Tag Archives: Saleen

LATE RACING NEWS

By: N.A. on March 6, 2000
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 50, ISSUE 11

MICHELIN ON TRACK
Michelin will start testing its Formula One tires on a Williams-BMW next month. The French tiremaker will re-enter Formula One in 2001 (AW, Dec. 27, 1999) and has already signed Williams and, when it enters, Toyota. A Williams test team will do the tire development this year at several F1 tracks.

BRUNETTI REPLACES HORNE
Tony Brunetti has been named Forsythe Championship Racing vice president and general manager, more or less replacing Steve Horne, who resigned (AW, Feb. 28). Brunetti joined Forsythe in 1993. And where’s Horne going? Hottest rumor has him about to land a full-time job at CART, overseeing all racing activities.

NEW FERRARI GT RACER
The Turin race car and prototype specialist Italtechnica is building a limited run of Ferrari 550 Maranellos called the Millenio, for the Le Mans 24 Hour and the FIA GT Champion-ship. It is a purely privateer venture with no backing, either financial or technical, from Ferrari. The project is backed by a group of wealthy investors under the title GT Racing Development. They include Swiss sports car racer Jean-Denis Deletraz, whose FIRST Racing team will enter up to three Millenios in the FIA series.

SALEEN LINKS WITH BTCC TEAM
Ford tuner Steve Saleen has linked up with last year’s British Touring Car Championship team Ray Mallock Limited to develop its next-generation Mustang GTS. The deal means that the British team will be involved in both the road and the race car. The British-built Saleen RS should make its race debut toward the end of the American Le Mans Series schedule. Saleen’s U.S. team, Saleen-Allen, will run the Grand-Am series, starting with round two at Phoenix in April. Ray Mallock Limited is still in the running to become Opel’s fourth team in Germany’s DTM 2000 series.

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.

MW: 4th ANNUAL SALEEN SHOW AND OPEN HOUSE

Editor Note… From our friends at MustangWorld.com.

TEXT: MUSTANGWORLD
PHOTOS: GLENN MOLLER

Buckle your seat belts! There were some amazing stangs at the ’99 Saleen show. We got some pics from different sections of the show including a supercharged 2000 Saleen Mustang! Let’s cut to the chase and check out the pics:-)

The show took place at Saleen Headquarters in Irvine CA.

[Source: MustangWorld.com]

LEADER OF THE PACK

By: DAVID CZURAK on May 10, 1999
Original Article: GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL, VOL. 17, ISSUE 19

Keller Picks Up Speed With Vehicle Line, Pace Car

It was a match made in Gasoline Alley. Well, not really, but close enough. Keller Ford and Saleen Performance Cars inked their deal after bumping into each other in the grease- and oil-stained paddock area of the West Michigan Grand Prix after last summer’s inaugural race. Now Keller Ford is an exclusive seller of two of Saleen’s high-performance Fords, with another beefed-up model on the way.

Saleen Performance Cars, based in Irvine, Calif., has carved out a niche for itself in the specialty manufacturing field by taking showroom vehicles and turning them into road runners, sporty cars with more style, power and range than the production models. Sports Car Club of America driver Steve Saleen started the business in 1984. Today Saleen has five divisions, including design and engineering, and a national network of dealers. In between, the firm has converted over 6,000 vehicles.

Keller Ford, on Alpine Avenue NW, became one of those dealers last fall. The Walker dealership has two thumpers for sale; the Saleen XP8 Explorer and the Saleen S281 Mustang. The Mustang, a sleek and shiny black machine with hot-pink piping that was co-designed by Saleen and Keller Ford, is the official pace car for the second running of this summer’s Grand Prix. A pumped-up Saleen F-Series pickup truck will arrive at Keller later.

Going back to July, Keller Ford provided all the cars and trucks for last summer’s Grand Prix. Saleen was there, too. His firm is a partner with TV star Tim Allen, who raced a Saleen Mustang here last summer. After the racing was done, the two companies met.

“Steve was very impressed with the job that we did. He approached us after the race and wanted to know if we wanted to be one of the exclusive Saleen dealers in West Michigan and we accepted,” said Rob Keller, owner of Keller Ford. “They’re considered a very specialty vehicle manufacturer that converts models into more of a high-performance vehicle.”

The Saleen 281 Mustang comes with a standard 4.6 liter-engine – capable of producing up to 285 horsepower – racing suspension and 18-inch wheels. Add a Saleen “Roots” Supercharger and the horsepower jumps to 350, and 19-inch wheels also are available. The “standard” model starts at $28,590.

If that’s not enough Mustang, there is the Saleen S351 that does 0-to-60 in 4.6 seconds and reaches 122 miles-per-hour in a quarter-mile run. The S351 can crank out 495 horsepower and comes as a coupe, convertible or speedster. Prices start at $50,445.

“With Saleen’s experience racing in the world’s premier motorsports events, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we have truly created the fastest vehicle on the ground,” Saleen said. The Mustang was bred at the Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab, a partnership between the racer and “Home Improvement” star.

Saleen also offers an Explorer XP8 at Keller’s, a bulkier version of the popular Ford sports utility vehicle. The XP8 has a standard 5.0 liter V-8 with 222 horses that can be souped up to 286 horsepower. It has a special carbon fiber hood and racing brakes with 13-inch discs. The XP8 sells for about $37,000.

Once again, Keller Ford is providing the track trucks and pace car, 14 vehicles in all, for the race, which runs from Aug. 27-29.

“All of the vehicles are for sale,” said Keller. “Some, like the pace car and a few of the other Saleens, have commitments made on them. But there are others available.”

Besides Keller Ford, Grand Prix sponsors include the Gainey Corp., Meijer Inc., Pepsi, CenturyTel, Speedway gas stations, Johnson Controls, Country Fresh, MichCon, Budweiser, Purple East, Michigan National Bank and BF Goodrich.

The early corporate response to Grand Prix II has pleased race officials, especially West Michigan Grand Prix Association President Sam Cummings. “We believe that through our awesome partners and sponsorship sales, we will see a strong interest in early ticket sales,” said Cummings. Race tickets are on sale now.

The Business Journal honored last summer’s three-day event by presenting Cummings and WMGPA Chairman Dan DeVos with its annual Newsmaker-of-the-Year Award in March.

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

INTRODUCING: SALEEN POWERFLASH

The quickest, most effective performance improvement for Mustangs is now available from Saleen. PowerFlash, the first and only automotive performance computer, provides immediate improvements in horsepower and torque for your Mustang. The PowerFlash does what no “chip” can do because it’s not a chip. PowerFlash is a completely new program for your Mustang, which is loaded directly into your vehicle’s PCM computer. It doesn’t try to modify the stock code within the PCM computer; it replaces it with new performance programming.

Your car’s PCM computer contains the logic to control the powertrain. Within this code, there exists over 4,000 variables. By utilizing the Ford Research Console, which is the implementation tool of the Vehicle Data Acquisitions System, Saleen calibrates the code for maximum performance at every aspect of engine operation. PowerFlash is custom calibrated to each vehicle application, and also eliminates the speed limiter. This new performance calibration delivers an additional 8 horsepower and 10 lbs.-feet of additional torque across the full power range. It additionally includes an option that modifies automatic transmission shift points for stronger upshifts and an option that will correct the speedometer for either a 3:55 or 3:73 gear ratio.

The base retail price of the Saleen PowerFlash is $199.99, plus shipping and handling. The automatic transmission shift point option and speedo correction for different axle ratios option are $50.00 each. The price includes special packaging and one-day turnaround by professionally trained Saleen technicians.

Responsiveness by the millisecond. The new Saleen PowerFlash performance calibration gives the Mustang more performance, more driveability and more reliability, with none of the driveability issues of chips.

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.

news_1998_02_scim_s351
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.