Special Vehicle Operations: 1986 Ford Mustang SVO

In 1986, the venerable Fox platform Mustang was in its 7th year of production, and Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations Department had done some reengineering on the Mustang. Produced from 1984 to 1986, the Ford Mustang SVO was one of the top-performing Mustangs available, as well as the most expensive. This example is a last year model, and has 41,000 actual miles according to the seller. In 1986, this was 1 of 3382 made making this a fairly rare bird. Find it here on Craigslist in South Carolina with a reasonable asking price of $8,000. Thanks to Pat L. for sending this one in!

Though the driver’s area is a little worn, overall the interior is fully intact and in presentable condition. With a little cosmetic detailing and perhaps some minor repairs, this interior would be a looker! It may look rough for the miles, but I suspect someone used this car primarily for weekend use or some other kind of short trips, and thus it has wear consistent with regular use. The seller states that this car has leather, a sunroof, power windows, power locks, and a tilt wheel.

Under the hood is…wait a minute, that’s not a 302! The SVO wouldn’t have had a V8 either, not even a V6. While the SVO department was concerned with making a high-performance sports car, fuel economy was also a large concern. Thus, the engineers opted for the 2.3 liter Ford four cylinder most commonly found in Pintos and Mustang IIs. Unlike the original Pinto version, this 2.3 was updated, upgraded, and generally a stronger engine. Furthermore, it was turbocharged because after all, this was a performance car! This turbo four is hooked up to a 5-speed Borg-Warner T-5 manual transmission with a Hurst shifter.

Am I the only one who thinks the spoilers on the back are similar to those found on the Merkur XR4Ti? The design of the SVO was intended to look like the Mustang, without looking like the Mustang. This example is very clean, and for the price one would think it is a fair deal! Since these were low-production cars across all 3 years of production, it isn’t unreasonable to think that this will be a collectable car in the near future. If this unmolested original example is really as good as it seems, then it could be a great deal for a collector or enthusiast.


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  1. Todd Zuercher

    $8k sounds real reasonable for this example.

  2. Jaymon1962

    How many horses would this pony have?

    • Jett

      They ran from 175-205 hp as the years progressed.

  3. Billy007

    As nice as these were, they failed for good reason. For thousands less an HO 302 would go under the hood. More pull as well as HP. These handled better, but also had turbo lag…plus the V8 handled okay anyhow. Ford read the market wrong, but of course, who could have imagined oil hitting ten bucks a barrel in the 90s? Now we still have cheap oil, but how long will it last? When I see all the fools out there in 12 ton pick ups and full sized SUVs, I just cringe. I still drive a small 4 cylinder car that gets me double the mileage and I save even more with cheap gas and won’t have to worry the next time some rich Arab gets po’d and the price hits $5 gallon.

    • Billy001

      Really? You do understand that we only import 25% of the oil we use, OK? That number is up from 24% in 2015, the lowest percentage since 1970. Your rich Arab argument is straight out of 1975. Enjoy cringing your tin box, Billy007, I’ll be passing you in my Hemi in total comfort!

      Like 1
      • Billy 007

        Ahhh my friend, you don’t understand how modern capitalism works. If it is not an Arab, it will be a rich westerner or a big company that plays with oil prices, remember Enron? Gas prices are a carrot and stick scenario. Bleed the consumers almost dry until the economy is ready to collapse, then give them 5 or more years of cheap oil to let them pretend that it is market forces at work, so they miss the big picture..that it is all controlled. Times like now give the economy some breathing room, but soon the tables will tilt against us, just a matter of time. If we didn’t have corrupt leadership in this country, we would already be an electric economy, not based on fossil fuels, but would not hold my breath for that one. BTW, I love my car collection, not one electric among them, but is our love of gasoline worth the planets health or our children’s futures? Is it worth more and more wars in the Middle East? I think your hemi is awesome, but I would be happier in a small Tesla if the infrastructure could be developed.


        Oil makes the world go around. Great money making opportunity the past few years if you cashed in on cheap energy stocks.

    • Scott C

      I am one of those people that drive those large trucks, always have, always will…it’s a numbers game.. having worked in the Law enforcement area, and even, in the wrecking yard industry…bigger always wins, no matter how many air bags…a superduty truck hitting a 4cyl econobox (put politely) the trucks ALWAYS wins…..

      Like 1
      • Mlaw

        Just another misguided road lice driver,go big or go home save gas,more for me lol

      • Billy 007

        But my small car will easily out handle your big truck, less likely to get into an accident in the first place. Besides, size is arbitrary, your truck against a garbage truck? See, none of us are totally safe on the roads, best to have a good handling car and an alert non distracted driver….or maybe, a self driving car. As I get even older (if that’s possible) the idea of that is really starting to grow on me.

    • Miguel

      Not everybody worried about gas mileage.

  4. Todd Zuercher


  5. SVOWNer

    HP numbers were the same for comparison if not 5-10hp better. It cost more but the SVO weighed 300lbs less than a GT and if the driver had any experience with driving a turbo vehicle, lag is not an issue.

    • Billy 007

      How about reliability? I once owned a turbo, once. It was usually in the shop. Nifty when it ran, but rarely did and when it did, I got gun shy about driving it sportily, too afraid it was going to break again. The V8, much thirstier and by far heavier, for sure, but I bet far more reliable. Just my opinion, of course.

      • Eric

        In all honesty I just don’t know what to say. Now I know. Quick question do you work at google in there self driving lazy lost since of driving forgot how to shift no blinker switch I make all the rules for you I take you how I want to take you to the destination that you want to go also we are adding a built in but wipe for the bottom of our AC/Heated seats department. BTW I love barn finds. But this is not a website to come on and push self driving vehicles. MPG non since. We do not come here looking for Teslas did I spell it right? Don’t keep up with ealen musket much. We drive what we like plan and simple. Oh and I just noticed I spelled Elon Musk wrong. If you notice auto correct kinda like a computer typing for me does stuff I don’t want it to do. Think about that for a few minutes. Have a good day.

      • Billy 007

        ERIC, my oh my. How old are you son, 16? I am pushing pretty hard on 60, so a self driving car might just be up my alley. Do I love to drive? Probably just as much as you do, maybe more, and have been doing for a lot longer time, but believe it or not, we all (even you Eric) grow older and our driving skills are not what they once were. Does it have to be either or? Why not have a regular car with the option to have the computer drive when we don’t want to? (Or are too tired, too drunk, distracted, or maybe, just not a competent enough driver anymore) MY 90 year old daddy is totally dependent on others to get him and Ma around, I don’t want to be there someday. A self driver would make my life a lot easier (for sure) but would give him a sense of independence, it would also help his pride as he feels bad about not being able to do anything on his own anymore. There are a great number of us Baby Boomers who are getting ever more senile, but not yet ready to take that eternal dirt nap (thanks Neil Bortz) and we are going to be a huge burden on you kids if some tech doesn’t come to our rescue. Also Eric, how is this a poor topic for this site? Does it not talk about cars? Are Teslas, not cars? Teslas BTW, will out drive just about ANY car ever on this site, just say’in.

      • Kraig Ogdon

        I own a 1984 SVO..Bought in 1984 and she still runs strong, and has had some slight performance improvements and currently puts out 320hp..love the car…

  6. Patrick D.

    Can you imagine Ford having some foresight and slotting in a Cosworth YB engine into an upgraded Fox-body to produce a genuine Techno-Hot-Rod Mustang?

    Oh well, would have been simplier just to sell the Sierra Cosworth alongside the XR4Ti…

  7. Beatnik Bedouin

    That engine/trans combo would be a nice bolt-in into my ’84 Ford Sierra station wagon…

    … However, for that kind of money, I’d prefer a V8 under the hood.

    • Mark-A

      Ford South Africa made a V8 Sierra XR8 alongside the V6 Essex engined XR6 both would make the Estate an interesting proposition.

  8. JW

    For 8K I think it would be a good investment to flip 10 to 15 years from now for a decent profit. Just don’t take it out much and beat it.

  9. James

    Ahhhh, the pic of the speedo in the ad brings back memories.. Back in the day of forced, ‘psychological’ fuel conservation, the Fed mandated that speedos couldn’t depict high speeds and 55 had to be highlighted; a ‘reminder’ to ‘Drive 55’; the federal speed limit. Although I don’t remember this rendition, I love the way the Ford boys did this one – red hash marks with no numbers above 85mph/140km/h – still kept the 140mph/220km/h speedo; left for your ‘imagination’/ calculation…

  10. CanuckCarGuy

    My ’84 SVO was at 100K miles when I sold it; it looked and ran beautifully, no more problematic than a V8…my ’87 Tbird Turbocoupe only had issues with the electronic adjustable suspension. The 2.3 turbo was bulletproof unless you ran boost well beyond the factory limits for extended periods. They would outrun, outbrake and outhandle a 5.0 GT as well as the BMWs of the day. Very underappreciated cars and definitely worth owning.

  11. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    New Ford Eco Boost engine transplant, anyone?

  12. Kraig Ogdon

    My 1984 Mustang SVO modified runs and handles great, fantastic care to drive, still uses the 2.3 Turbo charged, with the top mounted intercooler, and internals slightly modified, this one pumps out 320 hp…Koni front struts and quardashocked Koni’ s in the rear,…5 speed, heal to toe clutch pedals…quite the street racer…love it….

    • Andrew Tanner Member

      That’s a good looking car, Kraig!

  13. Troy s

    Man, same color as my ’86 GT 5.0 that I bought in ’90. Loved that car, flowmasters, KnN, played with timing, removed the air silencer in the fender, heavy duty clutch, Hurst shifter, had a ball with that car basically.
    These SVO’s were expensive when new, and for ’86 the 5.0 got injected, which really was responsive. It was all about straight line performance, that’s what made the 5.0’s so popular at the time, a throwback to the ’60’s so to speak. The Camaro too, same deal. Nothing wrong with the SVO at all if you like turbocharged smaller engines, but back then few of us cared about them.

  14. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Andrew, not only are the spoilers similar to the XR4Ti, but they both had turbocharged 2.3 liter engines. Both had 175 HP, but they weren’t identically setup. I’m sure that they had different transmissions, and the SVO was intercooled while the XR4Ti was not.

    At least that’s what I can remember. I had an exrati (what we called it) that was fun to drive, but had multiple transmission and electrical issues. Paid $6500 for a $25K 2 year old car.

    • Andrew Tanner Member

      I didn’t realize they shared the 2.3, but I can’t say I’m surprised!

  15. Miguel

    I bet it has a rod knock at start up.

  16. Jett

    The SVO really was more than 30 years ahead of its time. Powerful (well, powerful for the time…) small displacement turbocharged 4-cyl, 4 wheel discs, high performance handling package, fuel injection. The modern Mustang and its ecoboost owes it a huge debt of gratitude.

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