Eric English
November 1, 2004
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

We've always found Saleen owners to be among the more avid and meticulous Mus-tang enthusiasts on the planet, and-as if you couldn't guess-the owner of the '98 Saleen Speedster seen here qualifies on both counts. Dean Yarza is the kind of guy who makes the non-gearheads of the world shake their heads and wonder why all the fuss. Why make a car with plenty of horsepower more powerful? Why make a car with a look-at-me demeanor more flashy? Why lavish so much time and money on underhood cosmetics? Of course, those who have to ask why will never get it, but it hardly matters. To those who share in the collector-car hobby-and the Saleen thing in particular-Dean's madness makes perfect sense.

This '98 iteration of Steve Saleen's brainchild isn't the first Dean has owned, as the 25-year-old engineer formerly tooled around his Santa Clara, California, digs in a '00 S281 coupe. Modified primarily in the go-fast tradition, the coupe was a hoot to drive, yet it couldn't offer the attribute Dean eventually found himself yearning for-good ol' fun in the sun. The search for a suitable topless replacement commenced in 2003, but Dean narrowed the playing field by determining his new Saleen would need to be Cobra-powered.

As most of our readers are aware, Saleens since the modular revolution have been largely based on SOHC GT platforms, so to add the Cobra proviso would seem akin to hunting a needle in a haystack. But, in Dean's case, the task was eased when he learned a friend of his would be willing to part with just such a car. The beautiful black convertible was bone-stock and showed just 33,000 miles on the clock-the perfect clean slate for a plan Dean had been formulating in his mind.

While most Mustang fans would find anything Saleen to be toward the pinnacle of flash and dash, Dean wasn't about to leave well enough alone. To that end, HRE forgings-18x9 and 18x10 front and rear-shod in Kumho rubber replaced the sweet-but-stock Saleen wheels. Adding to the mix are a com-posite hood, an S351 wing, PF Racing air splitters, and a smattering of carbon-fiber trim. Like so much eye candy, the modifications got results right out of the bag, with a First in Class at the first show Dean entered-the '03 Saleen extravaganza at the company's Irvine California headquarters.

Show-winning results never come solely on the basis of exterior merits, and raising this Saleen's lightweight hood reveals the true affliction from which Dean suffers. Apex Motorsports got the call for the two-fold mission in the engine compartment, combining stellar performance with over-the-top spit-and-polish. A wide array of engine pieces were sent to Valley Plating for either chrome or polishing, including the intake, cam covers, alternator, discharge tubing, and-OK, we give up. Just check out the photos and you'll get the idea.

Though hidden amongst the overkill, the stuff that makes for real excitement are the pieces the Apex crew fitted to the formerly 305-horse 4.6. Beyond the obvious Vortech S-Trim supercharger with its Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe, the chief players include a Pro-M 80mm air meter, a BBK throttle body, 42-lb/hr injectors, a Bassani exhaust, and an Apex-tuned Autologic chip. While the combination has yet to see quantifiable performance evaluations, we predict the results to be substantial.

While this drop-top snake has an emphasis on visual aesthetics, we'd be remiss not to point out the less obvious pieces, which make for a complete package. Better cornering prowess comes from Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates, along with a complete front coilover conversion. Out back, Global West lower control arms and Traclink work to improve on the live-axle Mustang's less-than-perfect handling traits. Think the rev-happy 4.6 is made even happier by the Fidanza aluminum flywheel and 4.10 gears? Believe it!