Drew Phillips
February 23, 2011

For some people, cars are just a mode of transportation, a way to get from point A to point B. For others, cars can be a symbol of freedom to go anywhere at any time, an outlet for adrenaline-filled speed, or a source of memories with family and friends. For Steve Craig, his Mustang represents even more than that. It saved his life.

Steve's connection with Mustangs started at a young age. His grandfather flew P-51 Mustangs during WWII, and he grew up fascinated by both their airplanes and the cars that were named in their honor. "I have always felt that Ford Mustangs embodied the American spirit and the freedoms that my grandfather fought so tenaciously to preserve," Steve tells us. Unfortunately his grand-father passed away in 1984 when he was 14, but Steve's spirits were lifted soon afterward. "I saw an introductory ad for the Saleen Mustang. I swore that I would be able to afford one and that I would become a Saleen owner."

It was more than 20 years before Steve's promise to himself would become a reality. In the meantime, he followed his grandfather's footsteps and entered the military, serving in Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and a tour of duty in Iraq in 2005.

"Transitioning from combat service to daily life was especially difficult for me," Steve admits. "I needed an outlet for the PTSD symptoms I was experiencing." He decided to fulfill his childhood dream and purchased a Saleen Mustang in January 2007.

At first, Steve had no intention of modifying his Mustang, but he was "infected by the bug," as he says, just a few months after attending the Fabulous Fords Forever show in Southern California in 2007. "I was amazed by how different and personalized each of the Mustangs was," he remembers.

He began researching the different modifications and parts available, and gave a call to Jason Cenora of 281 Motorsports in Anaheim, California, for some help. Jason worked closely with Steve to figure out what he wanted to do with his Mustang and plan the build.

Since Steve already loved the look of his Mustang, he didn't feel the need to change much of the exterior. He replaced the Saleen hood with a Techco butterfly-induction fiberglass unit, and added the carbon-fiber front splitter and rear diffuser from Saleen's S302 Extreme Mustang.

With the upgraded Saleen suspension system in the car, Steve left that alone for the most part as well, adding just a Techco Watt's-link system, BMR tubular K-member, Progress Technology control arms, SSBC brakes front and rear, and black powdercoated Saleen five-spoke wheels wrapped with BFGoodrich KDW II tires.

The interior received just minor modifications, as well. Auto Meter Cobalt gauges on the dash and A-pillar keep tabs on the engine, and a Kenwood DDX8019 head unit, with DVD and NAV, controls the upgraded sound system, consisting of Alphasonik amplifiers and 800 Series 10-inch subwoofers.

Even though his Saleen Mustang was already supercharged, Steve wanted more horsepower-much more horsepower! He figured it would be easiest to achieve that by running more boost, but knew he was going to have to make some big upgrades to the Three-Valve V-8 first. He turned to Voss Performance of Fullerton, California, to handle the build.

In went a Kellogg forged-steel crankshaft, Manley H-beam rods, and custom-forged CP pistons. To help handle the extra amounts of air coming into the cylinders, Voss also installed a set of Livernois Comp XFI Stage 2 camshafts; larger intake and exhaust valves; Livernois Stage 2 CNC ported and polished heads; Ford Racing dual 62mm throttle body; and a Techco cold-air kit with a 100mm mass air. Techco also ported the Saleen Series VI supercharger to allow for the absolute maximum amount of boost.

Getting enough fuel to the cylinders was the next priority, and Voss Performance made sure the Three-Valve would never be lacking. In went a trio of fuel pumps from the Ford GT supercar, and fuel lines and rails from Fore Precision. The engine modifications were topped off with JBA ceramic-coated Shorty headers; an AFCO heat exchanger with dual cooling fans; a Fluidyne aluminum radiator; and a Meziere electric water pump.

Voss Performance made sure Steve's Mustang was up to the task of delivering more than 600 hp at the wheels. A Tremec TR6060 six-speed replaced the factory five-speed transmission, and a McLeod RXT twin-disc organic unit supplanted the stock clutch. Voss also installed a custom one-piece, steel driveshaft; an Eaton TrueTrac differential; Superior 31-spline chrome-moly axles; and 3.90 gears.

At this point, Steve shipped his Mustang over to Billy Rollins of Vendicated Tuning of Modesto, California, for final tuning. Rollins wrote a custom tune from scratch for the car, ensuring it would make as much power as safely possible. The result? At 17 psi, Steve's Saleen Mustang puts out 632 hp and 611 lb-ft torque at the rear wheels.

While Steve's Mustang is certainly impressive underneath the hood, the most important part of the car is actually in the trunk. He had been suffering from survivor guilt since coming home from Iraq, and Jason Cenora suggested that Steve create a memorial in the trunk to honor his comrades killed in the line of duty.

"I was hesitant at first, wondering how I could possibly honor them properly in the trunk of the car," he told us. "After consulting with my wife and Captain Mike Riley, I realized that memorializing them would help bring me closure."

Jason helped Steve create the memorial, lining the entire trunk with black suede, and writing out the names and ages of his sixteen fallen comrades in silver stitching, along with a brief narrative explaining the memorial. The trunk also contains some challenge coins and a dagger, presented to Steve by his wife.

Those that see the car-the trunk especially-immediately realize Steve's Mustang is special, regardless of its performance. Most, however, will never realize what the car means to him. "It probably saved my life and my marriage," he tells us. "Driving and detailing the car was just the release I needed."

For now, with the exception of a few minor upgrades, Steve's Saleen Mustang is complete. "I'm looking forward to enjoying it with my family, taking it to shows, and passing it down to my son someday," he says. Despite the car being finished, he might once again catch the bug as a Grabber Blue '11 Mustang GT is next. This car, however, will always have a special place in his heart.

Tech Specs

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Iron
Bore 3.55-in
Stroke 3.54-in
Displacement 302 ci
Rods Forged-steel H-beams
Pistons CP custom-forged aluminum
Crankshaft Kellogg forged-steel stroker
Camshafts Livernois Comp XFI Stage 2 blower grind w/lockouts
Heads Livernois Stage 2, CNC ported and polished
Intake Techco cold-air intake
Throttle Body Ford Racing polished dual 62mm
Mass Air Techco 100mm
Fuel System Fore Precision Works triple-pump billet fuel hat w/three Ford GT fuel pumps, MDM module, Fore Precision Works fuel lines and fuel rails
Headers JBA ceramic-coated titanium Shorty
Exhaust Saleen Magnaflow center exit
Transmission Tremec TR6060 six-speed
Clutch McLeod RXT twin-disc organic
Rearend 8.8 w/ Eaton TruTrac, Superior 31-spline axles, and 3.90 gear

Electronics
Engine Management Stock with custom tune from Vendicated Tuning
Ignition Ford
Gauges Auto Meter Cobalt gauges with triple dash pod and triple A-pillar pod

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
Shocks Saleen Racecraft
Springs Saleen Racecraft
Brakes Saleen 15-in rotors w/SSBC eight-piston calipers
Wheels Saleen forged five-spoke, 20x9-in
Tires BFGoodrich KDW II 255/35ZR-20

Rear Suspension
Shocks Stock Saleen
Springs Saleen Racecraft
Brakes Saleen Racecraft
Wheels Saleen forged five-spoke, 20x10-in
Tires BFGoodrich KDW II 285/30ZR-20r