Who has two thumbs and got to ride in a 1985 Mustang SVO this past Sunday?

That's right - as I previously posted, the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, CA offers guests free rides* in cars from their collection every Sunday. So I took them up on their offer and stopped by to ride shotgun in their 1985 Mustang SVO.

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(*since you don't actually get to drive their cars, shouldn't they rename it the Automobile Riding Museum?)

The limited edition Mustang SVO was Ford's answer to petrolheads' cries for more performance during the dark days of the early 80's fuel crisis in the US. Instead of trying to figure out how to squeeze more power from a neutered V8, they went the opposite direction and stuck a turbo-charged 2.3 liter inline four cylinder engine under the hood. First year SVOs in 1984 were rated at 175 horsepower with 210 lb-ft of torque, while in 1985 1/2 those numbers jumped to a healthy 205 horsepower with 248 lb-ft of torque. Mustang SVOs came standard with a Borg-Warner 5-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, and no auto trans option (rightfully so).

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As I arrived at the museum on Sunday, I was happy to see the 1985 Mustang SVO (incidentally, the museum's SVO appears to be a 1985 1/2 guessing by the non-recessed headlights) parked out front, ready for take-off. This SVO example, while owned by a museum, wasn't necessarily in 'museum quality condition.' Instead, I'd say it was in nice drivers-quality original condition. Staged behind the SVO were the two other cars from the museum on ride duty that day: a 1968 Pontiac Catalina convertible and a 1938 Packard Roadster/Phaeton.

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So I went inside the lobby and gladly handed the hostess the modest $5 suggested donation for museum admission, signed a waiver and received my ride ticket. I returned outside to the waiting Mustang SVO and handed my ticket to one of the several museum docents driving the cars that day. But... my ticket was intercepted by the oldest docent there, who took the keys and volunteered to take me for a spin in the SVO. Now, I don't want to sound ageist, but I was hoping for a younger driver that could really show what the SVO is capable of. But when I saw my docent struggling a bit to get into the car, I knew that probably wasn't going to happen.

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So I stepped inside of the charcoal grey interior (the only interior color SVOs were offered with), and... we went for a ride. A nice, civilized ride on a sunny, lovely Southern California Sunday afternoon. We chatted a little about the car, I enjoyed the scenery (mostly industrial and one dead roadkill skunk), and he commented that the boost gauge wasn't showing anything so he wasn't sure if the turbo was even connected. D'oh! Either way, I didn't ask him to punch it as I didn't want to test the limit of his driving skills. Oh well. One cool thing I noticed was a switch labeled "FUEL" on the dash where you could toggle between "UNLEADED" and "PREMIUM." This nifty switch apparently controls the boost and timing curve, 9 pounds of boost in UNLEADED and 15 pounds in PREMIUM with an increased timing curve. We need more toggle switches in our modern cars.

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We arrived back at the museum, he took a few pictures of me behind the drivers seat (with the keys still in the ignition - very tempting), and I went back inside to see the rest of the museum's car collection. The collection consists mostly of American pre-war and post-war cars and a few unique treats.

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What's a car museum without a few 1:1 scale Hot Wheels?

The 'oldest' car in the collection greets visitors in the lobby: 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen replica...

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On my way out me and the missus opted for a ride in the 1938 Packard Roadster.

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Man, was this thing roomy and comfortable. I've never had so much leg room in a car - I couldn't touch the seat backs in front of me with my legs stretched out! And thanks to the mammoth tires and wheels, the passengers sit up high so I felt like a celebrity in a parade. In fact, this car was apparently IN last year's Rose Parade. The wife was smitten with the level of luxury and comfort, and she commented that I'll have to add one of these to my car collection when we hit the lottery. Fine, "Happy wife, ..." and all.

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So that was a nice conclusion to a successful car day. We drove my beast to Supercar Sunday in Woodland Hills, saw Jay Leno's rare Mazda Cosmo, then took the long way to the Automobile Driving Museum.

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Did anyone else make it out? If you haven't been, I highly recommend it to any Jalop, especially on Sundays for rides in cars from their collection (I'll be keeping on eye on their site to see when they'll offer rides in their DeLorean again as they have in the past).

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