Tag Archives: Saleen


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.

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.

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.


By: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on July 7, 1998
Original Article: AP ONLINE

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) Tim Allen will be behind the wheel this weekend at the first-ever West Michigan Grand Prix.

Allen, who plays Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on the popular sitcom “Home Improvement,” will drive a Saleen Ford Mustang Sunday in the World Challenge Championship series’ Touring 1 division race. He’s also expected to take a few practice laps on Friday.

“There couldn’t have been a better time to get the news that Tim Allen is coming,” said race spokesman Tim Wondergem.

While more than 33,000 people have purchased tickets for the weekend event, Allen’s appearance is expected to boost attendance by as much as 25 percent.

Allen’s driving has been in the news for two reasons. He has raced professionally for four years in the World Championship T1 series, and is part-owner of the Saleen-Allen RRR Speedlab racing team. He also pleaded guilty in 1997 to drunken driving and checked into a rehabilitation clinic as part of a court-ordered sentence.


LEXINGTON, Ohio — 13 June 1998 — Terry Borcheller, in the No. 56 Saleen/Allen Racing Saleen Mustang, checked out early in the 30-lap, 67.5-mile Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic World Challenge T1 race for 9.005-second margin of victory over the No. 65 Saleen/Allen Racing Saleen Mustang of teammate Ron Johnson, while Hugh Plumb scored his first series win in the T2 Class.

Borcheller, of Phoenix, Ariz., rocketed from his start on the pole and had a comfortable lead until a lap 12 full-course to clean up debris on the circuit. On the restart, Borcheller checked out for good in the 50 minute, 37.624 second race, leaving the rest of the field to battle for the remaining podium positions.

“It’s real nice having the horsepower to get around traffic,” said Brorcheller. “I love driving the Saleen Mustang. The power is much better, but I really have to take care of the brakes to keep the handling balanced. This was a good race for the Saleen/Allen team.”

Behind Borcheller, teammate Johnson was in a tight battle with David Schardt, in the No. 94 Toyota Motorsports/The Wheel Source Toyota Supra Turbo and Neil Hanneman, in the No. 31 Viper Speed Dodge Viper.

“At the start the Toyota really took off,” said Johnson. “He was pulling me down the straight — and straight-line speed is my strength. I was a little worried but as the race went on I was able to get a handle on the car and be competitive.”

Hanneman also chased Johnson the entire race, but was never able to mount a serious challenge for the runner-up spot, finishing third to capture the final podium position. Paul Brown in the No. 96 H.P. Motorsports Ford Mustang and Jeff Conkel in the No. 7 Kurlin/Applebee’s Porsche 911 followed Hanneman in fourth and fifth, respectively.

“We’re happy to be here on the podium,” said Hanneman. “This is the first race that we felt like most of the bugs were worked out of the car in our setup.”

In the T2 Class, rookie Hugh Plumb raced his No. 16 European Racing Technologies BMW 328is to a 0.411-second margin of victory over veteran Michael Galati .

“This is a dream of mine to race in the World Challenge,” said Plumb. “It’s definitely a bad feeling to drive with them (Galati and Pierre Kleinubing) in your mirrors, but to win is a great feeling, and it’s an honor to be racing with these guys.”

Galati, in the No. 44 RealTime Racing/Comptech Acura Integra R, started on the pole and led until Johannes Van Overbeek, in the No. 23 Last Minute Racing BMW 328is, made a lap-three pass, holding the top spot for six laps until Galati slipped back into the lead on lap 10. For the next nine laps Galati led the 24-car T2 field, but Plumb used his horsepower advantage to take a lead he would never relinquish on lap 20.

“Our car was good the entire race, we just did not have as much straight-line speed as the BMW,” said Galati. “When he passed me, we came into the Keyhole side by side under braking and it was real tight. He had the edge coming onto the straight.”

Earning the final T2 Class podium spot was Kleinbing, in the No. 43 RealTime Racing/Comptech Acura Integra R. Second-fastest qualifier Kleinubing lost several positions in the opening lap, and spent the rest of the race driving his way back onto the podium, ahead of the VanOverbeek in fourth and Jeff McMillin in fifth.

After three races, Johnson leads the T1 Class Drivers’ Championship standings with 84 points, followed by Peter Cunningham, 56, and Borcheller, 53. In the T2 Class, Kleinubing leads with 93 points, followed by Galati, 89, and Van Overbeek, 71.

LEXINGTON, Ohio — Results from Saturday’s 30-lap, 67.5-mile World Challenge race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, class, car, laps and reason out.

1. (1), Terry Borcheller, Pheonix, Ariz., T1, Saleen Mustang, 30.
2. (4), Ron Johnson, Wayzata, Minn., T1, Ford Mustang, 30.
3. (5), Neil Hannemann, Livonia, Mich., T1, Dodge Viper, 30.
4. (7), Paul Brown, Omaha, Neb., T1, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 30.
5. (20), Jeff Conkel, Lincoln, Neb., T1, Porsche 911, 30.
6. (8), Jerry Isaacson, Long Grove, Ill., T1, Porsche 911 RSR, 30.
7. (13), Walter M. Swick, Concord, Ohio, T1, BMW M3, 30.
8. (9), David Farmer, Albemarie, N.C., T1, Chevrolet Camaro, 30.
9. (12), Hugh Plumb, Chadds Ford, Pa., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
10. (10), Michael Galati, North Olmsted, Ohio, T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
11. (11), Pierre Kleinbing, Erexim, Brazil, T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
12. (23), Johannes Van Overbeek, Pleasanton, Calif., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
13. (14), Jeff McMillin, Erie, Pa., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
14. (15), Chuck Hemmingson, W. Des Moines, Iowa, T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 30.
15. (24), Will Turner, Newburyport, Mass., T2, BMW 328i, 30.
16. (17), Lance Stewart, Jupiter, Fla., T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
17. (18), Taz E. Harvey, Danville, Calif., T2, Honda Prelude, 29.
18. (28), Steve Lisa, Scottsdale, Ariz., T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 29.
19. (22), Charlie Downs, T2, Mazda RX-7, 29.
20. (26), David Rosenblum, Langhorne, Pa., T2, Saturn SC, 29.
21. (16), Alain Chebeir, Pelham, N.Y., T2, BMW 328is, 28.
22. (45), Mark Reed, London, UK, T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 28.
23. (31), Tom Baker, Wilmington, Del., T1, Eagle Talon, 28.
24. (30), Dick Reed, Hoopeston, Ill., T2, Pontiac Sunfire, 28.
25. (32), Walter Dethier, Warren, Conn., T1, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 28.
26. (35), Alex Krugman, Great Neck, N.Y., T2, Mazda RX-7, 28.
27. (39), Michael Sturm, Grafton, Wis., T2, Honda Prelude, 28.
28. (40), David Bruener, Port Edwards, Wis., T2, Honda Prelude, 28.
29. (27), Brad Creger, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, T2, Acura Integra R, 28.
30. (37), Fred Meyer, Dallas, Texas, T2, Acura Integra R, 28.
31. (36), Grant Lockwood, Cumming, Ga., T2, BMW3, 27.
32. (38), Brian Wade, Newfields, N.H., T2, BMW 328, 26, Mech.
33. (43), Denny Baglier, Butler, Pa., T2, Mazda MX6, 26.
34. (6), Grant Carter, Severn, Md., T1, Chevrolet Camaro, 23, Mech.
35. (21), Pat Nowak, Ann Arbor, Mich., T1, Mustang Cobra, 18, Mech.
36. (25), Jeff Demetri, Omaha, Neb., T1, Ford Mustang, 18.
37. (3), David Schardt, Dayton, Ohio, T1, Toyota Supra Turbo, 14, Mech.
38. (2), Peter Cunningham, West Bend, Wis., T1, Acura NSX, 3, Mech.
39. (19), Walter Puckett, Shelby, N.C., T2, Saturn SC, 3, Mech.
40. (34), A.J. Frank, Bluffton, S.C., T2, Honda Acord, 0, Mech.
41. (33), Chris Reinke, Wilmington, Ohio, T2, Ford Contour, 0, Mech.
42. (41), Alfred DuPont, Kennett Square, Pa., T1, BMW M3, 0, DNS.
43. (46), Reese Cox, Marietta, Ga., T1, Chevrolet Corvette, 0, DNS.
44. (44), Scotty B. White, Puvallup, Wash., T1, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R1, 0, DNS.
45. (42), Chris Wiehle, DeKalb, Ill., T1, Chevrolet Corvette, 0, DNS.
46. (29), Pierre Bareil, Cap Madeleine, Canada, T1, Ford Mustang LX, 0, DNS.

T1 Class time of race: 50 minutes, 57.264 seconds.
T1 Class average speed: 79.482 miles-per-hour
T1 Class Margin of victory: 9.01 seconds
T1 Class fastest race lap: Terry Borcheller, 1:35.019 (85.246 mph)
T1 Class lap leaders: laps 1-30, No. 56 Borcheller

T2 Class time of race: 52 minutes, 13.501 seconds.
T2 Class average speed: 77.549 miles-per-hour
T2 Class margin of victory: .485-second
T2 Class fastest race lap: Pierre Kleinbing, 1:39.260 (81.603 mph)
T2 Class lap leaders: laps 1-2, No. 44 Galati; laps 3-9, No. 23 Van
Overbeek; laps 10-19, No. 44 Galati; laps 20-30, No. 16 Plumb.

World Challenge Drivers’ Championship Points after three races

Touring One Class
Pos., Driver, Car, Points, Purse
1, Ron Johnson, Saleen Mustang, 84, $6,000
2, Peter Cunningham, Acura NSX, 56, $3,000
3, Terry Borcheller, Saleen Mustang 53, $3,500
4, Reese Cox, Chevrolet Corvette, 48, $2,000
5, Neil Hannemann, Dodge Viper, 46, $1,9506,
6, Jeff Conkel, Porsche 911, 42, $1,700
7, Paul Brown, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 41, $1,550
8, David Schardt, Toyota Supra Turbo, 39, $500
9, Bill Cooper, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 134, $3,000
10, Chris Wiehle, Chevrolet Corvette 34, $1,200
11, Walter Dethier, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 34, $1,050
12, David Farmer, Chevy Chevrolet Camaro, 33, $1,050
13, Walter M. Swick, BMW M3, 31, $650
14, Grant Carter, Chevrolet Camaro, 30, $1,000
15, Jeff Demetri, Ford Mustang, 30, $500
16, Bobby Archer, Dodge Viper, 25, $1,200
17, Randy Roatch, Porsche 911, 21, $850
18, Stuart Jones, Pont Firebird, 20, $750
19, Jerry Isaacson, Porsche 911 RSR, 20, $750
20, Alfred DuPont, BMW M3, 19, $650
21, Kenneth Lubash, Chevrolet Camaro, 19, $650
22, Pierre Bareil, Ford Mustang LX, 17, $500
23, Tom Baker, Eagle Talon, 17, $500
24, Bob Schiesser, Ford Mustang, 14, $500
25, Pat Nowak, Ford Mustang Cobra, 14, $500
26, Michael Pettiford, Chevrolet Chevrolet Camaro, 14, $500
27, Scotty B. White, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R, 114, $0
28, Peter Polli, Chevrolet Corvette, 13, $0
29, Guy Pine Pavageau, Chevrolet Camaro, 12, $0
30, Darren Law, Ford Mustang, 12, $0
31, Cliff Nystedt, Chevrolet Corvette, 11, $0
32, Thomas Safar II, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 9, $0
33, Kim Baker, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R1, 9, $0
34, Doug Johnson, Chevrolet Corvette, 8, $0

Touring Two Class
Pos., Driver, Car, Points, Purse

1, Pierre Kleinbing, Acura Integra R, 93, $7,200
2, Michael Galati, Acura Integra R, 89, $6,000
3, Johannes Van Overbeek, BMW 328is, 71, $3,050
4, Hugh Plumb, BMW 328is, 68, $4,150
5, Lance Stewart, Acura Integra R, 59, $1,950
6, Will Turner, BMW 328i, 54, $1,700
7, David Rosenblum, Saturn SC, 49, $1,750
8, Taz E. Harvey, Honda Prelude, 49, $1,500
9, Alain Chebeir, BMW 328is, 47, $1,250
10, Chuck Hemmingson, Oldsmobile Achieva, 43, $1,750
11, Mark Reed, Oldsmobile Achieva, 42, $1,000
12, Walter Puckett, Saturn SC, 38, $1,200
13, Jeff McMillin, BMW 328is, 35, $850
14, Steve Lisa, Oldsmobile Achieva, 32, $1,000
15, Jim Lovett, BMW 328i, 30, $650
16, Brad Creger, Acura Integra R, 27, $0
17, Fred Meyer, Acura Integra R, 25, $500
18, Steve Lisa, Oldsmobile Calis, 23, $500
19, Charlie Downs, Mazda RX-7, 15, $500
20, Tom Kelly, Volkswagon GTI, 14, $0
21, Dino Hamilton, Dodge Neon, 14, $0
22, Fred Pignataro, Ford Contour SVT, 12, $0
23, Dick Reed, Pontiac Sunfire, 11, $0
24, Alex Krugman, Mazda RX-7, 11, $0
25, Chris Reinke, Ford Contour, 10, $0
26, Manny Matz, Mazda RX-7, 10, $0
27, A.J. Frank, Honda Acord, 9, $0
28, Michael Sturm, Honda Prelude, 9, $0
29, David Bruener, Honda Prelude, 8, $0
30, Grant Lockwood, BMW Z3, 8, $0
31, Walter Markes Jr., BMW 325is, 7, $0
32, Hugh Stewart, Volkswagon Jetta, 6, $0
33, Richard Ellinger, Mercedes-Benz 190, 5, $0
34, Brian Wade, BMW 328, 4, $0
35, Denny Baglier, Mazda MX6, 3, $0


June / July 1998
Original Article: Sports Car International Magazine


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Car Reviews
Tuners: 1998 Saleen S351

By: JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN on May 02, 1998
Original Article: MOTOR TREND

1998 Saleen S351 - Motor Trend
1998 Saleen S351 – Motor Trend

Saleen’s supercharged S351 Mustang would be inexcusable if it weren’t so fast. It’s a fiend with so much brute torque the driver feels as if he could pull both the Titanic and the ocean floor beneath it up out of the North Atlantic. Through corners, it’s as effective and subtle as a leopard clamping his jaw down on a zebra’s femur. The S351 is for fanatics-those few people with $60K to spend who value sheer performance over sophistication, comfort, or the prestige of a luxury nameplate (and who just have to have a Mustang).

Saleen is a small-volume manufacturer, not a tuner, and the S351 is almost a completely un-Ford Mustang. Saleen starts with a base Mustang, rips out the V-6, and replaces it with a version of Ford’s venerable 351-cubic-inch (5.8-liter) OHV V-8. Using TFS “twisted wedge” aluminum heads, the intake manifold from the old Lightning pickup, and a Vortech centrifugal supercharger produces, Saleen claims, 495 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 490 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Behind that is the Dodge Viper’s Borg-Warner T56 six-speed transmission, and the rearend is packed with a hydraulic Gerodisc differential. The brakes are upgraded to 13-inch-diameter Alcons up front, and the suspension is lowered over a set of 18-inch five-spoke wheels wearing P245/40ZR18 front and P295/35ZR18 rear Michelin Pilot SX tires. The interior gets leather Recaro front seats, white-face gauges (including a 200-mph speedo and a dashtop boost gauge), and body-color trim.

1998 Saleen S351 - Motor Trend
1998 Saleen S351 – Motor Trend

Saleen has done Mustangs long enough to know and apply every trick and subtlety from front camber adjustment plates through a composite hood and on to beefed lower rear control arms. Despite hellacious power, the S351’s chassis is never overwhelmed, which, considering the Mustang’s basic architecture, is amazing. That simple structure does, however, transmit tire noise into the passenger compartment, and bumps aren’t something the suspension subdues peacefully.

Handling is remarkably neutral, and the limits are very high. The rabid blitz through the slalom averaged 70.8 mph, faster than every production car but the Viper GTS, Ferrari F355, and Porsche 911 Turbo. While much credit goes to the splendid Michelins, the differential is equally impressive. The distribution of torque is managed so that the rear end remains composed through every transition and stays planted under acceleration. Unfortunately, by the end of its stay with us, that diff was slipping.

1998 Saleen S351 - Motor Trend
1998 Saleen S351 – Motor Trend

It takes two hands to select reverse in the short-throw shifter and the throttle travel is abrupt for casual cruising about town, but on the track it’s magic. Launched modestly, the S351 ingested the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 116.8 mph and barged to 60 in 4.6 seconds. It’s Ferrari-level performance that challenges even the venomous Viper GTS. But it takes a steady hand to extract it.

Even the barbaric Viper, though, seems a garden snake compared to the Saleen’s rude steed. Civilized buyers need not apply.

1998 Saleen S351 Mustang
Base price $56,990
Price as tested $60,000 (est.)
0-30 mph 2.1
0-40 mph 3.1
0-50 mph 3.9
0-60 mph 4.6
0-70 mph 5.9
0-80 mph 7.0
0-90 mph 8.3
0-100 mph 10.1
Quarter mile, sec/mph 12.9/116.8
Braking, 60-0 mph, ft 112
Slalom, 600-ft, mph 70.8
Skidpad, 200-ft, lateral g 0.92

[Source: Motor Trend Magazine]


By: on MAY 4, 1998

Children’s Hospital Foundation of Orange County’s Padrinos will present the fourth annual Heroes of the Heart benefit at the Hyatt Regency Irvine on May 16. Tommy Lasorda, who retired as Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager last year, will be the public recipient and featured speaker. Other recipients include Jack Finnerty, Laguna Hills, Jon Rodberg, Irvine, Jason Purcell, Garden Grove and Caring K-9s of CHOC. For ticket information, call (714) 532-8690.

In addition, CHOC is searching for a director of marketing and public affairs and a public relations specialist. Anyone interested in these positions can submit a resume to the human relations department at CHOC, Mention the OCBJ sent you.

Concordia University, Irvine will host its 8th annual Eagle Golf Classic May 18 at the Strawberry Farms Golf Club. Proceeds will support the school’s athletic program. For registration information, call (949) 854-8002.

The city of Garden Grove Community Services Department will host its 19th annual Strawberry Ball May 21 at the Community Meeting Center. The ball will honor an outstanding senior man and woman who have done exceptional volunteer work in the City during the past year. For tickets, call (714) 741-5253.

Main Place Mali merchants will donate a day of primping and pampering this Wednesday to 12 mothers from the House of Hope in Orange, a shelter for homeless women and children.

“Eyewitness News” anchor Michelle Tuzee will serve as emcee for Saddleback Women’s Hospital’s 10th anniversary celebration May 30. Tickets to the event are $75 per person, with proceeds going to the Baby Alumni Club, a support group of Saddleback Memorial Foundation.

Comcast Online will maintain a website for Orangewood Children’s Foundation (www.inorangecounty.com/orangewood) that will include a schedule of Orangewood’s fundraising events such as this month’s child abuse prevention activities. and a sign-up form for interested individuals.

Marie Callender’s has launched a Partners in Education program through which its outlets will adopt area high schools. During last month. the schools received 50 cents for every slice of pie sold above the April 1997 sales level. A minimum donation of $100 per school was guaranteed.

Canyon Acres Children’s Services, an Anaheim Hills facility assisting abused and emotionally disturbed children, has received a $200,000 donation from the former and current owners of Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook. Former resort owner, Newport Beach-based Mark IV Capital Inc. and new owner Seattle, Wash,-based Triple Tree Corp. joined together to present the funds.

Mission Viejo-based Merit Property Management and Merit Association Services raised more than $36,000 for United Way charities through a week-long series of fundraising events that culminated in a company chili cook-off.

Arts International, a division of the Institute of International Education, has announced a grant of $2.15 million from the James Irvine Foundation to establish and support the California Presenters Initiative that would provide non-renewable grants of $75,000 each to 21 performing arts organizations.

Toshiba’s Electronic Imaging Division, Irvine has pledged to once again sponsor the Orange County Marine Institute’s Tallships Festival in Dana point, the second year it has provided such support. Toshiba has also donated matching funds to pay for repairs to the brig Pilgrim, a 52-year-old replica of the vessel that brought Richard Henry Dana to California in 1935.

Mimi’s Cafe last month debuted its new Second Chance program designed to support domestic abuse prevention and rehabilitation by donating a portion of the proceeds raised from the sale of Mimi’s French onion soup at all its locations to the program. Mimi’s will also host monthly lunches with women’s shelters, culminating in a yearly event at whiCh monetary grants will be presented to women who have successfully escaped domestic abuse.

Roger Johnson, former head of the U.S. General Services Administration and former CEO of Western Digital Corp., and his wife Janice, pledged $500,000 to UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology to establish a chair they hope will assist in bringing improvements in the way government is managed and for increasing citizen involvement in the political process.

Lake Forest-based Professional Community Management raised over $38,000 in a week-long fundraiser for United Way. The contribution represents a combined effort of all four of PCMs offices, including the Lake Forest headquarters and a Laguna Hills branch.

The West County Family YMCA raised over $71,000 in its annual support campaign to help needy families join various YMCA programs. More than 100 volunteers contributed to the effort. For information about contributions to the West County Family YMCA, call (714)847-9622.

Sprint PCS, Irvine, donated 36 phones with unlimited local service for the current school year to the Cox Elementary School of the Fountain Valley School District. The program is designed to introduce 100% digital PCS communications to the classroom and improve parent/teacher communication.

St. John Knits raised more than $30,000 for breast cancer research at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital through a recent private showing of its spring 1998 collection. The event featured the fashion show, tours of the St. John factory and a luncheon.

United Parcel Service donated $50,000 to the Saddleback Memorial Foundation’s Partnership for the Future campaign to assist in raising funds for Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s new Critical Care Pavilion. The new facility will house a new emergency care center and critical care unit. Partnership for the Future has raised $12 million of the $15 million needed to construct the pavilion

Irvine-based Saleen Performance donated its services to Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County by granting a Huntington Beach boy’s wish to have his Mustang customized. The teen’s customized car was unveiled after a special luncheon at Hard Rock Cafe and limo service to Saleen’s facility.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco Laguna Beach recently presented a $1,600 donation to Brandy’s Friends, a Laguna Beach-based family and youth drug counseling and intervention center.

The Southern California Frozen Food Council, Huntington Beach, served ice cream and held an ice cream decorating contest for children and their families at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in recognition of National Frozen Food Month.

Santa Ana-based NEXTLINK, a telecommunications provider, is participating in a joint program with the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Ana School District and city businesses called “Linking Schools to Business.” The program will culminate in 30 internships at Santa Ana businesses this summer.

Jeep Jeepster: Truck Trends

By: MATT STONE on April, 1998
Original Article: Motor Trend

Future Trucks

A Street Rod For The Rubicon Trail

Think of it as a V-8 Plymouth Prowler (with a back seat) that can also tackle a challenging trail with the best of the Jeep family. With its new-for-’99 4.7-liter/275-horse SOHC V-8, which will debut in the Grand Cherokee, and its unique, electronic four-wheel, independent adjustable suspension, you really could go anywhere with confidence-street or stream, boulevard or boulder-strewn trail.

The Jeepster’s dashboard-adjustable suspension switch allows the rod/ute a 4-inch range of travel, from a ground-hugging 5.75 inches to a rock-climbing 9.75 inches of clearance. The two-plus-two Jeepster, which takes its name from the now rare and collectible ’50 Willys Convertible, has a roster of useful features like water-resistant leather seats, a global positioning system, altimeter, grade and roll indicator, and exterior temperature gauge. Its full-time 4WD system is viscous coupled to a four-speed automatic that rotates huge 19-inch “Hot-Wheels”-inspired wheels equipped with “run-flat” Goodyear Extended Mobility Tires, eliminating the need for a spare.

The cool “what if” exercise certainly raises the possibility of eating your Rocky Road ice cream at the drive-in diner or at the top of the nearest mesa. It seems multiple personalities could pay dividends, after all.-Chris Walton

Performance Test

Saleen Explorer: A Performance/Utility Vehicle

Saleen Explorer XP8
Saleen Explorer XP8

The sport/utility vehicle market continues to subdivide itself. There are now full-size luxury SUVs, convertibles, and others. To this, add the newest trend: the PUV, or Performance Utility Vehicle. Everywhere we look, someone is slamming, supercharging, brake-equipping, and killer-suspending SUVs to perform like-believe it or not-cars.

Saleen Performance has been manufacturing steroid-injected Mustangs for more than a dozen years, and decided the top-selling Ford Explorer was an ideal canvas for its brand of performance redo. Steve Saleen and his band of designers, engineers, and assemblers have taken their customary approach to enhancing the Explorer; upgrading not only the engine, but (if desired) the braking, suspension, appearance, and interior accommodations.

The Saleen Explorer comes in two- or four-wheel-drive four-door configurations, packing either a SOHC 4.0-liter V-6, a 5.0-liter V-8, or a Saleen-developed supercharged 5.0-liter/286-horsepower V-8. Packing a dealer-installed Powerdyne blower, this top-of-the-line model is the subject of our test.

Saleen lowers the Explorer about 2 inches, for both improved handling and appearance. Springs and shocks are swapped for the company’s Racecraft components, and rolling stock is upgraded to Saleen’s own 18-inch genuine magnesium wheels wrapped by Pirelli 255/55SR18 Scorpion S/T radials.

The exterior appearance package includes special front and rear fascia, side skirts, door cladding, roof-mounted rear wing, and faux carbon fiber trim. The cabin is treated to either a real wood or carbon fiber appearance package, depending upon color choice, as well as Saleen gauge faces and floor mats. A particularly nice, though pricey, option is Saleen/Recaro leather seating ($3950), offering 10-way power adjustment up front and hip-hugging support.

According to Saleen, the goal is to enhance the Explorer’s on-road handling and performance with a minimum reduction in its off-road capability. Many SUV users will never leave the asphalt, so max ground clearance is seldom an issue to these folks. On the pavement, the Saleen corners much more confidently than just about any standard sport/ute. There’s a bit of a ride penalty, but the reduction in body roll will be worth it to many drivers.

Our test showed a 0-60-mph time of 7.4 seconds (an improvement of 3.3 seconds over a stock V-8 Explorer). Also significant: 60-0 braking distances are reduced by 26 feet. A big portion of the 0.09 g jump in max cornering forces (0.76 for the Saleen, 0.67 for the stocker) goes to the serious wheel and tire package. Though we did not test its towing capability, we suspect the Saleen Explorer will be popular among those sporty, active lifestyle folks who haul a boat or trailer full of personal watercraft. Increasing supercharger boost would add even more horsepower, but punchy midrange power and long-term dependability were judged more important than Top Fueler acceleration. And you’ve gotta love the tunes issued by the rumbling Saleen/Borla exhaust system.

The MSRP for a V-6 Saleen Explorer is $41,990, and a fully loaded supercharged V-8 model with all available options will run around $56,000. Both Ford’s and Saleen’s own warranties apply. See your Saleen-qualified Ford Dealer.

What’s next, the Swiss Army knife SUV?


By: SUE ZESIGER on March 2, 1998
Original Article: FORTUNE, VOL. 137, ISSUE 4

Unless you’re a racing-team owner like Roger Penske, chances are you don’t keep a few hand-tweaked, high-powered Chevy Suburbans in your stable, good for bigtime hauling as well as for sinful joy rides. For the rest of us 4×4 plebes, real high performance has been out of reach. But now, car companies are catching on that there’s a huge segment of urban and suburban sport-ute buyers who never go off-road and who see these hulks simply as status symbols, the automotive equivalent of a Gucci bag. (Now that we have bigger, what do we want? Faster!) Mercedes-Benz is planning a high-performance version of its M-Class SUV for model year 2000, with a bigger V-8 and sportier handling. And Porsche is looking into building a 4×4–which would be genetically incapable of sluggishness.

In the meantime, racer and vehicle-visionary Steve Saleen of Saleen Performance–a Ford-sanctioned small-volume manufacturer, based in Irvine, Calif.–is betting on the appeal of “performance utility vehicles.” He’s hot-rodded a Ford Explorer to prove his point and hopes to sell 500 this year. The Saleen Explorer has a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that produces 286 hp and 333 ft-lb of torque. Plus Recaro seats, 13-inch four-piston racing-style brakes, lowered suspension, 18-inch Pirelli Scorpions…. It all adds up to lots of throaty burble, lots of torque, lots of opportunities to take corners at an alarming clip–and not heel over. “SUVs have been practical; now they need to be appealing,” says Saleen. For about $50,000 you can own this very distinctive beast (note extreme body flares)–and no one will mess with your kids when you pick them up after school.


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.”