Horse Sense: The rumors of SVTOA's demise have been premature. "SVTOA is not dead," said Gene Pavliscak, director, Tampa Bay SVTOA and SVTOA Southern Region director. "Although the marketing arm that supported SVTOA for 12 years is no longer around, SVTOA is alive and well and will continue to be so. SVTOA regional directors are working with Ford staff as of today to ensure that the SVTOA name and Club stay around for a long time and continue to have a growing relationship with Ford Motor Company and the thousands of its members."
People buy Ford SVT's Mustangs, Lightnings, Foci, and Contours for many reasons. They look cool. They stand apart from the crowd. And, of course, they outperform their mainstream counterparts. It stands to reason that owners of SVT vehicles might just have an even greater need for speed than owners of other Fords. That in a nutshell is the idea behind the Special Vehicle Team Owners Association. While the club is like any other organization that brings together like-minded people for enjoyment, the most fun part of participating in the club is driving your own car at SVTOA On-Track High Performance Drivers Education events.
More than just open-track events, the SVOTA On-Tracks provide driving instructors and run groups for beginner, intermediate, and experience corner carvers. It's one thing to get out on the track, but it's far more beneficial to get out there and learn from someone who knows how to get it done. The feeling of gratification as you learn the course and get faster is unmatched, and the ability to share that glee with you friends in the club is icing on the cake.
Of course, the events aren't just for SVT owners. We saw many non-SVT Fords, as well as many non-Fords making laps over the course of the weekend. The weekend in particular was the Southeast SVTOA's annual On-Track at Sebring International Raceway. This year's event took place April 21-22, and as always seemed to be a good time for all involved. The 102 drivers brought plenty of friends and family with them as there were 354 people enjoying the festivities. If it sounds fun, you should see what your local chapter is up to at www.svtoa.com.
Dale Marlow deserved to have a great time in his '03 Cobra. Dale was on leave from a tour in Iraq, and he made the time to put his Terminator through its paces. The car featured a number of bolt-ons, including a twin-screw supercharger, but our favorite part was the slick flame job.
Terminators were everywhere at Sebring. We like to hear the whirr of those positive-displacement blowers as these cars hurtle around the track. Carlos Burattini's '04 Cobra caught our eye, as he accented the already vibrant Competition Orange paint with a single white stripe. We've grown tired of the more familiar Le Mans stripes, so Carlos' car showed another approach can work just as well.
Saleen was a new sponsor for the this year's Sebring festivities. The company brought out a pair of its supercharged S197s to display, and when Michael Albano's early Saleen ran into problems the company loaned one to him. Saleen rep Rob LeFrancois said he didn't want to see a Saleen owner's weekend end so shortly, so he handed over the keys to this Legend Lime looker and made the guy's weekend.
At the dragstrip, we're used to seeing these portable fans whirring away in engine compartments, but on the big Sebring track, it's the brakes that take a beating. Michael Cottle kept his brakes chilled between sessions, and we're sure they needed it because his GT convertible was sporting Kenne Bell Twin Screw power underhood. He must like that blower sound too.
Events such as SVTOA's On-Tracks don't go off successfully year after year without a great support staff. You know the SVTOA events are well-oiled machine, however, when SVTOA big-cheese Gene Pavliscak gets a chance to sneak out for a few sessions of fun in his '03 Cobra. Gene's car features suspension bits from Steeda and Maximum Motorsports, Recaro racing seats, and more. Of course, Gene made sure to thank several others, including all the SVTOA chapters, Ford, Ford Racing, SVT, and all the event's sponsors Saleen, Blue Oval Network, Steeda Autosports, Boulevard Customs, Classic Design Concepts, and Pennzoil.
Clean Fox cars are becoming less and less common, so we can't resist checking them out when we see them. Jason Costello's blue drop-top cooks as good as it looks thanks to a stroker Windsor underhood.
Since I own one, I have a soft spot for silver SVT Focus five-doors. These cars are a blast to drive on the street and on the track. Robert Bivin certainly seemed to be enjoying his five-door. It's too bad the SVT Focus is no longer in production.
While not nearly as common as the Terminators, '99-'01 Cobras are still around and 305 hp with an IRS is plenty to keep you entertained. Just ask Rick Smith, who was stretching the legs of his clean white-and-blue snake.
As you might recall from our testdrive story in the October issue, yours truly was fortunate enough to get one session on the Sebring track in the Stage 3 Roush Mustang. Suffice it to say, it was a blast. I was also lucky enough to have 5.0&SF feature car alumnus Jonathan Blevins, a regular SVOTA On-Track instructor, ride shotgun and try to show me the line. Jonathan was amazingly calm as I clumsily navigated the track. Of course it's tough to take pictures of yourself driving a car, so Jonathan was nice enough to take out the car for a couple laps while I snapped pictures. Thanks, Jonathan!
There's certainly something timeless about the Fox coupe, and Sean Cole's example expands on that longevity by including some modern cues, including Mineral Gray paint and 10th Anniversary Cobra wheels. While Sean's car appeared to be a work in progress with a Spartan interior and a few missing trim pieces, it was one of our favorites of the weekend. It also shows that a great wheel design looks good on any body style.