Scotty Lachenauer
August 20, 2015

Muscle car aficionado Stephen Wehner was at a major crossroads. The souped-up, small-block Ford Explorer he was driving daily was a cool family truckster, but it just wasn’t cutting it anymore for the young performance-loving father, who was now expecting his second child. You see, Wehner was extending his own playtime way too much in the once mild, now wild SUV, and his hot rodding shenanigans were very much to the chagrin of his particularly patient wife. Something had to give.

And that Explorer was no slouch. With its beefy cam, exhaust mods, shift kit, and stealthy supercharged Cobra powerplant, this family grocery-getter was bringing home the bacon and frying it up on the streets. But Wehner feared that his better half might have him relinquish his rights to the truck’s driver seat if he continued his usual hijinks in the rad sport/utility. So he, in all his wisdom, felt that to keep harmony in the family he needed a play toy of his own, just to take the heat off.

The halcyon days when Wehner enjoyed driving his radical Fox-body around now felt like an eternity ago. He was constantly waxing poetic about his long-gone favorite custom pony car. That particular ride, a 1986 GT that sported a NOS infused Crawford built 347 small-block backed by a TKO 3550 trans, was just an enduring, tire-smoking memory now. He constantly dreamed of one day tearing up the blacktop again in his own street-eating and race-ready Mustang, a car he could call, without doubt, his own. Problem was there were now channels to go through to get something like that back in the family garage—and the whole muscle car idea might be a tough sell.

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After he queried his wife and presented her with all the hard facts and possible options, Wehner received her blessing on the Mustang project. Super-stoked, he wasted no time taking to the local want ads to search out and purchase a car that fit his needs . . . just in case his wife had a change of heart.

Interestingly enough, a stock 1993 convertible was up for sale just a few blocks from his house. He speedily went by and spied the Fox, concluding that it was definitely something he could start his new project with. With a little negotiation, the drop-top was his for the taking. A strategy was then developed and then promptly put into motion. It was a plan to turn this ordinary LX into the car of his horsepower-driven dreams.

Wehner was fascinated with Saleen Mustangs since he was kid. Luckily, he had saved practically a library’s worth of print on his favorite ride, the lot of which would now come in handy in helping determine the bare bones of this brute. He tore through his stacks of magazines and made a quick running list of features that would possibly grace his new steed. The ’87-’93 cars were especially of interest; that’s when Wehner felt they had the best body kits and wheels while still sporting creature comforts like air conditioning. These beautiful modified Mustangs would be the catalyst for his own personal build.

Little by little the car was coming together, slowly turning from a basic SC clone into a car that was tweaked with options that satisfied Wehner’s taste. That included modifications to both the performance and esthetic sides of the build. To give the Mustang a shot of wow factor, the owner ordered up a complete Saleen body kit, which would give the ride a more lowered appearance while boosting the appeal of the basic Fox. And when it came to paint, nothing was more pleasing to the owner than a deep black spray job. Luckily for him, this ride came from the factory that way!

Once Wehner got the body basics down, the next question was what would power this drop-top down the blacktop. The answer came from his good friend Larry Mershrod. Mershrod talked the owner into taking a 331ci and topping it with a set of massaged Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads. An octet of 8.5:1 Ross pistons would soon fill the bores, and a custom-ground camshaft got the valves jumpin’ in time. The kicker in this buildup would be a 88mm turbo, to give this engine the boost it needed to make the power Wehner craved.

The owner was excited about the concept of adding the turbo to an already strong setup. He immediately contacted HP Turbo and ordered a Stage 2 kit for the Mustang. To complete the kit, Wehner found an OEM intake used on the Saleen SC cars and sent it out for a full port and polish job, along with the heads. To get rid of the spent gases, a custom exhaust was built using 3-inch pipes and was finished off with a pair of resonators and custom tips. It’s a system the owner designed himself.

Once the power was spoken for, Wehner turned his attention to the suspension and running gear. Braking power were basically a revamp of the 1994 Cobra setup. The four-wheel discs give the Fox all the stopping power it needs. Maximum Motorsport supplied the suspension, a system featuring both front and rear tubular control arms, which cut excess weight while adding more strength. A Panhard bar, along with Bilstein struts and coilovers, rounds out the build. This setup keeps the Saleen firmly planted on the ground even in the most rigorous road-rage situations.

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When it came down to wheels, Wehner knew exactly what he wanted from the get-go. His choice: a set of rare Stern three-piece wheels that were featured only on the SC models. Tracking them down would be a chore, but the owner scored a set on the West Coast. With a little negotiating, the rims were headed back east to the Jersey suburbs; the rims were shod with 275/40/17 skins out back and 255/45/17 up front.

Once Wehner had the basics done, he got the car out into the daylight. What he saw didn’t make him happy. “The factory paint just was not up to snuff with the rest of the car” declared Stephen. There and then he decided to strip the car and take the body down to the steel for a complete repaint. His friends at Bergenfield Auto Body laid the single-stage black on the flanks, but not before smoothing out the firewall for a cleaner look. After the paint was wet sanded and buffed to a smooth as silk finish, friends Jessica and Karl Lafrance helped with getting the correct decals for the car.

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Wehner decided to label the car with the number 17, right where all true Saleens get their personal number mark. It was an important number in his father’s life, and this personalization was in tribute to his passing a few years before. It was his dad who got him addicted to American muscle cars, a hobby that bonded the entire family.

When it came to the interior, Wehner liked the original Saleen issue and wanted to use this as the basis for the cockpit. He found a set of original Saleen seats on Craigslist. They had been restitched in leather, which was definitely a classy touch, and soon featured custom graphics that the owner insisted on. On the dash, this ride sports a set of original white faced gauges, including the 200-mph speedo. Amazingly someone had heard about Wehner’s build on the Internet and was more than happy to sell him these rare add-ons. The interior is rounded out by power windows and an A/C system that keeps things chill even in stifling New Jersey summers.

The original computer was long gone when Wehner bought the car, so an ACCEL DFI now handles the chores of getting this beast to run smooth while keeping horsepower numbers to the max. With this current setup, running at 8 psi of boost, the owner manages to pull over 600 rwhp. That’s just the street tune. With the proper race tune, Wehner figures he can produce over 800 rwhp—pretty nice in such a lightweight, streetable pony ride.

So now Wehner takes the Mustang out for some serious flogging at least several times a week. It even makes the 50-mile commute to his business on occasion, a true testament to how stable and well thought out the drivetrain is. And he doesn’t baby this car. He drives it hard and often because, frankly, that’s the reason he built the car in the first place. It’s all he ever wanted in a drop-top Mustang—and then some.