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Rent-A-Racer: 1985 Ford Mustang SVO

Some wise older family member once probably warned you against buying a former rental car. “They get abused by people who don’t care about them because they don’t own them,” this sage probably said. Sound advice, and by that logic, a car that had been billed as a “Rent-A-Racer” sounds like an even scarier proposition, but that might actually be where you choose to deviate from the anti-rental car bandwagon. Hertz had some special, rare cars built for its Rent-A-Racer programs, and here’s a prime example of a former rental car that’s made more desirable by its status, not less: this 1985 Ford Mustang SVO, one of just four known survivors out of ten cars built for Hertz in this Dark Sage color (and one of just 47 SVOs total built in the color). It can be seen here on eBay out of Rockville, Maryland with a healthy $24,990 Buy-It-Now price.

This informative forum thread indicates that this car car—as confirmed by the matching VIN—sold on eBay in early 2016 for just $6,200, so take that asking price with a grain of salt, and we’ll see what the market will actually bear. SVO Mustangs weren’t a great commercial success when they were new in 1984-86, and they haven’t yet taken the collector world by storm, either. I’m not much of a Mustang enthusiast and I actually like the SVO, which probably says something about the reasons for this. I see it as an admirable effort by Ford to update the Mustang with more sophisticated technology—including an electronically injected, intercooled turbocharged engine and four-wheel disc brakes, at a time when the legendary 5.0 had a carburetor and rear drums—and aerodynamically refined styling, but when performance was no better than a GT at significantly higher cost, I can understand why it failed.

Still, the SVO makes an interesting successor to the legendary 1966 GT350-H Rent-A-Racers. Hertz ordered 60 cars, of which 40 went to agencies in Houston and Dallas and 20 to Atlanta. This is one of the Texas cars, and the seventh from the last car built. This car of course includes the vaunted Marti Report to document its rarity. The Hertz cars were the last 1985 models built before a midyear upgrade, which boosted the turbo four’s output from 175 to 205 horsepower and smoothed the front styling with aerodynamically faired headlights.

The SVO was at least a fully-equipped car for its high price, and the Hertz cars lacked only the optional leather upholstery. I’m a little concerned about the fit of the dash cap seen here, but overall this interior shows very nicely. I question the ad’s assertion that the Dark Sage paint is factory—it was acknowledged to have been repainted when it sold in 2016—but it’s hard to argue that everything looks great inside and out.

Similarly, this ad gives little detail on the mechanical condition of the car, while the older ad indicates a fairly clean bill of health with one or two niggles, namely front struts in need of rebuilding. It’s only traveled 40 miles since it was last on the market, so I’d question whether that work has been done. It’s always a bummer to see such a blatant flip, and to know that the last owner was more upfront about the car but perhaps got taken advantage of; we’ll have to see if there’s truly a buyer out there for a $25k SVO, but all that aside, this is definitely a former rental I wouldn’t shy away from—would you?


  1. Joe M

    It was a duck without the Hertz provenance, and it’s still a duck with it. A friend of mine is selling an 86 beat up and still wants 3200. Many tire kickers, no one is biting yet.

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  2. Dave

    I am confused. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a two-eyed ’85

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    • David Harbin

      The SVO came out in ’84 with the two headlights, 16 inch wheels, 4-wheel disks, biplane spoiler, and many many other detail changes to set it apart from the 5.0. Designed to go around corners, brake, and be competitive with a Porsche, which didn’t really find a market with Mustang guys of the 80s.

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    • Todd Zuercher

      Only the SVOs had those headlights. All others were four-eyes.

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  3. jdjonesdr

    I’m just clicked on the “watch this auction” button because I want to see how many times I’ll see the “The item you were watching has been relisted” messages.

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    Dreamer, I mean Dealer….

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  5. SSPBill

    Cut to the chase and buy a BMW 325i. That’s what guys did in the ‘80’s and it’s still good advice today. And this is coming from a Mustang owner.

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  6. Todd Zuercher

    Love the color. And that’s a crackpipe price for any SVO at this point- especially since it’s not an 85-86.

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  7. CanuckCarGuy

    Underappreciated, largely unknown and always a true bargain. My ’84 was mint and original down to wearing Gatorbacks, but I only squeezed $6500 out of it back in 2010.

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  8. Russell

    I thought only ’84’s didn’t have the covered headlights. I had an ’84 and I remember when the ’85’s came out they were covered. I’m sure there was a transition though. I love this color.

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    • Rob'sGT

      84 and 85 had non-covered headlights. 85.5 and 86 had covered.

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      • SSPBill

        I seem to recall Ford couldn’t get the flush headlights approved by the DOT in time for the ‘84 release so they had to use the sealed beams.

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  9. Larry

    The passenger headlight fit and hood gaps may indicate prior front end trauma. Best to check it out in person.

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  10. Moxman

    I just looked at the listing on Ebay, and the car was sold for $6,200. Sounds about right for this car. I’ve been toying with the notion of picking up a nice example of this car and updating the engine, trans., suspension and brakes with a new, Ford Performance 2.3L Ecoboost with a six speed trans. and all the rest of the modern stuff that fits this car. That would be a fun ride!

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  11. phil

    car was black look at the engine rear firewall and door jam fwd puller aria.

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  12. Troy s

    Good looking cars that handled well, that’s it in a nutshell. We love our V-8 powered straightline screamers when it comes to American cars and with the trend moving back towards performance back then the 5.0 had our most undivided attention no matter how “technically sophisticated” the turbo 4 was. Always liked the hood scoop on these, however.

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