merkur Scorpios at one point. More recently, they filled their driveway with Saabs. Now they have BMWs. One can hope…

    • 0 avatar
      Chris Tonn

      I’d love to find a clean XR4Ti, as well. Most of them seem to be thrashed.

  • avatar
    ajla

    GM did it better.

    http://tinyurl.com/po2vr9b

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      True. Way better, actually.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Perhaps. But, rare as the Fox Mustangs are nowdays; they are still more common than the GM cars of that era; a guy at work daily drove an unrestored third generation Camaro at least until fairly recently; but that is one of maybe two or three Camaro/Firebirds of that era I have noticed on the road.

        The Camaro of that era was a good looking car; not that the previous two generations were bad looking either.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      GM didn’t want the Corvette Club to cry, so the “GNX” Screaming Chicken was kept on the downlow and even lower production. Same price as the Corvette iirc.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yes, GMs mantra of “protect the Corvette at all costs” helped contribute to the death by a thousand paper cuts of the other divisions.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          “Pontiac” was suppose to be the *Performance* division for frick’s sake. Not the tacky body cladding, Aztec and other disposable fwd bad badge jobs division. The Corvette should’ve been a Pontiac.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Some terrible things happened in the 80’s

    • 0 avatar
      pbr

      Those were dark days, this was an oddball, off-the-wall ray of hope. I mean the Mustang II still walked the Earth in those days. It does look dated and helpless in comparison to the kaleidoscope of competent, reliable and interesting cars we have to choose from today. Period pieces aren’t for everyone, but think the OP is correct in calling now as the time to buy one of these if you’re ever going to.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      So did some wonderful things. Like this SVO. Like the Trans Am Indy Pace Car. Like the W41 Oldsmobiles. Like the Shelby Dodges. Like showroom stock spec cars you could special order if you knew the right codes. Strange days.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    I think these had the same PVC bumper covers as my Taurus. How they keep them looking this good I have no idea; but don’t bump it into anything or they will shatter.

  • avatar
    Car-los

    This seems to me a very unappealing proposition, I’m not surprised that is being offered at such low price in spite of being so well kept…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I drove a couple of these back in the day. Before I bought each of my 5.0L Mercury Capris I drove one of these to compare against. The 85 didn’t leave a lot of fond memories, but the 86 seemed pretty stout. It was weak sauce before the turbo spooled up, once it did, it was on par with the V8 models. In the limited time I drove them, they seemed to handle better than than V8 versions (less weight on the nose) but that was 30 years ago.

    I could never get the Ford dealer in my area to play ball with me on price; they always held out for list price and I could get a cheaper, faster V8 model for a lot less. Probably the reason why they were never particularly popular, and for the same money you could get a nice Z28 Camaro or Trans Am WS6 that were better handlers.

    Sad to see that after 30 years, this car is approaching it’s original sales price. I guess that says something.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Nice tongue in cheek piece on a classic malaise mobile. Sooner or later some museum will want a pristine piece to fill out a Mustang collection.

    FYI, Robby is now outta jail on that pesky burglary beef in Florida.

    • 0 avatar
      Chopsui

      I don’t think of 1985 as being in the malaise era. That pretty much ended in the early 80’s and peaked in the 70s.

      The SVO was distinctly non-malaise.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I saw one of these driving down the street when I preteen punkard in ’86, it was the most beautiful thing i’d ever seen.

    J/K, but I remember thinking ‘Hey look at those weird headlights it’s not a typical Mustang’.

  • avatar
    Fred

    My first new car was 85.5 SVO with competition option. Good car until around 50,000 miles and the turbo seal started leaking oil. Parts were hard to find and I was moving to Texas and wanted AC.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If your thing is *instant gratification*, please move along. Nothing to see here.

    I was as skeptical as anyone should be. So I test drove one on a dare and had to have it.

    You do have to plan for it a second and a half in advance, but it’s worth the wait. The doubling of power is nothing to take lightly. So you punch it long before the apex of a turn and be ready for sideways or the all-wheel drift on exit.

    It’s easy to forget, so you squeeze the throttle hard leaving a light, then there’s a loud swoosh and you’re sucked deep into the Recaros, traffic ahead start flying towards you, and you back off as fear sets in.

    If you don’t mind sidestepping the clutch and powershifting, the thing’s a monster.

    My SVO earned me more speeding tickets than all else combined. It’s a Pinto on Acid.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Do want.

    The only stock Fox Mustangs I actively lust after are the SVO and V8 models after they got fuel injection.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Aside from the killer Euro wheels, I was never much into these. They really look too much like an Escort EXP.
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/21/bb/f8/21bbf8745119607bc5481fa0951e7bfb.jpg

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Yes!

    And this!
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/1st_Audi_A8_L_4.2_–_03-21-2012.JPG

    And these!
    http://www.classicautoimports.com/96-cadillac/img/001.jpg

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    For less money I’d rather have other rare pristine 80’s Fords. Like this one.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lincoln-Mark-Series-Emillo-Pucci-/261964208303?forcerrptr=true&hash=item3cfe4898af&item=261964208303

    Or if you want two doors:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lincoln-Mark-Series-MARK-VI-TWO-OWNER-61K-MILES-/141719409193?forcerrptr=true&hash=item20ff229229&item=141719409193

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah but the guys who want these are MUSTANG guys, arguing that other vehicles are superior or better is like trying to argue with an old Harley rider that he really should have bought a Victory or a Honda Goldwing.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Oh you’re right. I forgot there are “Mustang only” and “Corvette only” people. I view all old cars on a more level plane of rarity and desirability. That Pucci Lincoln is legit, and perfect.

  • avatar
    agent534

    Mustang Turbo GT of the same years is more rare than the SVO. If its a production numbers game, look to find a Turbo GT convertible and hoard it away somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      agent534

      Rarest of the rare would be a 1984 20th Anniversary GT350 Turbo Convertible. Try and find one of them.
      The 84 GT350 was just a sticker on the rocker panel as far as I know, but it was a separate trim level.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but the first Stang turbo was a POS from the word go. We got one as a company car. 4 cyl turbo. No Intercooler. The 2 barrel carb was connected to miles of tubing. Hot weather would cause gas to pool in the intake tract-NYC stop and go in August was fun…pop, spit, rev to clear out… If that wasn’t bad enough, the manual was a 4 speed, with a super low first, normal second and third, and a fourth that was really an OD fifth. The hot setup was to wind the engine hard to redline in third, getting a quick warning buzzer and yellow “overboost” idiot light, so you could just catch the bottom of the power curve in fourth.

      The SVO was a credible effort, the first Fox Turbo was not. My VW Scirocco with an aftermarket Callaway Turbo System with basic FI, and using methanol (water) injection was infinitely more useable. I recall running against SVO’s with a Volvo Turbo, and the SVO’s were fast….

      I will say the TRX tires and suspension were pretty good for the era.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        The original Fox turbos were a good idea, but badly executed. I had a 1980 Mercury Capri RS turbo with all of the toys, including the TRX suspension and Recaro seats. It was a great car for a young guy.

        But I started having problems with the car, and after the warranty period ran out, few people would touch the car. I was stuck with a lemon. A friend bought a new 1983 Trans Am with the 305/4bbl and a nice close ratio 5 speed. I was in love.

        I eventually found my way into a similar T/A, and the first few months were pure joy. Here was a car with good power delivery, a transmission that didn’t bog the car down and a suspension that actually cornered very well (and didn’t require weird size tires from France or retreads from Sears…)

        Too bad it too was a poorly assembled turd, but when it ran well, it was GREAT!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    SVOs are more plentiful and cheaper than GTs in low mileage, unmodified condition. That’s either because people thought they’d be collectible, or they broke early and often so people gave up and parked them in their garages while they finished paying them off. Either way, they’re the Cosworth Vegas of the ’80s: expensive when new, dirt cheap now. The good news is that if a Fox Mustang is your thing, they are great clay. Just pull the awful turbortion out and stick in a nice small block. Then you’ve got the upgraded seats, big brakes, 5 lug wheels and high quality suspension that Ford was too stupid to offer with the engine the car deserved. Had these had V8s, they’d have been driven into the ground just like the GTs were.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Why go to all that trouble, within a couple of years of the SVOs demise the GT had all the SVO suspension and brakes etc. Either that or you could buy the parts from Ford Motorsport.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It would be like stuffing a V8 into a BRZ or Miata. Those 2 just need turbos. The SVO already has it, except can be tuned for much more power, double perhaps. That’s no pinto engine. It’s be a mistake swapping in a V8, but whatever. The tuned coils and KONIs need to go too. Dumb and dumber.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It’s nothing like stuffing a V8 into a BRZ or Miata. Does Subaru or Mazda make V8 BRZs or Miatas that I don’t know about? Ford made V8 Fox Mustangs, and the V8s were infinitely better than the turbos. Now is the time to take advantage of the foolishness of SVO collectors. The cars are valued less now than V8s in similar condition and are a simple engine swap away from having what was good about both performance Mustangs of the day. Go with aluminum heads and manifold, and you don’t even need to worry about balance.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Foolishness would be swapping out that engine. Your’s to do what you want with, but savvy enthusiasts will snap up that engine while laughing at your A$$. They’re putting Turbo Coupe and SVO 2.3s in rods, roadsters, sand rails, dune buggies, boats, you name it. They’ll bolt on, 16 valve Volvo heads, O-ringed, stroked with 2.5 Ranger cranks, huge turbos, etc. 9 sec SVOs with the original block.

          I’ve got a low miles ’88 Turbo Coupe I’m hoarding for an early ’90s Corvette engine swap. Yes ditching the boat anchor 5.7 V8 for the ultimate 2.3 Turbo Corvette with 700+ hp, and balance/composure like you wouldn’t believe.

          There’s kits for Ford 5.0W engine swaps for Miatas, but it would be nice to have the power and not lose original balance, braking, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      These cars have a voracious following from the turbo 2.3T Ford fanboys. And to their credit, they manage to crank the boost up really high on reltively stock mills and go pretty fast. But I’m with you, but maybe even a step further. I’d keep it a turbo, but it would be turbo GM LS powered.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Oh, please.

    What, exactly, does this car offer now that it didn’t when I shopped it against the ’85 Mustang GT I ordered from the factory instead?

    It’s down on horsepower and torque, suffers from turbo lag and has a silly rear spoiler. And saying it’s rare doesn’t count. These cars are rare because they cost 25% more than a similarly-equipped GT and only those who were dazzled by the hype bought them.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      The difference wasn’t all that much

      GT 210hp 0-60 7.2 1/4 14.9
      SVO 205hp 0-60 7.3 1/4 15.3

      The SVO was about 100 lbs lighter, handled better and had a genuine top speed of 140mph so it was no slouch.

      I paid about $1000 more for my SVO than a friend did for his 84 GT

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        You got a great deal. The price differentials I was seeing at the time were bigger, on the order of $2000-2500 (my GT stickered at 11,666 with posi, AC, cruise/tilt wheel and premium sound). I’m not saying that the SVO wasn’t a good car (or even that it wasn’t better, in some ways than the GT), not at all. But the higher price wasn’t justified by the difference in either performance or handling and the market performance of the SVO versus the GT bears that out. By the way Road and Track ran the GT up to a measured 140, albeit in fourth gear as it wouldn’t reach redline in 5th…

        To be fair, a 440 ‘Cuda wasn’t all that far down on performance on a 426 Hemi while being a whole lot less expensive and, these days there’s a huge price difference. But, having lived through both eras, the SVO just didn’t have the wow factor (then or now) of the Hemi and that, I believe, is why the notion that an SVO will appreciate significantly in price is wishful thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      You could build boost and sidestep the clutch if you wanted to run with the same year GT. But that wasn’t the point of the SVO. It was aimed at the Euro car fetish. Sadly its Ford emblems killed that deal.

      But 11 inch front rotors vs the GT’s 10, aluminum A-arms, 16″/50-series tires, rear disks, Hurst shifter, KONI adjustable shocks, larger sway bars, quadra shock rear end, near 50/50 weight dist.

      Other than that, same as the GT. I see your point.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Except for the fact that you can’t build boost sitting at the line in a manual transmission turbo car. The only possible way to do that is to hold the brake, partially engage the clutch, and gas it all at the same time, which of course negates the whole idea of sidestepping the clutch.

        At the end of the day, the GT or V8 LX would leave the SVO in the dust and that’s the main reason why it died out so quickly. Mustang guys were all about straight line speed and didn’t care much about other stuff like braking or cornering in those days. Hell, not much has changed over the years either. But I see that changing now that the Mustang has IRS across the board.

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    People get all excited when they hear SVO and turbo in the same sentence,but this vehicle was a dud.The 2.3 was fords first American metric engine and was not as good as their European 2 liter.Yes it had hydraulic cam followers requiring no valve lash adjustment.The cylinder head was a stupid design where the outer ports were angled and the inner ones straight,right in the head itself.All they had to do is copy the 2.0 engine and it would have been fine.Do not believe those stories of high horsepower 2.3 engines ,because there were none.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It was Ford’s 1st turbo engine and really overbuilt the thing, All forged internals and high-nickel block. 14 psi was the highest boost of any turbo engine in its day. Good for 20 psi all day long, bone stock.

      Maybe not the most efficient heads, but they’re no Pinto motors. Search Tiny Avenger and others pushing them to unbelievable power levels.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        The first turbo Fox was the 2.3 *carbureted* version in 1979 to 1981. Briefly in 1980 & 1981 there was also the Fairmont Futura and Mercury Zephyr Z-7 turbo cars, but I think they built about three of each.

        The version in the SVO was more like Vers. 2, Rev. 1, after the greatly improved edition that came out in the 1983 Thunderbird, Cougar XR-7, various Mustangs and Capri RS.

        I had the first gen of 2.3 turbo. It was great when it was running right, but it didn’t do it often. People b!tch about cars from the 90’s having trouble with head gaskets and such, add that to a flooding, bucking carburetor and an engine management system that didn’t manage. Somewhere up the string someone else mentioned the “fuel economy at all costs” 4 speed(!) transmission. It was really a three speed with a steep overdrive 4th gear. It was bad acceleration times with bad fuel economy. Woo hoo!

        Combine that with tiny front disc brakes, tiny rear drums, “wind-up levers” on the rear suspension (which were supposed to snub axle tramp) with the oddball Michelin TRX tires (try and replace those inexpensively), and you had a starting point for Michael Kranefuss and the SVO team to actually make a nice car. Hence the 1984-86 SVO.

        But for me and my 1980 Capri RS Turbo, the end couldn’t come soon enough. I liked the Capri enough that I bought two more, but they were V8’s, no other engines were considered.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The SVO didn’t introduce the 2.3T, it’s true, but revised it with proper fuel injection and intercooler, for 175 hp in the ’84 version. No surprise the early carbureted editions had issues. Did the turbo blow through the carb or draw from?

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Agree. But it was still better than the little truck engine that Mitsubishi was putting in the Conquest/Starion cars. Now that was a junky little turbo engine for that same time period.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I drove the granny 2.3 88 horse four cylinder. At least it had a 4 sp auto or overdrive for the hwy. Saddam invaded Kuwait and gas hit $3/gallon. That was my only virtue. The oval badges were pried off by a kid with a hunting knife I wasn’t about to challenge. The prop shaft had an occasional shudder. The Bordeaux interior faded, particularly rear shelf and back seat top. The rack got noisy but still had plenty of life. The wipers would konk in the rain owing to dampness in the motor contacts.

    I had to be really careful where & when I drove that car.

  • avatar
    otaku

    Man, I almost bought one of these back in 1989. I remember test driving one at my local Ford dealer in the same color as the one in the above pic. However, my older brother already owned an ’87 Mustang GT, so I wanted to go in a slightly different direction.

    A few weeks later I found a slightly used ’86 T-Bird Turbo Coupe. Black on the outside with the bordello red interior, which featured the most comfortable velour power driver’s seat I’d ever sat in. It was based on the same familiar Fox chassis as my brother’s GT, but it shared the SVO’s engine (sans intercooler).

    It was not quite as powerful or sporty as the Mustang, but the tradeoff gave you greater comfort, a much nicer looking interior, more passenger space (especially in the back seat), better visibility, the ride was a lot less harsh and there was more sound insulation. Basically, it felt like more car for less money. Plus, I really preferred the T-Bird’s aero styling over the Mustang’s angular appearance.

    I only kept the car for about eighteen months before circumstances forced me to sell it (for $500 more than I paid for it). Compared to my brother’s Mustang, it just seemed to be screwed together with a bit more care. I also appreciated the better gas mileage, the lower insurance costs, and the greatly reduced likelihood of ending up sideways while driving during the winter months.

    If I ever hit the lottery, my dream project is to find a clean example that’s been stored away in a barn or something for about the last thirty years, buy it and then completely customize it, changing out just about every part, except for the seats.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I test drove one of these early in 1985. Until the turbo kicked in, it behaved like a gutless 4-cylinder Mustang. I ended up buying a year-old RX-7 GSL-SE which I kept for 23 years.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s part of what sold it to me. The turbo surge. Pinto then Monster. Ok, besides it being the loudest I’d ever heard. But it hits you all at once as you get sucked deep into the seat.

      On the street, you can only go WOT for short bursts anyways. So you plan for it a full second in advance.

      V8 power is mostly flat, linear. Good too, but no drama. But I enjoy the 40 to 60 blasts, way more than 0 to 60.

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