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!

With everything said and done, Dean has no regrets about swapping his closed-roof Saleen for the open-air Speedster, and if we lived in SoCal, we'd likely feel the same way. The high-end detailing admittedly doesn't lend itself to daily commuting, so the black beauty is now relegated to entertaining weekend duty. Not to be without a Saleen to make the best of the daily grind, Dean recently jumped into a more pedestrian Two-Valve S281 convertible. Get the feeling there's more to this Saleen thing than meets the eye?

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock
Displacement 281 ci
Crank Stock
Rods Stock
Pistons Stock
Cams Stock
Heads Stock
Intake Stock w/BBK throttle body
Injectors 42 lb/hr
Fuel Pumps Walbro 255-lph
in-tank, Vortech T-Rex inline
Fuel Lines Stock
Fuel Rails Stock
Headers Stock
Exhaust Bassani catalytic X-pipe and Saleen/Borla mufflers
Power Adder Vortech S-Trim
Transmission Stock T45
Rearend 8.8 w/4.10 gears
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management Stock EEC V
w/Autologic chip
Ignition Stock w/MSD wires
and a Kenne Bell Boost-a-Spark
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member Stock
Control Arms Stock
Springs Maximum Motorsports
coilovers
Struts Saleen N2
Brakes Stock w/Baer Eradispeed rotors
and Hawk pads
Wheels HRE
Tires Kumho
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Saleen
Shocks Saleen N2
Control Arms Global West
Brakes Stock w/Power Slot rotors
Wheels HRE
Tires Kumho
Cage N/A
Chassis Stiffening Global West
subframe connectors