Sports Car Face-Plant: Mustang SVO (1984 to 1986)
Today, Ford’s making hay with a turbocharged, direct-injected six-cylinder engines in its trucks, which is amazing to consider when it couldn’t sell a turbocharged Mustang 30 years ago. Sometimes an idea like cylinder deactivation, all-wheel drive, or a turbocharged Ford Mustang SVO is just way ahead of its time.
American performance cars were all but deceased in the late 1970s when an exciting, lightweight, European-styled, third-generation Mustang was under development. It had a lot of promise, but in the first two years of Fox Mustang production – 1979 and 1980 – The 302-cu.in. V8 produced a disheartening 140hp…
…aaaand then it got worse.
Following the second oil crisis in 1979, Ford dropped the 302 entirely for a version of the same engine, but with smaller cylinder bores adding up to just 4.2 liters of displacement, mustering just 120 phlegmatic horsepower.
At the outset, the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine was the middle of the road, offering some remnants of performance while providing better fuel economy than the V8. But with the debut of the awful 4.2-liter V8, suddenly the Pinto’s 2.3-liter turbocharged, carbureted four-cylinder engine available since 1979 was just as powerful as the “performance engine” in the Mustang lineup.
To shift as much emphasis as possible from “economical” to “powerful,” Ford formed an entire new division called Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), which was charged with turning the turbo-four Mustang into something that could challenge the likes of the European imports.
The Mustang SVO featured Bosch fuel injection with EEC-IV (Electronic Engine Control), along with an air-to-air intercooled turbocharger that boosted power well beyond that of the available V8 to 175hp. The car got a switch on the dash to select which grade of fuel you chose to fill the tank, and a Hurst shifter was standard, later shifting the soon-to-be-industry-standard Borg-Warner five-speed manual. Power increased to 205hp, and then dipped slightly to 200 the final year of production in 1986, thanks to water cooling and 15 pounds of boost.