Low-Mile Turbo: 1986 Ford Mustang SVO

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Mustang SVO, in the wild or otherwise. I remember thinking a four-cylinder, really? A 2.3? Isn’t that a Pinto motor? Well the SVO is quite a bit more than just a Pinto powered Mustang and this 1986 SVO is a spectacular example to review. It is located in Chesapeake City, Maryland, and is available here on craigslist for $9,250. Thanks to Mitchell G. for this tip!

My thought back in the early to mid-’80s was a four-cylinder Fox-body Mustang was in serious fuggedaboutit territory. I was even more perplexed when Ford dropped the V6 option in ’87 and continued on with either a 2.3 liter four or a 5.0 liter V8 – seemed like extremes with one end that need not be considered. The SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) model, built between 1984 and 1986, was a unique animal however with mods including an altered and adjustable suspension with Koni supplied components, steeper (3.73:1) rear gears, four-wheel disc brakes, 16″ five-lug wheels, functional air induction hood scoop, five-speed manual transmission and of course the turbocharged engine.

So how turbo-charged? How about 200 net HP from the intercooler equipped, 2.3-liter, in-line four-cylinder unit. This is an engine, that in normally-aspirated form, managed to eke out 88 net HP. The seller is a no show on describing this SVO’s operating prowess but with only 64K miles on its odometer, it’s probably still pretty stout. The standard, and sole transmission, is a Borg Warner five-speed manual.

The exterior of this Mustang is sharp and serious-looking in its all-black exterior, one of six colors offered for the single SVO, hatchback body style. Nary a ripple, ding, dent, or other mishap is externally apparent. The seller states that he is the second owner and has kept this Mustang garaged during his time of custodianship. Standard equipment on the SVO included a sunroof with a removable glass panel and the glass panel cover/sack is still present with the car. Of note is the rear bi-wing spoiler delete, a good move in this humble author’s view as that thing looks like some kind of goofy UHF antenna.

All ’86 SVO’s came equipped with charcoal gray interiors in either cloth or leather trim and the cloth upholstery in this Mustang is in very nice condition. The carpet is showing some signs of fading and it’s worn through by the accelerator pedal but these are the typical things that occur with a car of this age and mileage. There are no other indicators of wear, tears, stains, rips, etc. present. The simplicity and functionality of the instrument panel are welcome. One thing that is not visible but should be present is the inclusion of a “fuel-grade” switch on the instrument panel which allows the driver to switch back and forth between regular and premium settings, depending on the grade of fuel used.  The thought is that it electronically limits ignition advance when lesser octane fuel is employed. Finally, the seller states that he’s had the A/C compressor clutch replaced and the system recharged. That’s so much more reassuring than so many listings that claim a vehicle to be A/C equipped but in need of a recharge. If it needs it, do it. If it hasn’t been done it’s because, many more times than not, something more serious is wrong with the system.

The seller indicates that he has a Marti report available attesting to the genuineness and original equipment status of this one of only 9,800 SVO Mustangs produced over its three-year model run. This example is a fantastic departure from the everyday run of the mill Fox-body Mustang that turns up. And the originality is a treat, especially considering that so many Mustangs from the ’79 to ’93 model run have experienced some serious monkey business, and a lot of it, not good. This is one to seriously consider, don’t you think?

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  1. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Can’t believe that anyone with a performance-oriented car would use one of those steering wheel covers.

    The hole in the carpet is more common than people think, resulting from covering only the edge of the accelerator pedal with the foot while driving on the highway. Cruise control users don’t usually get that in their cars.

    This looks like a lot of fun for 9.25K.

    • Jim

      I never understand why anyone trying to sell a car leaves one of those on ANY car. It’s like seat covers….I want to know what they’re hiding.

    • Superdessucke

      I agree on the steering wheel cover. But the good news for the buyer is that it protects the wheel from sun damage and skin oil, so if it was put on in the distant past the steering wheel should be good underneath.

      As to the A/C “if it hasn’t been done it’s because, many more times than not, something more serious is wrong with the system?” Try 100% of the time! So prepare to spend some cash right off the bat.

      Still, for this price, this looks like a pretty good deal provided there are no hidden issues.

  2. JoeMac JoeMac Member

    Fun car. The original Ecoboost!! Won’t last long at $9k.

  3. Jim

    Don’t remember seeing a fuel grade switch like you mentioned on any car. That seems like a rather good idea.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I also have never heard of it being included from the factory, but many of the tuners of turbo charged cars have the option of easily switching between tunes based on the grade of gasoline you use.

      • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

        Here’s an image of the “Turbo Switch” (fuel grade switch)

  4. BR

    Mustang Turbo Coupe.

  5. lc

    So I have a 2.3 turbo that’s been swapped out of an 84 Turbo Coupe and into a 90 Mustang LX originally equipped with the aspirated 2.3. I’ve had the aspirated 2.3 in a 78 Mercury Bobcat, and yes it is a put put. The turbo 2.3 boost kicks in with more pedal to the medal. So if I am really easy on the gas, it’s somewhat going down near to the aspirated 2.3 version’s hp. Don’t get me wrong; there is a noticeable difference in the 2.3 turbo with a 12 boost setting, and the setting can be adjusted upwards to around 22. I’m glad I was able to stumble upon this puppy.

  6. jerry z

    Drove a few of these when I worked at the Ford dealer back in ’85-’86. They did handle well and it was fun when the boost kicked in at 3K RPM!

  7. Joe

    No belt on the AC compressor, and rust on the pulley. I would doubt the A/C service claim.

  8. CJinSD

    Great candidate for a Windsor swap. You won’t find a GT in similar condition for twice the price, and getting one into paint that costs less will cost you more than the SVO. SVOs are great cars to built because they already have upgraded brakes, hubs, suspensions, seats and interiors. All they need is a V8 and a stronger differential and you’ve got Fox body perfection.

    • JoeMac JoeMac Member

      I couldn’t disagree more….

    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      If the driveline were trashed, that might make some sense. But if an engine was needed, IMO a much better option would be to go with a current EcoBoost setup, to follow along with the SVO’s turbocharged lineage. Putting a V8 into one of these cars is perhaps a conventional answer, but don’t expect everyone to go along with it being the right one.

  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    It looks like Ford isn’t done with the 2.3 turbo yet.
    Check out these specs for the base engine in the new Bronco.


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