1984 Mustang SVO Hatchback - Full-Blown Horse
Saved From Neglect, Matt Heimer's '84 SVO Has Done Show Duty, Been A Daily Driver, And Is Now Taking On The Track In Style
From the February, 2009 issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords
By Huw Evans
Photography by Luke Munnell
Matt Heimer's '84 Mustang SVO
She's called Dazey because I name all of my cars," says Matt Heimer. A native of Jupiter, Florida, Matt is a self-confessed Fox Mustang fanatic. He has no fewer than 10 of them, along with "a few more out back behind the shop." Although the man is clearly on a mission to save and restore our beloved Foxes (he works with Matt Highley at Fox Mustang restoration), he also likes to have fun with them. That's pretty much been the case with Dazey since she came into his life back in 2003.
"I really wanted an SVO to replace the daily driver I had then," says Matt. "These cars were ahead of their time and had lots of neat stuff, so I started actively searching for one at a fair price." He attacked the local classified ads and the Internet forums, but to no avail. "I gave up and started looking at 5.0L cars, but everything I found was junk," he continues. On yet another bad morning, when looking at some cars ended in real disappointment yet again, Matt decided to stop off at a Home Depot to get some supplies. "There she was," he exclaims, "in the parking lot with a 'For Sale' sign on her-a real '84 SVO. I called the number on the sign and test-drove her the next day." After parting with $2,200, Matt took the car home. "It was the first car I'd seen in months that didn't have any accident damage," he says. "The paint was shot. It had been broken into and somebody had scratched the words 'out West' on the hood, but the best thing was the car was complete, save for the rare Hurst shifter handle. After I'd agreed to buy the car, the seller went into the house and she came out with the original, mint-condition shifter in her hand-it had come off and she didn't know how to put it back on." So for just over 2-large, Matt had scored himself a rough-looking but complete SVO-an outstanding find by anybody's reckoning.
Body. No, Suspension
Matt started his new project by tackling the bodywork. He originally intended to paint the car flat black (that would have been great for a feature shoot -Ed.), but before he got started, an offer came along to purchase a complete '03 Mustang Cobra front suspension. It turned out that the Cobra's IRS was also for sale, so Matt picked that up without hesitation as well.
It was then that his plans began to change. "I decided to start with the suspension, so the undercarriage was completely stripped and undercoated," says Matt. "Then I began installing everything. The guys at Steeda really helped me out by matching some springs for the rear-not everybody comes along with a Cobra IRS to bolt into a four-cylinder Fox." Polyurethane bushings were specified, front and back, to tighten up the car's handling. With everything cleaned and installed, our Matt was on his way.
Next was the fuel system and exhaust. "Because the car now had IRS, I needed to reroute the factory fuel lines," says Matt. "Because I wanted to use the Cobra's exhaust, I needed to make sure the lines didn't touch the new tubes." Because of the Cobra tailpipes, Matt also needed to install a Y-pipe to work with the turbo-four's exhaust manifold (since '84 SVOs came with a single pipe system from the factory). Because his '03 Cobra suspension purchase also included the brakes, he needed to upgrade the master cylinder. The car was a Fox, so choosing a '93 Cobra unit and mating it with the SVO proportioning valve achieved the desired results.
By this stage, Matt was already two months behind his planned completion date as the Dazey edged toward body and paint. It was at this time that he was offered a package deal to buy two non-running SVOs. "I fixed one up and sold it," he says, "and was about to do the same with the other when I met Mark of Mark's Body and Paint in Jupiter. I ended up trading [that] other SVO to him in return for him doing the paint on my car." Matt did some mild bodywork and then brought the '84 over to the paint shop, where Mark's sons helped him block-sand the car. "The actual paint finish, two-tone gray, came to me one night when I was just sitting in the garage looking at the car," Matt says. "You'll notice it has a red pinstripe separating the two colors. I put the stripe on one side, let it sit for a couple of days and then did the other." Most of the other exterior parts came from the SVO parts cars he purchased, since repro and N.O.S. items are tough to find. The fact that they look brand new, including the headlights, which he "sanded and buffed for hours," along with the front fascia, side spats, moldings and rear spoiler, is testament to Matt's passion and dedication, though modestly he admits, "Matt Highley at Fox Restoration was a big part in making the car look as good as it does."
The interior was re-dyed to get that factory-fresh look (the dashpad is the original, by the way). Replacement door panels (with holes already cut in them for speakers) were scrounged. "I didn't want to cut up an original panel," says Matt. The front seats were actually constructed from three different sets. "The foam is obsolete-the best you can do is find good-quality used stuff; the same goes for the upholstery," he says. New carpet went in and Matt scored a used head unit and speakers for the stereo system.
Gremlins-Shades Of '84
But his biggest obstacle perhaps was the car's wiring. "I upgraded the engine to '86 specs with 35 lb/hr injectors and an adjustable cam gear among other things, but once the car was back on the road, I found it to be finicky," Matt says. Electrical gremlins, which were traced to the wiring harness, manifested themselves. "Apparently, '84 Mustangs are known for the insulation to flake off the wiring, causing shorts," Matt adds. After pulling out the entire harness and rebuilding it, he traced the problem to the back part of the harness mounted on the firewall. Sourcing connectors from a junkyard and rewrapping everything, Matt installed the harness. "The car has run flawlessly ever since," he claims. With some '05 Mustang 17x8 Bullitt wheels and Nitto NT555 rubber, Dazey was ready to roll. "The car was pressed into service, and I took her on a 1,200-mile round-trip to Birmingham, Alabama, for the 35th Anniversary Mustang Club of America show, with the air blowing ice cold, [the stereo] pumping the tunes, and [the car] averaging 26 miles per gallon on the highway."
The SVO turned out so nice that Matt decided to spare it from daily driven drudgery, pressing in his '93 SSP coupe for that task instead and reserving Dazey for shows. An added bonus was getting the car featured in Fox Mustang Restoration's ads (and now this magazine). However, yet another project came along. As he busied himself with that, the urge to drive Dazey on a regular basis got the better of our Matt, so that's exactly what he did for the next two years-driving 400 miles a week and then spending hours cleaning the undercarriage for show duty.
However, an incident in December 2007 saw a change in plans. Dazey was rear-ended while Matt was sitting at a traffic light. Pushed into a truck with a nice fascia-ripping tow hitch, the front and rear of the car were a mess, as was the windshield header panel. But despite the carnage, Dazey's skeleton remained structurally intact. "I limped the car home and waited for the insurance adjuster to come by," says Matt. "I saved all the receipts for the work done to the car. The adjuster had already filled out the paperwork, and because the car was an '84 model, was all set to write it off. Then he saw it." At that instant, the adjuster cleared the form off his laptop and both he and Matt ended up settling for enough to put the car back together and not much more. Since then, Matt has made a policy of adding collectible insurance to all his Mustangs.
With a second rebuild in progress, Matt has decided that if Dazey is wrecked again, it better be doing something more interesting than just sitting at a stoplight. To that end, he's making the Mustang into a track terror. "She's now got a front-mounted intercooler, the fenders rolled, a fiberglass hatch installed, a bigger hybrid turbo, and exhaust among other things." By the time you read this, Matt will have already taken her out for a shakedown on the road course at Moroso Motorsports Park and, hopefully, made it back to pit road in one piece.
The '84 Mustang SVO
In Mustang circles, the short-lived SVO hatchback stands out as something special. Its arrival, in the fall of 1983 as an '84 model, witnessed the start of a new era at Ford Motor Company-a second golden age, if you will. Here was a car that combined the best of the firm's American and European engineering expertise, resulting in a true driver's machine. With pedals set up for heel and toe shifting, a standard Hurst shifter, massive (for the time) 16x7-inch alloy wheels mounted on Goodyear NCT high-performance tires, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, multiple adjustable sport bucket seats (in either leather or cloth), full instrumentation, unique styling, a European-style nose, side spats ahead of the rear wheels to direct airflow, and a biplane rear spoiler, it looked the part, both outside and in. However, with four-wheel disc brakes (the only factory Fox Mustang of the '80s to get them), specially tuned suspension with adjustable Koni shocks, and a worked version of the 2.3L Pinto 'Lima' four-cylinder with a Garrett T3 turbo and intercooler that generated 175 hp and 210 lb-ft, it was a mover, though it required a bit of patience (for the turbo to spool up) to fully realize the car's potential.
Out on the backroads and racing circuits, the SVO could hold its own with much more expensive machinery, but its steep price and lack of lazy low-end torque hurt sales, as did dealers that showed little interest in promoting the car. It would last two more seasons, gaining a number of improvements midway through 1985. Advertising claimed, "The machine speaks for itself." Clearly, it didn't speak loud enough on the dealer showroom floor, as just 9,844 were built during the entire run. It's a shame because the SVO ranks up there as one of the best cars ever built for the pure driver-period.
Matt Heimer's '84 Mustang SVO
- 2.3L (140ci) inline four-cylinder
- 35 lb/hr fuel injectors
- Adjustable cam gear
- PE electronic engine control module
- Gillis valve boost controller
- Serpentine drivebelt conversion
- Sanden A/C compressor
- BorgWarner T-5 five-speed manual
- Factory Hurst shifter
- 8.8-inch IRS from a '03 Cobra
- 3.27 gears
- Factory log manifold
- Custom Y-pipe
- '03 Cobra mufflers and tailpipes
- Front: Full '03 Cobra suspension, Bilstein struts; Steeda bushings and reinforcement plates, K-member brace, strut tower brace
- Rear: Full '03 Cobra independent rear suspension, Steeda springs and bushings; Bilstein Cobra R shocks, subframe connectors
- Front: '03 Cobra 13-inch vented discs, four-piston calipers
- Rear: '03 Cobra 11-inch discs, single-piston calipers
- Front: '05 Mustang Bullitt-style five-spoke, 17x8
- Rear: '05 Mustang Bullitt-style five-spoke, 17x8
- Front: Nitto NT555, P245/45ZR17
- Rear: Nitto NT555, P245/45ZR17
- Restored factory interior; A-pillar mounted Auto Meter boost and air fuel gauges; Pioneer head unit; Infinity Kappa 3 1/2-inch in-dash speakers, Kappa 5x7-inch speakers custom mounted in the front door panels, Kappa 6x9-inch speakers in the rear interior panels; Infinity and Kenwood amps mounted at the bottom of the hatch
- Freshly restored exterior moldings, headlights, taillights and trim; H/O Fibertrends fiberglass hood; repainted in two-tone Graphite/Smoke Gray by Mark's Body and Paint, Jupiter, FL