Jim Smart
November 21, 2014

Ford’s Mustang SVO is one of the breed’s best kept secrets because not many enthusiasts remember them today. Yet SVO remains one of the most exotic Mustangs in history. Those of us who lived the period remember the Mustang SVO fondly because it was great fun to drive and a fleeting moment of raw excitement. It was an exotic turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder Mustang fitted with all the trimmings—large cast aluminum 16-inch five-lug wheels with Goodyear European NCTs, four-wheel disc brakes, an incredible suspension system with Koni adjustable dampers at all four corners, a deep breathing exhaust system with twin tips out the back, special SVO-specific taillights, electronic engine control with turbo boost control, a short-throw Hurst shifter, Quadra-Shock rear suspension, relocated accelerator and brake pedals for improved heel and toe control, articulating driving seats with adjustable lumbar and side bolsters, and the rich comfort of cloth or leather upholstery.

Jim Wedge was a young lieutenant in the U.S Marine Corps in the summer of 1986, fresh out of college when he became intoxicated by the limited-production Mustang SVO. By the summer of 1986, the SVO had come well into its own with more power and nice features. However, by mid 1986 the SVO model had been chloroformed by Ford brass and would be dropped after 1986 due to poor sales. The Mustang SVO was a great showroom traffic stimulator and good for Ford’s image, but was never good for Ford’s bottom line.

When Jim bought this Dark Gray Metallic ’86 SVO hatchback, he wanted Dark Sage Metallic, which turned out to be extremely rare at just 13 units produced that year. He got the “New Graduate” discount for having graduated from Michigan State and was awaiting orders to report for duty. Jim drove and enjoyed this car for many years and drove it in all kinds of weather in the many places he was stationed around the country. By 1998, Jim had a young family and found he needed a more practical economy car with room for a growing brood.

The 2.3L turbocharged and intercooled inline-four made 200 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque in 1986 trim; not bad for the period. However, the Mustang GT, having the same power, and ultimately being a lower priced option, dealt the death blow to the SVO package.

Jim called his father, Bill, and told him he was selling the SVO. Bill promptly bought the car and brought it home to Chicago before retiring and relocating to the Salt Lake City area with its more tolerable climate and incredible topography. Most remarkable about this SVO is its driven status at 28 years old and 112,000 miles along with its factory original condition. That’s the original Dark Gray Metallic clearcoat finish, Koni shocks and struts, 2.3L OHC turbo four, and more. It isn’t trailered—it is driven everywhere.

When we caught up with Bill Wedge at the MCA National Show in St. George, Utah, he had the fiery spirit of a 25-year-old man ready to share his extraordinary Mustang experience and do some canyon cutting. He was surely proud of his son, Jim, and didn’t hesitate to tell us about the SVO’s purchase a lifetime ago. Retiring to Utah and driving the SVO have been a soul-renewing experience for Bill. Wherever Bill travels, people want to know what kind of Mustang he is driving, as most are unfamiliar with the SVO. When Bill moved to Salt Lake, he joined the Northern Utah Mustang Owners Association and has actively shown the car locally and nationally. In its 28-year life, the SVO has been titled in Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and now Utah.

The Mustang SVO came along at a time when fuel prices were rising and four-cylinder turbocharging was considered the wave of the future. Fuel prices stabilized, V-8 power was cheaper, and four-cylinder turbo power quietly faded away. Ironically, a hot Mustang option for 2015 is the EcoBoost 2.3L turbo four returning Mustang to its SVO and GT Turbo roots of the ’80s. We can say with confidence the SVO has never been a dinosaur, but instead a sneak peek of what was to come 29 years later with Ford’s EcoBoost technology. And when Bill takes the wheel of this turbo trendsetter, leans on the throttle, grabs the stick, and listens to the turbo, it becomes very clear where he’s happiest.

Unless you’ve driven an SVO, it is an easy Mustang to overlook because there’s nothing like taking the wheel of one and living the experience. Those of us who have owned or driven one will never forget. The SVO was never intended for drag racing or traffic light to traffic light performance. Mustang SVO was and still is a true road car, born of four-cylinder intercooled turbo performance over the mountain twisties and America’s most legendary road courses. Grab the wheel and stick and ease into the turbo for snappy 2.3L OHC performance, then prepare for the challenge of apexes and straights on the road ahead and know the pleasure of negotiating the road with a confidence you’ve never felt before. That’s the Mustang SVO.

Exclusive to the SVO model was this European-inspired bi-wing design. The lower wing is essentially the Mustang hatchback (LX/GT) wing modified to butt up to the upper wing.
The SVO’s taillights were another model-specific tweak. The SVO’s version used fine black pinstripes over the lenses to differentiate the model from the rest of the Mustang lineup.

Mustang SVO Snapshot
Model Year Numbers Produced (Including Export)
1984 4,508
1985 1,515
1985½ 439
1986 3,382
Total 9,884
Note: 1984: 23 Exports, 1985: 0 Exports, 1985½: 2 Exports, 1986: 10 Exports

1986 SVO Colors/Codes Numbers Produced
Medium Charcoal Metallic (1B) 334
Black (1C) 1,031
Dark Gray Metallic (1D) 338
Silver Metallic (1E) 222
Medium Canyon Red Metallic (2A) 378
Jalapeño Red (2R) 666
Dark Sage (4E) 13
Dark Shadow Blue (7B) 69
Oxford White (9L) 547