Never Modified: 1986 Ford Mustang SVO

In a world where performance car prices seemingly go up and up without any rational justification, the Ford Mustang SVO remains a solid bargain among rare 1980s rides. This 1986 SVO is a two-owner car that remains highly original with the only known alteration being an aftermarket stereo. The later SVO – recognizable from its flush-fitting headlights – also made more horsepower than the earliest editions, so this is an appealing example for a variety of reasons. The seller reports that it has never been modified and has been owned by mature caretakers. Find it here on craigslist for $10,000 near the Jersey Shore and thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find.

The turbocharged Fords from the 1980s occupy a curious spot on the collector car landscape. They are wholeheartedly acknowledged and celebrated for offering respectable performance at a time when big-block V8s were under fire. The turbo Fords actually represented a pretty broad lineup, impacting everything from Mustang pace cars to Thunderbird Turbo Coupes. And while plenty of drivers liked these cars enough to buy them and (obviously) preserve them for the long term, the turbo Fords still never posed a threat to the V8-powered Fox body cars in terms of enthusiast sentiment. If you want a Mustang, it almost seems like a prerequisite that it needs a V8 under the hood.

I don’t subscribe to this notion and I enjoy the turbo Fords quite a bit. But I will say when you listen to an SVO haul butt to 60 versus a 5.0L-equipped model, the boosted Mustang doesn’t deliver quite the same aural pleasure. The performance was certainly stirring, but if you wanted big-time bark from the dual exhausts, the standard GT makes a bit more sense. Regardless, the SVO, with its Koni suspension, offered impressive road-holding abilities right out of the box, and combined with its torquey 2.3 four-cylinder, it was a very competent package when new and still a treat to drive today.

The seller’s car is impressively clean with just over 100,000 miles and two owners. The lack of modifications is a major selling point of this SVO, as the ease with which the boost can be turned up makes it highly likely that a cheap SVO has been monkeyed with. This car appears to have escaped this fate and the seller confirms that it has never been modified or otherwise beaten on. The seller recommends a paint correction to bring the black finish back to life and having the OEM polished wheels cleaned up, which look amazing when they’re not dull and tarnished. For the price and condition, it will be hard to top this clean SVO. Would you choose one of these over a 5.0 car?

Comments

  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Excellent write-up Jeff. These were pretty respectable packages for their day, but don’t deliver the same ‘feel’ as a 5.0. So, they have always had a lower status and as a result don’t bring big bucks. I thought the styling touches, wheels, and interior upgrades were well-done. This looks like an example which would make a fun driver.

    Like 9
  2. Uncle Buck

    The only fox bodies that usually command high prices are v8 man trans versions. That being said I don’t understand why the asc Capri and asc mustangs Don’t bring more or these 4 cyl. Turbos as well they are great cars. They ride and Handel ok and can be driven all day with the AC in if bleed be. Maybe we are letting the cat out of the bag lol.

    Like 4
    • Stan

      A drivers car. Lovely grand touring automobile.

      Like 7
  3. Motorcityman

    Only made 3 years, 84,85 and 86.
    If u like these 86 is the year to get. Was something Ford added for 86 but can’t remember what it was.
    I’d pay 10 grand for a unmolested version if I was ready for another toy…….maybe a little more.
    I called this the “European Mustang” because it was more about handling with these than power like the 5.0. GT.
    Always liked the double spoiler look on the rear and the interior steering wheel and sleek front end.

    Like 7
    • Johnny Major

      The ’86 models didn’t have a turbo lag, like the ’84 and ’85 models. I bought an ’84 model new, after it sat on the showroom for over a year at a dealership in Houston. They were noticeably more expensive than the GT’s and many sat on showroom floors. I tested/ran it against a same year GT many times. The GT with V8 torque was very slightly quicker through the 1/4 mile but the SVO would gradually pull away from the GT with a higher top and around 90 mph.

      Like 4
      • Johnny Major

        Also, the SVO handled MUCH better and rode smoother than the GT

        Like 9
      • Motorcityman

        Yes, Turbo lag, that was it! Thanks Johnny.
        I really like this for the price and the originality……swore I’d never get another black car though! 😄
        I’m betting it won’t be around long.

        Like 2
    • TorinoSCJ69

      If you ever have the chance to drive one of these SVO Mustangs, you should do it.
      Ignore the on paper comparisons to the 5.0.
      I drove an ’86 SVO and it had far more sophisticated handling than I had expected. Had leased several 5.0 GT’s in the ’80’s and you could oversteer these easily in a hard turn but not in the SVO.
      Just stayed flat in hard turns with a high winding motor to pull you in and out of turns with minimal lag and no 360 degree spins. And, good brakes.
      Real blast to drive from what I remember.

      Looks like a deal here and better if there are good maintenance records.

      Like 4
    • Charlie M

      I believe the intercooler was added in 86. I had a canyon red 86, and loved it. The only car I ever had that felt like an extension of my body and mind.

      Like 1
      • Joseph

        Always had the intercooler. What to drive a vehicle that is an extension of your body, try a Mazda RX-8.

        Like 2
      • Guardstang

        The same engine was offered in the Mustang GT but without intercooler.

        Like 1
      • David LaRocque Staff

        Inter cooler was original for all 3 years

        Like 2
  4. Kat Smith

    Is it an interference engine?

    • Tiberius1701

      Nope. if the belt breaks due to lack of maintenance, just line everything up and pop a new belt on.

  5. Kevin

    I road raced against these back in the 80’s, the v8’s really did not handle that well and would snap from understeer to oversteer. These were a formidable competitor and the drivers were able to turn in and trail brake much better than the V8’s and carry a lot more speed through the turns. I never owned one but was pretty impressed by these and their sister car the Merkur. Neither of which was able to obtain sales success.

    Like 3
  6. Big C

    The problem with these SVO’s was the price. They were more expensive than the V-8’s. Really nice looking cars. But I bought a new ’86 GT over this car , because I got every option, except the T tops, which I didn’t want, for a lot less. It was all down to the bang for the buck.

    Like 3
  7. Woofer Woofer Member

    The 1984 Mustang SVO was the very first FORD vehicle with 4 wheel disc brakes. That and less overall weight with the 4 cylinder vs V8 is why they could stop and handle better than a GT. Plus the upgraded suspension. BUT, I never understood why FORD, in the 60s, put 4 lug wheels on the 6 banger Mustangs while the V8s got 5 lugs. But in the 80s the V8 GTs got 4 lug wheels and the little 4 banger SVO got 5 lugs. Does anybody have any inside information on this?

    Like 3
    • David LaRocque Staff

      Hi, here is the inside story. As tons to me by the Design Engineer (Bob Negstad) -Chassis for Special Vehicle Operations.

      Bob was charged with the responsibility of doing a new platform for a vehicle line that was going to replace the Maverick, fir the soon-to-called Fox platform.

      They (his colleagues and Bob) did their study and determined the optimum characteristics of the new platform . They basically took what Chassis Engineering gave them (not what they wanted) and went to work designing the new Fox platform.

      Another of Negstad’s projects was to convert the Fox platform into a Lincoln, specifically the Continental. It was easy , Negstad went into his files and pulled out the initial Fox platform engineering work and transferred it over to the Continental.

      So, when he transferred over to SVO, and began the engineering on the Mustang SVO, the stage was already set. It was an opportunity to make revisions to the Fox platform that would allow the vehicle to go to another level of perfection.

      I am the author/publisher of Mustang SVO-The Machine Speaks for Itself.

      Like 1
    • Tiberius1701

      The brakes were parts-binned from the Lincoln Continental MKVII along with the front lower control arm assemblies.

  8. Joe Baker

    I had a 1984 SVO , built on 10/31/1983, Halloween. I also sold Fords at Valley Ford in Westwood N.J. We had a 1985 1/2 in stock. Fun cars with the 4 wheel wheel discs, 5 bolt wheels, Lincoln lower control arms. I liked the seats with the inflatable lumbar supports. I sold mine when it needed lower ball joints. the control arms had to be replaced to change the ball joints. They were not available seperately. I think that is a good deal for this one.

  9. Motorcityman

    JOESEPH…….Just have thar RX 8 motor looked at closely buy someone whose familiar with them. They had engine problems for awhile and some dealers stopped selling them.
    I remember in So Cal I wanted to test drive one and the salesman said they weren’t allowed to sell them……..

    Like 1
  10. Mike D

    In 1986, my brother bought one of these, and I bought a 5.0 GT. The loaded GT cost $14,000, and his SVO cost $16,000. Yes, the SVO had leather, better seats, bigger wheels and tires, and the adjustable Konis, but $2000 was a lot of money then and I thought the GT was a much better value. And the V-8 burble sounded so much better.

    Like 2
  11. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Yes, the SVO was more expensive than the GT, but it was an “exclusive” car, so you were supposed to feel different from the normal Fox body crowd when buying one.

    I owned an ’85 Merkut Xr4Ti manual with basically the same engine and that was a blast to drive. I can imagine that this gave all the excitement that one needed, being that it was lighter and intercooled.

    I’m thinking that at least 80% of these were black with grey interior.

    Like 1
    • David LaRocque Staff

      1984 MY: 32.6% were black
      1985 ( includes ‘85 1/2): 28.1% were black
      1986: 31.1% were black;

      Like 1
  12. Ray

    My chemistry professor had a grey svo for his summer car. Always spotless and shined. I got a kick out of his winter beater though…a turbo Dodge caravan with a stick! The only one I’ve ever seen in person.

  13. Mike D

    My brother’s 86 was dark green.

  14. TX Native

    I had 2 t-bird manual turbocoupes (’84 & ’88) and always wanted an SVO. There were lots of engine enhancements between those years. The ’88 was more powerful and intercooled but with a smaller turbo and much less lag. Trust me if you replace the airfilter box with a cone air filter you’ll never miss the V-8 sound. There was a guy in Texas that pushed it to the limit and had over 700hp and 9 sec 1/4 mile runs. Look for John Blair SVO on YouTube.
    Anyway, finding an unmolested SVO is rare and this one looks very nice. I’m tempted…

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