Maybe it’s because this year involved the passing of Carroll Shelby, a GT40 was the most expensive American car at auction, or that I had my face melted by a Cobra replica, but we feel like this is a good time to honor Ford’s performance wing. For almost two decades now, that mantle was carried by the Ford Special Vehicle Team, or SVT. Their creations have ranged from the beefed-up performance variant, to batshit-crazy creations like the Raptor.
SVT was formed in 1993 as the replacement to Ford Special Vehicle operations, which created the Ford Taurus SHO and Mustang SVO. From the beginning, it created two amazing cars- an F-150 and a Mustang. But which are the best SVT cars of all time? Here are what we think to be the best vehicles created by a Team that knows Specialty Vehicles.
Though the Contour was a much-unloved sort-of compact car from Ford, a mid-cycle refresh, called the 1998.5, brought about the SVT variant. It featured smaller versions of the five-spoke wheels from the SVT Cobra, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and a tuned version of the 2.5-liter V6 that put out 195 horsepower in ’98 and 200 horses in 1999 and 2000. It also featured unique bodywork, and was only available with a 5-speed manual transmission. The do-it-yourself-only transmission option kind of makes the SVT Contour more of a purists’ car than a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG…kind of.
While the original Lightning was produced from 1993 to 1995, the real model that everyone knows is the 1999-2004. That is because the second generation of the sport-pickup featured a 5.4-liter V8, fitted with a supercharger to put out 380 horsepower. Sending that power to the rear wheels was a 4-speed automatic transmission from the Ford Super Duty lineup. It became a member of pop culture as the work truck for Paul Walker’s character in the the first The Fast and the Furious film. To this day, it still turns heads- even when the douche that runs the shop down the street from me puts lame graphics on the tailgate and completely ruins it.
The SVT Cobra was the end-all of Mustangs from 1993 to 2004. At first it was just a highly-tuned 5.0, then 4.6L, but in 2000, SVT got a little nuts and threw in the 5.4-liter dual overhead cam V8 from Ford’s truck division. The 2000 Cobra R had 385 horsepower, and when dyno’d, it will tell you that power is at the WHEEL, not the CRANK, suggesting this snake has HP numbers that are very understated. The ’04 may have more power, but the intense powerplant and styling make this Cobra the wildest of the bunch.
Though you won’t see SVT in the name, the Ford GT was in fact built in Ford’s SVT building in Wixom, Michigan. Only 4,038 of these curvaceous beauties were ever constructed. Many fetched $100,000 more than the $140K MRSP. What’s in the mid-mounted engine bay? You guessed it- a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 from Ford’s truck division. “Built Ford Tough” should be SVT’s slogan too.
A lot of brands may have performance divisions, and make high-performance versions of already-sporty cars, but very few do what Ford did. Few will ever do again what Ford did. At first, the Raptor came with the tried-and-true 5.4L engine, spiritually-linking it to every other car on this list (save for the SVT Contour), but the engine was then upped to a 6.2-liter mill that puts out 411 horsepower.
It’s not just about the power, as the Raptor runs on specially-designed Fox Racing shocks with an internal bypass system and external reservoirs.
Basically, what makes it the best SVT on this list, is that it can do what all the other SVT cars can do, but over desert, mud, or snow. It is the true definition of a Specialty Vehicle, and of a Ford SVT.