“TBT… did some driving for a Saleen commercial around 1994… some footage also being used for ND Spark Plugs (to my recall.) This was taken just after coming through Turn 9 at Willow Springs at speed, and then slowing to draft the ShotMaker camera truck. Steve Saleen is in the yellow driving suit.
We later ‘mixed it up’ on the track with Steve in a yellow supercharged Saleen S351, while I drove a red Corvette. There were a lot of driving moves performed to add more excitement on camera, rather than taking the correct (and smooth) line all around the track.
1995 Ford Mustang Saleen Convertible
351 CI, 5-Speed
Engine: 351 CI Trans: 5-Speed Color: Red Interior: Black
– No. 9 of 43 Convertibles
– Saleen letter of authenticity
– 1 of 1 as optioned per Saleen records
– 1 of 3 Rio Red convertibles
– Saleen supercharger
– Tire upgrade
– 3.27 differential gears
– 13 inch brakes
– Speedster package
– Stored in heated garage
– R code
Vehicle Title: Clear
Body Type: Convertible
Number of Cylinders: 8
Engine: 5.8L V8 Super Charged 351
Fuel Type: Gasoline
Transmission: Manual 6 Speed
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Black
For Sale By: Vehicles Nashville
eBay #: 201359488334
This is an EXTREMELY RARE 1997 Ford Mustang Convertible SALEEN S351 5.8L V8! This is in immaculate condition with only 21,819 miles and has been garage kept by an older gentlemen. All Saleen badging is in place! Interior includes: very rare Recaro seats, power driver’s seat, power windows, power locks, Mach 460 sound system, and more! This has never been abused or used for racing and pushes over 550 horse power. Please visit our website at VehiclesNashville.com to view more pictures of this Saleen!
Well guys as some of you know I purchased ’99 S-351 #37 about a year ago. I bought the vehicle and was told all the car would need was a tune. After picking up the car from Dallas and bringing it back home to Houston I decided to do a compression test. Three cylinders had really low compression and every cylinder gave me a complete different reading. I decided to hold off on pulling the motor and doing a complete over haul on it at the time because I was in the process of doing the turbo swap on the Sloleen.
About a week ago I decided I would go ahead and remove the Trickflow Box R intake setup and order a Trickflow R intake to be able to clear the stock oem heat extractor hood. With the R intake I would be able ditch the huge cowl hood that came with the car when I purchased it and run an oem style hood. I went ahead and placed the order on the Trickflow R intake earlier this week and after getting it in the mail I decided I would go ahead and just pull the motor and have it gone through to see what was wrong with it.
I will be posting pictures and updates as I make them. Enjoy!
All 1994-99 S351Rs came with the base Vortech 351 Supercharger kit pieces which included the T-Rex Boost-A-Pump (External) located in front of the fuel tank (between tank and axle) and an inline 255 in the tank (Internal) hence the Dual Fuel Pumps designation from Saleen as on S351R MSRPs. They came with the Vortech Boost Retard Ignition box and the “Dial-A-Retard” knob. They also all had the FMU running off of Vacuum Boost. The set up was standard fare in the day but complete junk now.
When we just finished re-working and retuning the Mystic S351R, which has a 408 Eagle Forged Stroker Kit in it now, we got rid of a lot of this crap and boy am I glad we did.
In the end, we went with: * Aeromotive 304 lph In-Tank Fuel Pump (#A-11140) * Anderson Big Pump In-Line Fuel Kit (#KITAF-6294)
Replaced all the Fuel Lines front to back with Aero-Quip properly sized units.
* High-Flow Saleen/Vortech (Just Use Vortech) Fuel Rails * Siemens/Deka High Impedance 60 lb Fuel Injectors (#MTN-SD60) * Aeromotive Fuel Pressure Regulator (External not rail mounted since Vortech Rails do not have Regulator mount)
* MSD 6AL CD Ignition (#MSD-6420) * MSD Universal Ignition Wiring Harness (#MSD-8874) * MSD Blaster TFI Coil (#MSD-8227) * MSD Pro Billet Ready to Run EFI Distributor (#MSD-8451) * MSD Extra Duty Distributor Cap (Black) (#MSD-84083) * Taylor 10.4mm 409 Pro Race Spiro-Wound Spark Plug Wires (Red) (#TAY-79267)
* Anderson Power Pipe Vortech Induction Kit (1995 – 5.8L) (#AF-0102C) * Anderson Air-Filter and Mass Air
We have a ton more stuff on the car from Snow Boost Methanol Injection, smaller Boost Pulleys, etc., etc. various other fine tuning things.
You have to understand that in the mid-90s, what Saleen put out was all there was. You could not put larger injectors on without drivers, etc. We put the Moates chip in because it gets rid of the stupid FMU and Retard box set-ups. In the end, if all your internals are strong and in great working order, concentrate on the weak-points of the S351R, which are ignition, fuel and tuning. Well heat can be a problem too, but sounds like you have that liked already. We put in a Busch Grand National Spec Griffin Dual Pass Aluminum Radiator in the Mystic S351R (ala 1999 S351R spec) Cured the heat problem right there.
Basically the problems on the early cars were they did not have forged internals and running as lean as they were, “Kaploowy”. 99s had Forged Internals which in addition to the new edge body style is why people want them. However they too had problems with ignition, fuel and tuning to get the most out. All Saleen S351Rs did.
The good thing is when you get the balance right, the right parts installed and get them tuned for your altitude and location, they are downright awesome. Nothing else like it out there. However without the right guy to work on them and dyno tune them properly, it is very hard to get them running optimally so do not be hard on yourself.
On our re-work we had to send some parts back to the manufacturers because they were not in spec to work properly. The perfect balance makes all the difference.
This winter I am doing a major detailed write up on everything we did to the Mystic S351R with part numbers, etc. to get 579 RW HP and 648 RW ftlbs out of it at 91 degF and over 6,000 ft altitude with zero detonation or issues. It can be done but the big thing is do NOT cheap out on the parts you out on it to make this work and you have to go with the right tuner with patience to dyno tune it properly.
Model year 1999 marked the final chapter for Saleen Performance’s S351 Mustang. After six years on the market, a combination of changing government emissions/fuel vapor regulations in addition to a lack of inventory and technical support with pushrod engines from Ford Motor Company, led to the elimination of Saleen’s halo product offering.
Launched in 1994 as the new standard serialized Saleen Mustang package for retail sale, the S351 offered Saleen’s highest content of unique equipment and most labor intense remanufacture when compared to all their previous vehicle lines from 1984-93. Even in base, no option form, an early 1994-96 S351 conversion featured the customary 351 CID engine swap, adaptation of a heavy-duty Tremec transmission, modified mounting of each and a shortened driveshaft. Buyers received a familiar Racecraft Suspension package, featuring a larger front sway bar, G-Load brace, firmer bushings, lowering springs and revalved shocks/struts. While inside the passenger compartment new Saleen/Recaro front seating, a matching rear seat cover, “Saleen” logo floor mats, a leather Momo shift knob and a Saleen white face gauge package left no doubt this was a special Mustang.
After Saleen Performance released their S281 Mustang, this caused a “rethink” as to what the S351 model line should offer in content, value and performance. With the newly established S281 leading Saleen’s value market; there was no need for the S351 to continue in base form. Steady development launched the S351 into supercar territory for their 1997 model year. For ’97 the Vortech supercharger became standard equipment as did a 6-speed manual Tremec transmission. Standard heat extractor, Saleen/Alcon front brake upgrade and Speedline magnesium wheels continued unchanged from the 1996 product offering.
Prior to new model unveil and manufacture for a newly restyled 1999 Saleen Mustang line, Saleen Performance announced that ‘99 would mark their final year of assembly and sales for the S351. Production was set to carry throughout the 12 month calendar, when necessary Saleen used model year 2000 Ford Mustangs to finish orders late into ‘99. This final production year for the S351 would inadvertently be the lone version built on the “New Edge” design Mustang introduced for 1999 and carried through 2004.
Or feature car, 99-0012S, debuted during the Mustang 35th anniversary celebration event in Charlotte North Carolina. A festival organized by the Mustang Club of America for spring 1999, 99-0012S was part of the infield Saleen Performance display and added to the spectacle at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ordered by Marietta Ford and shipped on April 13th, #12S contained the following Saleen equipment: 3.55 gears, Torsen differential, tire upgrade, 10″ rear wheels, chrome wheels, Saleen leather, floor mats, carbon fiber interior trim, Speedster tonneau and custom paint. Coincidentally Marietta Ford would order a near twin of 99-0012S for the 2000 model year using an S281 Supercharged model as the foundation. (Read about 00-0387)
For the 1999 model year Saleen produced 420 street going Mustangs, 46 were S351 models, 26 were of the convertible body style, of those there were 21 built using a 1999 model year chassis, 3 featured optional Saleen paint while 99-0012S was the lone S351 painted Extreme Rainbow.
“Day two” additions are not uncommon for S351 Mustangs, there are a number of owner requested modifications present on #12S, both to increase the looks and performance. Our feature vehicle holds a distinction of attaining these mods by the hands of Joe Gosinski and Chicane Sport Tuning in Torrance, CA. Joe a noted former Saleen employee and mastermind of custom late-model Mustangs worked his magic to detail #12S beyond factory.
Final power number of 99-0012S are the following: On 91 octane pump gas 600+ HP and 600+ LBS torque at the wheels using a conservative tune.
Aftermarket modifications include:
• Global West Tri-ladder Sub Frame Connectors Maximum Motorsport Camber/Caster Plates Maximum Motorsport Pan hard Bar Maximum Motorsport Lower Control Arms W/ Adjustable spring perch Maximum Motorsport Front Coil Over’s W/ Adjustable Ride Height Maximum Motorsport Torque Arm
• 351 SVO Block (original block that came with car) Stroked to 408ci
• 225 AFR heads
• JE Custom Dish Pistons
• Manly Rods Race
• Bassani Shorty Header
• Trick Flow Intake (extrude honed upper and lower) S-Trim Vortech Supercharger (original Equipment) Anderson Power Pipe 90mm Mass Air Cog Drive Belt on Supercharger Custom Aluminum pullies Powdercoated Accessories, Brackets & Covers
• 2003 Cobra Fuel Tank W/ Twin Pumps Converted To Return Style Fuel Delivery Kenne Bell Boost A Pump 55lb Fuel Injectors
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
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.
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.
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.
By: PARNELLI JONES on September 23, 1996
Original Article: FORBES FYI, VOL. 158, ISSUE 7
The Saleen Mustang may be street legal, but it feels every inch a race car
I HAD BEEN AT INDIANAPOLIS FOR THE 500. It’s always a great week down on pit row, or sitting up there in the stands watching time trials. But if you’re an old racer like me, you start to get the itch to be out on the track yourself. People still ask me how it feels tearing down that straightaway and into Turn One at Indy, and I always tell them the most apt description I ever heard: it’s like driving down the street at 200 miles an hour and turning left into your driveway. Not for everybody,! suppose. But, for me, a great feeling.
The itch was still pretty bad when! got home to Los Angeles. And that’s when I got a call asking if I’d like to drive up to the Willow Springs race track out near Mojave and try out the new Saleen Mustang on a closed course. It’s a pretty safe track since there’s not much to hit in the desert except sagebrush if you go off the asphalt. Sounded like just the cure to me.
The Saleen Mustang is named after Steve Saleen, himself a former race driver who went on to become a team owner and builder. So he knows something about the serious driver. The car he builds is so tough and fast, even George Foreman has one.
So, what’s a Saleen? Well, basically Steve’s company orders a select number of stock Mustang GT 5.0s each year from the Dearborn plant where they’re made. Then a team of technicians takes each car apart, throwing a lot of the factory parts away and installing custom replacements. Changing one of these Ponies over from top to bottom takes about 120 hours. They’ll add a new camshaft, cylinder heads and intake manifold to the engine, for example. And by the time they’re done, it’s about 75% more powerful than the car that left the Ford factory. (Since they upped the power to about 150 hp, they had to add a new speedometer as well; the new one goes up to 200 mph.)
It was about 103 degrees the day I got out to Willow Springs, two hours north of L.A. I used to run the course years ago, and I also used to scramble trucks and dirt bikes up in the hills around the track, so I know the area pretty well. It’s real scrub country out that way, but I love it.
When I got behind the wheel of the Saleen, the car sure didn’t look or feel like your basic Five-Oh anymore. They’ve added Recaro racing seats–real buckets–that are comfortable and come up high along your butt so you really feel supported in the car. The gear shift has a closer ratio, and the gauge cluster on the dash has a white background that is easier to read than the usual black.
Now, whenever you test a new car it’s always a good idea to inch your way up to speed little by little. So I hit the track at about 100 mph, and then started concentrating on going fast.
Saleen has changed a lot more on this car than just the engine. (Each car is so altered from the machines that come out of the factory, in fact, that Saleen is legally registered as a manufacturer.) The chassis has been pretty well tuned up, and they’ve replaced the springs and struts. They’ve added a sway bar, side skirts, and a rear wing and front spoiler, so at 120 to 130 the ground effects combine to provide good stability on the track. None of the slipping and sliding you’d expect from a street vehicle.
The Willow Springs track has got one long high-speed corner just before you pass the pit area on the straightaway, and it’s in high-speed corners that a car’s true colors will come out (and this car comes in quite a few crazy colors). A lot of people don’t know that handling high-speed curves is the toughest job a race driver has. In fact, they think driving an oval course is just “going around in Circles.” But nothing could be more wrong. Tight, slow curves might look more dramatic because the driver is throwing the car all over the place, but in a high-speed curve you’ve got to hold the car out there on the edge. You make any mistakes and you won’t be easily forgiven. And that’s where the Saleen came through. The model I drove was a 35I, so it had a lot of torque to begin with, and the supercharger gave it even more top end. The harder! got on it, the better it handled.
Coming to the end of that high-speed turn at 110 mph, I down-shifted into third. The gear was a little hard to find–my one complaint about the car–but when I tapped the brakes I knew right away that they were better than anything that came with the Ford stock package. Much better. Saleen will install four-piston calipers with 13-inch disks. Plus, they’ve added big 18-inch wheels and ram-air intakes, which means you get much-needed cooling on each wheel.
All in all, Saleen has put a lot of thought into the car, and it’s really fun to drive. You look at the price range it falls into and, well, it may sound high, but considering what you get it’s not out of sight. There are two basic packages: the 281 engine that starts at about ,29,000, and the 351 engine, the one I drove, for about $43,000. Add-ons here and there can put the price up over *50,000, but to a lot of folks it’ll be worth it, and they’re the same folks who won’t mind putting premium fuel in every trip to the gas station.
You know, race cars are built strictly for that: racing. They’re too ugly to run on the street. The beauty of the Saleen is that it feels like a race car, but once you throttle back it becomes a street car again, smartly laid out and quiet inside. In fact, when I came off the track at Willow Springs, I cranked up the radio and the air conditioning and was ready to head home on the freeway.
But then I decided that I wasn’t quite ready.! had spent the afternoon going clockwise around the track, and since there was plenty of daylight left, I thought I’d spend a little time doing counterclockwise laps. Driving backwards; it’s just another one of those itches some old racers get from time to time.
For dealers: 800-SALEEN-4; or hook up on the ‘Net at www. saleen.com.
480 Horsepower, High-Performance Vehicle Is Latest Edition to Expanding Line of High-performance Mustangs
IRVINE, CA – Saleen Performance, a specialty vehicle manufacturer, has announced the introduction of the Saleen Speedster, one of the latest edition of its expanding line of limited production performance Mustangs. Capable of generating up to 480 HP, the Speedster is the most powerful U.S.-produced automobile.
Speedster standard features include a 351 cubic-inch, 371 HP, Saleen engine with aluminum cylinder heads, Saleen intake manifold, Saleen headers, and a Saleen/Boria stainless steel exhaust system. A Tremec 5-speed transmission, and a custom-balanced drive-shaft upgrade the drive-line, and 18 inch magnesium wheels and tires, 4-piston competition style Saleen/Alcon disc brakes with 13 inch front rotors, a four core radiator, and dual electric fuel
pumps round out the performance enhancements. A Vortech supercharger boosts output to 480 HP, lowering zero to 60 times to 4.7 seconds, and 12.9 seconds in the quarter-mile.
“The Saleen Speedster is our answer to transforming a convertible into a sophisticated high-performance two-seater,” said Steve Saleen, president of Saleen Performance. “We wanted to incorporate certain racing aerodynamics of the Saleen Mustang such as the carbon fiber hood and the Speedster tonneau cover for the convertible model. In addition, we wanted it to be more of an exclusive body style for us.”
Extensive Saleen exterior aerodynamic refinements and a Saleen restyled interior, complete with Saleen sports seating, a white instrument gauge cluster with a 200 mph speedometer, Saleen leather wrapped steering wheel and leather gear shift knob are complemented by the convertible‘s hard cover Speedster tonneau, specially-designed carbon fiber hood and a light bar that attaches from side to side.
Suggested retail price for Saleen’s Speedster is $48,500, available through selected Team Saleen Ford dealerships across the country. For a list of Team Saleen Ford Dealers, contact Saleen Performance at 9 Whatney, Irvine, CA 92718, or call (800) SALEEN-4.
Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced nearly 3,500 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s line includes Saleen Mustangs and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter a complete line of performance and appearance products for 5.0 liter Mustangs.