Back in 2000, SVT created its own Special Vehicle Team Owners Association, a concept that was to enhance the SVT ownership experience and build on the core values of Ford performance for any driving enthusiast. Operated with the motto "Drive Safe and Have Fun," the SVTOA grew as SVT owners and fellow Ford enthusiasts enjoyed the intimate relationship that Ford had developed with its buying public.
Recently, a group comprising former SVT staffers, Ford Racing Performance Parts managers, and SAAC members banded together to put the SVTOA in the hands of enthusiasts, thus ensuring the preservation of the club's name, goals, and organizational structure.
With the changing of the guard, a new enterprise was formed. Specialty Performance Vehicle Clubs, which is comprised of the people who currently handle the successful Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC), has assumed SVTOA operations. The new SVTOA is an independent club that, through its chapters across the country, offers enthusiasts the opportunity to get out and drive with other SVT owners on road trips and cruise nights.
The thing that previously separated the SVTOA from more common car clubs, though, was its series of Ford-sponsored, on-track, high-performance driver-education events. SVTOA On Track events were set up at real racetracks across the country and provided attendees with experienced driving instructors, so that participants at all levels of driving experience could get personalized help improving their driving skills in a single weekend.
The good news is that the new SVTOA has continued this educational and extremely fun tradition, and we were able to attend the three-day On Track event at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. As many of you know, this is a track rich with auto-racing tradition that has been hosting its 12 Hours of Sebring race for the last 55 years on its 3.7-mile circuit.
In addition to the SVTOA On Track experience, Sebring shared the hallowed pavement with Camp Steeda, which brought Steeda Autosports and several of its latest high-performance Mustangs to the event for the performance-hungry to sample. The debut of the new Steeda/GT500 Mustang was certainly a highlight, but Steeda also hauled up a herd of Ponies that included the Q525, the Q400, and the Q335 Mustangs, along with some successful Steeda-sponsored Mustangs from the IMSA and SCCA arenas.
The On Track event started on Friday with the SVTOA staff tech inspection, which was set up in the Chateau Elan parking lot, just a stone's throw from the track. Come Saturday, participants were split into four groups, with Groups 1 and 2 reserved for novice and intermediate students. Group 3 was the wild bunch, as it consisted of newly released students who were on the track solo for the first time as well as more experienced drivers. Group 4 was reserved mainly for the instructors and the most experienced drivers. This was the fast group, and you definitely noticed a difference in pace from the less experienced drivers.
On Saturday night, all On Track participants were invited to the SVTOA banquet, a catered event that featured guest speakers such as Steeda Autosports' Dario Orlando and Bob Adams, as well as SVT's Jamal Hameedi.
The SVT faithful were interested to hear what Hameedi had to say, as he is the chief nameplate engineer for Ford SVT. Hameedi visited the event, not only to reassure enthusiasts that SVT is alive and well, but also to sample some of the modified rides that were on hand. Hameedi noted that SVT is still going strong and is currently working on new projects, and that its most recent achievement has added viability to the SVT way of doing things.
In the most recent Global Quality Research System (GQRS) study from RDA Group, an independent research company based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the Shelby GT500 earned praise as the highest-quality Mustang model, a feat not easily accomplished against such a great base platform as the Mustang. Hameedi also went on to say that SVT will build about 11,000 Shelby GT500s this year, 3,000 more than the 8,000-vehicle estimate it originally planned.
Your author planned to have MM&FF's latest project car, Stolen Goods, in attendance and use the event to wring out the snake, but it wasn't in the cards for our resident Cobra as we ran out of time to get the new Boss 347 engine installed and sufficiently broken in. However, after getting behind the wheel of some of the Steeda products and going for a few rides with some of the SVTOA instructors, we'll definitely plan to have Stolen Goods at the next Sebring SVTOA event, if not one sooner.
In any case, the SVTOA On Track experience will introduce you to performance driving. Yes, mastering the powershift is great, but there's more to driving fast than just changing gears, and the great instructors at the On Track events can show you just what you've been missing. To find out more about the SVTOA and/or register for an On Track event near you, visit www.svtoa.com.
SVTOA membership is open to anyone with a passion for high-performance Ford SVT vehicles-and ownership of a Ford SVT or other Ford performance vehicle is not required to join.
Member benefits include:
ff,,f,,* One-year subscription to the official club publication, SVT Enthusiastff,,f,,* Special discounts on official SVT Certificates of Authenticity and FRPP merchandiseff,,f,,* Participation at regional SVTOA On Track driving events nationwideff,,f,,* An annual SVTOA national conventionff,,f,,* Access to special features planned for www.svtoa.comff,,f,,* Inclusion in the official Ford-recognized SVT Vehicle Registryff,,f,,* A membership card, windshield sticker, and special sponsor offersff,,f,,* SVTOA members will be eligible for special Ford discounts and promotions not available to other clubs, forums, or online registries