Crapwagon Outtake: 1985.5 Ford Mustang SVO

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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:


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.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Otaku Otaku on Jul 18, 2015

    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.

  • Kendahl Kendahl on Jul 18, 2015

    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.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 19, 2015

      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.

  • ToolGuy This guest was pretty interesting.
  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber