Michael Johnson Associate Editor
May 1, 2008
The exterior is all Saleen with the requisite ground effects, or as Saleen calls it, an air management system. The ventilated hood is aluminum, while the front and rear bumper covers, side skirts, and door cladding are made from injection-molded TPO (See Horse Sense). The TPO process, along with other lightweight components, brings the Saleen S281 to an estimated 3,356 pounds. Mike's Torch Red S281 wears optional chrome 20x9 wheels wrapped in Dunlop 275/35/20 rubber.

Horse Sense: You'll notice the '05-and-up Saleen's bumper covers and side skirts are made from a material we won't even pretend to know about. From what we've been able to gather, the material is called TPO, which stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefinic elastomers. In a nutshell, the patented material is comprised of at least one thermoplastic polyolefin polymer with at least one dynamically vulcanized rubber material.

Sometimes certain events have a way of not turning out how we planned. When we have high hopes for an idyllic ending, the wheels fall off and we end up in life's version of a ditch. Even life itself sometimes hits a rough patch, sending us into a tailspin until we right the ship, cut our losses, and go on with the show.

Mike Osinga knows something about things not going his way. He's currently fighting for custody of his daughter, Alyssa, and he's hoping his second trip down the aisle, this time with Harmony Howell, is his last. Mike is a hard worker, though. He pounds the pavement as a salesperson at Black's Automotive Group in Casselberry, Florida. Black's specializes in the cars we hold dear to our hearts. It sells lesser vehicles, too, but Mustangs are the stars on the dealership lot.

Through his position at Black's, Mike heard about the Saleen you see here. It was traded in at a local dealer. His time with this car has mirrored his personal life to a great extent.The first time we saw this Saleen was at the '05 PRI show. Mustang Dynamometer had two dynos set up in tandem showing off its drag race function. One Mustang was an '03 Cobra, and the other car was this Saleen. Former owner David Kicklighter was pounding the Saleen for all its worth during the dyno shootout. Predictably, he and the Saleen had no problem laying waste to the mostly stock Cobra. Having heard about the car from Jake Lamotta of Lamotta Performance and seeing the car in action, we returned to the Longwood, Florida, area with our cameras for a closer look.

Everything on the inside is standard Saleen fare with leather sport seats and louvered headrests, a 200-mph speedometer, performance driving pedals, S281 floor mats and serialized dash plaque, and a close-ratio shifter. Since Mike's S281 wasn't an SC, it didn't come from Saleen with a boost gauge, but that was solved with the addition of an Auto Meter unit along with an AEM air/fuel gauge.

When we photographed the car, it was still owned by David, but then it was traded in. That's when Mike entered the picture.

Mike heard about the car and bought it on the spot. He already had a single-turbo Fox coupe, and hoped the Saleen would be the perfect car to cap off his small yet powerful collection of Mustangs. Somewhere along the line, the car's tune fell off the tracks because Mike says it wasn't running well when he bought it. He wished Real Street Performance's Jay Meagher could've checked out the car prior, but there wasn't any time. It was March, the start of the race season, and Jay was busy at his new shop.

Mike hoped it was just a tuning issue, so he had SCT's Michael Schimmack look at the car. It was checked over from a tuning standpoint, but nothing electronic stood out as the problem. At one time, the car had a returnless fuel system, but that had been changed to a return-style system. The car was getting plenty of fuel, so that was ruled out. Everything pointed to mechanical ills, so the car was sent to Jay's shop for a thorough mechanical analysis.

Jay discovered a dead cylinder and three melted spark plugs were keeping the car from running its best. He fixed the cylinder with a new sleeve and piston and put it all back together. Once running again, everything was right with the car. It made six-hundie on the dyno, but Jay turned it down to a safe 510 to the wheels.

Now that it's fixed, wouldn't you know the economy goes south, bringing with it stagnant car sales, hurting Mike. To right the ship, he decided to sell the Saleen. However, with auto sales flat, the car is probably not going anywhere fast-unless Mike's driving it.