The past three years have been tough for the SVT Owners Association. Originally created, supported, and operated by Ford, the club ran into turmoil in 2005 when Ford began to dismantle its dealer-funded SVT marketing operation. Since then, the SVTOA has struggled to remain intact as it was handed off to other entities, both inside and outside of Ford.
From 1993 to 2006, Ford's Special Vehicle Team designed and created some of the most powerful vehicles in Ford's illustrious high-performance history, including Mustang Cobra, Mustang Cobra R ('93, '95, and '00), Lightning F150, SVT Contour, and SVT Focus. The group was also responsible for the development and production of the '05-'06 Ford GT. Before SVT was finally assimilated into mainstream Ford during 2006, its engineers completed work on the '07 Shelby GT500. During those 13 years, Ford produced some 160,000 SVT vehicles, all sold through a limited number of performance-oriented Ford dealers.
In 2000, Ford created the SVTOA as a way to enhance the SVT ownership experience, offering club activities, SVT Enthusiast magazine, product discounts, and insider information. When SVT and its dealer program became the victims of Ford's corporate restructuring in 2005, SVTOA enthusiasts inside and outside of Ford tried to keep the program afloat. While the SVT marketing group was split up within Ford, plans were made to run the SVTOA through Team Ford Racing, which incorporated SVT content within its Inside the Oval magazine.
In 2007, Ford sought to get out of the club business entirely by licensing the SVTOA to the Shelby American Automobile Club, a seemingly good fit due to SAAC's 30 years of experience with high-performance Shelby vehicles. Ford even kick-started the new venture by funding a membership drive and sponsoring the joint SAAC-SVTOA national conventions at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park in August 2007. However, as one Ford insider told us, SAAC "did nothing else for the rest of the year." Complaints from SVTOA members and sponsors convinced Ford to end the licensing agreement with SAAC at the end of 2007 in order to search for a new "owner."
Realizing that the key to success was the involvement of SVT-passionate people, earlier this year Ford transferred the SVTOA license to a new leadership team, which includes longtime auto journalist and SVT supporter John Clor and new club director Marcie Cipriani. This new group will manage club operations while retaining the same name, goals, and organizational structure that Ford had so successfully built over the club's five-year development period. Still blessed by Ford but now run by SVT enthusiasts instead of an agency or third-party, the SVTOA is poised to overcome the trials and tribulations of the past three years.
We caught up with Marcie during the SVTOA-hosted SVT 15th Anniversary Reunion during the All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, last June. After a long, hot day of manning the club tent, organizing Q&A sessions with former SVT engineers, and answering questions about the new SVTOA, Marcie was happy to sit down in the air-conditioned confines of a nearby Ford Expedition to talk about the re-energized SVTOA and its future.
Mustang Monthly: How Did You Get Involved With SVT Vehicles?
Marcie Cipriani: I've had Mustangs since 1990, starting when I got my first car at 18. It was an '84 Mustang L, not even an LX. I drove the heck out of it on my way back and forth from college. From that Mustang, I kept working my way back with an '83, then a '79 Pace Car. I love the '79 Pace Cars; I'm on my third one now.