Choosing a best of anything is an exercise ripe with pitfalls. Subjectivity rules, and whenever anyone sticks their neck out with a given point of view, it's bound to be criticized or corrected by the next guy. So, imagine coming up with the "best" in an automotive sense, where the variety is nothing short of mind-numbing, and opinions are like-well-let's just say that being in the magazine business, we're used to feeling the heat of dissenting points of view. But we feel absolutely confident in describing the '95 Saleen seen here as one of the company's best.
Our subject in this case is none other than an SR351, one of the most radical of Steve Saleen's Mustang creations and the absolute top dog in the Saleen kennel in terms of the company's '95 offerings. The "SR" designation brought some racy equipment that wasn't included with the higher-production S351, and we're told only seven SRs were built for street use-along with several more track stars that saw duty in the hands of Steve Saleen, Bob Bondurant, and Tim Allen.
Dave and Kathy Boucher have been late-model Mustang nuts since their first of the breed in 1996, and they came by this particular ride a few years later. The couple has a thing for yellow cars as well, for we first met them when they owned a tricked-out Chrome Yellow '98 Cobra. Running a Kenne Bell blower on its DOHC modular, the Cobra was the ideal Mustang for Dave and Kathy, until they discovered the Saleen through word of mouth-proving once again it's not always what you know, but whom. That the car was their favored hue basically sealed the deal, and the Cobra was quickly sent down the road to make way for the killer SR.
Take a closer look at this unusual Saleen and you'll immediately recognize the owners as certifiable neat freaks. Under the hood, there's little left in the way of natural finishes, as whatever isn't painted is polished, what's not polished is metallic ceramic coated, what isn't metallic ceramic is... You get the idea. Under the car, things are just as spotless, leading to an easy supposition that this is a first-class trailer queen. While it's true Dave and Kathy have added only 10,000 miles to the odometer in five years of ownership, the mileage is enough to prove the trailer-queen conclusion clearly off base-in fact, the couple doesn't even own a trailer. Instead, attribute the immaculate con-dition to fastidious care and the over-the-top detailing we alluded to earlier.
Equipment found on the race-inspired SR reads like a dream list for any red-blooded Mustang fan, but rather than being piecemealed together, much of it came standard on this rare-breed '95. Case in point is the impressive rolling stock and binders, which consist of 18-inch Saleen/Speedline magnesium rims-8.5 inches and 10 inches wide-along with Saleen/Alcon front discs. Elsewhere, note the Recaro SRD buckets, the deleted rear seat, the carbon-fiber hood, the 351-based engine, the Vor-tech supercharger, and the biplane rear wing-all factory installed.
With so many goods already onboard, Dave and Kathy found their first years of ownership limited to perfecting the details rather than adding serious hardware. All that changed in 1999, when one of the stock hypereutectic pistons in the 351 failed during some exuberant driving. The opportunity to make major changes had never presented itself so evidently, and Dave and Kathy jumped at the chance to separate their SR even further from the crowd by installing a Keith Craft stroker. Said engine may not look much different from the factory installation, but a tap on the throttle reveals all the difference in the world.
Built around a Ford Racing Performance Parts Sportsman block, the Craft-built powerplant displaces 408 ci thanks to a 4-inch, throw-forged, Eagle crank and sports blower-friendly JE pistons and Eagle H-beam rods. On top is the same Saleen-modified Cobra intake and Edelbrock heads that were fitted at the Saleen factory, both benefiting from the Extrude Hone treatment. The airpath includes a Pro-M 77mm mass air, a custom aluminum supercharger inlet pipe, and an Accufab 75mm throttle body, while fuel system upgrades consist of a high-flow in-tank and inline pumps, an Aeromotive regulator, Vortech rails, stainless lines, and 42-lb/hr injectors. JMS Motorsports burned the chip for the EEC IV, helping contribute to 624 horses when measured on the Mustang chassis dyno at Auburn, Washington's Blood Enterprises. Since that time, the cam has been changed to a milder grind from Comp Cams, but nearly 600 rear-wheel horsepower would still seem a likely bet-all at a modest 8 pounds of boost.
With stout engine hardware in the bag, a few other bits and pieces were chosen to complement the big power. Try an aluminum Fluidyne radiator, '95 Cobra R headers, a Bassani X-pipe, Bilstein/Saleen N2 dampers, and Steeda rear upper control arms, to name a few. Also on the upgrade list was a Vortech SQ, whose whisper-quiet demeanor now keeps attention riveted on the sweet-sounding 408.
Do you think we'll find dissenters who argue our assessment of this SR351's status among all things Saleen? Perhaps, but we'll stand by our position to the end. Dave and Kathy have done a terrific job of raising the bar on an already impressive machine, and if a limited-edition, horsepower-laden, retina-searing supercar doesn't qualify as one of the best, what would?
|5.0 TECH SPECS |
|ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN |
|Block ||FRPP 351W Sportsman |
|Displacement ||408 ci |
|Crank ||Forged Eagle 4-in stroker |
|Rods ||Eagle H-beam |
|Pistons ||JE forged |
|Cam ||Comp Cams hydraulic roller, 0.545-in lift, 240/248 degrees |
duration at 0.050
|Heads ||Edelbrock Performer RPM (2.02/1.60) |
|Intake ||Saleen-modified Cobra |
|Fuel System ||FRPP 42-lb/hr injectors, |
255-lph in-tank pump, Aeromotive inline pump and regulator, Vortech
fuel rails, -8/-6 stainless lines
|Exhaust ||Metallic-ceramic-coated |
'95 Cobra R headers, Bassani
X-pipe, Borla Cat-Back
|Power Adder ||Vortech V2 SQ S-Trim |
|Transmission ||Tremec five-speed, |
billet steel flywheel, and Centerforce
|Rearend ||8.8 w/3.27 gears, Torsen diff Saleen girdle cover, |
|Engine Management ||EEC IV, Autologic/JMS Motorsports chip |
|Ignition ||MSD |
|Gauges ||Saleen white-face |
|SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS |
|Front Suspension |
|K-Member ||Stock |
|Springs ||Saleen Racecraft |
|Struts ||Saleen/Bilstein N2 |
|Brakes ||Saleen/Alcon, 13 in |
|Wheels ||Saleen/Speedline, 18x8.5 in |
|Tires ||BFGoodrich G-Force 265/35ZR18 |
|Rear Suspension |
|Springs ||Saleen Racecraft |
|Shocks ||Saleen/Bilstein N2 |
|Control Arms ||Saleen Racecraft upper and lower |
|Brakes ||Saleen/Alcon, 12 in |
|Wheels ||Saleen/Speedline, 18x10 in |
|Tires ||BFGoodrich G-Force 295/35ZR18 |
|Rollcage ||Four-point |