Page 1: Introduction
IRVINE, CA - Saleen is one of the best-known creators of aftermarket performance Mustangs. For nearly two decades, the company has been tweaking America's favorite performance car to extract more power, better handling, and improved braking. Garishly outfitted with signature decals, scoops and spoilers, Saleen Mustangs have sold in small but reliable numbers, enough to allow the small company to perform its magic on a wide range of Ford products from the Focus to the Thunderbird.
Given the company's headquarters in Orange County, Calif., it's not surprising that Saleen chose the 2004 California Auto Show in Anaheim to unveil the 2005 Saleen S281, a modified version of the all-new Mustang that is reaching dealerships as this is written.
Three versions of the 2005 Saleen S281 will be available to consumers: the standard S281, the S281-SC, and the S281-E. Each Saleen Mustang will have modified styling front and rear, boosts in power, suspension modifications, upgraded braking components, and unique interior trim. Prices are expected to start around $38,000 for the Saleen S281, with the Saleen S281-SC running about $45,000. The 2005 Saleen S281-E, the E standing for Extreme, has not been priced but is certain to run north of $50,000.
Styling is tweaked up front, with the chrome pony emblem and inboard driving lights of the Mustang GT removed in favor of a rather plain black Saleen-badged grille. Saleen has also restyled the lower air dam, creating twin-gill outboard inlets surrounding a larger air intake. Turn signal indicators have been moved to a location between the grille and headlight lens, and HID headlamps improve nighttime visibility.
Page 2: Power
Suspension modifications include Saleen Racecraft springs, shocks and anti-roll bars. Huge and handsome seven-spoke alloy wheels are stuffed into the wheel wells, wearing low-profile performance rubber and covering optional 14-inch brake rotors, which are the same size as those found on the Ford GT supercar.
Inside, specially bolstered sport seats, high-grip racing-inspired pedals, a short-throw shift lever, a unique Saleen gauge cluster, special interior trim, and specific floor mats make the S281 different from a run-of-the-mill Mustang. Opt for the S281-SC or S281-E model, and you'll get a twin gauge pod atop the dash that displays supercharger boost pressure and air temperature.
Ford Motor Company held the press conference for the unveiling of the 2005 Saleen S281, adding fuel to the rumor about corporate abandonment of the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) in Dearborn. Ford killed the SVT Focus after the 2004 model year, collaborated closely with Saleen to create the 2005 Ford GT, and last week announced that the 2006 SVT F-150 Lightning program was dead. With Saleen creating Mustangs with as much as 500 horsepower, does it make sense for Ford to align itself with Saleen in order to produce in-house performance products, the way Mercedes-Benz has done with AMG? Probably, but we really wanted the independent rear suspension that the next-generation Cobra was supposed to offer.
Maybe that wicked Saleen S281-E will get it, instead.
--Photos by Erik Hanson and Courtesy of Saleen