Tag Archives: Mustang

FELLOWS’ WIN BREAKS BAD LUCK SPELL AT SEBRING

By: RICK MATSUMOTO on March 17,2002
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

Ron Fellows has finally captured the elusive 12 Hours of Sebring.

The Mississauga driver brought the Corvette C5-R across the finish line at Florida’s 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway last night at the head of the GTS class.

The victory came in the fourth attempt by Fellows and Corvette Racing to win the Sebring race, which along with the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona, is considered one of the three major endurance events of world sports car racing.

“Finally, we finally did it,” said a relieved Fellows on the victory podium.

While Fellows, who had put the Corvette on the pole in qualifying, started and finished the race, he shared the driving with long-time co-driver Johnny O’Connell and newcomer Oliver Gavin.

Fellows’ car finished ninth overall, after covering 317 laps, 29 laps behind the winning Audi.

Interestingly, Gavin was one of the three drivers in the Saleen Mustang that upset Fellows and Corvette in last year’s Sebring race. This year, the Saleen S7R placed second with 309 laps.

Fellows had been the surprise overall winner of the 2001 24 Hours of Daytona a month earlier and had been the heavy favourite to win at Sebring. However, major mechanical problems allowed the Saleen to take the checkered flag in the GTS class.

This year Corvette Racing decided to pass up the Daytona race and concentrate its efforts on producing a reliable, as well as quicker, car for Sebring.

Audi, with lead driver Johnny Herbert driving the last hour, won the Prototype 900 class and the overall title for the third consecutive year.

PENSKE TOPS IRL: Helio Castroneves, a pilot for the IRL-interloper Marlboro Team Penske, captured pole position for today’s 200-lapper at Phoenix International Raceway by turning in a blistering lap of 20.0124 seconds around the one-mile oval – a speed of 179.888 m.p.h.

Castroneves nipped defending race winner Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.017 of a second to capture his first IRL pole.

TARGA RALLY TALLY A RECORD 150 ENTRANTS

By: N.A. on June 22, 2001
Original Article: WAIKATO TIMES

This year’s Dunlop Targa New Zealand rally will be the largest competitive rally held in this country with 150 entries so far.

The six-day tarmac rally is the seventh to be run and will be held from October 23 to 28.

The 2000 event was taken out by Australia’s Craig Dean in a Saleen Mustang with most of the 11 Australian cars that crossed the Tasman acquitting themselves well.

The 2001 Targa, which runs in central North Island, has a mixture of old and new stages over 600km of closed roads and 1300km of touring.

Since the 1999 event the emphasis of the event has changed away from contemporary 4WD cars (only six are accepted), which has brought out a larger number of interesting cars.

Among the entries there is a 1963 Sayer lightweight E Type Jaguar, two ex-group B MG Metro 6R4s from the 1980s, 10 Ford Escorts, both MK1 and MK2 with two being RS1800s from the 1980s, a Mini Cooper powered Mini Marcos, two 1960s Sunbeam Rapiers, several MGBs and a lone Audi Quattro.

Also entered is Robbie Francevic, the charismatic Kiwi who has been winning national and international events since the 1960s. Francevic won the 1967 national championship for sedans in the Custaxie, the inaugural Wellington street race with a Volvo 240T in 1986, and the following year the 1987 Australian Touring Car Championship.

Francevic is running in a 1969 Pontiac GTO.

In the more modern categories there are four Mazda RX7 Batmobiles, seven Porsches and seven Peugeots, two Nissan Skylines and the latest Ford Mustang Cobra R. There is also a yet-to-be released 2001 Honda Integra Type R.

Ex-Tasman Motorsport Indy Car Team owner Steve Horne has put to one side his normal management role and is driving the Integra.

Some of the more quirky vehicles include a 1955 Chevrolet Pickup with a 5-litre V8, a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado ute, a Subaru Legacy GT Station wagon and a Ford Anglia with Nissan running gear.

Already entered from Australia are a Tasmanian team in an EH Holden and a MGB Roadster from NSW. Andrew Bryson from Western Australia has teamed up with Kiwi Rootes Group specialist Brian Bradshaw in a Hillman Imp. From Queensland there is a 1970s Datsun H510.

HARRY DRIVES ‘EM WILD

By: NEIL DOWLING on March 28,2004
Original Article: SUNDAY TIMES, THE (PERTH)

People lust over this car and for good reason. It’s the only one of its type in the state and costs more than $100,000. Neil Dowling reports on a rare import

Harry Martin is used to people admiring his rare car. One day, at a concourse for Fords in Perth, he returned to his display car and found a woman sitting behind the steering wheel receiving stern words from her husband.

“I can’t get her out,” the husband said, “and she says she won’t leave until she gets one.”

She didn’t get one because there’s just one in WA, possibly only one in Australia, and it cost Harry $110,000 six years ago. So she left.

But that’s the attraction of the rare Saleen Mustang or to give it its full title, the S281 Speedster.

“It always draws a crowd because it is a mix of retro and modern, and people clearly see it’s not a Mustang Cobra, even though it’s based on one,” Harry said.

“Once I reckon I spoke to 600 people at one car show. It was great.”

Harry’s passion for the Saleen goes beyond owning a rare car.

When his car goes on show it collects much-needed donations for the Special Air Services’ resources trust, an organization involved in funding community projects such as mobile work camps. Harry heads the SAS Trusts not-for-profit Administrative Training Services Unit.

When the car is on display the trust holds raffles of rare-model Saleen cars signed by the car’s maker, Steve Saleen, as prizes.

“We’ve raised about $11,000 for the trust through car appearances and raffles,” Harry said.

Harry’s charitable example of an S281 is No. 10 of a limited edition of just 100 cars. It is the most popular model of a seven-car line-up produced by the Californian-based specialist vehicle builder, Saleen.

“It has the smallest engine of the V8s but Saleen has worked on it to produce 213kW (285hp) and a 0-100km/h time of only 5.2 seconds,” Harry said. “It is not only quick but I regularly get 11-litres/100km on standard unleaded petrol.”

“That’s a lot better than a quad-cam Mustang Cobra previously sold here through Tickford.”

To create an S281, Saleen buys Mustangs from Ford’s Dearborn factory at Michigan and strips them back in its Californian workshop in Irvine, Orange County.

Parts replaced range from suspension to brakes, body kits to woodgrain trim, and a new engine, differential and exhaust system.

It is numbered, in Harry’s case 9810 for the year of manufacture and its production number, and has flank graphics to bang the point home that this is no Mustang.

It’s unusual for a Saleen to be exported. Harry’s car was converted to right-hand drive in Australia. The high cost of his convertible is attributed mainly to the handmade components used to change it to right-hand drive and the import and state stamp duties.

His purchase was also influenced by the poor exchange rate in 1998. “It would be a lot cheaper to buy one now,” he said.

“Saleens are hard to get hold of and they’re very scare on the second-hand market in the US.”

They also hold their value. Three US magazines, Road & Track, Car & Driver and Motor Trend, rated the Saleen Mustangs as having the highest resale value of seven sports cars, including the Porsche Boxster, Jaguar XK8, Firebird Trans Am and Corvette.

“In this year, my 1998 model has an 84 per cent retained value. That’s pretty hard to beat for a six-year-old car.” Harry’s car may even be worth more. It recently won gold in its class at this year’s 40th anniversary Mustang show held by the Mustang Owners Club.

It looks, and drives, like brand new. The interior is flawless leather, the chromework is unblemished, the Eagle tyres barely show wear and the Laser Red paint mirrors the devotion given to the car.

That it’s covered just 26,000km since Harry bought it also improves its value and appeal.

“It’s my job,” he said of the low odometer reading. “I’m away 260 days of the year, so I don’t get to drive it as often as I want.”

The mesh-covered intake holes in the front spoiler and on the flanks seem to be for aesthetics.

“No, they’re for real,” Harry says. “The front ones lead to ducting to cool the front brakes and the intakes on the side, behind the doors does the same thing for the rear brakes.”

In the flesh it looks great. Smaller than the specifications indicate but well-balanced and distinctive.

“If it wasn’t as fast as what it is, I’d still have bought it,” he said. “It’s just a great car to drive.”

“At 110km/h that engine is only spinning at 1800rpm in fifth gear. Generally, I’d only use up to third gear, sometimes fourth, on a drive.”

This weekend Harry leaves to again visit the Saleen factory and catch up with a few good Ford guys, including racer and Cobra originator Carroll Shelby.

He may even have a look over the Saleen S7.

“I wouldn’t sell my car. Well, perhaps for an S7,” he says, of the purpose-built Saleen racer. “Maybe an SR. No, no. I’d only sell my car for the S7.”

specs
Saleen S281 Speedster
Price: about $120,000
Engine: 4.6-litre, V8, SOHC, 16-valve
Power: 213kW @ 5100rpm
Torque: 449Nm @ 4100rpm
0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 260km/h
Fuel: Standard unleaded
Fuel tank: 59 litres
Fuel economy: 11.5-litres/100km
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drive: Rear
Suspension: Front — MacPherson struts, variable-rate springs; Rear
— live axle, four-link, variable-rate springs on trailing arms,
four gas shocks
Brakes: 4-wheel discs, ABS
Wheels: 17-inch alloys, 245/45R17 tyres
Spare tyre: Full size
Length: 4630mm
Width: 1828mm
Height: 1305mm
Track: Front — 1493mm; Rear — 1538mm
Wheelbase: 2533mm
Weight: 1645kg

ALL-NEW 2000 SALEEN SR PROVIDES ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE

FOR RELEASE AT 3 P.M. PST, JANUARY 7, 2000

SR Blends High Performance With Race Technology

IRVINE, Calif. – There’s a new car from America’s best-known performance car manufacturer. The 2000 SR from Saleen takes “street performance” to its ultimate.

With an energizing 505 horsepower from its 5.8 liter Saleen Centrifugal Supercharged V-8 engine and a Saleen Racecraft designed independent rear suspension, the SR takes curves with the same force as it does straightaways.

“We’ve used our racing experience on the track and adapted this technology in the engineering of the SR to create the ultimate street performance vehicle,” said Steve Saleen, president and founder of Saleen lnc. .“The SR goes frdm 0-60 mph ‘very quickly’ and hits a quarter mile speed ‘very fast.”

The 2000 SR is highlighted by Saleen’s 5.8-liter Ford-based engine producing 505 hp and 500 lbs of torque mated to a Saleen six-speed transmission. A custom Saleen driveshaft leads to an IRS differential system at a gear ratio of 3.55:1. Braking is through 14.4” front rotors with four-piston calipers. Rear brakes are 13.0″ metallic discs with four-piston calipers. Unibody construction features a complete roll cage and suspension reinforcement system. A refined Saleen Racecraft suspension includes independent uneven length double wishbones with Saleen N2 triple adjustable shocks and adjustable sway bars in the front and a Saleen-designed push-pull Independent rear suspension.

The SR also includes power assisted rack and pinion steering. Additional features include race inspired seats and a white instrument gauge cluster with a 200 mph speedometer.

The Saleen SR boasts exterior aerodynamic refinements beyond the base complete body panels of the Saleen S281, including a specially-designed composite hood, composite rear bodywork and underbody tunnel. The SR was wind-tunnel tuned at Lockheed-Martin’s full-size tunnel in Marietta, Georgia. The SR comes standard with 18” wheels and Pirelli P-Zero tires. Every body part is unique to the Saleen SR, with the exception of the windows.

The Saleen SR is available as a coupe only. The retail price for the Saleen SR starts at $150,000. Like all Saleen vehicles, the 2000 SR is available only at Saleen Certified Ford dealers nationwide. For a list of Saleen Certified Ford dealers, contact Saleen at 9 Whatney, lrvine, CA 92618, call 949-457-9100 or go to www.saleen.com.

Saleen manufacturing facilities include complete research, engineering, design and assembly capability. Saleen is certified by the federal government as a specialty vehicle manufacturer. Saleen manufactured vehicles meet all the same Federal government regulations as those of large automobile manufacturers, and come with a full factory warranty.

Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced over 7,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s line includes Saleen S281, S351 sports cars, Saleen XP8 sport utility and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter a complete line of performance and appearance products for Mustangs and Explorers.

Contact: Michael F. Hollander, Pacific Communications Group 310.224.4981

9 Whatney Irvine, CA 92618
t 949 597 4900
f 949 597 0301
www.saleen.com

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SALEEN MUSTANG S281

By: DUTCH MANDEL on November 11, 1999
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 49, ISSUE 46

Saleen: the world’s largest tuner or the smallest manufacturer?

350 hp @ 5000 rpm; 410 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Base price, $29,900; as tested, $40,344

When is a tuner not a tuner, and is instead a manufacturer?

It’s a question not of semantics nor philosophical debate, but of pride. It is also a question Steve Saleen begs to ask. Saleen argues that by definition tuner companies get cars or trucks and bolt onto them go-fast, look-trick, be-pretty parts. On the other hand, Saleen gets a car virtually as a body in white and puts it together from the ground up. In this way the company is able to tune suspension, drivetrain and many other parts-all while maintaining quality control-unequalled in the tuner car world.

That question asked, even the government identifies Saleen as a specialty vehicle manufacturer, which requires the Southern California-based company to build cars under the same strict governmental guidelines for safety, emissions and quality as those that regulate DaimlerChrysler or General Motors.

Saleen has a point. One of the first things you notice in getting behind the wheel of the 2000 model year S281 Mustang is the fit and finish; everything seems to fit and it looks finished, neither of which can be said for fly-by-night jobbers. The white Saleen gauges integrated in the instrument panel match a pair of supercharger boost gauges tucked in a dash-mounted housing that appears to have come from Dearborn. It has not, of course, and this is where Saleen’s argument begins to bear weight.

Take a look at some of the other interior details attributable to Saleen: An extremely close-ratio gearbox moves in shifts that can’t stretch more than four inches, whether from first to second, or second to third. The shifter isn’t fitted with a knob so much as a form-fitted thick stalk which begs to be grabbed and directed. Even the throttle, brake and clutch pedals are cleanly customized with Saleen identification. Subtle Saleen identification.

Which seems another touchstone for tuners: the insistence on making it known to the free world This Car Is Tuned By (Fill In The Blank). Please guys-including you, Saleen-learn a softer, gentler touch. We understand the want to brand a car, but the overuse of over large, bright graphics is closer to scarification. This Saleen would be best with the exterior graphics removed-let the exceptional, almost sinister profile grab attention, and the S281’s mighty performance do the talking.

It is amazing what 350 supercharged horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque will do for the Mustang-even a Mustang without the Cobra’s independent rear suspension. But this suspension works. It’s a hybrid MacPherson strut front with Saleen Racecraft struts and variable rate springs. Keeping the front end locked down is a serious 1.38-inch antiroll bar. In the back is the tried-and-true live axle, this with lower trailing arms, stabilizer bars and a Quadra Shock system, also fitted with Saleen-calibrated units.

The fun is in the driving. And if you need to crank up the fun quotient a bit, find some moist pavement with newly fallen leaves. All we can say, after the heart stops its fibrillation, is thank goodness for traction control and ABS, both of which are on the S281.

When driving the S281 on clean, dry pavement, the car’s mature behavior is immediately noticeable. It doesn’t want to dart and shoot willy-nilly. It sets a track and takes the line. The ride, while not luxury-sedan smooth (nor should it be), is not at all uncomfortable as many high-performance cars can be. The question, of course, is could you own and drive this as a daily commuter?

Sure you could. The likelihood is that for its 25-percent premium over the base Saleen Mustang (the S281 we tested topped out at slightly more than $40,000, which includes dealer destination) you’ll want to keep it in the garage for special cruising. You wouldn’t be alone as in the 16 years since Saleen first plied his trade, he’s produced more than 7000 vehicles. And that’s a far step ahead of where tuner cars-or perhaps better and more accurately said, specialty vehicle manufactured cars-once were.

S351 RATED AMERICA’S FASTEST “STREET-LEGAL” RACE CAR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Top-Of-The-Line Saleen Mustang S351 Smokes The Competition,
Blends Sleek Styling With Ultra-high Performance

“This is a car that does everything the way God intended it to.” AUTOMOBILE MAGAZINE

IRVINE, Calif. – Faster than a speeding bullet, Saleen’s S351 Mustang is a combination of superior engineering and sleek styling, making it the quickest sports car on the road today. Besides speed, the S351 offers optimum handling and comfort.

“We’ve used our racing experience on the track and adapted this technology in the engineering of the 351 to create the ultimate performance vehicle,” said Steve Saleen, president and founder of Saleen Inc. and the Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab. “The S351 goes from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds and hits a quarter mile speed at more than 122 mph, making it the fastest sports car in America.”

The S351 is highlighted by Saleen’s 351 cu. in. Ford-based engine and six-speed transmission, producing 495 hp and 490 lbs of torque, 13” front brake rotors with four-piston calipers and a refined Saleen Racecraft suspension. Additional features include race inspired seats and a white instrument gauge cluster with a 200 mph speedometer.

The Saleen Mustang S351 boasts exterior aerodynamic refinements from the base Saleen Mustang S281 including a specially-designed composite hood, composite rear wing and rear fascia. The 351 also comes standard with 18” wheels and Pirelli tires.

The Saleen S351 is available as a coupe, convertible or ultra-exotic Speedster. The suggested retail price for the Saleen S351 Mustang starts at $55,990. Saleen vehicles are available at Saleen Certified Ford dealers nationwide. For: list of Saleen Certified Ford dealers, contact Saleen at 9 Whatney, Irvine, CA 92618, call 949-457-9100 or go to www.saleen.com.

Saleen facilities include total research, engineering, design and assembly capability. Saleen is certified by the federal government as a specialty vehicle manufacturer. Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced nearly 7,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s line includes Saleen Mustangs, Saleen Explorers and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter a complete line of performance and appearance products for Mustangs and Explorers.

Contact: Michael F. Hollander, Pacific Communications Group 310.224.4981

9 Whatney Irvine, CA 92618
t 949 597 4900
f 949 597 0301
www.saleen.com

SALEEN / FORD MUSTANG IN RETROSPECT

By: LARRY ROBERTS on October 30, 1998
Original Article: www.theautochannel.com

Sometimes when I get Steve Saleen’s press releases about his Team Saleen endeavors both on the race track and in the showroom, I get the feeling that he was born after his time. He should have been in the business of building specially-built sports cars in the ’60s when Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and the other Southern California hot-rodders-turned-car-constructors were in their hey-days. They built cars for the SCCA Trans Am series for pony cars and became house-hold names to American road racing fans.

It’s not that Saleen has done badly. Quite the contrary. Starting in ’84 with the “Fox” platform Mustang, he’s built a successful business of modifying Ford Mustangs into Saleen Mustangs that are changed enough cosmetically so that buyers of his slick speedsters won’t have their mounts mistaken for the Dearborn version and souped-up enough so that the drivers of most other cars on the street will only get a view of Saleen tailpipes. And he’s done it with the approval of our federal government, a daunting task in itself.

But the promotional venue that Saleen shines in is his participation in racing. In his early years, Saleen himself drove sports car races in semi-pro SCCA events, branched out into driving Saleen-prepared Ford Rangers in the now defunct SCCA series for mini-pickups and even into an unsuccessful stab at the Indy 500, as I recall.

Saleen’s fortunes took a quantum leap a few years ago when he took in Tim Allen, star of the TV series “Home Improvement,” as a partner and formed Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab to build and campaign Saleen SR351 Mustangs in various road races. Allen himself did some of the driving in these events but it quickly showed that simply enjoying cars and owning part of a racing team doesn’t qualify a person to strap himself into a racer and get into the thick of the action. When I saw Allen drive a Saleen/Mustang at Sears Point Raceway in Northern California a few years ago, he was nine seconds off the pace and the regular Saleen pilots had a task in hand to make up the time. I haven’t heard of Allen driving for a while and I suspect that it dawned on him and his TV producers that a guy can get hurt in professional racing if he’s not up to the pace. He did drive at Grand Rapids, Michigan this year where he placed 14th.

For 1998 Steve Saleen and his Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab team pretty much concentrated on the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) World Challenge T1 series for more-or-less production-based sports cars (as opposed to the purpose-built SCCA Trans Am “tube frame” cars), and to say that Saleen was a big fish in the fairly small pond is an understatement. His star driver, Terry Boscheller, won five of the nine races outright and placed second enough times to win the Manufacturer’s Cup for the Southern California-based company as well as the Driver’s Championship for himself.

Although the World Challenge is considered a Saturday warmer-upper race for Trans Am and other more premium events, the Saleen team won against such classy car-and-driver combinations as Bobby Archer, a long-time Chrysler driver, piloting a Dodge Viper GTS and Peter Cunningham in a factory Acura NSX.

For ’98, Steve Saleen is branching out into other auto fields like videos, jackets and tee-shirts, club memberships and other booster merchandise. He also produces a line of special Saleen/Mustangs for a Budget rental fleet in the Los Angeles area.

On second thought, I think that Steve Saleen is in his correct time frame. He’s too much of a business man to have been able to acclimatize his organization to those wild and loose days of the ’60s.

SPORTS CAR INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE: PONY EXPRESSED

August / September 1998
Original Article: Sports Car International Magazine

Take the traditional muscle car formula and turn it up to 11.
Result: Saleen’s 495 horsepower S-351 Speedster.

It’s no wonder Tim Allen’s such a good comedian. You’d be laughing too if you got to drive a supercharged Saleen everyday, then race one on the weekends. Allen joined forces with Saleen in 1995 to form “RRR Speedlab,” the same year Saleen debuted his supercharged Mustang. In the intervening three years, this team has taken their trick pony to places unimagined until recently. In 1996, Saleen and Allen won the SCCA manufacturer’s championship for FoMoCo, and in 1997, they became the first American team to run a factory Ford at Le Mans since Carroll Shelby turned the trick 30 years ago.

news_1998_01_scim_s351
1998 S351 Speedster

Although Saleen builds a wide variety of Mustangs, and even Explorers for every pocketbook, the pride of the Irvine, California stable goes to the S-351, and its racing cousin, the 351SR. When Ford introduced the latest version of the Mustang in 1994, Saleen was already well into the development phase of his take on the new “modular” block 4.6-liter V8. But the 281 cubic inch engine, rated at 225 hp in Saleen trim, just didn’t have the grunt to capture the imagination of a populace weaned on big block Vettes and muscle cars.

What to do? Dropping a true big block into the Mustang would have caused insurmountable problems in the emissions department. As Bob Mink, Saleen’s Director of R&D says, “It’s extremely difficult for large block engines to meet cold-start emission standards.” A turbo was considered and dismissed because of its indifferent performance at low engine speeds. Mink again: “A turbo is counterproductive because it eliminates the low-end torque. It interferes with the exhaust path, and you lose the grunt. That grunt is why people buy these cars in the first place.”

Saleen has more than a little experience in the art of persuasion, having induced 5000 buyers to purchase his Mustangs since 1984. So the R&D team settled on a Vortech supercharger as the best answer to the high performance/ low good emissions equation. Vortech makes the centrifugal V-1 blower at their facility in Moorpark, California. Erstwhile Trans-Am team sponsor AER manufactures the long-block 351 to Saleen specs in Dallas, Texas and test fires each engine before shipping it to Saleen’s Irvine factory for final assembly and chassis installation.

The goodies on this 500 horse motor include forged pistons and special cylinder heads designed by Saleen and cast from aluminum. The piping to and from the Vortec huffer is brightly polished alloy, while the aluminum valve covers are sedate-looking by comparison in flat silver. Upper and lower intake manifolds are specific to the Vortec’s induction requirements. Ceramic-coated headers dump exhaust gasses into a series of stainless four-way cats that empty into a melifluous Saleen/Borla mufflers with a 2.5 inch pipe orifice. A hydraulic-roller camshaft features roller rockers for improved valve actuation. An entire 65 mm worth of throttle body controls air flow to an 80 mm mass-air sensor. Once the tweaked engines arrive at Irvine from AER, Saleen technicians install special 36 lb/hr fuel injectors and a bright red Saleen wire loom to fire the NGK spark plugs.

While AER is busy building engines for this project, Saleen’s staff of 30 employees transform production V6 Mustangs into S-351s. They strip each base model ponycar of its drivetrain and suspension, then add the, 5.8 liter V8 that Bob Mink calls “the big block for today’s world.” The suspension is bound together like pages in the Saleen parts catalogue. There’s a quartet of progressive rate “”Racecraft”” springs which lower the chassis by over an inch. But as Saleen says, compared with an F355, we’re about ten feet higher than the Ferrari.” But that’s okay by Steve, because he wants to build real world cars that his customers can drive everyday.

Saleen worked closely with Bilstein to perfect the valving on the “”N2″” nitrogen gas shocks front and rear. The addition of a machined adjustable upper front camber plate allows Saleen to dial additional negative camber into the front end when performing his “performance alignment” on the tuned chassis. Strangely absent from the engine bay is a front strut tower crossbrace – probably the victim of supercharger-reduced hood clearance. A 1.38 inch Racecraft front sway bar pivots in urethane bushings. In the rear, Racecraft N2 axle dampeners try to keep the live axle four-bar rear suspension from acting out. But the Achilles heel of the car remains its solid rear axle. When reminded of its shortcomings, R&D guy Mink scowls, “You can get rid of it if you want to pay an extra $10,000. We’ll build you an independent rear with aluminum control arms, and dual four-arm lateral links.” Ford initially conceived this upgrade, but dismissed the technology as too expensive for the market to subsidize.

Some of the biggest changes to this Mustang are those you can’t see. Buried behind the 5-spoke front wheels are 4-piston calipers clamping 13-inch vented brake discs, grooved for water dispersion. Rear discs, also vented and grooved, are 10.5 inches in diameter. The upgraded brakes stop the S-351 in 110 feet from 60 mph. And instead of the conventional 5-speed manual gearbox , a 6-speed T-56 transmits 490 pound-feet of torque to the 8.8 inch rear end through 3.27:1 gears and a Torsen differential. A 3.55:1 rear gear set is optionally available for $812. That’s right, there’s a Borg-Warner gearbox lurking under the still-canted Mustang-style shift lever, and the reason you’ll find a (horrors) GM cog driving this ultimate Ford is the availability of that sixth gear.

From a technology standpoint, the toughest part of the entire S-351 project was getting the supercharged motor to meet emissions requirements and produce good top end horsepower. One goal or the other was easy to accomplish, but in order to achieve both, the drivetrain required a six-speed box, something Ford does not make. Mink explains: “Technologically, the most advanced thing about this car are its emissions numbers. Putting together the whole package was hard-getting the cats set, making it cold start properly.” Ford helped design catalysts with the proper thermal profiles that would last for 100,000 miles. Don’t forget that Saleen is not just a tuning outfit, but a certified manufacturer of proprietary models which must meet manufacturer requirements for emissions and longevity. In this case, the warranty on drivetrain parts is seven years or 70,000 miles. That’s a lot to ask of a small company, but they do it to the letter.

The S-351 is equipped as standard with 18-inch wheels made on Saleen-owned tools by Speedline in Italy. Standard issue for those five-spoke 18 inch rims (8.5″ front and rear) are BFG Comp T/As size 245/40 ZR 18. But a wise option for the 500 hp supercharged S-351 is the optional Michelin Pilot MXX3, which ups skidpad performance to .94g. Front tires remain bump up to 265/35s, while rears increase to 295/35s on wider-than-stock 10 inch wide rims. This option adds $1375 to the coupe’s base price of $54,355. The convertible, called the “Speedster,” costs an extra $4,000. When I asked Saleen if Porsche had any problems with him using the name “Speedster,” he replied “absolutely not,” continuing: “In fact we ourselves have all kinds of problems with people copying our names and products. Especially Racecraft parts.”

Steve Saleen stresses that his company makes and owns all their tools, dies and molds. They may subcontract companies like Speedline to fabricate parts, but the engineering and tooling belong to Saleen, insuring that the company maintains strict control over the design of every part on a project Mustang. The composite hood, for example, and all the dramatically revised bits (urethane front fascia, side skirts, rear fascia, wing and taillight panel) are the sole inspiration of Saleen, who has long been responsible for his idiosyncratic aero-look. Once the molds are prepared in the Saleen shops, the parts are farmed out to various concerns, mostly in Orange County and Southern California, for construction.

Whether or not the parts are self-made or not is irrelevant. There are, after all, more than 2000 changes in part specification from the Ford-built Mustang to the S-351, and one could hardly expect such a sea-change in design to be accomplished in house. Rather, Saleen’s strength seems to be in his ability to subcontract with exemplary vendors like AER and Speedline to get just what he wants, when he needs it, for his project cars. The efficiency of Saleen’s operation can be judged by the fact that construction of an S-351 takes only two weeks from start to finish. Saleen plans on building 40 or 50 this year, plus 75 of the less powerful S-281 modular block Mustangs. Add a few dozen Explorers into the mix, and you’ve got plenty to keep those 30 employees hopping annually.

So the question here is not so much who makes the parts but how well they work together in the S-351 to produce a memorable sports car. If my one-day test hop in a Saleen Speedster is any indication, you definitely get your money’s worth in the S-351. For about the price of a decently optioned Porsche Boxster or Corvette Convertible, you’ve got a Mustang that will run circles around either of those competitors. Saleen’s entire premise for this supercharged Mustang was to build the fastest accelerating car sold in America through normal dealer channels. Since the S-351 is available through a network of 70 separate dealers, you can buy this car almost anywhere in the USA. And since the S-351 will crank consistent 12.6s in the quarter mile at 120-125mph, you can also call it the fastest accelerating production car available through conventional dealer channels. The Viper comes close, but Saleen feels his Mustang owns the edge over the substantially more expensive, marginally slower Viper.

Finished in white with black graphics and interior, ’98 Saleen Speedster SN 98000 112 983 came off the assembly line in October 1997. The most noticeable aspect of the convertible package is the fluted slipstream-style Speedster hard-shell tonneau. This combing covers the area behind the front seats with a twin headrest nacelle that feeds into the cockpit via a Corvette-like waterfall between the front seats. The tonneau reduces interior wind noise to an entirely acceptable level for long periods of top-down driving.

Saleen has replaced the indifferent Mustang front seats with a pair of splendid sports seats that proved the perfect match for long distance driving. Finished in a nubby black fabric, and embroidered on the headrest “Saleen by Recaro,” these buckets support your thighs, lower back and shoulders. They enable you to remain planted during G-loaded maneuvers without resorting to a death grip on the steering wheel. Both the wheel and the shift-knob sport striking carbon fiber inserts. The upper and lower strand bands on the face of the wheel are a bit disconcerting at first, but feel better upon longer acquaintance. Both doors feature white plastic inserts beneath the window and door lock controls. These panels dovetail nicely with the design and color of the Speedster tonneau.

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1998 S351 Speedster

Proper instrumentation is a strong point of the S-351, with highly legible white faced gauges that include the expected (fuel, ammeter) and the unexpected (oil temp, 200 mph speedo recalibrated by Phillips). That redone speedo isn’t optimistic by much, as the S-351 will post 172 mph in top gear at redline of 5700 rpm. There’s also a fuel pressure gauge and a boost gauge contained in a central pod appended, Shelby-Mustang style, to the top of the dash surface. Unless you’re well into the vices of the Vortec, the boost dial reads in the negative (at about -15 HgPSI). Although Saleen says maximum boost will reach +8 on occasion, the most I saw on the gauge was +6 PSI. Fuel pressure to those 36 Ib/hr injectors ranged from 35 psi at idle to 45 psi at full boost. The redone dash presents a comforting rest stop on the information super highway.

Steering is rather heavily boosted for a sports car, but still offers good positional feedback. Compared to the in-your-ear communication level of the new Porsche 996’s steering, the yakety-yak Saleen rates about a seven on a ten-scale. Shifting the ergonomic Momo knob was usually a positive experience, with short, decisive throws between gears. Early in the game, though, I missed the fourth to third downshift and selected first (didn’t let the clutch out, Steve) then slid over to fifth (did let the clutch out). For awhile, that fluff appeared to be an anomaly until the incident repeated itself several more times during the course of the day. Either the slots for 1-2 and 5-6 are too close to the 3-4 gate, or I’m a ham-fist when it comes to the T-56 tranny. But be forewarned, this may happen to you, so tread lightly before you drop the clutch.

The level of adhesion in cornering is so high that when you finally lose control of this car, you’re bound to be in for a very serious incident. Surfing the apexes on Ortega Highway between San Juan Capistrano and Lake Elsinore, I came to trust implicitly the instincts of this admittedly heavy cruiser. Despite its weight of 3378 pounds, the S-351 felt more nimble than a Corvette in turns. Certainly the ride of the Saleen has a leg up on the C5 Vette, and with the optional Michelin steamrollers, you have to do something really stupid to loop this car. The four-pot front binders snag the Speedster every bit as quick as the spec sheet promises they will. I never came close to smoking the pie-plate brakes in my enforced death march over Ortega summit. Structural rigidity proved surprisingly good with the top down, and I never once heard a squeak or groan from the dash or felt a shudder through the steering wheel. The wingfoil-shaped black padded roll bar behind your head gives an added boost to your confidence level when driving hard.

But let’s face it, nobody buys this car for the brakes, the seats, the roll bar, or even the outrageous looks. Well, maybe some do sucker for those looks, but the majority of customers willing to pay $60,000 for a car that started life at $30,000 do so for the promise of unbridled speed. And that’s just what they get with this one. So what’s it like to uncork 495 horses stabled under the composite hood of just one ponycar? It’s like spinning the rheostat to max revs on a Dremel MotoTool. Your ears buzz, your teeth chatter, and your head buries itself in the gilt embroidery of that Recaro headrest. Before I left the Irvine shop, I asked Saleenwhether the ignition system was equipped with an electronic cut-out at redline of 5700rpm. He confirmed that it was, but then mentioned that he hoped I wouldn’t go finding it very often.

Well, it’s just about impossible to squirt this car in any gear without slamming up against that rev-limiter instantaneously. That’s because the T-56’s gears are spaced relatively closely, and a blast on the throttle in any gear save sixth puts you into the red on the tech so fast you barely have time to slam the lever into the next slot. The Vortec supercharger harnesses and magnifies the already abundant torque of the 5.8 liter Mustang V8 so quickly that keeping up with its sprints to redline is like chasing mercury balls around a tile floor. This kind of performance in first or second gear might be expected, but what really sets you on your duff is the relentless surge in the upper gears. Be sure your cleared for takeoff before pinning back the ears of a supercharged Saleen.

If this isn’t a Boss Mustang, I don’t know what is. And if Steve Saleen isn’t the Mustang Boss, I don’t know who is. He’s covering so much of the same ground that Carroll Shelby tilled in the ’60s that comparisons between the two men are inevitable. Like Shelby in years past, Saleen is coming off a good showing (2nd place in GT2) at this year’s Sebring 12 hour endurance race. Like Shelby in his day, Saleen too went to Le Mans last year and acquitted himself well. And like Shelby, Saleen has had notable successes in winning manufacturer’s championships for himself and Ford. In fact, the pride-of-place podium in Saleen’s Irvine lobby currently displays an SCCA Manufacturer’s trophy won by Lou Gigliotti aboard a Saleen Mustang. And this year, Saleen, like Shelby before him, announced a rental car tie-in to make his Mustang available to the masses. For only $89 a day, you can rent a mod-block S-281 from Thrifty. When I asked Saleen whether his rent-a-racers would be black with gold stripes, a la Shelby’s Hertz GT350s, he just smiled impishly.

But the historical connection between Saleen and Shelby, both Ford loyalists to the end, bears further investigation. It’s rare to get a second chance to do anything you missed the first time around. So if you passed up that GT350 back in the ’60s, here’s your chance to rectify your mistake in the ’90s. Because the S-351 is nothing short of the same crazy horse, born again some 30 years down the road.

SPORTS CAR INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE: THE SALEEN SOLUTION

June / July 1998
Original Article: Sports Car International Magazine

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He builds and races Mustangs, he has support of Ford Motor Co., his cars are becoming legendary. Sound familiar?

Call Steve Saleen anything you like, but don’t call him a “tuner”. He’s a small volume manufacturer, in every sense of the word. For more than a dozen years, Saleen and his cadre of engineers, assemblers, fabricators and hot-rodders have been turning garden variety Mustangs into Saleen Mustangs. And a Saleen Mustang is something different than just another “tuner car”. The net result may appear somewhat the same: A Mustang that’s received an array of performance, handling and appearance upgrades. Many a small shop has claimed to build “limited edition” Mustangs. This may be true, but more often than not, they’ve been very “limited”…to maybe one or two cars. Saleen has built more than 4000. Hence, the difference.

That difference starts with Steve himself. Saleen’s enthusiasm for Mustangs began like most people’s: “I was, at an early age, bitten by the racing and Mustang heritage bug … I was very Ford oriented in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I had a ’65 Shelby, a ’66 Shelby and my dad had a ’66 289 coupe. I also had a ’67 GT fastback that looked like Steve McQueen’s car from [the movie] ‘Bullitt’, except that mine had a 390 in it, and I put dual quads on it. I then went on to a ’69 Boss 302.” Saleen admits to being a “Ford guy” through and through; turning Camaros, Hondas or something elses into limited-production, high-performance specials was never in the cards.

Saleen was also an avid racer, and displayed considerable talent. He began racing a Porsche originally owned by his father, then progressed to SCCA Formula Atlantic competition. In 1980, Steve finished a creditable third in that series championship; the competition must have been formidable, as Jacques Villenueve the elder won the title that year. Saleen then began competing in SCCA Trans Am in 1982, the year Ford came out with the revised Mustang 5.0-liter HO GT. Saleen formed his own company, originally called Saleen Autosport, in 1984, with the idea of building special Mustangs.

As noted, Steve owned several Shelby Mustangs, and it was not lost upon the USC business grad that something resembling the Shelby phenomenon could happen again, this time with the late model 5.0-liter Mustang. “As I progressed through my racing career, I saw an opportunity with Ford and the Mustang, to do something similar to what, during my teenage years, I fell in love with.” He set up shop in Long Beach, California, and the first three Saleen Mustangs were built off of 175 horsepower, 1984 models.

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1995 S351 in BASF Mystic

From the beginning, Saleen’s goal was to improve the car from all aspects; a show only looker would never do, and a fast car with no improvements to the handling would also be an imbalance. Saleen and buddy Paul Pfanner conceived and designed a comprehensive upgrade package, including rocker panels, a rear spoiler (“Porsches have wings, Saleens have spoilers” according to Steve) and a square-shouldered front air dam. He dubbed his suspension improvement system “Racecraft,” the name still used today for all Saleen suspension componentry. The package included Bilstein gas shocks and struts, special springs, urethane sway bar bushings and an additional chassis crossmember for added rigidity. Hayashi racing wheels mounted Goodyear Eagle GT tires.

Having been a marketing major, Saleen knew the value of brand identity, so there was a plethora of Saleen identification on the car: Specially screened gauges, badges on the dash, a Saleen Mustang decal at the top of the windshield, even Saleen ID on the chromed air cleaner cover. And again taking a note from the Shelby legend, Steve knew it was important that the cars be numbered in such a way as to commemorate their place in what he hoped would be a long production history. Curiously, the first three cars were numbered 32, 51 and 52. Smart move: Many a producer was sunk by the media for showing prototype #001….

Saleen then hit the marketing trail, both with Ford and with the media. In short, the magazines loved the Saleen machine, as people were still recovering from the pre1982 performance doldrums, and Steve’s car easily out handled the TRX-equipped factory Mustangs. It was too early in the development stage for any horsepower addons yet, but those would come in time.

A crucial turning point in the future of Saleen Autosport would be gaining factory recognition from Ford; the ability to buy new Mustangs factory-direct, and to sell his cars through Ford dealers. This would separate Saleen Mustangs from other “tuner cars.” For 1985, Saleen secured both.

The ’85 Saleens had more content than those first cars, and real larger-scale conversion began with these models. There were more interior upgrades, a 170 mph speedo, leather trim for the steering wheel and shifter, but more importantly, further development in the suspension area. The latest 225/60 Gatorback tires were used, along with even more exterior trim to differentiate a Saleen from a regular Mustang. Again there were no modifications to the engine, though recall that 1985 was the year that horsepower went from 175 to 210 anyway, so that increase was deemed enough … for now. Production increased from three to 128 cars, and Saleen appeared to be on his way.

The year 1986 brought a further-developed car, and a return to the race track. Saleen switched to Koni shocks, 16-inch wheels and began installing a strut tower brace. Steve has always, and remains to this day, heavily involved in the design and specifications for the cars, and the Saleen Autosport urethane body panel packages were constantly being updated for a smoother look and higher quality. The ’86s also had special racing-style front seats, upgraded stereos, a Hurst shifter .. Saleen knew that the more content he could engineer into the car, the better. The dealers received special training, and had specific ordering procedures on how to best tailor the car to meet the desires of the owners.

As noted, Saleen always kept one eye on his growing car business, and another trained on the race track. Steve felt the cars were ideally suited to SCCA’s Showroom Stock Endurance class, and entered a team of Saleen Mustangs in the series. Their first win came on a rainy day in the 24hour enduro at Mosport. It would be the first of many.

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1993 RRR built for actor Tim Allen

Ford redesigned the Mustang for 1987, and so the Saleen was updated as well. The exterior aerodynamics package was completely redesigned, with considerable attention being paid to the rear wing and lower rear valance area. The brake system really got some attention, in the form of 5lug SVO hubs, front and rear ventilated rotors, a heavy duty master cylinder and braided brake lines. It was expensive and labor-intensive, but worth it, given the base car’s marginal brake package. The interior upgrades were redesigned around Ford’s revised cabin, and with horsepower up to an all time high of 225, the Saleen Mustang represented a performance bargain at $19,900. Sales again increased, to 278 Saleen Mustangs, including the five SCCA race cars.

Win On Sunday…
Saleen re-entered the SCCA Showroom Stock Endurance series for ’87, and came out with guns blazing. An all-female win, with Desire Wilson and Lisa Cacares sharing the driver’s seat notched the team’s first victory of the season at Sears Point. Wins followed at Portland and again at Mosport, with a stunning 1,2,3,4 and 6th place performance for the three-car and two-truck team at Atlanta, running in two different classes. Saleen had begun to attract the attention and participation of a few of the more seasoned, but certainly most capable drivers; former Trans-Am.champs George Follmer and Pamelli Jones, to name just two. The team’s effort was rewarded with the 1987 SCCA SS Endurance series championships for Team, Manufacturer, Drivers and Tires.

Sales continued to increase, more dealers were added to the Saleen network, and all the while it’s important to remember that the cars could be financed through Ford, and remained fully warrantied by both Ford and Saleen; again not something that could be said about many aftermarket specials. Though the race team could not back up 1987’s championship-winning performance, 1988 was the year for a particularly sweet victory, a 1-2-3 finish at Mosport. This Canadian venue was the site of the team’s first win in 1986, and the ’88 win was their third consecutive victory at the track.

One of those “Best of times, worst of times” years for Saleen was 1989. Though the Saleen Mustangs had been universally praised for their handling performance, improved interiors and aggressive styling, people were crying for more horsepower. As the content level grew, the cost of a Saleen Mustang had escalated further and further above that of the LX and GT models, and the buyership was asking for more horsepower as part of the bargain. They got it, and a bit more, in the form of the 1989 Saleen SSC.

Nobody wanted more performance in his cars than Saleen and his people. But it wasn’t that easy; by this time there was lots of go-fast hardware already on the market for the fuel-injected 5.0, but not a lot of it was EPA legal. In order to deliver the type of product he wanted, and to be able to sell it as a new car through Ford dealers, the cars had to be smog legal and not void Ford’s warranty parameters at the same time. This made the job a little tougher than just sliding in a cam, bolting on some headers, and delivering them to dealer’s lots. Besides, emissions- certifying an engine is not an inexpensive proposition.

Saleen used car 87-01 (meaning car #01 of the 1987 model year; all Saleens are so numbered) as the development platform for the faster Saleen that would become the SSC. In typical hot-rodder fashion, the improvements were found by increasing the engine’s breathing capability. The final package ended up with an enlarged throttle body, an AirSensors TPI unit, polished and ported heads, revised rocker arm ratios and stainless-steel headers replacing the factory units. They were backed up by Walker Dynomax mufflers. For even more grunt, a 3.55 rear-end ratio was swapped in.

The SSC also got a revised graphics package, new 5-spoke 16-inch wheels and even more chassis stiffening via a roll bar and rear chassis support, in addition to all the normal Saleen suspension and braking upgrades. Saleen bolted in the best hardware he could muster, everything from Monroe driver adjustable shocks to special Saleen/Flowfit leather seats and a Kenwood CD player; remember, CD players in cars were still a bit of a novelty at the time. It all added up to an estimated 292-horsepower stormer that would easily top 150 mph. In all, 160 were built, and each of the white SSC fastbacks were sold in a heartbeat for their $36,500 asking price. One can only wonder why Ford didn’t jump on the package, and create a real 25th Anniversary Mustang once it became clear that the Roush twin-turbo car would never see the production light of day. Sales for ’89 were again the best in the company’s history.

Saleen’s racing efforts went big time for 1989, but it was an unfortunately short trip, and a rough one at that. Steve, like any American born and bred driver, wanted to race in the Indianapolis 500. Fortunately, his visibility, sponsor support and a certain level of success in the car business allowed him to assemble an IndyCar team. Though it was a competent enough effort, it was still decidedly shoestring when compared to the manpower and budgets displayed by powerhouses such as Newman-Haas and Penske. Steve’s month of May was riddled by crashes and blown engines; the team did not qualify for the race, and Saleen had little more than-a flattened checkbook to show for the effort.

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Saleen production facility – Irvine, CA

Power Up, Sales Down
One of the keen advantages of being a small-volume producer such as Saleen is the ability to quickly redevelop the products, and to introduce special models as desired. This focus describes the procession of the model lineup from 1990 through the end of the Fox cars in 1993. For 1990, Saleen continued to offer Mustangs powered by the standard 5.0 liter, an uprated version first developed for the SSC. Now called the SC, the hot version quickly became popular as people got the power to match the handling, equipment levels and looks they were buying with the rest of the Saleen package. Throughout these model years, there were continuous upgrades and changes to the aero package, wheels and tires, interior trim and the like. For example, the ’91 cars got a 70 min mass air flow sensor to replace the 65 nun unit; a 77 mm unit came just a year later. The first “Spyder” package came in ’92, with a special hard tonneau covering up the convertible top and rear seats, giving the look of a two-seat roadster. The same year, a Vortech supercharged engine became optional, and soon 17-inch wheels began showing up. Saleen, his longtime production chief Jimmy Moore, his wife Liz and the entire crew were constantly busy developing new products for both the cars and the thriving aftermarket parts business that grew out of it.

The year 1993 capped Saleen’s 10th anniversary in the business, and they built ten special black-and-gold 10th Anniversary edition cars to commemorate he occasion. The cars kept getting better, further distancing themselves from the mainstream Mustangs. The only problem was, business, both in terms of sales and in terms of structure, got worse.

“From the tail end of 1989 to 1993, 1 would call those our ‘dark years’,” comments a thoughtful Steve Saleen. “That was not a very happy time in our endeavor, and 1992 was probably our darkest year in that we only produced 17 cars … however I think the key figure is that we actually produced 17 cars! What happened was that about half-way through 1989 (about the same time as the Indy qualifying effort), the economy went into a significant recession. The automobile industry was not excluded from that, and was also hard hit … a lot of (large and small) companies went out of business.”

“The company was fairly leveraged at that time in terms of capitalization, and as our [sales] volume shrunk, it was difficult to keep our doors open. What I did in trying to preserve the company was to take two alternatives. One was to take our parts division … and I sold it lock, stock and barrel to a couple friends. I took the car company portion … and settled on one particular group of investors that came in and said, basically, if I will sign over the assets and the company to them, they will then put in money, take the company public and they would be able to pay off the debts, and [we can] move on with our lives. I went ahead, took that option … and after I got into it a lot deeper, I found out that the individuals I got hooked up with misrepresented [their capability] and really had no intentions of doing what they indicated and said that they would. I found myself between a rock and a hard spot.”

Now Horizons
It took years for Saleen to work out the financial recapture of his company and in fact his own name as it applies to Mustangs. He did prevail, but the company was in shambles. Steve freely admits that some employees lost their jobs, and many vendors had to wait for their money, but he worked diligently to support the customer base they had tried so hard to develop. In 1993, he formed a new company, Saleen Performance, built a new shop in Irvine California and started almost from scratch. A humbling experience, to be sure.

The new SN-95 Mustang could not have come along at a better time, and in 1994 things began a swift turnaround for Saleen. “I started calling on dealers to rebuild our network, took a partner named Tony Johnson who could bring some financial backing and astute business knowledge … and concentrated on building cars again.”

Saleen designed an all-new car based on the new-for-’94 Mustang, and it centered around what Mustangers had wanted for ages: A 351 Windsor V8. The Saleen S-351 capitalized upon all that was good about SN-95 Mustang, and then delivered what Ford didn’t. A new aero package cured the Mustang’s somewhat clumsy “bladed” rocker panel treatment, and the front and rear facsias were the most aggressive yet. The new car’s generous fenderwell room meant optional 18-inch Saleen Speedline genuine magnesium wheels with the latest 35 series Z-rated rubber.

But the heart of the S-351 matter lay beneath the composite hood in the form of a 351 cubic-inch Windsor “crate motor” that Saleen converted to roller tappet form. Aluminum Edelbrock heads were fitted along with a heavily reworked SVO GT40 upper and lower intake. Developing this engine meant a lot of R & D work, and considerable certification cost: the cam was custom ground, the ignition specially recurved, and it had ceramic-coated headers and a new Borla exhaust system. The specs go way beyond the scope of this article, but the numbers don’t: The Saleen-breathed upon 5.8 was rated at 370 horsepower at 5 100 rpm, and 422 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3500. Zero-to-60 times were in the low to upper fives depending upon who was doing the testing, and though those times suggest that the horsepower figure may have been a little bit optimistic it’s clear that the S-351 was something completely different than your everyday 5.0. Perhaps more impressive was the handling performance: Road & Track tested an early S-351, and the combination generated .97g on the skid pad; as good or better than many a Porsche or Ferrari.

Another interesting event may have helped spark the turnaround for Saleen. Someone mentioned to Steve Saleen that actor/comedian Tim Allen was quite a car buff, and happened to be performing at a Hermosa Beach, California night club. Saleen caught the act, and later had the chance to show his cars to Allen. Allen drove the cars, and was immediately hooked. He asked Saleen to build him a special Mustang, and that was the birth of a pearl-white ’93 fastback dubbed “R-R-R” after the grunting noises Allen makes as his TV character, Tim “the tool man” Taylor on his show, Home Improvement.

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Steve Saleen

That particular car was a one-off, Vortech- supercharged 302-powered Saleen perhaps better suited to the track than the street. It also had a hand-fabricated front end section using slimmer Ford Thunderbird headlights, several custom carbon fiber panels such as the hood and front fenders, and aerodynamic wheel discs somewhat reminiscent of those used by IndyCars at the time. There are custom touches everywhere: Racing pedals, an extremely high tech sound system, a rollcage … the budget and the imagination were just about unlimited in the creation of what may be the ultimate Fox-bodied Saleen Mustang. Said to be good for 575 horsepower twisting through the Tremec 5-speed transmission, the car has been clocked to a tractionlimited 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds.

It was during a R-R-R test session at Willow Springs Raceway that Steve Saleen began to notice Allen’s natural driving talent. “I would tell him to put the car ‘over here’ on the next lap [referring to an apex or cornering point] and he would hit it perfectly,” comments Saleen. “He listened, and learned quickly.” It wasn’t long before the two formed the Saleen/Allen Speedlab RRR race team, the goal being SCCAs World Challenge class. World Challenge cars somewhat resemble what a modern day Trans-Am car might look like if it were built from a production Mustang and had to retain certain stock body parts, chassis layout and suspension design elements. They typically compete against Porsches, Loti, Corvettes, Carnaros and other Mustangs.

Allen progressed quickly as a driver, and the team hit the trail for the 1995 season. Several guest drivers also participated depending upon need and schedule, including Price Cobb and Cobra-meister Bob Bondurant. There were victories that season, but the effort really paid off the following year, when the sophomore team won the SCCA World Challenge Manufacturer Championship. Saleen notes that Allen is a non-stop gallows humor machine around the pits or during team meetings, but that he’s “all business once he puts on that helmet.”

Hot on the heels, literally, of the S-351 came a supercharged version. The blown Saleen S-351 R is rated at around 500 horsepower, fully smog and OBD 11 legal, and warrantied by Saleen. The supercharger is a Vortech unit, and AER again participated in the development and does some of the assembly. The only problem was that all this horsepower costs money, so beginning in 1996 Saleen developed a more cost-effective car based on the new 4.6-liter Mustangs, the S-281. The 281 moniker of course refers to the engine’s corresponding cubic inch rating. The S-281 still features all the suspension, interior and exterior upgrades as the blown 351 cars, but at a much more affordable price: $29,500 for an S-281 coupe, as opposed to $53,900 for the S-351R. As the old saying goes “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?” Most S-281s are based on the 2-valve 4.6 cars, though some have been built using the 305 horsepower SVT Cobra as a base. What an unusual combination, having a car that is both a limited-production SVT Mustang with a hand-assembled engine and a numbered, limited-edition Saleen at the same time.

As noted, Saleen’s education was in marketing, and it shows. The company goes out of its way to court its dealers and its customers, and constantly reinforces the company’s position as a genuine manufacturer (they are recognized as such by the DOT). The Saleen showrooms are outstandingly presented with aftermarket parts, accessories and clothing; there is the Team Saleen club, a web site, a newsletter and club open houses at the factory. Steve Saleen makes many guest appearances … clearly an effort to stay in touch with his customers. In business school, they call it “relationship marketing,” and Saleen does it well.

SCI has already covered Saleen’s first ever effort at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he admits to being so far the ultimate experience of his racing career. Though the effort didn’t produce class-winning results, it offered valuable lessons, and solid plans to return this year for another crack at the Sarthe.

What’s next? You need only look at the unusually-colored Saleen SR prototype pictured herein. With both a widened body and an independent rear suspension developed in concert with the racing effort, this may be the “Ultimate Saleen”…at least so far (we can’t wait to run one against a Viper GTS). And 1998 brings a new venture: The Saleen Explorer. Steve and company have designed a performance and appearance enhancement package for the wildly popular Ford Explorer, replete with supercharged V8, magnesium wheels, Recaro seats and a dropped suspension for better handling.

Is Saleen the Shelby of the 1980s, 1990s and beyond? It’s hard to say, because that was then, and this is now. But some of the ingredients are certainly in place: tatted up Mustangs, a home-grown race team, marketing savvy and a bit of controversy now and again. Saleen, the man and company, have had their ups and downs. But they continue to build cars that stretch beyond the mainstream. And the Mustang loyals are loving it.

SALEEN / SATURN WIN WORLD CHALLENGE CUPS

By: LARRY ROBERTS on November 07, 1997
Original Article: www.theautochannel.com

Almost every major auto racing event has one or two of what’s called for lack of a better name, “warm-up” races. They are events that fill in time before the major race of the day, and are designed to maintain spectator interest before the main event.

In the case of the Sports Car Club of America Trans Am races, the “warm-up” is the SCCA World Challenge race for Touring 1 and Touring 2 cars and might well be called “Trans Am Jr.” While the Trans Am cars are specially-constructed racers that pretty much look like domestic pony cars and carry V8 carbureted engines, the World Challenge is open to both foreign and domestic machinery. These races are also different from the Trans Am events in that there are actually two races in one.

Touring 1 (the fastest cars in the race) are large displacement, specially-built cars that have to remain fairly “stock.” As of today, the dominant car in this class is the Saleen Ford Mustang 351 SR. It won the manufacturer’s cup, though it was aided by sheer numbers. There were half a dozen of them running and points earned by any Ford car count towards that maker’s championship. By contrast, Acura is represented in Touring 1 by a pair of NSX coupes and it took second by virtue of four wins, three second place finishes and one fourth by Honda ace Peter Cunningham. It also celebrated a third place finish about mid-season by the very versatile Boris Said.

Other sportsters allowed to compete in SCCA World Challenge Touring 1 events are the Corvette, Camaro, Firebird, BMW M3, Mazda RX-7 Turbo, Porsche RSR and several others. All the cars have to be production- based, and while they are allowed a liberal amount of modification to make them go fast and handle well, the rules aren’t totally open. As an example, they are required to run on street-legal Department of Transportation (DOT) tires rather than special racing slicks.

Touring 2 World Challenge cars run in the same events as the Touring 1 racers but they’re less modified and carry lots less horsepower. Cars that qualify for the Touring 2 category are the Acura Integra, Honda Prelude, Olds Achieva, a couple of BMW models and the Saturn SC coupe. As if to prove how egalitarian Touring 2 racing is, Paul Boorher took second place in the Touring 2 driver’s championship piloting a Saturn SC, which helped that company capture the maker’s championship by having its drivers win points in all 11 races.

Over the years, the SCCA World Challenge championship has underwent many changes since its inception 25 years ago. The beginning can be traced back to a concept that the Sports Car Club of America developed in 1972 to provide a class for its members to race cars right off the showroom floor. It was labeled “Showroom Stock,” and was an instant success. But by the mid-’80s, the original idea of amateur drivers racing unprepared cars grew out of favor and the class developed into another program wherein the auto makers could showcase their products to non-participating spectators.

And now that the ailing SCCA Trans Am series has had a monetary steroid injection from the new-found major sponsorship of the National Tire & Battery stores (a Sears, Roebuck freestanding retail format), and BF Goodrich, the tag-along World Challenge races will no doubt profit as well. Brian Richards, a good friend who is a podium finisher in the Touring 1 class in his Mostly-Mazda Mazda RX-7 Turbo is elated. He could hardly keep the excitement out of his voice when he exclaimed that next year would be “…. very, very interesting..” for the SCCA World Challenge “warm-up.”