In the ’80s and ’90s, Saleen rose up in the muscle car community by making incredible custom Mustangs. Here, we rank the 10 best ones.
In the colorful world of Ford Mustang, there were many interesting characters. Guys like Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Jack Roush, and Larry Shinoda all put their personal stamp of America’s favorite pony car, made it better, faster, or more successful on the race tracks. In the early ’80s, a new name emerged on the scene when Steve Saleen, a successful Formula Atlantic driver, established Saleen Autosport and campaigned Foxbody Mustangs all over America.
Soon, Saleen started making its own cars based on the Ford Mustang but improved in every way. In just a few years, Saleen went from a small team to an official Ford partner and made history, effectively becoming the Carroll Shelby of the ’80s and ’90s.
But the story doesn’t end there, even today, when there are so many independent companies making fast Mustangs, Saleen is still one of the most respected names in the business. Today, we will talk about ten of his most memorable models.
10. Saleen S281
The S281 name was first used in 1996 and suggested the displacement of Ford’s then-new 4.6-liter V8s. However, in 2006, when the S197 generation was introduced, Saleen resurrected that nameplate and used it on a brand new model offered through 2010.
It had 320 hp in the base trim, but Saleen offered a unique, supercharged version with up to 550 hp for the most ambitious customers.
9. Saleen SMS 302
When Ford introduced the 5.0-liter V8 in 2011 Mustang, Saleen immediately offered the SMS 302 model, which featured an upgraded engine in two power levels.
One was naturally-aspirated with 440 hp, and the other was a crazy, supercharged version with 535 hp on tap. Of course, the SMS 302 received a host of upgrades to keep it stable and safe while delivering insane acceleration times.
8. Saleen S351
If you were looking for a Dodge Viper-beating Mustang in the late ’90s, the Saleen S351 was the car to have. With a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 engine and a long list of upgrades, this cool-looking SN95 Mustang had 495 hp under the hood and 0 to 60 mph times of 4.6 seconds.
Those numbers are respectable even today, but almost 25 years ago, they were in supercar territory.
7. Ford Mustang Saleen
Even though the Saleen name is synonymous with extreme horsepower cars, the first-ever Saleen Mustang had the stock engine and drivetrain. In 1983, Steve Saleen introduced its first road-going model but didn’t touch the motor since he didn’t want to go through the expensive emissions regulations process.
However, he invested a lot of time and effort into sorting the suspension, brakes, and chassis and made the ordinary Foxbody Mustang significantly faster without messing with that famous 5.0-liter V8.