Upgrading a pony car

  • 19-Aug-2008 11:29 EDT
Saleen Sterling Edition.jpg
The 2008 Saleen S302 Extreme is a real car, but its virtual clone appears in Rockstar Games' Midnight Club Los Angeles for Sony Playstation3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.

Specialty vehicle maker Saleen has turned many mass-produced automobiles into high-performance alternatives. A current example is the transformation of the 300-hp (224-kW) V8 Ford Mustang into an extreme street machine.

To get more than double the power from the production car, the sports car lost and gained hundreds of components on route to becoming the Saleen S302 Extreme.

"On average, we take off 1000 parts and put on 1000 new parts," said Chris Theodore, Vice Chairman and Chief Technical Officer at Saleen Inc. "The S302 Extreme is the most comprehensive revamping of an existing vehicle that we've done to date."

To create the S302 Extreme engine, the new list includes a forged steel crankshaft, H-beam forged rods, forged pistons and ring pack, head gaskets, high-lift camshafts, valve springs and keepers, CNC machined cylinder head ports and combustion chambers as well as an aluminum flywheel. The intake and exhaust valves are modified, and a Saleen Lysholm supercharger is added to the powertrain package.

The car also receives a number of new drivetrain and accessory components, including the cooling system, charge cooler, charge cooler pump and shrouding, six-speed transmission, short-throw shifter, high-performance clutch and driveshaft, 3.73:1 Max Grip axle, and cold-air induction system.

"These are the things you must do to harness 620 hp. In addition to the above-noted changes, there are new brakes, a new suspension with second-generation Watts link, new wheels and tires, as well as interior and exterior functional and appearance upgrades," said Theodore. "It's our ultimate version of the Ford Mustang."

While Saleen has made its name based on the performance kick given to various production vehicles, the low-volume specialty vehicle maker has been busy on other fronts. In late 2007, Saleen's primary investor, Hancock Park Associates, acquired the assets of American Specialty Cars (ASC) Inc., a supplier of roof systems, body systems, and other specialty vehicle systems.

The 2008 New York Auto Show saw the reveal of various ASC systems and Saleen vehicles, including the S5S Raptor concept, which "features our first E85 supercharged application," said Theodore. Added Marques McCammon, Saleen's General Manager, "By using ethanol fuel, the powertrain is able to run higher compression with the potential to get 5% more horsepower than our normal 5.0-L supercharged engine."

Saleen has manufacturing facilities in Irvine, CA, and Troy, MI. The Troy locale will add new labs and test equipment, and the current pool of 40 engineers will increase.

"As we continue to expand our engineering staff, we're looking for more powertrain engineers, especially calibrators, as well as chassis engineers, and body and interior trim engineers. We're also looking to grow in the electronics-features area, so there is a need for electronics engineers, too," said Theodore, who also serves as ASC's Vice Chairman and Chief Technical Officer.

In the near term, ASC and Saleen will be separate companies, but the long-term plan calls for integrating the two. Current projects at the Troy facility include equipping all supercharged Ford Harley-Davidson Edition F-150 pickup trucks with Saleen's patented twin-screw supercharger. The Troy facility's $15 million paint shop, which put exterior color on all Ford GT super cars until production ended in 2006, is where 2008 Dodge Vipers are painted. "We have the capacity to paint as many as 5,000 vehicles a year," said Theodore.

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