Saleen History & Heritage

TIMELINE   |   WHAT’S A SALEEN   |   HISTORY

Year Happenings
1983 Saleen Autosport is formed by racing driver Steve Saleen.
1984 The company introduces its first limited-edition, high-performance street car, the Saleen Mustang.
1986 A race-prepared version of the Saleen Mustang wins the grueling 24 Hours of Mosport in the Sports Car Club of America’s Escort Endurance Championship.
1987 Saleen Mustang team wins driver, team, and manufacturer titles in the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship.A new Saleen Sportruck (Ford Ranger-based) wins two races in the inaugural SCCA Coors Race Truck Challenge series.
1988 Saleen Mustang team wins the 24 Hours of Mosport for the third consecutive year, this time with a 1-2-3 finish. Company introduces a street version of the Saleen Sportruck.
1990 Saleen Performance Parts is expanded and established as an independent operation.
1991 Saleen Sportruck team wins SCCA Race Truck championship and gives Ford its first manufacturers’ title in the series.
1993 Supercharged Saleen SC Mustangs compete in the SCCA World Challenge series, finish third and fifth in the championship.
1994 The most impressive product lineup to date is introduced, including the S351 and the 480-hp Saleen SR.
1995 S351 Speedster is introduced, featuring a 351-cubic-inch, 371-hp engine. An optional supercharger boosts output to 480 hp.The Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab is formed with actor Tim Allen. The new team wins the final race of the SCCA World Challenge series.
1996 Saleen debuts the S281. It features a 4.6-liter, 215-hp engine and offers an affordable entry into the Saleen line. Output of the supercharged S351 rises to 495 hp.Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab team wins the SCCA World Challenge manufacturers’ championship in the S2 Class.Steve Saleen and Carroll Shelby are the year’s inductees into the Mustang Hall of Fame.
1997 Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab competes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first Mustang entry in more than 30 years. Saleen clinches the SCCA World Challenge T1 Class manufacturers’ championship.
1998 The Saleen Explorer XP8 Performance Utility Vehicle is introduced.Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab team wins the SCCA World Challenge T1 Class championships for both drivers and manufacturers.
1999 Saleen S281 and S351 Mustangs feature dynamic new design, lower cost and higher levels of performance. An ex-Le Mans Saleen SR wins the FIA GT race in Spain.
2000 Saleen Mustangs capture the GTO championships for drivers, manufacturers and teams in the inaugural Grand-Am Road Racing series.The S7 supercar is unveiled at Laguna Seca Raceway in California.
2002 The S281 Extreme is introduced – the world’s most powerful (445 hp) production Mustang.Saleen is awarded the assembly and paint contract for the Ford GT supercar.Twin-screw supercharger is offered on the Saleen S281 Extreme.
2003 Saleen begins assembly of Ford GT and other specialty vehicles at a new manufacturing facility in Troy, Michigan.20th Anniversary Saleen Mustang (SA20) is introduced.Saleen S7 appears in the movie “Bruce Almighty” as God’s car.Harrison Ford drives an S281 in “Hollywood Homicide.”Saleen S281 races in the movie “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
2004 Racing version of the Saleen S7, the S7R, wins at Imola, Italy, beating favorites Ferrari, Lamborghini, and the new Maserati MC-12 in its debut race.N2O Saleen Focus is introduced.Saleen builds Ford concept vehicles like the Mustang GT-R shown at the New York Auto Show.
2005 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo with 750 hp is introduced.Debut of the all-new 2005 models — the fastest Saleen Mustangs produced to date. The S281 3-valve produces 330 hp, the SC reaches 435 hp, and the Extreme achieves 550 hp. A new line is launched, featuring the Saleen Scenic Roof and the S281 Speedster.Saleen S7 appears in 50 Cent’s number-one music video “Candy Shop.”Saleen offers a 15-inch brake system for the Mustang.HID headlights are introduced by Saleen.
2006 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo produces 1000 hp – the world’s fastest production car.Saleen/Oreca Race Team wins at Spa, Belgium with the S7R race car.The fastest Saleen Mustang to date, the S281 Extreme, goes into production with 550 hp.The 450 hp Saleen S331 Sport Truck (based on the Ford F-150 FX2) is unveiled.Parnelli Jones Limited Edition Saleen Mustang is introduced – a contemporary interpretation of the 1970 Trans-Am championship winner.
2007 May – Steve Saleen retires from Saleen Inc.Saleen’s Special Projects Division is handpicked by Steven Spielberg to build “Bumble-Bee” (based on 2010 Camaro) and “Barricade” (based on 2008 S281 Extreme) for the movie “Transformers.”Saleen, a Tier One supplier to Ford Motor Company, is awarded the Supercharger Program for the 2007 and 2008 Harley-Davidson F-150.Chrysler selects Saleen to paint the Dodge Viper in the company’s state-of-the-art paint facility, originally built for the Ford GT supercar.November – In its 2008 product launch, Saleen introduces the S302 Extreme with 620 hp, the most powerful E-Car ever, and the S331 SC Super Crew
2008 January – Saleen unveils its “Sterling Edition” 25th anniversary car. Only 25 vehicles are built to commemorate this milestone.April – The S5S Raptor and the Gurney Signature Edition Mustang are introduced to the world at the New York International Auto Show.July – Saleen launches “Racecraft,” its affordable performance brand, at Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and shows enthusiasts the 420S Mustang.October – The Saleen S302E “Dark Horse” Limited Edition is unveiled. It features an industry-first, fully functional Super Shaker, which has a shaker scoop integrated with Saleen’s Twin Screw Supercharger.Saleen consolidates all its operations in Troy, Mich., a suburb of Detroit (after all, it is the Motor City).
2009 February – Saleen Inc. is acquired by M.J. Acquisitions Inc. Saleen Performance Vehicles is born, stronger and more capable with the addition of its sister companies, Power-Tec LLC, Control-Tec LLC and Arrow Racing Engines LLC.July – Saleen Performance Vehicles unveils its first product, the 2010 435S Saleen Mustang.

What is a Saleen?

There are alot of answers and details, but the best short answer is a Saleen is like taking a stock vehicle and putting it on steroids. Whether it’s a Mustang, a pickup truck, Explorer, Focus or an Explorer or any of the other vehicles that have been converted, the answer is the same a high performance unique vehicle that owners around the world enjoy and are proud to own

Saleens have always been about handling first and foremost. The earlier cars were major improvements over the stock handling offered by Ford, but at a price in ride quality. You got race car handling, but you got the race car ride to go with it!

Earlier models of Saleens were ordered as Mustang LX hatchbacks or LX convertibles. A few LX Coupes have been built over the years, but are very rare (including a few that were built from Special Service equipped cars). SN95s (i.e. 94 and up cars) are ordered as either Mustang GTs or as SVT Cobras for the S281s. S351s start life as a V6 (with some rare exceptions)!

What makes them special?

The cars are dropped-shipped from Ford straight to Saleen, and converted. Springs, struts, and shocks all go, replaced with Saleen’s trademark “Racecraft” suspension. Bigger wheels and tires are added. The 87-93 cars used either 16″ or 17″ combos, the SN95s use 18″ with tire as large as P265ZR18 in the front and P295ZR18 in the rear! Serious rubber!
Body work is also added, consisting of ground-effects, front/rear bumpers, and spoiler. A windshield banner is standard. Interior options vary over the years, and have included anything from Flofits to leather Recaros (many cars retain the Ford factory interior). The pre-94 cars also received a stereo upgrade, mostly Pioneer and Kenwood equipment.

Later years, superchargers and engine mods were added – now it looks good, drives good and out performs the competitors.

Of course the S7 was a ground up vehicle – developed to be the Ultimate World Sportscar. It took all of the Saleen improvements to the limits and then added some.

How do you tell a real Saleen from a fake?

Saleen parts, especially the body work, are very popular in the aftermarket, so just because a Mustang *looks* like a Saleen, doesn’t mean it is one.

Some key things to look for:

Bumper Number: All Saleens have their serial number on the left front bumper. No Saleen has every been produced with a serial number of “06”.
Dash Plaque: All Saleen’s have a dash plaque with its Saleen Serial number on the center console. This plague should match the number of the bumper and the number on the plate under the hood.
Under-hood Plate: Saleens also have a metal plate under the hood with the Saleen serial number, and the date of production riveted under the hood.
“Hidden”: Saleen has also hidden the serial number in a secret location on the car.
The best way to determine authenticity is to call Saleen


History

Saleen, Incorporated, commonly known as Saleen, was an American manufacturer of high performance sports cars and high performance automotive parts in Troy, Michigan, formerly based in Irvine, California. Founded by Steve Saleen in 1983, Saleen was a Delaware corporation owned by Hancock Park Associates from 2001 to 2009.

Saleen manufactured limited edition, high-performance vehicles. Saleen was an automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and was the last American small car manufacturer bearing OEM status. Unlike aftermarket “tuner” companies, Saleen was subject to the same federal regulations governing design and testing of their automotive products as larger vehicle manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, or Toyota. Most of Saleen’s vehicles were highly modified versions of existing mass produced sports cars such as the Ford Mustang. Saleen produced over 8,000 modified Mustangs from 1983 through 2009. It also produced modified versions of a number of other Ford models.

Early years

The company was founded in 1983 originally as Saleen Autosport by Steve Saleen, a former Formula Atlantic race car driver. The 1st Saleen wasn’t produced until 1984 though when they built 3 cars as the first production run – a white hatchback, a copper glow hatchback, and a black hatchback. In 1984, Saleen Autosport became Saleen Performance, Incorporated. In 1985, Steve Saleen’s secretary miscounted the vehicles produced that year, omitting vehicle number 6 as a result of confusing it with 9. Since 1985, Saleen has had the tradition of not issuing the #6 bumper number on any of its vehicles. Sometimes, a Mustang equipped with a Saleen aftermarket bodykit will bear 6 as its bumper number, signifying it as a “Fake” Saleen Mustang. Each year up through the eighties, Saleen was able to produce a new record volume of cars. In late 1990, Saleen contracted with Car & Concepts in St. Louis to produce the Saleen Mustang. As the recession of the early 90’s hit, so did it a take a toll on production. Cars & Concepts continue production through the 1991 model year when they closed their facility due to their own financial woes. Production was returned in-house to Saleen Performance, Incorporated in 1992. By then, the production of cars had been reduced to 12 for the 1992 model year. Steve Saleen teamed up with comedian Tim Allen in 1993 who helped to promote the Saleen Mustang and received new financial backing through Hidden Creek Industries. With a new financial backing and all-new body style in ’94, production numbers began growing again. Beginning in 1995, Saleen-Allen Racing facilitated the start of preparations for the development of a ground-up vehicle project by implementing a 7.0L V8 engine in their track-cars which eventually gave rise to the powerplant utilized in the S7. In 1997, Saleen competed at the 24 Hours of le Mans, ending a 30-year Mustang hiatus from the event. During the development of the Saleen SR, Saleen formed a strategic partnership with BASF that resulted in the development of unique paint color formulations coupled with advertising centered around Saleen products. During this time, the Saleen paint color liztick red, named for Steve’s wife, Elizabeth, was developed.

Corporate Maturity

In the late 1990s, the company was renamed Saleen, Incorporated. Hancock Park Associates provided an infusion of financial support to allow Saleen to grow. Beginning at the end of 2004, major shifts occurred in the corporate structure of Saleen, moving away from a race-team style hierarchy toward a structure commensurate with an automotive OEM. It was at this time that the Saleen workforce reached its largest size of 435. At the end of July 2006, to much fanfare, Saleen opened a retail store at the Irvine Spectrum in Irvine, California which quietly closed in December 2007. Beginning with the 2007 model year, the Saleen-designed 450 hp (340 kW) supercharger kit in the F-150-based S331 was offered by Ford as a ship-through Ford-endorsed performance option on Harley Davidson Edition F150s. In early 2007, Daniel Reiner was appointed Chairman and CEO of Saleen. At the 2007 New York International Auto Show, Chip Foose unveiled a Ford-endorsed limited edition F150, powered by the Saleen-designed powertrain used on the Saleen S331SC. On May 14, 2007, Steve Saleen and Billy Tally resigned from Saleen after nearly 24 and approximately 9 years with the company, respectively. At the time of his resignation, Steve Saleen was serving in the position of Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors while Billy Tally was the Chief Officer of Technology. John Spruill, having last served as domestic programs manager, resigned from Saleen in early June 2007 after a nine year tenure with the company to continue his career working with Saleen and Tally in a different business venture.

On August 8, 2007, Paul Wilbur was named President and CEO of Saleen to succeed Reiner while Chris Theodore, formerly VP of Product Development at Ford, was appointed to the position of CTO, filling the position vacated by Billy Tally.

Restructuring

In early 2008, Saleen began reducing the non-engineering staff located in Irvine, California and consolidating operations in its Troy, Michigan manufacturing plant, relocating its official headquarters to that location. Chris Theodore, previously in the position of CTO, was promoted to the position of CEO at Saleen on August 8, 2008 when Paul Wilbur vacated the position to pursue business opportunities outside of Saleen.

On August 12, 2008 Miedema Auctioneering held a 10 hour auction for Saleen Inc. at 6567 Sterling Drive South, Sterling Heights, MI 48312. During the auction it was possible to obtain everything necessary to assemble a new Saleen Mustang. All factory furniture, tooling, and facilities were for auction. Computers, milling machines, work tables and office equipment hastily piled was listed for sale. On August 18, 2008 Miedema Auctioneering executed a similar auction at Saleen Inc. 76 Fairbanks, Irvine, CA 92618

Corporate Operations Sale

On November 11, 2008, Saleen announced intentions for a sale of its corporate operations.Shortly thereafter, the remainder of research and development operations ceased with the departure of the remaining Saleen engineering staff in December 2008. A few months later, on February 2, 2009, MJ Acquisitions acquired the tooling and rights to the design of Saleen’s supercharger, along with the aftermarket and high performance street vehicle business units (Ford Mustang and Ford F150-related products). However, the business units associated with the S7 and S5S Raptor in addition to the paint operations (including the Dodge Viper contract) were integral components of Saleen not purchased in the sale. Thus, the Saleen and Saleen Racecraft brands are currently owned by MJ Acquisitions although Saleen, Inc. no longer exists.

Originally, MJ Acquisitions stated, “Regrettably, Saleen Inc. is unable to honor any warranties” after ceasing operations. Later known as Saleen Performance Vehicles, reversed their position with a press release on July 24, 2009, stating that all Saleen vehicles are still covered per their original warranties.