Horse Sense: Similar to the ever increasing numbers of Mustang enthusiasts, Chris Hoff borrowed many cues for his showboating Mustang from the road-racing world. In Chris' case, besides playing around in the usual amateur drag racing scene, he also carves corners as an IKF shifter kart pilot.
Grape Ape, Atomic Eggplant, Barney Mobile, Purple People Eater-Chris Hoff's latest crea-tion has plenty of nicknames. That's fine for a vehicle that is one part toy, one part showboat, and definitely full-time showcase for what Chicane Sport Tuning can do to a Mustang.
No stranger to us at the magazine, Chris is known in Southern California Mustang circles as creator of top-rung go-and-show late-models. His first notable creation, a silver SN-95, began life as a plain, old civilian V-6, but it was constantly updated by Chris with considerable help from Saleen (back when Saleen had an in-house custom shop) into several stages of V-8 power. The effort finally culminated in Saleen S351 trim, where, maybe not so curiously, the purple '97 S351 begins.
This time, however, the primary shop involved was Chicane Sport Tuning, which Chris co-owns with Joe Gosinski. Starting with 97-0047, the only Deep Violet S351 ever made by Saleen, Chris and Joe completely transformed the machine with a custom IPS short-long-arm front and IRS rear suspension powdercoated Caution Yellow. The engine compartment was reconstructed, and more than 100 unnecessary factory holes were filled and smoothed. The inner fenders were massaged symmetrically and resprayed with factory-matching paint. The block was high-temp-paint- matched to the body, with all accessory brackets powdercoated or polished. A bit dark in photos, the effort has a powerful presence when eyeballed in the flesh.
As a true Saleen, Chris' car legitimately wears the distinctive Saleen S351 vented fiberglass hood, S351 biplane wing, and front valance. The fenders are stock but rolled to clear the wide rolling stock.
Inside, the Saleen white-faced instruments are augmented by Auto Meter Phantom oil-pressure and water-temp units, while a simple, two-point chassis brace/rollbar stands guard against disaster. Asked if he has any roll control onboard, Chris replied, "My left foot," so scratch the line lock. He does have some nifty Saleen/Recaro seats to hold himself firmly against the considerable cornering, braking, and acceleration loads his purple beast generates.
The main force generator, of course, is that detailed 351 under the hood. As Chris tells the story, "I purchased this car with less than 8,000 miles on the odometer from a friend who moved out of state. Three days after driving it from San Jose to L.A., the motor let go in Sixth gear on the freeway-the pistons literally peeled like an onion.
"At this point, both my Mustangs (the Silver one that was a Super Ford cover car) were down, and Chicane was in full swing. Like most shop projects, the car sat and sat-for almost two years. Tired of pushing the vehicle in and out of the shop night after night, it was decided to get the Grape Ape back up and running. The engine was rebuilt with all forged internals with the requirement that, as a street car, the motor last at least 100,000 miles."
With those goals in mind, an all-new Windsor, beginning with a new 351 Lightning block with a SCAT forged crank, replaced the expired engine. A two-bolt main block, it was girdled with a main-bearing bolt brace for what seemed to be needed rigidity considering what happened to the old engine. Given a 0.030-inch overbore from the get-go, the 4.030x3.500-inch bore-and-stroke engine displaces 357 cubes.
Eagle H-Beam forged rods and 8.3:1 compression forged Probe pistons fitted with Childs & Albert gapless rings provide the reciprocating motion. No doubt once burnt, twice shy, Chris retained the low compression-it's the stock Saleen S351 value-to ensure blower friendliness and long life on readily available pump gasoline.
Still, long life is not much fun without a bit of horsepower. So Chris popped over to nearby Coast High Performance for a pair of CNC Stage I-ported Twisted Wedge cylinder heads. They carry their standard 2.02x1.60-inch valve package.