By: MARK VAUGHN on November 8, 2004
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 54, ISSUE 45

Saleen Enters His Third Car-making Decade

Who would have thought when Steve Saleen built three Mustangs in 1984 that it would lead to this? His company has built 9000 cars, from Mustangs, to Ford Focuses, S7 supercars and the mighty Ford GT. There are even Saleen Thunderbirds. While you weren’t looking, Saleen, the company, turned 20.

The latest family member is the S281, Saleen’s take on the new Ford Mustang. S281 production starts Nov. 1, with Saleen modifications similar to those done on earlier Mustangs. There are three models-the S281, S281 S/C and the beefy S281 E-and each gets an exterior designed by Steve Saleen.

Engine work starts with a 325-hp version of the Ford V8 in the base car, a 400-hp supercharged version in the S/C and a 500hp engine in the mighty E. Prices have not been set, but expect to pay about $38,000 for an S281, $43,000 for an S/C and $53,000 for an E.

Saleen has turned into quite the industry player. There are Saleen production facilities in Irvine, California; Troy, Michigan; and Montreal. Saleen’s Michigan facility assembles and paints the Ford GT; S281 s and Focus N20s are made in Montreal for the Canadian market; and Saleen Irvine produces the S281, N20 Focus and S7.

The car that earned Saleen a chance to work on the new Ford GT is his S7. An exotic, all-American sports car that’s the stuff of teen dreams, the S7 has for its short life been, if not cloaked in mystery, then occasionally dressed in it. One question about it: How many exist? Saleen says 53 of the S7 supercars have been built; we called all S7 dealers to verify sales, and the total came to 14. Saleen says those numbers don’t jibe because we have not accounted for 10 race cars, early private car sales that did not go through his dealer network, sales from dealers that no longer handle S7s, and European sales.

While we can’t verify the location of every S7, Saleen has clearly become a major factor in the world of specialty vehicles and shows no signs of retreating to that three-Mustang-a-year rate. Without direct involvement in racing to distract Saleen from building production cars, and with corporate dollars from Ford for the GT plant — and the likelihood of other limited-production supercars yet to be named — Saleen’s third decade looks promising indeed.