1984 Ford Mustang SVO 2.3 turbo from North America
A bit of a disappointment
The biggest thing that had gone wrong with this car was the previous owner. I found out after I had bought the car that he was selling it because he was in deep money trouble.
Regardless, when I bought the car it was not running. The plan was to rebuild the car, and sell it for profit.
I pulled the whole car apart; everything from the interior to the engine. So as far as things that have gone wrong, I haven’t really had any, seeing pretty much everything on the car is new.
However for the 10000 miles I did drive the car, I didn't any problems except for the charging system. The charging system for the SVO as I found on the forum (www.svoca.com) is prone to failure in many different ways. To make a long story short, I had to replace several parts of the charging system several times before it was working right. I actually ended up having to bring it to an electrical technician, and spending more than I wanted to get some of it fixed; thereafter it broke again.
SVO stands for Special Vehicle Operations; which was the name Ford gave to the division that would rekindle Ford’s long lost racing excellence, as it had dwindled to very little in the early eighties. Their job was to develop and produce a high performance limited production car, to translate Ford’s racing success to the streets of America.
This is it. The SVO was designed and built to be a racing car for the road, but it turned out to be a sort of European alternative to the 5.0. It came with Koni adjustable shocks (two in the front and four in the rear), 16 inch wheels with Z rated tires. The engine was light weight and was mounted further back so as to move some of the weight away from the front wheels. It was turbo charged, and came with an inter-cooler, which was cooled via an offset scoop on the hood. It came with sport seats, which had lumbar and side bolsters. So at first glance, compared to the 5.0 anyway, it seemed like something truly special. There's even a switch on the dash board for fuel economy if you want to run with low octane fuel. If you want to run high octane fuel, flip the switch and it increases the boost from the turbo an extra 5 PSI.
On the road, it seemed like any other normal American car. However, once you flick on the premium fuel switch, spin up the snail, and get the RPM up to around 3000, the car becomes a bit of an animal. I have to say for the first time driving it, it was a pleasant surprise. It becomes un-American for that stretch between 3000 and 5000 RPM. You feel like you're in a rally car.
And then unfortunately you have to change gear and start all over again. The truth of it is, unfortunately this car isn't very good. The steering doesn't give much feedback, the shifting feels clunky and the clutch is rather vague. Not to mention the sporty suspension that's been fitted to it, doesn't improve handling much if at all, and worse yet, the ride isn't that great either.
But the worst thing about this car is how it was put together. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take the whole thing apart, if you want to call it lucky, piece by piece, and I can tell you now my grandmother could have done a better job putting this car together, and she can barely work a refrigerator.
The interior for example, everything is made of this awful cheap plastic, which looks and feels like the same stuff they make vacuum cleaner extensions and laundry baskets out of. Not only is the styling of the dash lousy and the materials made to use it cheap, but all of the electronics: air conditioning, heater controls, gauges, and the radio are all grounded to a huge obtrusive bracket that holds the radio in place; which in my car was covered in surface rust, not because it got wet at one time, but because it’s made of a very very cheap metal. That goes for everything in the interior.
The worst thing though, the worst thing about the car is working on the engine. To get to the spark plugs, you have to remove the intercooler. To get to the fuel rail, you have to remove the intake manifold. To get to the distributor, you have to remove the alternator, and to adjust the distributor, you have to remove the alternator and 2 brackets, and, no kidding, the list goes on. You get the feeling that this was some high school kid's final project for auto class, and he was too busy with drugs to be bothered, so he waited until the last day to finish it and the SVO is what he came up with. Not to mention the catastrophic electrical problems that this engine was plagued with. I destroyed 4 voltage regulators, 2 batteries, and 3 alternators, to finally get the charging system to work properly.
All in all, it was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not a huge fan of 80's cars, let alone a Mustang from the eighties, but I really wanted this thing to live up to what I was expecting. I wanted it to be a good car. I wanted it to impress me with its new features and its completely different approach to a usually more muscular vehicle. I wish that the SVO would have lived up to its purpose, I wish it had been something Ford could have used to show off their talents.
There is one good thing about these cars that I just want to point out very quickly, is that here in America, there are so many cars from the eighties now that are showing up in salvage yards, which are full of cars with plenty of good usable parts for a fraction of the cost of new parts that aren’t anywhere near good enough quality to be worth it anyway. Since the SVO is a Mustang from the eighties, a lot of the parts are interchangeable from the 5.0. I bought the car for $1200, and have put the whole thing back together including paint and wheels and tires for a grand total of $3500, and that's including the purchase price. For those of you who are savvy car restorers and you're on a budget, this may be something to look into.
So my final verdict is, if you like the SVO body style and you want something fast that doesn't need to be amazingly comfortable or of much quality, buy a 5.0. They're faster, have more power, are cheaper to buy, and cheaper to run. If you're thinking about saving gas with an SVO, think again; I think the best mileage I've gotten so far was 20 MPG, which isn't impressive at all. But if you like the Fox Body style and you want something that will stand out, be unique (they only made about 10000 SVOs), something that will be somewhat of an investment, and if you can't stand to live without a turbo, there's really no alternative. And, regretfully, I’m sorry there isn’t.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 20th May, 2006
28th Jan 2008, 10:43
There's an alternative. The turbo Buick's of the 80's.
26th Feb 2008, 16:13
Sounds like you chose an 1984 or 1985 SVO!
Because a 1985.5/1986 is a world of a different car!!!
As for 20MPG-you must do a fair amount of "spirited" driving-and are deep down enjoying the car.
If all you do is keep your foot in it a properly tuned SVO will deliver WAY under 10MPG!
And if you keep you foot out of it deliver way over 20MPG-in fact the figure we see generally is closer to 30MPG.
It's funny, I never gave any mind to MPG-but with SO MANY looking at this now the SVO is a car for the enthusiast that can deliver great mileage AND leave a lot when the need for speed arises.
The small displacement, TC EFI motor is going to soon be reapplied into service by Ford and others to address 2010 CAFE figures. WATCH the SVO gain supporters!!!
The SVO Trust
A unique preservation of cars (7), parts and memorabilia for SVOs.
P.S. The SVO support groups (many) could have provided info on distributer adjustments WITHOUT removing brackets!! I can thing of THREE options-not tried ABOVE.
1) Open end wrench, through the brackets
2) 16MM short socket with an extension
3) "T" handle 2.3 EFI specific tool (can be made or bought)