It has been over a decade since the livery of S351 last graced a new Mustang. The former king of the Mustang hill, long before there was a new GT500 or even a Terminator Cobra, the S351 was the halo car for Mustang owners. Produced in limited numbers and at their pinnacle available with 500 hp, the top of the line Saleen graced many Mustang magazine covers and was highly revered wherever it went, even rumored to be capable of running nearly 200 mph!
Fast forward back to late last year, with founder Stave Saleen once again at the helm of the company that bares his name, the automotive press was suddenly abuzz when Saleen dropped a bombshell that the S351 badge would be returning, and putting the rest of the performance world on notice that it would carry an available 700 hp.
We were recently invited to Saleen’s company headquarters in Corona, California, to check out S351 number 13-001, the first S351 built since 1999. We also had an opportunity to talk with Steve Saleen himself about the return of this fabled Mustang.
Power In The Hands of a Few
The S351 Black is the top of the line Saleen Mustang. Perhaps the biggest question since it was teased to us last fall has been what will power the car? Rumors have long run of everything from a Coyote variant, to something more exotic, similar to what was built for the S7 Hyper-Car nearly a decade ago. We can happily lay all of those rumors to rest, and tell you that the S351 is in fact powered by a supercharged variant of the 5.4 DOHC modular engine, which of course is punched out to 351 cubic inches. Steve Saleen told us in our interview with him, “We’ve always looked at what the new technologies have been and how to achieve a little bit from yesteryear while advancing the breed and utilizing the latest technology.”
Saleen was involved with the Ford GT project during the early 2000’s. Applying what they learned while helping Ford build their own halo-car and helping it achieve the 550 hp figure – combined with the latest technology including Ford’s spray-bore lining on their blocks – the S351’s engine is top of the line. “In the case of the new 351 we’ve used everything at our disposal and in our arsenal, and then a little bit more, to achieve the drivability, and the horsepower,” says Saleen. Other notable features of the engine include a forged rotating assembly and a twin screw supercharger.
Function and Form
Controversial since the first rendering was released were those red butterflies in the hood scoop. There is no doubt that there are two types of cars with this kind of feature, those that can only pretend to have horsepower, and those that mean serious business. “At Saleen one of the things we’ve always done, is that everything has to be functional,” said Saleen. The S351’s butterfly system feeds cold air to the engine, and is controlled via the electronic throttle system opening the butterflies based on throttle angle to allow more fresh air into the engine.
Other exterior styling cues are those featured on Saleen Mustangs for years to improve airflow and vehicle performance. The front fascia is designed to provide high air volume to the radiator. There are also brake intakes and side vents.
The front grille is a unique Saleen blade-style grille. There’s also an integrated front splitter with heat exchanger intake. Quarter window trim cleans up the rear styling. The rear fascia has exhaust cooling vents, and the rear diffuser has Saleen’s signature center-exit exhaust. There is also a a Saleen rear spoiler, further differentiating the car from all others.
Exterior colors run the gambit of what is offered standard from Ford to more exotic offerings like the Orange County Orange that adorns number 13-001 that we photographed here. The interior of course has a host of Saleen touches including special seats, shift knob and steering wheel.
Chassis improvements include new front and rear Saleen specific springs, shocks, and struts. Improved high-durometer sway bar bushings are also standard on the S351 Black. 20×9-inch wheels shod in 275/35 front and 275/45 rear rubber. Six-piston calipers, and 14-inch cross-drilled rotors handle the stopping duties.
We weren’t given an opportunity to drive the S351 at this time, the model we viewed was the first of the breed, and already belonged to a private owner. We’d love to take one to the track, and the drag strip as well as on the road as we’ve done with other specialty Mustangs in the past, only time will tell if we’ll be allowed to do so.
Saleen dropped one more hint to us about the future though. The Mustang will continue to figure into the Saleen lineup for years to come, and Saleen promised that they had big plans for the upcoming S550 platform as well. What those are, Saleen wouldn’t say at this time.
It appears that with it’s founder back at the helm, Saleen will be churning out the kind of exciting Mustangs we’ve experienced from them in the past, and that’s the kind of future we can definitely look forward to.