Dale Amy
December 1, 2006
Photos By: Michael Johnson
Somehow, Beryllium and Extreme just naturally go together.

Horse Sense: If you're in a counting mood, a mere 62 S281 Extremes rolled off Saleen's West Coast production facilities in 2002.

Quick poll: How many out there in reader-land would be happy with a $69,564, Whipple-blown Saleen S281 Extreme in the ultra-rare, nuke-flash-bright (and extra $5,000) Beryllium Clearcoat? All that Saleen style and a supercharger to boot-yup, thought so; we see many hands waving enthusiastically out there. Alas, four hands conspicuously not raised belong to Brian and Robbie Black, proprietors of Black's Automotive Group in Casselberry, Florida. These enterprising, speed-freak brothers have one of just a pair of '02 S281 Extreme coupes that were factory-slathered in Beryllium (the second was reportedly destroyed). They apparently decided its Saleen flywheel rating of 425 hp just wouldn't do.

Maybe they thought it was getting worn out because, with only 6,600 miles on the clock, the Black brothers pointed the singular Saleen a stone's throw down the road to the Longwood shops of Lamotta Performance for some short-block toughening-oh, and a little extra power. There, Jake Lamotta and Jay Meagher tore the unsuspecting 281 asunder and replaced its guts with sterner stuff. Though no effort was made to bump displacement, a Cobra steel crank went in with ARP main studs to serve bulletproof backbone duty, and it now gets spun via Manley H-beam rods and the same Mahle pistons and rings that reside within the Ford GT supercar. The reciprocating/rotating mass was balanced. Meanwhile the heads and intake went off to Champion, in Daytona. The heads were ported and the intake band-sawn in half, ported, port-matched to the heads, and magically merged back together.

With passages suitably free-flowing, all went back to Lamotta, where work continued with a set of Comp Cams XE 262 bumpsticks-in this case among the milder in Comp's fittingly named Extreme Energy lineup. These are ground more for torque and low/midrange power rather than the buzzy end of the tach. As things came together over a three-month span, 60-lb/hr FRPP injectors were spec'd, along with an SVT Focus fuel pump and a Kenne-Bell Boost-A-Pump. With fuel supply for the most part ensured, a 75mm Accufab throttle body and an SCT Big Air mass-air meter were added to the parts list to be sure there was plenty of air for the mix. Not wanting to mess with the Saleen's distinctive center-exit pipes, a 2.5-inch MagnaFlow cat-equipped H-pipe was deemed sufficient to help expel gases and no doubt deepen the exhaust note. For insurance, the factory clutch in front of the stock T56 six-speed was ditched in favor of a McLeod twin-disc replacement.

Now, you have to figure all this money wasn't spent just to run stock boost. Even so, the brothers were curious to see what that factory boost-reportedly peaking at around 10 psi-would do, so the car was originally tuned by SCT, also in Longwood, Florida, with the standard-issue blower pulley in place. The result was a stout 440 ponies at the wheels, probably about 80 more than stock. With that basic research out of the way, the Saleen 4.25-inch pulley was unceremoniously dismissed, and on went a 3-incher, resulting in a peak of 18 psi. Now we know why the brothers went to all those short-block efforts. Back on the dyno-after a suitable retune, of course-the extreme Extreme then put 501 hp and 500 lb-ft to the rollers, which the Black brothers admit is "a blast to drive." Yeah-500/500 are such nice round numbers.

Luckily, with the stock Saleen Racecraft suspension and gummy Michelin Pilot Sports, the extra thrust is manageable, and the combo has run 11.3 at 127 mph on track. We doubt the strip is the brothers' main concern, however, as certainly no effort has been made to pare any of the Saleen's beef. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the factory entertainment gear was no longer considered up to snuff and was yanked by the folks at Ultimate Audio in Winter Garden, Florida. The far more substantial replacements include an XM-ready, Sony MEX-5DI CD head unit, Alpine Type-X door and rear speakers, a pair of JL Audio 10-inch W3 subwoofers in a custom box, and a Kicker KX700.5 five-channel amp to drive everything. Other than the stereo upgrades, nothing much else was necessary in the Extreme's classy Recaro-equipped cockpit.

So, with all said and done, the Blacks now refer to this as their "Saleen E on Steroids." Sounds about right.

A smaller pulley on the Whipple and an SCT Big Air mass air are some of the few external giveaways of the beefed and balanced assembly beneath. That, along with ported passages, stir 500 hp and pound-feet to life. Jaded as we are, it's still nice to ponder that such output comes from a mere 281 cubic inches.

The Black brothers didn't have to do much in the Extreme's already top-class interior. But the tunes now sound notably better thanks to a major makeover in audio gear. Of course, you can't see much here because most of the hardware is tucked in the trunk.

Act of Bravery
Generally, I like to kill two birds with one stone. If we're going to be at a Mustang shop shooting a technical installation, we also try to hook up a couple of feature cars for the magazine. While I was working on a technical install at Lamotta's Performance in Longwood, Florida, the plan was to shoot Black's Automotive's Beryllium '02 Saleen Extreme for a feature, which is what you see here. Black's Automotive [(407) 830-8801] is a performance-car (primarily Mustangs) dealership in Casselberry, Florida, just down the road from Lamotta's Performance.

Even though the feature shoot went down as smooth as silk, the technical install at Lamotta's took longer than anticipated, as more parts were needed. So there I was with my mode of transport (the car at Lamotta's) all torn apart and an hour and a half from home. Thanks to the guys at Black's Automotive, I had wheels to get me back home on the weekend and days between working on the project car. No, the loaner car wasn't this Saleen-I could just imagine ripping the front bumper cover off that car-but Black's came through for me in a big way. Oh, yeah-Black's had plenty of nice Mustangs on the lot, too. From Fox bodies to '05-'06 Saleen Mustangs, Black's probably has a Mustang with your name on it.