1984 Ford Mustang SVO

1984 Ford Mustang SVO

The one-two punch of smog laws and the gas crunch killed performance in the 1970s and well into the 1980s. The Mustang had been hit particularly hard. So hard in fact that it shared its platform with the lowly Pinto in it’s previous generation, the Mustang II. The new Fox body platform (1979-1993) was a big improvement, but it was still wanting for power. In 1981 Ford formed a new performance division called Special Vehicle Operations or SVO for short. Their first project was to inject some new life into the Mustang. The 5.0 V8-powered GT was still breathing through a carburetor and wheezing out all of 175 horsepower, and that big cast iron V8 was heavy, and that weight was sitting on the front tires. SVO decided the answer was to get the same power out of a much lighter powerplant, like a turbocharged, fuel-injected version of the 2.3-liter inline-4 that was used in the Pinto and the Mustang II. During it’s short lifespan (1984-1986) the Ford Mustang SVO was the fastest Mustang going, matching the 5.0 V8s power with less weight to carry. And much better handling resulting from the better weight distribution that the lighter, smaller engine offered. It was a low-volume, limited edition car that never sold in large numbers.

The 2.3L engine was a proven powerplant, well-developed and well-understood by this time. It was a good choice for SVO. They added an advanced computer-controlled electronic fuel injection system, and a turbocharger. Later SVOs (late-1985-1986) had intercoolers which boosted power output considerably (30-horsepower). This early computer controller didn’t have a knock sensor system, so a switch was provided on the dash to adjust for fuel grade. Premium allowed more boost. Primitive system now, but a luxury for the times. Many a turbo car blow up from over-boosting on cheap gas and cooking the engine. Drivers were the knock sensor back then, and their right foot was the actuator. A Hurst shifter was installed on the 5-speed manual transmission, the 1984 Ford Mustang SVO wasn’t available with an automatic. The front suspension geometry was specific to the SVO, along with Koni adjustable front struts, a 15:1 power steering rack, a 3.45:1 limited slip Traction Lok differential, 4-wheel vented disk brakes, special pedals designed for ‘heel-and-toe’ work, Koni adjustable rear shocks, a lateral damper on the live rear axle, 5-lug (all other 1984 Ford Mustangs were 4-lug) 16″ X 7″ SVO-specific alloy wheels, shod with P225-50R16 VR Goodyear Eagle Gatorback tires. The interior was only available in charcoal color (leather or cloth) with sport seats with adjustable lumbars, a leather-wrapped tilt wheel, shift knob and E-brake handle, power windows and locks, AC, Premium Sound, and a bevy of other goodies. However, the Competition Prep option package deleted most of those to save weight.

All SVOs were hatchbacks, and the basic Mustang bodyshell wasn’t changed. However, the 1984-1986 Ford Mustang SVO had a unique hood, front facia and headlights, tail lights, 2-deck rear spoiler, slim body side moldings, spats in front of the rear wheel wells, and a different shape to the rear quarter windows. It was enough to distinguish it from a normal Mustang instantly. And while I liked the 1985 and 1986 Mustang GTs, the SVO is a good-looking car. Whatever it was or wasn’t, it wasn’t enough to bring in the sales needed to keeping building them beyond their 3-year run.

In 1985 I was working at Sunnyvale Ford in Sunnyvale CA as a new car salesman. I’d been there a year or so and hadn’t ever seen an SVO close up. Being a car nut, I couldn’t understand why the dealership wouldn’t order a bunch of these awesome turbocharged SVOs. Surely there were tons of red-blooded enthusiasts like myself who would buy up every one they could find. Finally, a silver one arrived, just like the one pictured above. It was gorgeous, sitting there on the showroom floor. They kept it inside to prevent us hooligan salesmen from taking it out and running the crap out of it to see how fast it was. We all wanted to. So there it sat…and sat…and sat. For months, people would look at it, occasionally it might get a test drive, but not much real action. Ford was trying to push more of them onto the dealership, but they were resisting. So Ford sends a rep to Sunnyvale Ford with a box full of silver windbreakers in various sizes with the SVO logo emblazoned on them. Ford was running a special promotion, and any salesman who sold an SVO during that month would receive one of the jackets with their name embroidered on it. As luck would have it, I sold that silver SVO the next week and got the jacket. I still have it to this day. As a follow up, years later I owned a classic car dealership called Camaro Headquarters, and I had another dealership right next door called Mustang Headquarters. I sold almost 500 F-bodies in 5 years plus a bunch of Mustangs and other cars. I bought the 1984 Ford Mustang SVO pictured above at a wholesale dealer auction, smogged and safety-inspected it, and sold it for a tidy profit. Now people want them.


Model designation

Engine type


Bore & Stroke

Compression ratio

Fuel system

Turbo system




Track, front

Track, rear




Fuel capacity

Curb weight

1984 Ford Mustang SVO

SOHC inline-4, turbocharged, fuel injected, computer-controlled

2301cc / 140.4 ci

96.04mm X 79.4mm / 3.781″ X 3.126″


Electronic fuel injection

Garrett turbocharger

175 hp @ 4400 rpm

210 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm

100.5″ / 2553mm

57.8″ / 1464mm

58.3″ / 1480mm

181.0″ / 4597mm

69.1″ / 1755mm

51.9″ / 1318mm

15.3 US gal / 58.0L

2992 lbs / 1357 kg