On Feb. 6, 1992, Ford Motor Company struck the spark that rekindled America’s love affair with performance.
Ford introduced its Special Vehicle Team (SVT), an in-house enthusiast group working outside the mainstream to develop, build, sell and service a family of high performance niche vehicles.
As competitors enter this “new” market, Ford’s SVT badge has graced more than 100,000 cars and trucks in the broadest range of performance vehicles offered by any manufacturer, import or domestic.
These include factory-built and -backed special editions of America’s best-selling truck for the last 25 years, the Ford F-Series pickup; the best-selling car in the world, the Ford Focus; the twin to Ford’s European flagship Mondeo, the Ford Contour; and the liveliest of Ford’s living legends, the Mustang.
With that kind of star power, Ford is expanding its factory performance leadership. The SVT staff has joined with two other in-house specialty teams—Ford Racing Technology and Vehicle Personalization—to consolidate and coordinate their expertise under the new Ford Performance Group
Embracing the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, the Ford Performance Group will offer the industry’s most comprehensive range of performance products and services. In the last 90 days, for example, Ford:
introduced a Supercharged Thunderbird concept, to gauge public interest in the performance-tuned, 390-hp V-8 version of the two-seat sports roadster, and
announced the availability of a new “crate” engine assembly, providing enthusiasts with a 5.0-liter version of Ford’s modular 4.6-liter V-8, complete with Ford’s electronic engine control computer modules for easy “plug and play” installation.
For 2003, the SVT lineup adds the new Mustang Mach 1 and the fourth-generation SVT Cobra, which share Ford’s DOHC 32-valve 4.6-liter modular V-8 engine. The Mach 1 delivers more than 300 hp through a five-speed manual transmission. The Mustang SVT Cobra 10th Anniversary edition has a six-speed manual to handle the inter-cooled, supercharged V-8 and its 390 hp.
The newest addition to the SVT family, the Ford SVT Focus adds five-door hatchback and European appearance options for 2003. The 170-hp 2.0-liter Zetec engine and close-ratio, six-speed gearbox deliver an unmatched combination of performance and value in the small performance car segment.
SVT tuners added further refinements to the snappy 130 hp, 16-valve Zetec option on the base Focus four-cylinder. They include variable cam timing and dual stage intake, with short runners for better low-end torque and longer runners for better peak power at high rpm.
Other Ford “firsts” on the SVT Zetec engine include a dual-mass flywheel, for exceptionally smooth throttle response at all rpm ranges, and advanced emissions controls, which permit a true 4-into-2-into-1 tubular exhaust header.
The Ford SVT F-150 Lightning has been the world’s fastest production pickup since its introduction in 1993, and the king of all sports trucks has no plans to abdicate the crown.
When the all-new 2004 F-150 debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit recently, an equally stunning and all-new SVT F-150 Lightning concept gave strong hints about the next production Lightning and other SVT models.
The new Lightning concept sports independent rear suspension, for superior dynamics and handling; massive 22-inch wheels and Goodyear tires; 14-inch Brembo brakes, with 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers; and a supercharged, intercooled, 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 producing 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque.
For added excitement, the new Lightning concept includes a speed secret—a patented new “SuperCooler” that uses the air conditioner coil to actively cool the air charge even more than the standard intercooler.
The result: a temporary on-demand surge of up to 50 more horsepower for short bursts of 30-45 seconds, which recycles in two minutes of normal driving.
The SuperCooler effect is similar to that of an aftermarket nitrous oxide system, but it’s entirely self-contained, regenerative and environmentally friendly.
Ford welcomes newcomers to the factory performance market because competition will sharpen SVT’s focus and drive to create even better products for the enthusiast and the everyday driver.
For more than a decade, SVT has shown that Ford’s high-volume manufacturing facilities are nimble and flexible enough to build limited-production vehicles. They in turn provide high-performance prove-out for variable-cam timing, six-speed transmissions and other new technologies later offered on high-volume vehicles of everyday drivers.
Competition was inevitable but Ford plans to stay on top in the factory performance segment. Three keys to success are will power, staying power and fire power – all abundantly evident in the first decade of the Ford Special Vehicle Team.