While four-cylinder cars rarely blip the excitement meter for most automotive enthusiasts, one exception is the Mustang SVO. Built during the early '80s, these turbo-charged four-bangers were spicy little numbers that proved intelligent engineering could deliver high-performance from conservative cubic-inch displacement engines. The SVOs, with their race suspension, turbo-charged engine, electronic fuel injection, and unique scooped hood and dual rear wing, were welcome limited-production models at a time when American V-8 performance had hit the bottom of its malaise. Today they represent a special niche in Mustang history, but due to their limited numbers, they are a restorer's nightmare. Parts are scarce and often expensive, if they can be found at all.
Bud Morton of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, knows all too well these pitfalls of SVO ownership. He owns four of these scrappy Ponies in addition to the Dark Sage '85 model seen here. Given that this car required a complete restoration and massive parts replacement to be brought to show condition, it kind of makes you wonder why he bothered in the first place. Well, he bothered because the car was first acquired by Hertz.
Bud located the car in the auction section of a late-model Web site. And after reading the description and deciding it was worth a look, he headed to Atlanta to see the SVO firsthand.
"The car was all there," says Bud. "None of the SVO-specific parts were missing. It was a running, driving car. All the paint was cracked, and it was completely sun-fried. The seats were almost white from the bleaching effects of the sun. The gray trim all over the car was bleached out too. The interior was, for the lack of a better word, nasty. The leather was torn completely off the shifter knob and the top of the steering wheel. The interior panels were sunburnt."
For Bud, this was a project he simply couldn't resist.
"But with all these faults," says Bud, "I still drove the car home-225 miles one way. Two days later I pulled the car into my warehouse and gutted the entire interior."
It turned out that the SVO was indeed part of the Hertz fleet. Hertz had purchased the car new from Bankston Ford in Houston, Texas, and kept it in service from February 1985 to January 1987. Bud says Hertz had even etched the VIN number in all the glass and the wheels. The second owner was about to sell it to a dealership when the third owner bought it just to keep it in the enthusiast realm. It was this gentleman from whom Bud purchased the car in May 1997.
For the next five months Bud searched for someone who could expertly apply a new coat of Dark Sage to the SVO. Finally, Charles and Jason Calloway of Calloway's Paint and Body agreed to the job. In November Bud sent the car to Delk Performance in Murfreesboro to pull the drivetrain before shipping the shell off to Calloway's. In the interim Bud turned his attention to detailing the engine and acquiring the parts needed to put it all back together.