Dale Amy
April 1, 2008
Every S281 is born with attitude, but one with a ghost-flame job, a carbon-fiber Cobra R-style hood, Zenetti rims, and many other discreet but effective custom touches takes it to the next level. James Jossey's Saleen #01-539 has reached that level.

Horse Sense: The N-tercooler from Nitrous Express features a discharge loop that zip-ties to an intercooler's heat exchanger. Bottle-fed with either nitrous or CO2, the setup can dramatically lower air-charge temps on demand.

As I vaguely recall (hey, it was a long time ago), somewhere around the tender age of 19, I signed on the dotted line for my first car, a small-block '69 Mach 1. At the time, the fastback was already 4 years old, but it was in decent original condition and set me back the heady sum of $2,200. Still in college, I could afford this vehicular luxury-and its accompanying insurance bills-only because I still lived at home. But, brother, was I pumped and proud; I had wheels of my own, and best of all, those wheels were on a Mustang. Still, Michigan's James Jossey has me thoroughly beat.

When he was 19, James wandered into Russ Milne Ford in Macomb, Michigan, to invest in this new, supercharged '01 Saleen S281-one of what must have been a paltry few sprayed in True Blue Clearcoat Metallic. My $2,200 wouldn't even have covered its tax. And to further rub salt in my wounds, this was James' second Mustang. His first, a black '01 GT, was only 9 months old when he traded it for the Saleen. I guess I should've worked harder as a youth.

James, who comes from "a long line of Ford lovers and employees," was sold by the S281's unusual color, especially combined with its light-gray, leather interior. He was particularly amped about the Saleen's optional, positive-displacement blower and Saleen/Brembo 13-inch brakes. Still, he admits: "I couldn't leave the car alone." From our photos you can easily see that in the intervening five years, he most certainly hasn't.

Saleen's gauge package is augmented by an additional trio from Auto Meter on the A-pillar. Entertainment now includes a DVD-driven LCD screen, Infinity drivers for the factory counterparts, and a Pioneer head unit with an iPod interface. Of course, the pair of nitrous bottles mounted where the back seat used to reside also provide some level of entertainment. The leather sport/race buckets are from Summit Racing.

On the outside, "I shaved the door handles, key locks, and antenna," James says. "I painted the mirrors to give the car a smooth body and unique look." But the purchase of a carbon-fiber, Cobra R-style hood prompted the most obvious exterior embellishments. Because the new hood required painting, James jumped right in with ghost flames. This pale blue conflagration spreads from the front fascia onto the hood, front fenders, doors, roof, and even the trunklid and rear spoiler. On the similarly hued fascia, he removed Saleen's vinyl serialization number and had it renumbered in paint, and then filled the eye-holes with a Mecca Tune HID headlamp kit. As if that weren't enough, he also ditched the Saleen rims in favor of chromed Zenetti Stellas, wrapping them with 256/35R18 Yokohamas at the steering end and 295/35R18 BFG Drag Radials as launch pads.

James' goal was to personalize and detail the S281 without detracting from its overall Saleen styling, and we give him full marks for accomplishing that. At a glance, this is clearly an '01 Saleen; it's only with a closer look that the hours of custom work draw the eye. Sure, the hood isn't as issued by Saleen, but neither is the engine that now rests beneath.

Sure it's dressy, but it's also tough, with a built short-block from VT Engines, extra boost via a 66mm pulley, and a custom NX nitrous system to boot. When all is said and done, the result is 567 rwhp.

James contracted VT Engines to construct a fresh short-block centered around a forged eight-bolt Cobra crank, 0.020-over forged Diamond pistons with a 19cc dish and Manley forged H-beam rods. Displacing 283 ci and with 9.1:1 compression, VT calls it the GT Sportsman. Modular Powerhouse custom blower cams and Comp Cams beehive springs are fitted to the stock heads.

Since everything was apart anyway, a SPEC clutch and billet-steel SFI-approved flywheel were added to front the reworked Tremec 3650 tranny. Installation and tuning were handled by Pandes Performance in Westland, Michigan. Why build all this strength? Because James decided to up the boost (13 psi) with a Chicane 66mm blower pulley and a custom Nitrous Express laughing-gas system. He also opted for an NX N-tercooler to chill the boost breath. On a typically conservative Mustang dyno, the results are 477 rwhp without the nitrous and 567 rwhp with it. The tough short-block was likely a wise investment.