Brad Bowling
December 1, 2006

It sounds like a riddle or maybe one of those crazy questions we never could get right on achievement tests in school:

A man has two 1990 Mustangs in his garage. Both are convertibles wearing Deep Emerald Jewel green paint. Both are decked out in Saleen bodywork, but only one of the cars is a real Saleen Mustang. Is one car more 'special' than the other? What's going on here?

Jeff Reasons' high-performance duo is a great puzzle for Mustang detectives to decipher. We've given a few strong clues already, but before we send you running for that dog-eared copy of The Saleen Book, let us take you back some 17 years to find the answer.

The market planners at Ford Motor Company had scheduled a phase-out of the rear-drive Mustang platform in the late 1980s, but a near-violent public reaction convinced them such a move would be corporate suicide. Ford decided to keep the Fox platform until a suitable replacement could be designed, which explains why 1987-93 Mustangs were nearly identical from year to year. The Mazda-designed, front-drive coupe that was to have been the 1988 Mustang was renamed "Probe," and an American cultural icon was saved the embarrassment of finishing its career as a four-cylinder Japanese car.

Unfortunately, giant companies move at glacial speeds, and Ford completely missed the 25th anniversary of the more-popular-than-ever Mustang it had planned to kill. If you don't believe us, check the records. Ford produced a 20th anniversary model in 1984, a 30th in 1994, a 35th in 1999 and a 40th in 2004, but no 25th. Just like with any forgotten birthday, excuses were made and there were attempts to smooth things over with the insulted party (such as tiny "25th Anniversary" dash emblems Ford applied to all Mustangs built between March of '89 and April of '90).

The first substantial move to appease loyal Mustangers occurred between January and April of 1990, when Ford produced 4,103 Mustang LX 5.0-liter convertibles with monochrome Deep Emerald Jewel Green paint (code PA), white tops, white leather interiors, Sport Seats, trunk-mounted luggage racks and the GT's turbine-like, 15-inch wheels.

Dealers called it the "Limited Edition LX," but the public dubbed the late birthday present "the 7UP car" and "the NCAA Mustang" - both of which have some validity. The 7UP soft drink company had a marketing arrangement to give away 30 green Mustang convertibles at the 1990 National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball finals to any specially chosen audience member who could sink a basket from center court. For unknown reasons, the contest never launched, leaving Ford with an attractive LE package it was free to sell to the public.

Regardless of what you call it, the '90 LE gave the Fox Mustang an exciting collector model (something it was sorely missing in its fourth year without change). Most cars - 2,743, in fact - were equipped with the four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, while 1,360 had five-speeds. There were an additional 261 cars built for export.

This is where Saleen Autosport enters the picture. Since there were no body pieces unique to the LE, Saleen easily slid some of the green convertibles through its Anaheim, CA, facility at the request of its customers. About a dozen 7UP cars drove in one end of the building, and very special Saleen Mustangs drove out the other. The only paint and body work required for the conversions was the removal of the standard trunk-mounted luggage rack and filling of the holes, but this task was performed on every LX Mustang that went through Saleen Autosport's hands. The 7UP Saleens were so desirable that one car sits today in a garage with less than 90 miles on the odometer!