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1989 Saleen SSC - A Good Idea Made Better
Randy Pethel Builds The SSC Steve Saleen Always Wanted!
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Randy Pethel, a custom finisher from Hiram, GA., was in his mid-20s when the SSC debuted, but he could not afford such an extravagant vehicle. It wasn't until 2004, when he found SSC-0018 for sale with less than 40,000 miles on the odometer, that Randy decided he was ready to put one of the special Saleens in his garage. The price was right, but the car's factory paint had lost its luster and a few original Saleen pieces were missing. One other factor convinced Randy he wanted to modify his new ride: the engine.
"Back when the SSC came out," he recalled, "it was an awesome car. No other manufacturer had an engine that put out close to 300 horsepower, so the car was special from that standpoint.
"The only problem is that today thereare Japanese sedans with V6s that have300 horsepower. It's no longer a magicnumber; I wanted to give my SSC some-thing with some grunt."
Keeping much of the Saleen horsepower formula intact, Randy added a 70mm Professional Products throttle body, 80mm mass air flow sensor, 42-pound FRPP injectors,255-lph Walbro 344 fuel pump, Kirban adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and a Bassani cross-pipe with Bassani catalytic converters. He turned up the charge with an MSD Probillet distributor and ignition control box,Autolite 23 sparkplugs and MSD 8.5mm wires.
A Vortech SC-trim supercharger really makes this SSC growl, with 10 pounds of boost and 3.12-inch pulleys. The Saleen/Vortech intake was polished and is fed by a custom-made power pipe. The blower pushes the 5.0-liter to 405 horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque at the rear wheels on pump gas. Keeping everything cool is a set of Ramcharger electric fans, Ford Racing blue silicone hoses and a vented fiberglass hood. Randy kept the rest of the stout SSC drivetrain in place, but substituted a Centerforce II clutch and Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft.
The late-model Mustang aftermarket was just discovering the benefits of subframe connectors when the SSC was being developed, and Steve Saleen considered attaching a set to the underside of his supercar. Without adequate time to test and evaluate the different types and designs of connectors, Steve felt his other chassis enforcements were sufficient to keep the Fox platform tight. Randy decided the extra horsepower and torque of his improved 302 required a little more steel between the subframes and welded in a pair. He also installed a rear shock tower brace from Saleen's parts department and painted it yellow to give the silver-gray interior some color. Caster/camber plates from UPR give the SSC a greater range and accuracy of suspension alignment.
The three-way cockpit adjustable shocks Monroe developed for Saleen turned out to be not so reliable, so many SSC owners have switched to conventional units. Randy replaced his problematic system with Tokicos all around, but retained Saleen's specific-rate springs. The correct General XP2000 tires, now available only through collectors of vintage rubber, were replaced by Cooper Zeons in the stock sizes.
Although the car was complete and in good running shape when he bought it, Randy found a downside to restoring a rare, classic Mustang. "The hardest part of the build was acquiring the correct parts," Randy told me. "I searched eBay and many other sources to find parts."
Randy brought the body back to life with fresh coats of Ford's Oxford White and performed most of the minor mechanical chores himself. By painting the beltline molding white (instead of Saleen's silver or Ford's black), Randy recalls the monochrome treatment Ford applied to Mustangs in the early '90s. He credits Jeff Harris, of Pro Speed Performance in Powder Springs, with the advanced mechanical work.
It is obvious to Randy the SSC's appearance has stood the test of time; the white hatchback is as attractive today as it was nearly 20 years ago. Because it is the grandfather of many street-legal supercars that followed - the 1991-'93 SC, the 1994-99 S-351, the 2002-present S-281E and, it can be argued, the Ferrari-fighting S7 - the SSC holds a special place in the hearts of Saleen enthusiasts.
Interior / Exterior
Randy Pethel's 1989 Saleen SSC
Saleen aerodynamic body panels; Saleen rear wing; vented fiberglass hood
FRPP boost, fuel pressure and water temperature gauges on the A-pillar
Saleen Racecraft components; Tokico shocks and struts
Wheels And Tires
16 x 8" DP five-spoke rims; Cooper Zeon radials (225/50-16 front, 245/50-16 rear)
Special thanks to Jeff Harris of Pro Speed Performance in Powder Springs, GA.; George Gast in Douglasville, GA.
Randy Pethel's 1989 Saleen SSC
Ford 302-cid V8
70mm Professional Products throttle body; 80mm mass air flow sensor; 42-pound FRPP injectors; 255-lph Walbro 344 fuel pump; Kirban adjustable fuel pressure regulator; Bassani X-pipe; Bassani catalytic converters; MSD Pro billet distributor; MSD ignition control box; Autolite 23 sparkplugs; MSD 8.5mm wires; Vortech SC-trim supercharger (10 pounds of boost); 3.12-inch pulleys; polished Saleen/Vortech intake; custom-made power pipe; Ramcharger electric fans; Ford Racing blue silicone hoses
Borg-Warner T-5 heavy-duty five-speed transmission; Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft; 3.55:1 gears; Auburn differential; Centerforce II clutch
UPR caster/camber plates; welded-in subframe connectors; rear shock brace
405 RWHP, 370 RWTQ