Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
March 2, 2015
Photos By: KJ Jones, George Nunez

When we think about boost, all we care about is how much our Mustang is capable of making.

We analyze blower pulley sizes, study waste gate options, investigate “safe” impeller speeds, and ensure a spot-on tune for maximum horsepower. Notice you didn’t see anything regarding mileage. That’s because we don’t care about mileage. The only time we think about mileage is when someone asks us, and even then we don’t care. We don’t buy a Mustang for fuel economy.

But what if you could have both boost and fuel economy? Ford’s new line of EcoBoost engines have us thinking we can have our boost and pass a gas station or two.

Will and Kelly McLearran put a spin on Ford’s EcoBoost four-cylinder by dropping it into the original EcoBoost Mustang, a 1986 SVO. For those just tuning in, the SVO was manufactured from 1984 to 1986 and featured a 2.3L four-cylinder engine with a single turbocharger, a T5 five-speed, five-lug four-wheel disc brakes, and, depending on the model year, either 3.55 or 3.73 gears. The 1984 model boasted 175 hp at the flywheel, while the last-hurrah 1986 had 205 hp. The SVO was Ford’s European sports car fighter, but unfortunately the higher-than-a-GT price and, frankly, the four-cylinder engine didn’t really catch on with Mustang enthusiasts.

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Will purchased a 1984 SVO while in college, but it was totaled in an accident not long after. Next up was a 1986 GT, which he initially modified with nitrous, then a single Precision turbo, to arrive at high 10s at 132 mph. However, Will had a soft spot in his heart for that SVO.

The McLearrans had more pressing problems, though. Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she used her diagnosis as a way of bringing awareness to the disease. She decided drag racing was a great platform to get the message out and formed Quarter Mile for a Cure. Kelly raced a 1963 Falcon Futura with a turbocharged inline-six to the tune of 10.60s at 128 mph. With changed priorities, Will’s 1986 GT was put back on the street, but not before being outfitted with a turbocharged four-cylinder.

Still, Will’s desire for another SVO never waned. His quest came to an end when fellow Southern Arizona Mustang Club member Ned Stageberg had an SVO he bought as a donor car, from which he robbed the engine for a 1982 GT. Ned had no use for the SVO, so he donated the car to Will and Kelly if they would pull the engine for him. They had a spare 2.3L engine to drop in the SVO, but that would’ve been too easy.

Blame it on the McLearrans’ 2011 F-150 with a 3.5L EcoBoost engine. Enjoying the EcoBoost’s operation in the F-150, Will and Kelly became intrigued by the idea of dropping a 2.0L EcoBoost engine into the SVO. Since Ford has made no mention of building a current-generation SVO with the EcoBoost engine, and since, as Will put it, he didn’t want to “see myself coming down the road,” the swap made perfect sense. Kelly needed a new daily driver, anyway. “What better platform than a 1986 SVO is there to mate with a modern four-cylinder turbo,” Will reasoned. He and Kelly bought a Focus ST EcoBoost 2.0L crate engine and set about converting it from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel.

For the exterior, it made more sense that Will and Kelly painted the SVO in Gotta Have It Green. The car’s exterior is stock except for custom rear moldings derived from ’83-’84 quarter-panel moldings. If you’re able to peel yourself off the paint, your eyes will no doubt be directed toward the Touren TR60 wheels wearing the General 245/45/17s Will and Kelly chose for their SVO. However, on the inside, he wanted to leave is as-delivered for the most part. The SVO’s interior is mostly refurbished factory components. Will and Kelly switch gears thanks to a Hurst shifter.

Anyone who has tried an engine swap that has never been attempted before knows that hurdles abound. In Will and Kelly’s case, these hurdles included a method of driving the EcoBoost engine’s direct injection, mating the engine to the SVO’s body, bringing together the engine with a T-5 transmission via a Centerforce 9 1/2-inch clutch for a ’79-’80 Mustang V-6, and then figuring out the fuel system. All that doesn’t even include making it all work together. For that part, Will used a Ford Racing Controls Pack that came with a PCM, all the required swap wiring, and the accelerator pedal. The engine was test-fitted to the car over 12 times to make adjustments, corrections, and modifications before leaving it in for the last time.

As with any engine swap, once the engine was permanently in its new home, it was time for fun. With the economy blended in with some boost, we trust this EcoBoost SVO provides many smiles per mile—and those are more important than mpg’s any day.