The SVO Mustang was Ford’s attempt to create an “import fighter” out of the Fox-based Mustang. While the Mustang itself had never really been known as a car brimming with refinement or excelling at luxury and handling, the ‘Stang of the ‘80s was also not really the muscle car it had been. Thus, the SVO looked to extend the image of the Mustang into new territory.
With different styling, underpinnings and much better equipment, the SVO was a very interesting car to the automotive press when it debuted in 1984. Technically, it wasn’t as powerful as the GT model, which still used the 5.0L V8, yet it cost more. It had distinctive styling that immediately polarized enthusiasts and about which most people had a fairly strong opinion. In short, the SVO was a “love it or hate it” car. Most Mustang fans didn’t want a car to compete with the imports; but there were enough that thought the SVO offered something promising that the model persisted for three years.
A face only a mother could love? The SVO’s odd off-centre scoop, aero-lamps and gaping intake made for strong opinions, but weak sales. Note the custom-made “Hertz” plates!
The Rarest of Them All:
The SVO was never a common car, and finding one in good shape now is not easy. However, some are, of course, more rare that others. One of the rarer versions is those that were ordered by Hertz Rent-a-Car. Just like the distinctively-coloured Shelbys of the 1960s, there were a number of SVOs bought by the rental company to offer to customers. Hertz looked to dig up the past and bought SVOs in all the available colours, plus one. There was a colour, called “Dark Sage”, that was very (and likely purposefully) reminiscent of the colour of the Mustang in the famous “Bullit” movie. The Dark Sage was closer to a mix of British Racing Green and Olive, and was very distinct.
There were, I believe, only 50 cars ordered in this colour, and ONLY Hertz SVOs came in it. There was no way for a normal buyer to get one in this colour. That means that the Dark Sage (also known as “4E Green” due to the paint code) SVO is the rarest of them all. But, it gets even more interesting!
Due to the changing of the laws that allowed closed headlights, not just sealed-beam units, the stylists at Ford were able to get rid of the SVO’s oddly shaped headlight ‘pits’ and put in full, flush headlamps. This happened on the 1985.5 models. Thus, midway through the year, buyers got SVOs with much more aerodynamic, and aesthetically pleasing, headlights. Since this happened part way through the production run, some of the Hertz cars had the old style headlights, and some had the new, flush ones. Apparently only four (4) 1985.5 models were completed in the 4E colour; two with leather interior, two with cloth.
Now that’s rare! That means that there are only two of each that were ever produced. That means a 4E SVO with flush headlights is rarer than a Porsche 959, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo and almost any other supercar you can name. That means a 1985.5 4E SVO is rarer than almost anything, including lunar rovers, ships of the Titanic’s class, and Japanese I-400 class aircraft-carrying submarines. Wrap your head around this, if you can. Mustangs, which are pretty common, normally don’t get that rare. Despite this, I’m sure that most people wouldn’t think twice if they saw an ’85.5 SVO in 4E on the street. The allure of being able to build an ultra-rare version of an “everyday” production car was, of course, irresistible, and I decided to build my SVO as one of these largely-forgotten machines.
The Build Up:
I’ve chronicled the build of this car in a number of previous installments. To see the the earlier steps in the construction process, I will direct you to the links below:
What I started with: The Out of Box review for the “Streetburner” SVO reissue.
Sit down and stay a while: The interior of the SVO.
Power On: The engine and chassis.
Work that body for me: Body work, refinements and the first coat of paint!
Finishing the Paint Job:
After applying an initial coating of paint, and a few light coats of Future, I sanded the car smooth, and put on a thin and then a thicker layer of Future, and again let it sit. I then applied the Ford ovals and “Mustang SVO” script to the hood and deck lid. The kit has these moulded in, but thankfully, the reissue also gives decals. These are much more realistic, so I had sanded off the scripts and now used the decals instead. It worked great, and one final thick layer of Future went on to cover it all up and integrate the decals a bit.
After a month of drying (man, I need a dehydrator!) I sanded the car with 4000 and 6000 grit polishing cloths (all in the front-to-back direction) and applied Tamiya Fine rubbing compound. Normally, I’d swirl this, but this time I did it all in the same, front-to-back direction as the sanding. Only when I applied the Tamiya Finish polish did I swirl. I also used a wet rag to apply both compounds, not a dry one.
The results of doing this were amazing! For the first time on a dark-coloured car, I had very few swirls or scratches! I tell you, this is the way to do it! I also used Novus #1 polish and final scratch remover on the body, and the final result was even better. I tried using Novus #2 as well, but I found that it left too many scratches, so I had to resand the test area and try again.
I spent the better part of 5 hours sanding this car, trying to get is as gleamingly perfect as the 4E “open headlight” SVO I’d seen online in a “Mustang Monthly” feature. It was worth it.
The hard part of the SVO isn’t the paint, but the trim. All other SVOs used black trim. This is easy to deal with; my technical pens from building Gundams really make short work of tidying up black trim on a car. However, to be different, the Hertz SVOs used GREY trim! It was about the same colour as Gunship Grey, so that’s what I used. I had to be very careful not to slop; any slops were scraped off and the gloss finish retouched with Future. Amazingly, that method worked, and I didn’t even slop that much!
I used the same “vinylizer” on the trim as I did on the interior, and airbrushed it on the large spoiler. There was no way that I could hand brush the spoiler hand have it look good.
Light ‘Em Up!
The headlights and wheels were stripped of their chrome and rechromed with Alclad Chrome. This is less glaring, and more realistic. The side markers were given a thin coat of Tamiya Clear Orange, and some flat coat was hand brushed on the other lenses to make them look glass-like, but not coloured. I used some Baddab Black to pick out the wheel lugs and vent holes around the outside of the rim.
The taillights are a bit of a mess. The centre black section is far too large. It looks like a third row of taillight, but don’t be fooled, it isn’t! Oddly, the instructions show the car from the rear on the painting guide, and the taillights look correct. In other words, the image doesn’t match the kit at all! I did what I could and painted the centre section black, and it’s semi-convincing, but not perfect. I used Tamiya Clear Red and Clear Orange for the backs of the lenses, and MMA Flat White for the backup light. I then painted the backs of all the lights white, so that the red and orange looked “thicker”, like a real lenses would look.
I painted the two underhood bottles MMA Flat white, and used thin clear blue and clear green (made from Future and food colouring) to simulate fluids in them. I love this trick; although I’ve never seen anyone else do it, I think it adds a lot to see fluids in the tanks.
The SVO goes together surprisingly well, especially given that it’s a reissue of an older kit. The engine fits onto the chassis nicely, as I mentioned, but there’s a bit of threading needed to get the air intake pipe into the engine bay, since it sticks out well past the wheel well! I did not glue the interior bucket to the chassis, but inserted it into the car first. There are little gluing tabs, and they helped a lot. I did glue the chassis to the bucket once everything was together though; there are a few exposed joints near the wheel wells and driveshaft that leave themselves open to the application of liquid cement!
The body was, as expected, a bit warped. I used a single slider clamp to hold the body in place and ran a bead of cement along the mating lines on both sides. The forward frame rails don’t really match the contours of the wheel wells, but rather than clamp this, I just left it. It didn’t make much difference! The body wasn’t warped longitudinally, though, so that was a bit of luck. The windows were able to fit right in without much effort, thanks to the body being straight. This is not something I’ve encountered often, since many of my car kits are MPCs, and they tend to be a bit twisted, literally!
The tires in this kit are not good. They have no lettering on them, and they are of only moderate quality. Every tire had a mark, or a “bite” out of it on one side or another. There was a pronounced seam around all tires and a couple of the tires had a bit of flash on one side. The unfortunate thing is that the tires are “sided”; there is supposed to be an “inside” and “outside” to them. This is unfortunate because the rims don’t fit perfectly if the tires are flipped inside-out; on two of the four this had to be done because of damage to the tire from the factory.
The SVO was not a turning point in the history of the Mustang, like the folks at Ford hoped it would be. After its untimely demise, the Mustang continued to grow, powered by the legendary “5.0”, into a modern day muscle car, a tack from which it has not deviated since. However, the SVO itself is an interesting footnote in history, even though it is one that seems often to be overlooked. It was a serious attempt to build an advanced, well-mannered tourer, and Ford took it seriously.
As for Monogram, they didn’t take it quite as seriously, it seems. The 1/24 SVO is a decidedly okay kit, although there is little to gush and enthuse over when compared to other models of the same time period. The engine and interior are generally well-executed, even if not perfectly correct. There is a lot of room for improvement in the chassis, though. Granted, the driveline paints up well and the exhaust also fits well, the chassis itself is let down by the weakly executed and generally unconvincing suspension components. To paint the fuel tank requires a steady hand, and the front frame rails don’t match up to the engine bay worth a toot.
This is really not that great a kit to give to a beginner. Most things aren’t too difficult, but the lack of positive location for the front bumper and headlights will definitely cause newer modellers a lot of frustration. I can sadly picture, in my mind’s eye, an inexperienced modeller trying desperately to get the painted bumper to fit onto a painted body. Assuming the car survives the almost inevitable glue-bombing that will result, an attempt to fit the equally poorly sized and located headlight assemblies will likely result in the poor SVO taking flight across the room, driven by rage and disappointment, as opposed to its turbo 4. I feel sad for both the modeller and the kit, in this case.
If you have experience with correcting kit issues, or you can help a less-experienced modeller with it, this is a doable project and can be made to look quite good. The shape of the kit itself is quite correct, and only the taillights are a real let down. The rest looks every inch the SVO it tries to be. Thus, this model is best left to those who know how to sniff out and correct the issues that kit makers lay as traps for the unwary.
I enjoyed building it, and getting a chance to create a model of such a rare car that is also a production car from the ‘80s was a big thrill! The reissue is worth buying, and the new decals for the dashboard instruments and various badges and warning labels really make a difference in the finished kit. The SVO deserves to be remembered, and until the MPC is reissued, this is the only game in town. It’s plentiful and pretty cheap, too, so you can’t use the excuses of rarity and cost as reasons for not getting one.
In short, this kit is a double-edged sword. As long as you know how to swing it, you can have a lot of fun with it. On the other hand, if you don’t know how to handle it, you could end up doing harm to yourself in the long run!