Steve Saleen was an accomplished racing driver. He drove a Shelby Mustang to victory in his first race. For years he was a regular Formula Super Vee driver, and even sold his house for a Formula Atlantic open-wheeled racer. With his love of racing and his lack of funding, he looked to legend Carroll Shelby for a plan. Like Shelby, he would combine competitive racing and performance street cars into a single, well-recognized brand. Saleen Autosport was born.
The first Saleen Mustangs were inaugurated with a first-place victory at the Mosport Park 24-hour endurance race in Ontario, Canada. The 1984 street cars featured an aerodynamics package, improved suspension, and individual serial numbers for their limited edition run. The next few years would be slow building for the Saleen business, culminating in first, second, and third place in the 1988 Mosport Park enduro. This was the first time a Ford-powered vehicle had taken first, second, and third place since the legendary GT40s had run in the 24 Hours of LeMans.
The team of Saleen and Allen "RRR" Speedlab was formed in 1995 as a venture between Steve Saleen and television star Tim Allen to support Saleen Mustangs in the SCCA World Challenge Series. The team has won four SCCA Manufacturer's Championships, including three consecutive championships in 1996, '97, and '98.
The Saleen S281 and S281-E are modified Ford Mustangs build for street and track use. The S281 is powered by a 4.6 liter, 16-valve engine with optional supercharger, while the S281-E uses a Saleen-built engine based on the same block. Both utilize special suspension packages and suspension packages. Pricing rangers from $36,000 for an S281 coupe to $65,000 for an S281-E. The only optional equipment is cosmetic, including an $11,000 pearlescent paint job.
The Saleen SR is a Mustang modified for the track, including a 500 horsepower blown V8. It features an integral roll cage and an aerodynamics package that replaces every stock Mustang body panel. Standard equipment also includes 14.4/13.0 inch disc brakes and adjustable suspension. The SR starts at $175,000.
The N2O Focus is a minor footnote. It features Saleen custom suspension, but is powered by a largely stock Ford Duratec engine. The only power modifications are fittings and an ECU reflash to handle the injection of nitrous oxide. The nitrous itself is not furnished by Saleen, and must be purchased from a separate merchant. As another footnote, Saleen briefly produced the Explorer XP8, a lowered, high-power SUV.
Saleen's flagship is the supercar S7, a mid-engine beast capable of over 200 miles per hour. The S7 has a carbon fiber body on a tube frame chassis, giving it a curb weight of only 2750 pounds. Powering this is a naturally aspirated Ford-based 7.0 liter V8 that can take the vehicle from 0 to 60 in under four seconds. The MSRP $395,000.