Vinnie The Hitman
September 1, 2007
Our '8511/42 SVO now rides high and mighty with an uncorked exhaust. We realized gains on the dyno and on the street, but not before witnessing some woes that come with leaning on a 22-year-old engine with an original head gasket. Read on and find out what we mean.

For decades, people have tried to change the Turbo 2.3's perceived lack of power and refinement. It has long been considered the redheaded stepchild of the Ford performance world. It's unfortunate that since its last year of production (1988), it still lives with that stigma.

But it's not like we haven't done our part. Throughout the years, we've coaxed and covered several 2.3L buildups and even featured several 10-second four-bangers. Truth be told, the vast majority of our readers seemed not to care. As the Ford performance movement gravitates toward the newest 4.6L V-8s, less attention has been given to the 2.3 engine, which is about half the size. So, we've decided to give it yet another shot with this update on the '85½ SVO Mustang that we purchased a couple of years ago. We've lived with it for quite some time to find out what all the hoopla was about, and today we can give you a thorough evaluation of what's to like and dislike about these baby Fords.

To really open up our exhaust, we stepped up to Stinger Performance's 3-inch downpipe and dual midpipe assembly. The mandrel-bent pieces bolt right up to the factory turbo and split into two 2.5-inch tubes that feed right into your existing after-cat. If you want to go the single-exhaust route, Stinger also offers a complete 3-inch single-exhaust system from the turbo all the way back to the rear bumper.

Without getting emotionally attached, let's take a step back and look at this engine from an objective point of view, coupled with cold, hard facts. Born from racing convenience rather than racing pedigree, the turbo-4's biggest problem is its inherent design. Ford chose to use this engine platform for many of its motorsports efforts rather than invest in an all-new engine design. Even with modern multiport fuel injection, then-current turbocharger technology, and intercooled enhancements, the engine was still an iron-headed engine with ancient and pedestrian roots from the pokey Pinto econocar. This may sound harsh, but let's call it what it is. With a poor-flowing two-valve head and a rather restrictive intake port design, the top half of the engine is a major hurdle to achieving big horsepower numbers. Luckily, the bottom end is rather robust, and with a nice-sized bore and stroke combination, the 2.3 (and larger 2.5 version) has a solid foundation.

Don't take everything that we're saying to heart-we still love these engines and the cars they're anchored to because they wear the Blue Oval. Just like any Ford engine, with a few choice mods and realistic power goals, you could still build a car that can run with modern-day muscle-even those with double its displacement. With this in mind, we'll move ahead with some more upgrades to our SVO.

From Yesteryear to This Year
When we first introduced you to our humble SVO, we upped its dyno performance with the help of Forced4 Motorsports and Mustang Magic to get our Pony up from 150.9 to 191.7 rwhp. The simple removal of the stock airbox and the addition of an open-element air filter added a solid 14 rwhp, and a boost controller upped manifold pressure from 12 to 18 pounds to coax another 25 hp from the furious four-cylinder. Fiddling with fuel pressure allowed us to negotiate a total of 40.8 hp gain at the rear wheels. Torque gain was even greater, jumping from 213.6 at 3,250 rpm to 280.5 at 3,400 rpm. We were certainly not disappointed with our first round of mods that emptied our wallets by only $500.