Skunkworks Saloon: 1999 Ford Contour SVT

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

Ford’s Special Vehicle Teams (SVT) group is responsible for some of the company’s most impressive road cars, from the Lightning pickup to the hot-hatch SVT Focus. In between those extremes is the less frequently seen and discussed Ford Contour SVT. A bit of a sleeper with some subtle visual cues as to the added performance within, this example here on eBay is listed with a reasonable $4,500 Buy-It-Now in stock condition – but the listing ends tonight. 

The SVT Contour provided drivers with an enhanced version of the company’s 2.5L Duratec V6, good for 195 b.h.p. to 200 b.h.p., depending on model year. Other enhancements included a factory body kit, five-spoke alloy wheels, unique SVT bucket seats, along with bigger brakes, performance tires, and a true dual exhaust. The engine was a marvel, with a variety of techniques levied by the SVT team to improve internal airflow.

This example looks quite nice and pleasingly stock. The leather bucket seats are in good condition, and even the SVT-branded floormats are still in place. The seller notes no major issues inside the car, only describing some cosmetic weaknesses in the exterior finish as its biggest faults. Mileage is low at 88,000 and the seller notes this is a California vehicle, so rust isn’t an issue and the underside is clean.

When I was 16, I test-drove a Contour Sport model with the Duratec V6 and a stick. I always kick myself for not getting it, as it hauled fairly respectably down the road. The lack of an aftermarket (at the time) discouraged me, because of course a 16-year-old is thinking about upgrading the car they don’t own! This SVT thankfully remains in stock condition and looks like a good deal in the fun-per-dollars segment.

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Comments

  1. Rube Goldberg Member

    I know this site has to appeal to a large group, but how many other old farts just rolled their eyes, and thought, “oh, for heavens sake”. My CL is literally LITTERED with cars like this, with all due respect, very high mileage, but all needing something. Had a friend with a Contour, his kid tried to kill it by running it in a swamp, it took a lot of abuse, so good cars, but just a used car here folks, and transmissions cost more than the car is worth.
    BTW, anybody else having trouble with the site? My computer freezes up sometimes here, no where else.

    • TJ

      Perhaps they should have a “no cars that aren’t at least 20 years old” qualifier.

      • grant

        Well, the website header is “rusty old cars for sale.” So there’s that anyway.

      • Oddimotive Cason

        Believe it or not, this car went into production over 20 years ago – it launched as a 1998 model – and this 1999 model was likely built 19+ years ago.

    • leiniedude Member

      Hi Rube, snafu. Mine just froze, so I will be quick. I have not got the new comments for months. I did paste the URL to my safe sites with no luck. Now for the last couple of weeks I get cigarette pack sized pop ups of vehicles that were posted days ago. ????? And your problems are happening with your new laptop? Take care, Mike.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        I’m sending this comment to Josh — he maintains the site.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Rube, I respect your opinion as well, but this *is* rather special, being an SVT version of which few were made. If your local CL is “literally littered” with SVT vehicles, please tell me where you are so that I can check things out!

      We try to appeal to a wide variety of enthusiasts not just “old farts” like me/us… 😉

      • Rube Goldberg Member

        Thanks all, especially Josh for a great site. ( seems better now, I just panic when it freezes, what am I missing?) Ok, not littered with SVT’s, but a slew of “jellybean” cars, to me they’re all the same. When the Taurus came out( precursor to all these types of cars) it’s literally when I stopped caring abut cars. I find it hard to think, when posting something like this, someone actually goes, OMG, a ’99 SVT!!! I’d think the 1970 Corona ( which I mistakenly poo-poo’ed, sorry ’bout that) would have a better following. These, to me, are, and always will be, throw away cars. They do their job, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of miles, but are designed to be used, discarded, and another one bought. Circle of modern day car ownership.

      • CanuckCarGuy

        Having owned a ’99 Contour SVT, they are definitely not a run of the mill Contour. On the road, BMW owners were regularly shamed by the SVT…I had Beemer owners follow me, to ask about the car. SVT used an extrude hone process on the intake, among other engine “tweaks” and a lowered and much tighter suspension. These were definitely sleepers, with about 2500 produced each year…I’d buy another in a heart beat.

    • OIL SLICK

      Well that would not be true because if you bothered to read the ad there were only 2760 of these cars produced.

      • dan

        2759 too many,lol
        they made these for guys that were whipped by there wife,wouldn’t let them buy a hot rod

    • Josh Mortensen Josh Mortensen Staff

      Hi guys,
      Thanks for the feedback Rube and Leiniedude on the Contour. As Jamie stated though, this isn’t a high mileage commuter, but actually a pretty special and limited production car. We try to make sure if we post anything newer, it’s special or crazy low mileage.

      As for any technical issues you are having, I will look into them and see what we can do! In the future, please email us at mail@barnfinds.com with any issues, that way we see it right away rather than hours or days later. More often then not, it’s just a matter of something needing to be restarted, so the sooner we know the sooner we can fix it!
      Thanks

      • leiniedude Member

        Hi Josh, I did not have a problem with the Contour post. It sounds like a nice rig. Just have to agree with Rube and On and On that some strange things happen here. I come here everyday and really enjoy it! Some of the BS is uncalled for, but oh well. Thanks for a great place for motorheads to hang. I learn new info everyday. I tip my hat. Mike.

    • On and On

      I’ve been having problems with the site also, freeze ups and no longer getting comment notifications. emailed BF yesterday, no change as of yet.

  2. Rhett

    so if nothing else was pulled out of a barn today, and this is what we’re left with, so be it..
    it’s a seldom seen car with an interesting pedigree in the SVT program, it’s cheap and CA clean and worth clicking on to see more pictures. It’s not what I’d buy, but somewhere someone is scrambling to put together 4500.00.

    Cool car.

  3. Djbartu

    I like it! It would make a great winter car.
    I’m glad barn finds posts cars like this.

  4. Steve

    junk!

  5. OIL SLICK

    boy i’m really sick of the old crabby out of touch curmudgeons on this site. didn’t your mothers ever tell you if you have nothing good to say then don’t?

    • Miguel

      This is the internet. The saying has changed to if you have nothing nice to say, make up something mean.

  6. jdjonesdr

    I visit every day to see what’s up each day. Sometimes I’m amazed, other days not so much.

    Not every day can be a winner. I sure do appreciate the work the writers put in here. I sure as hell couldn’t do it. Thanks gentlemen.

  7. BarnfindyCollins

    I welcome the diversity of transportation brought to our attention on this site. It’s not something I would nessesarily want but I like to be reminded of its existence. Just last week I looked at a Jaguar E type coupe, 32k mile Merkur Scorpio, 50k mile Mazda B2200, and a Franklin truck. It’s like Baskin- Robbins offering 31 flavors; because not everyone goes for Strawberry. Keep it up guys.

  8. The_Driver

    Mmm, I’ve always liked and wanted this SVT compacts, the timing is wrong; but the price is right!

  9. Rodent

    It’s a 1999 North Bay California car, but has been registered in Missouri since 2001. Does that still make it a California car?

    No hate for the V6 Contour, expecially the SVT. Nice car if you are under 5’11” and under 230 lbs.

    • Steve R

      I’m 6’2” and we’ll over 230, my daily drive is a 95 mercury Mystique with a V6 and 5spd. I’m going to drive it into the ground mainly because all new cars has such a sloped windshield it hurts my neck when I’m getting into the drivers seat. I’d have to commit to either a new pick up, small SUV or van.

      Steve R

    • Rodent

      Good Lord, I typed “expecially”. 🙁

      • leiniedude Member

        You are forgiven Rodent. With that great handle who is going to care! Take care, Mike.

    • dgrass

      I don’t think your comment accurately describes this car. I am 6’2, with the torso of a 7 footer and the legs of a hobbit, and I had no issues getting in or out of these or riding in them. The friend of mine who owns one is 6’4, with legs like a spider and a torso like a hobbit, and he too never had issues.

      So, again, your comment is a bit misleading…if not entirely untrue.

  10. Todd Zuercher

    I’m an old fart(just turned 49) and I love these cars. If I don’t find a particular vehicle particularly interesting, I just hit the delete button and it goes away!

  11. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Nice find and write-up, Jeff. I was used car shopping and the dealer showed me a new car they had been using as a teaser. 1998.5 Contour V6, 5-speed. Not an SVT but starting mid-year ’98 if you ordered a 5-sp you got four-wheel discs and the shorter first-gear ratio, and a few mini-SVT upgrades. It was the only Contour on the lot with rear discs. Of course the Duratech was pretty sweet with its Porsche engineering and dual intake-runners, etc. I called it the “Poor man’s Maxima” and it gave us 10+ years and 204k. Once in Wilmington NC I got into a mix of tuner cars dicing through the lights. I’m fully loaded with four people and luggage, and when I had to get ahead of one before the next light, I got the job done and one of his buddies in a Miata just gave me the thumbs up. That car took down a few 5.0 and 4.6 Mustang drivers who didn’t know how to shift. So they don’t look like much but they have a heart of gold. Plus you can do 3.0 swaps, etc. Thanks for the memories!

  12. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    The poor man’s Maxima. Didn’t use a drop of oil when I sold it at 204k miles.

  13. gtyates

    A friend of my daughter has one of these. Last time I checked it has around 250k miles and still running strong. And yes, the SVT edition is a bit a sleeper that not too many people knew what it was.. Thanks for sharing this one.

  14. Chuck Damian

    Just my two cents worth…..I like seeing ALL kinds of vehicles here, new, old, rusty or shiny. As long as it something some enthusiast would find interesting. Since I’ve been subscribing to BF it has become often the first email I open each time I check them out! Thanks to everyone responsible for producing it and also to everyone who comments here! The quantity and quality of automotive knowledge of BF readers is impressive. This SVT Contour has to be one of the better remaining examples out there of a fairly rare car. I would love to own it and daily drive it.

  15. Miguel

    The one thing that has always turned me off to this car was the way they designed the door locks.

    When you unlock the door from the inside, it has an electric motor that unlocks the door. There isn’t a bar or something mechanical that unlocks the door.

    The lock is not connected to the door handle so if the door is locked and the system fails, how do you get out? I mean in some cars when you open the door with the handle, it unlocks the door. This car doesn’t do that.

    The sales lady at my local Ford dealer gave me a ride home a few times in her Contour, and when I saw that, I didn’t want to get back in.

    If you owners of these cars have a had a different experience I would like to know because this has kept me away from this car and it’s Mercury brother for the run of the car.

    What do you do in an accident?

    • Dan's98

      The lock is electronic, but also a mechanical connection to the handle inside. You can move it manually and hear the whirring but move the lock from lock to unlock like any car, pulling the handle on a locked door from the inside just pops the lock open for you. I’ve owned a 99 SE Sport and my current 98 SE Sport since 2005 and 2012 respectively. It would be a disaster to not have a mechanical connection to the door and I doubt it would even pass any crash certification.

  16. germanfordguy

    Ordered a first year, 95 SE 2.5 5sp back in 1994. Drove that car for 10 years, 160K miles. Gave it to my aunt who had 3 kids about to start driving. they finally gave up on the car at 19 years, 205K miles — all on the original clutch- rust had gotten the best of the rear suspension (which had passive 4 wheel steering). I now own 2 virtually identical 1995 SE’s, one 5sp one Auto. These were kick as drivers when they were new, and can still hold their own today. I daily drive both of mine cause they put a smile on my face every time! This SVT has 25 more hp than mine, spools up faster, sure it is still a very satisfying drive. Not everyone’s cup of tea, and there are some issues to explore (harness and rust) but still pretty easy to get parts, and did I say it’s a hoot to dirve?! Doubt you will find that many cars out there that drive as well as there for $4500

    1
  17. germanfordguy

    PS — I’ve had these cars for 25+ years, never had a second thought about the locks — never had one fail either and believe they default to unlocked when they loose power.

    • Miguel

      That would be a neat trick if they did default to the open position. I am not sure how they would do that though.

      • Daymo

        My 2006 Renault Scenic does the same thing… As I found i out after it sitting under three inches of snow for three days.
        It was locked but then unlocked as the battery died!

  18. jw454

    A friend of mine had one… a ’95 I think. We hauled it to the scrap yard when a clutch replacement was priced at 3K. However, that included parts but, still…..

  19. VR

    Extruded hone processing of the intake helped make these cars a hoot to drive. Worked at a Ford dealer in Arizona and beat the living hell out of them. Could not drive comfortably if you were over 6’3″.and pushing 300 lbs. Didn’t sell well and became overagers because of a high sticker and little advertising. Fun car and you got a lot for what you paid for. Stoplights were a lot of fun against Camaros and Mustangs..

  20. scottymac

    I always wondered why Ford didn’t use the 3.0 Taurus block, then add the hot cams, etc.? 30 extra cubes couldn’t hurt. Looked at these when they came out, had less room inside than our ’91 Escort coupe.

    1
    • Ken

      You mean the SHO Yamamotor?

    • firemedic2714

      It probably would have stolen sales of Taurus SHOs had they used the Yamaha motor in it.

  21. Doc

    FWIW,I am 6’4″ tall and 335 lbs and I daily drove a Mystique for about 2 years with no problem.

  22. Bernie

    Another donated car auctioned by Copart, sold Feb 22nd -> https://www.copart.com/lot/25963488/Photos

    • leiniedude Member

      Nice catch Bernie.

  23. Oddimotive Cason

    Ah, the second car I chose for myself after a couple family hand-me-downs. My ’98 SVT was the only logical replacement for a 1993 Sentra SE-R when I needed four doors to haul clients to lunch. I loved both of those cars!

    If you don’t “get” this car, you’ve obviously never driven one. That fact that the styling is “90s bland” only adds to the sleeper appeal – same as the original SHO…

  24. angliagt

    I need this car as a dd! Unfortunatley, I need to sell my
    ’96 Ford F150 4WD SuperCab short bed first,after I find a better
    mpg small pickup.
    Timing’s everything!

  25. W9BAG

    Just curious: a Contour was based on a Tempo, was the Mystique based on a Taurus ? If so, I’m wondering why Mercury didn’t offer the Yamaha made 6 cylinder, as was offered in the Taurus SHO. Perhaps Ford wanted to keep the SHO a brand-exclusive car.

    • Todd Zuercher

      Contour/Mystique was the platform that replaced the Tempo/Topaz – it wasn’t based on it.

      Taurus’ Mercury counterpart was the Sable.

  26. olerascal

    Got schooled by a Contour at autocross. Didn’t know about SVT variant…just looked like another econo-can. It was wicked fast. This is hot little ride for relatively pennies.

  27. irocrobb

    I appreciate cars like this one being posted. They were rare in there day and more rare 20 years later. There is many lookers here that are under 30 years old and to them its a old car of there youth. Its no big deal to pass it by if you are not interested. Keep posting them please

  28. Ken

    Um…. you guys didn’t have a major employee shake down now didja? First a “Cadillac “ Cimmaron, now. Contour? Lol. Just sayin..

  29. Bobinott

    Well, I will add my voice in favour of an SVT Contour being interesting. I never had the chance to sample the SVT, but the regular Contour was a nible and well built car. I think the relative lack of success was that the interior overall was a bit tight. The driver’s accommodations were fine, but the back seat lacked leg room and most especially headroom for taller passengers, due to the roof line. I suspect that caused limited sales in the mainstream family market. But an SVT was special. If I found this particular car, in this condition up here in the Great White North, I would buy it straight away. So thanks BF, you’re OK in my books!

  30. BMW4RunninTundra Member

    I too appreciate all the effort put into this site to bring us a broad range of vehicles!!! (that’s why I became a member – to support and keep the site available for all) I also appreciate 90% of the comments because that %age is educational!! I literally learn something new almost everyday. The other 10%, “there is one in every crowd”!
    Keep up the great work!

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