Brad Bowling
July 21, 2010
Photos By: Francis Butler Peach, State Powerhouse

It was during the 2005 SEMA mega-show that we were first stunned by that crazy Dark Cloisonne blue paint scheme. In its road racing guise it wore a beautiful set of BBS wheels and a foothigh rear wing. We spent a lot of time studying it, because it and the matching GT were displayed with other Ford products right next to one of the Modified Mustangs magazine stands.

KSS parked the blue coupe in its building after SEMA, where it briefly collected dust. It must be tough having a supercharged Saleen sitting around the shop unused, because it weighed on Olsen's mind.

"I decided to turn it into a drag car," Olsen told us. "That made a lot of sense, because Mustangs tend to dominate that sport, and we wanted something that would have a high pro- file among fans."

Now, this is normally the part of a Modified Mustangs article where we would start running through a long list of gee-whiz engine parts made from unobtanium that the car's owner installed. You are probably imagining the KSS S-281 has some exotic small-block pumped out to 427 cubic inches and a complex intake system developed by NASA's top Space Shuttle engineers - all costing more money than the average American makes in a year. Wrong! The truth of the matter is that the KSS Saleen 4.6- liter v-8 has zero modifications, just an expert tune by Diablosport in Del Ray, FL, that put the rear-wheel horsepower output at 490 and torque at 500.

A Pro Turbo Systems intercooler cell, which mounts right next to the KSS racing fuel cell in the trunk, made for a cooler charge, and MAC exhaust headers, a Bassani x-pipe and Borla muffl ers freed up the flow to the back of the car. An Optima battery was relocated to the trunk. KSS's own driveshaft and transmission crossmember were designed to be lightweight and adaptable to the Art Carr C-4 automatic that KSS swapped for the Saleen's manual five-speed. Weldon supplied fuel pumps and pressure regulators, which work well with the KSS-designed fuel cell.

BMR Fabrication worked with KSS to put together a suspension package that improved on the Ford/Saleen components for drag racing purposes. Ronnie Santhuff, of Santhuff Shocks & Struts in Sinton, Texas, built the front MacPherson units. The rear double-adjustable shocks came from variShock in Sacramento, Calif. BMR supplied the rear springs for the stock Ford three-link suspension.

The disc brakes are Aerospace pieces all around, hidden by Weld wheels (15x3.5 on front, 15x10 on back) and Mickey Thompson tires (15x3.5 in front, 15x10.5 in back).

KSS gutted the Saleen's interior, which now houses only a KSS 12-point rollcage, a complete inventory of AutoMeter gauges, an aluminum Kirkey Racing Fabrication seat and Schroth five-point seatbelts. Only the stock Ford dashpad remains, and a Ford GT gave up its steering wheel so this S-281 could have a touch of the exotic.

All of this work was done by the dedicated KSS crew just in time to debut the car at the 2006 Peach State Nationals/Fun Ford Weekend at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., in the Mod Comp class. With any race team, construction and tuning often continue even as the car is being loaded into the trailer. In this case, work continued in the paddock of the dragstrip and didn't stop until the early hours of the first morning.

Veteran racer victor Downs, who has competed and finished in the top 10 in the National Mustang Racers Association Drag Racing Series for the past two years, was eager to see how fast the blue Saleen could cover the quarter- mile.

"Things weren't looking too good at first," Downs remembered. "We broke the transmission on a preliminary run and it took us a while to put in our spare C-4 automatic. Once we made that change we felt confident it would reliably turn some fast times."

The team made last call for qualifying on Saturday. On its first run against the clock, Downs pushed the coupe to a 10.713-second run at 124.49 miles an hour, setting a record for an unmodified Saleen three-valve engine. (A few weeks later, Downs would chop that time to 10.58 seconds at 126.52 during a Summit Racing event at Atlanta Dragway.)

"The weekend went better than I thought it would," he said. "This Saleen is better than anything I've ever driven! It sticks very well and, as you can see, is also extremely powerful." With a successful debut behind them, the KSS crew is ready to take its Mustang program to bigger and better things.

"Our first year out, we are trying to dial in a brand new car and create more recognition for our shop," Olsen told us. "We have great support from Diablosport and BMR Fabrication. We hope to go national with this campaign in 2007 and eventually win a championship."

Stock block, stock heads, stock computer... just think how far they'll go if they ever get started with the mods!