Ford SVT History
The Ford Special Vehicle Team is founded by Ford’s Neil Ressler, Vice President of Research & Vehicle Technology and Chief Technical Officer, and Robert L. Rewey, Group Vice President-Marketing and Sales, Ford Automotive Operations. A performance-oriented dealer body was enlisted to support a unique marketing operation, while the engineering duties are handled by Special Vehicle Engineering.
The proposed flagship of the SVT vehicle lineup, the SVT Mustang GT Plus, is unveiled. SVT later elects to use the Cobra name for its flagship, seeking greater differentiation from the mainstream Mustang GT. Seeking a marketing outlet, Ford Truck Operations offers up its “F-150 Performance Truck” program to SVT, which adopts it as the SVT F-150 Lightning.
Production versions of the SVT Mustang Cobra and SVT F-150 Lightning debut at the Chicago Auto Show. SVT also introduces a late-year, 107-unit run of race-tuned Cobra R models. Some unique R-model features such as five-lug wheels and enhanced brakes found their way onto 1994 SVT Cobras.
The Mustang line gets a face lift with the new SN-95 body style, while the SVT Cobra gains five more horsepower from its 5.0-liter V-8. In addition to a coupe, SVT offers a 1,000-unit run of red Cobra convertibles as Official Indy Pace Car replicas, complete with Indy 500 graphics and a numbered plaque. In addition to black and red exterior paint choices, white Lightnings were added to the color palette.
The SVT Cobra convertible, available only in black, gets the option of a removable hard top. Just 499 are built. A limited run of 250 second-generation Cobra R models roll off the assembly line with even more punch, thanks to a 351 cid Windsor V-8 producing 300 horsepower. The first-generation Lighting enters its final year of production as the F-150 undergoes a major makeover for 1996.
Mainstream product development’s Team Mustang took the engineering lead of the SVT Cobra to help fit it with an all-new, hand-built 4.6L 32-valve V8 modular motor, producing 305 horsepower. A run of 1,999 Cobra coupes are built with special color-changing optional paint called “Mystic.” A concept sketch of the proposed SVT Contour sports sedan is revealed at the Chicago Auto Show.
The all-new SVT Contour arrives in dealerships in the second quarter as a 1998 model. Based on the 160-horsepower V-6 Contour SE four-door sedan, the SVT Contour upped the 2.5-liter’s output to 195 hp while upgrading brakes, wheels tires and suspension tuning. It also added interior refinements and a more aggressive exterior look. SVT reaches the milestone of 50,000 vehicles sold.
The SVT Cobra gets a new 5-spoke wheel design reminiscent of the popular 1995 Cobra R rims and additional paint colors, including Canary Yellow. The 1998.5 “E1″ model SVT Contour receives new 5-spoke wheels and revised suspension tuning.
Lightning returns to the market based on Ford’s new PN96 F-Series platform. Packing a hot new 5.4-liter supercharged Triton V-8 producing 360 horses and 440 pounds-feet of torque, the completely redesigned SVT Lightning sets a new performance standard for sport trucks. Cobra undergoes major changes, including revised sheet metal, an all-new Independent Rear Suspension system, and a 15-horsepower increase. The SVT Contour boasts five additional horsepower and improved handling while claiming a “Ward’s Ten-Best Engines Award” for the second consecutive year.
Although some DOHC 4.6-liter V-8 powertrain engineering issues keeps the Cobra out of production, the third-generation Cobra R rolls off the line at the Dearborn Assembly Plant as the fastest factory built Mustang in history. Powered by a 385-horse, naturally aspirated 5.4-liter V-8 and available only in red, just 300 units are built. SVT Contour enters its final year of production as Ford cancels Contour production for the U.S. market. The first “SVT Experience” event is held in Dearborn, MI.
The SVT F-150 Lightning receives updated styling, an aluminum driveshaft, a 3.73:1 rear gearset, and a bump to 380 horsepower, helping to make Lightning the fastest production truck on the planet. The SVT Mustang Cobra gets new ultra supportive leather/alcantara seats with an embroidered cobra in the backrest, the addition of a polished wheel option, and “COBRA” reappears on the rear fascia. An SVT Focus model is unveiled to much fanfare at the Chicago Auto Show.
The all-new SVT Focus enters the sport compact market with a unique 170-horsepower DOHC Zetec I-4 engine, six-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes and a sport-tuned suspension riding on 17-inch wheels. The much-anticipated supercharged 2003 SVT Mustang Cobra is revealed at the Chicago Auto Show. Making 390 horsepower and 390 pounds-feet of torque, the ’03 Cobra becomes the most powerful production Mustang in history. A new color, True Blue Clearcoat, is added to the Lightning exterior paint palette. Meanwhile, a detuned version of the SVT-developed supercharged Lightning engine finds its way into a 2002 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson specialty truck and promptly helps it double sales over the previous year’s F-150 Harley truck model. SVT reaches the milestone of 100,000 vehicles produced.
The SVT Cobra rocks the enthusiast world with the performance of its Eaton supercharged DOHC 4.6-liter “Terminator” V-8. It also features a 6-speed gearbox, redesigned front and rear fascias, new “heat-extraction” hood, special rocker moldings and side scoops, and several new interior appointments. To help celebrate its 10-year Anniversary, SVT offers a 10th Anniversary Special Edition package on the Cobra Coupe or Convertible, with production limited to a total of 2,003 units. Lightning is certified as the “World’s Fastest Production Pickup Truck” by Guinness World Records, Ltd., clocking a top speed of 147 miles per hour on a test track. A practical 5-door version and a special 3-door European Appearance Package is added to the SVT Focus model lineup.
On the heels of the best-selling Mustang Cobra of all time (SVT produced more than 13,000 Cobras for the ’03 model year), Cobra adds two new exterior paint colors, plus a limited-edition (1,010-unit run) Mystichrome Appearance Package. With an all-new Mustang due at a new facility for 2005, the storied Dearborn Assembly Plant — home to the Mustang for 40 years — is closed down. With an all-new F-150 waiting in the wings, the SVT Lightning also entered its final year of production as the best-selling and longest-running sport truck nameplate of all time. With a revamped Ford Focus moving to a new assembly facility, the SVT Focus closed out its critically acclaimed production run making the full-featured European Appearance Package available in both 3- and 5-door configurations. With all three of its 2004 products on revised platforms and in new assembly plants for ’05, SVT ended 2004 with nearly 145,000 sales over 12 years of production.
The SVT name was dropped from the Mustang after 2005 though the team is still very much alive. The SVT team works on the current Shelby GT500 as well as other special edition Mustangs like the new 2012 Boss 302.
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