SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide
1997 SALEEN FORD MUSTANG
by Matt/Bob Hagin
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 89,000 Price As Tested $ 89,000 Engine Type 5.8 Liter V8 w/SFI* Engine Size 351 cid/5752 cc Horsepower 495 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 440 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 101.3"/74.8"/184.5" Transmission Six-speed manual Curb Weight 3490 Pounds Fuel Capacity 15.4 gallons Tires (F/R) (F) 265/35/ZR18 - (R) 295/30/ZR18 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Two-passenger/two-door Domestic Content 91 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) .36 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 15/26/17 0-60 MPH 4.5 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 12.3 seconds @ 123 mph Top speed 177 mph (est) * Sequential fuel injection
(The latest and fastest Saleen Ford Mustang is not a car for the masses, says Matt Hagin. His father Bob agrees, but says it's fun to play "boy racer" once in a while.)
MATT - This Saleen Ford Mustang SR351 coupe is as impractical a passenger car as we've ever come across, Dad. It only weighs around 3400 pounds and its supercharged 351 cubic-inch engine puts out a bit over 510 horsepower. That alone prevents it from being practical transportation. Also, there aren't many places in this country where an average driver can hit 177 MPH. So, it becomes immediately apparent that the Saleen Mustang is an expensive toy for people with lots of discretionary income. This thinly disguised race car barely qualifies for license plates, and the really amazing thing is that it's certified smog and safety legal in all 50 states.
BOB - That's exactly right, Matt, and racing is the main purpose for the existence of this car in street form. The Saleen/Allen Speedlab team enters this same car in endurance races around the world and in some cases, the car raced has to be exactly like the ones sold to the public. So by making it available to "average" buyers with a 351 engine, independent rear suspension and a six-speed transmission, it becomes a "showroom model" for events that can only be contested by "regular" cars. It's also a great promotional centerpiece for the other more conventional versions of the Saleen Mustang.
MATT - This SR351 has a lot of other racing stuff that you won't find on Mustangs that come straight from Detroit, Dad. There's a very sophisticated Thorsen self-locking differential in the rear end which wasn't put there just to make the car safer on ski trips. Saleen has also installed ground effect body panels to make it more aerodynamic. And there's that huge stabilizing "tail" on the trunk - functional, I hear. The tread in front has been increased by four inches in order to accommodate the 13-inch brakes and 18-inch wheels and tires. The rear sheetmetal has also been enlarged to make room for the independent suspension. I guess that's one of the reasons that there's no rear seat - there just isn't any room back there for anything but race car stuff.
BOB - Only one color scheme is available on the SR351 and it seems to change from purple to gold, depending on the light and the angle of view. Even standing still, it's bound to attract the attention of the cops. I have to take my hat off to Steve Saleen. While there's lots of aftermarket hot-rod shops around the country that will modify new cars for buyers, his is one of only a couple that have made it into a true manufacturing business. He's produced over 4000 Saleen Mustangs since he started in business in '84 and has progressed to the point where he has a three-car lineup. They include the mild S281 that carries a warmed-over 4.6 liter twin-cam V8 that's standard in the Mustang XXXX and the S351 which is like the car we tested, without quite so much "trick" stuff. And to top things off, Saleen has even put together his own finance company and leasing organization.
MATT - He's also managed to plug a couple of hundred specially- badged S281 Saleen Mustangs into the Budget car rental system, but those cars are a long way from being clones of the our thundering SR351. A Budget executive told me that they're renting Saleens to average people hoping to make a lifestyle statement for the weekend. It's a relatively inexpensive and fun way for a potential buyer to check one out before he or she signs a sales contract.
BOB - Since Ford Motor Company has put its official seal of approval on them, all models of the Saleen Mustang are available through regular Ford dealerships around the country and 70 or so dealers are authorized to keep them in stock. Stocking dealers are also required to have at least one salesperson who's a Saleen "specialist" as well as a mechanic who has been factory-trained in the intricacies of the machine.
MATT - I still don't understand the appeal cars like the Saleen have for guys your age, Dad. All that power and there's no place to use it.
BOB - Matt, it's a quick way to take 40 years off my age.