June 1, 2013

Saleen 351

Saleen fans have something to smoke their tires about with the announcement of a new 351 model. The press release notes the muscular 700 hp and 655 lb-ft of torque we've come to expect from headlining Saleens, along with a 3.73 final drive, amped-up suspension, design mods inside and out, 15-inch brakes, tall 20x9- and 20x10-inch wheels, and plenty of signage to get the message across.

A call to Steve Saleen netted a few more details. The engine is Coyote-based, with a complete teardown and rebuild to install the stroker crankshaft and heavy-duty hardware. Steve says he's using his 296 twin-screw blower on the 351, which wasn't too hard to imagine after hearing the power figures. The six-speed manual transmission and a custom clutch are specified.

Two cars were reported going together last January at our deadline, and frankly we're eager to see the finished efforts for several reasons. If nothing else, these will be the first truly new Mustangs from Steve Saleen now that he's reunited his old Saleen company name and SMS. The company is significantly smaller and less distracted these days compared to the pre-Great Recession peak, and we think that will show positively in the car's personality. There's a new taillight promised, for example, which should give us Mustang fans something to editorialize on.

We're also looking forward to sampling a new glass-roof option from Saleen. This is a version of the Scenic Roof, but with a touch-to-opaque option—simply touch the glass and it frosts over to block unwanted heat and light. Steve also notes the 351 features his Red Butterfly hood, which opens throttle-like butterflies for cold-air induction at WOT.

Asked about distribution of the new cars and Steve says he's continuing to build a dealer network for his Ford, Dodge, and Chevy products. There are already dealers in place, so there should be an opportunity to see the 351 before reaching for its $80,000 base price.

—Tom Wilson

Wide Array

At the North American International Auto Show, Shelby American (www.shelbyamerican.com) unveiled a pair of intriguing new vehicle options. The headliner was a wide-boy version of the vaunted Super Snake package, while the wild card was a Shelbyized version of Ford's latest hot hatch, the Focus ST.

"Carroll Shelby's innovative and aggressive hot-rodder spirit lives on at Shelby American today. " said John Luft, president of Shelby American. "His Cobra redefined the sports car genre, and then Shelby turned what some called a ‘secretary's car,' the Mustang, into the fire-breathing GT350. A few years later, Shelby practically invented the American ‘Pocket Rocket' with the four-cylinder turbocharged, front-wheel-drive Shelby GLH. This year, we're returning to our roots with a pair of game-changing cars that will rewrite the rules for American performance."

Most of us are quite familiar with the 850hp Super Snake package, which expounds on Ford SVT's potent GT500 by adding a larger supercharger, a tuned suspension, and numerous styling upgrades. For an additional $17,995, you can add the Wide Body variant, which wears 10-inch-front and 13-inch-rear wheels to fill out its widened haunches. Aside from the obvious aesthetic gains for the wider rubber, it also affords this powerful vehicle some much needed traction.

If you are looking for a Shelby that's a bit more compact, the company is playing off its compact-car roots in the Brand X world with the debut of the '13 Shelby Focus ST. Showing that this ST is a Shelby are a litany of appearance mods, including a CSM badge, hydrocarbon grille inserts, Shelby lettering, and a hydrocarbon rear spoiler. Performance mods include a Shelby/Borla exhaust, and larger brakes with drilled and slotted rotors. Production of the Shelby ST is limited to 500 units, and you can have one for $14,995 on top of the ST price tag.

Most of us are quite familiar with the 850hp Super Snake package, which expounds on Ford SVT's potent GT500 by adding a larger supercharger, a tuned suspension, and numerous styling upgrades