In the preamble to this weekend’s Woodward Dream Cruise in metro Detroit, Ford is reminding press and public alike that 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of its Special Vehicle Team (SVT). And why wouldn’t it? SVT is, after all, the semi-skunkworks sub-brand that’s brought us some of the most exciting and engaging products to bear the blue oval emblem since the muscle car wars of the 1960s.
So, while Ford prepares to show off its new SVT wares – which presently include the 2013 Shelby GT500 and the 2013 F-150 Raptor – at its Woodward, we’ve circled back and picked the five SVT models we’d most like to use to cruise Michigan’s legendary avenue. Enjoy.
-1993 Mustang Cobra R
Sure, it was neat that Ford saw fit to create the Cobra, an enthusiast-oriented, high-performance version of the Mustang – but it was amazing it went another step to create the Cobra R, a barebones, purpose-built machine designed expressly for owners looking for a track toy. R models shared their 235-hp 5.0-liter V-8 with normal Cobras, but did without air conditioning, carpet padding, rear seating, sound deadening, and body sealer in an attempt to shave weight. Brakes were upgraded, adjustable Koni dampers installed, and strut tower brace and enlarged anti-roll bars installed. Only 107 examples were built, and buyers needed to show proof of a valid race license before placing an order.
-1999-2003 F-150 Lightning
Turns out Lightning did strike twice: Ford’s first stab at a performance-oriented full-size pickup ran from 1993-1996, but a second-generation model emerged in 1999. Though both iterations are fun in their own way, we’re giving our nod to the second-generation lighting, which looked far more menacing and packed a considerable amount of power. A supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 offered up a solid 360 hp, and that output was bumped to 380 for the 2001 model year. The 2003 model received an increased payload rating, allowing it to haul in both facets of the term -- in fact, we saw a late-model Lightning towing a T-bucket to Woodward earlier this week.
-2000 Mustang Cobra R
Technically, there never was a 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra – but there was a 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra R. Ford’s third take on the Cobra R formula was the only SVT-tuned Mustang sold that year, and each of the 300 examples were about as stripped down as it could be. No A/C? No radio? No rear seat? No say in color selection? No problem, so long as you were in the market for something to terrorize the race track with. A unique version of Ford’s 5.4-liter V-8 provided an incredible 385 hp, while upgraded chassis and driveline bits – including Bilstein dampers, Brembo brakes, and a limited-slip rear diff -- helped properly apply that power to the tarmac.
-2005-2006 Ford GT
Where do we start with this one? Though subsequent SVT models may have out-powered the GT (we’re looking at you, 2013 GT500), none have the ability to draw crowds, drop jaws, and attract attention like the GT. That’s not surprising, since its exterior bodywork was a careful update of one of the most attractive racing cars of all time. Power came from a 550-hp, supercharged 5.4-liter V-8, which helped push the aluminum-intensive vehicle from 0-60 mph in under four seconds. Just over 4000 examples were built, and it’s a safe bet you’ll see a handful making their way up and down M-1 later this week.
Though the F-150 Raptor’s pretty darn impressive in its own right, this is perhaps the lone SVT product today that best matches Woodward’s muscle car heritage. The numbers alone are uncanny: 662 hp, 631 lb-ft of torque, and a theoretical top end over the magical 200 mph mark? And all for $60,000? Mustang, SVT, and muscle car fans alike may never have had it so good.