Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
1989 Saleen SSC - White Out
After many years, Stephen Wehner's wish for an '89 Saleen finally came true
At the age of 16, Stephen Wehner was already preparing for his next birthday and the joyous acquisition of his New Jersey drivers license. While his 16 candles were still smoldering, this young lad was already scouring the local newspaper classifieds in search of his first Mustang.
The decision to look for a potent, used pony for his daily driver was just fine with his father, Dave, a well-known musclecar and hot rod junky from the 'burbs of North Jersey. The availability of parts, as well as the simplistic design and ease of repair, were key points in the decision making between the father/son team. After all, Dave was always on the prowl for muscle rides at bargain prices and had a knack for finding rare gems hiding in plain sight, usually within a few miles of the family home. Stephen inherited this trait, so it wasn't long before he scored his first Mustang, an '86 GT, that he found just four blocks from his house.
But in the back of his mind, Stephen wanted an '89 Saleen SSC. With a sticker of approximately $36,000 (pretty steep back in the late 1980s), the car was way out of his price range. He vowed to one day own an SSC, a car that Saleen offered as their "unofficial" 25th Anniversary Mustang after Ford somehow missed the special occasion. A throw-back to the first Shelby G.T. 350s, the spry SSC had no backseat but made up for it with more horsepower (292) than any production Mustang at that time. Only 161 were produced.
For Stephen, it took almost 20 years, marriage, kids, and a chunk of hard-earned change to acquire the beautiful SSC you see on these pages.
In 2007, Stephen received a text from friend Michael Johnson (who coincidentally works for Mustang Monthly's sister magazine, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords) about an SSC for sale in Virginia. Stephen hit the road with trailer in tow. His first impression was pretty sour, as the hard-driven SSC was in pretty rough condition but still worth the asking price. A deal was struck, including the original engine, and the white Mustang headed to New Jersey.
The SSC was a far cry from a beauty queen. The previous owner was in the midst of turning it into a drag car, complete with a supercharged crate engine. Both the Saleen hood and factory DP wheels were missing. The battery had been relocated to the trunk, and the once blinding white paint had been reduced to milky gray thanks to outside storage.
Once Stephen got the SSC to New Jersey, the real fun began. The supercharger and crate engine were removed and sold, along with many of the other aftermarket parts that did not belong on the Saleen, to help fund the car's restoration, which began with cleaning, stripping, and repainting the engine bay. Stephen spent two weeks compounding the environmental torture done to the Oxford White paint. The interior was in reasonable shape, so it remains mostly original, although Stephen did replace the stock radio with a modern sound system.
The factory 5.0L engine was cleaned up and used as the starting point for a 347 stroker kit. The original heads and intake were bagged for storage; in their place Stephen bolted on aluminum heads and a Saleen intake he found on the Internet. A Ford Racing cam and 65mm throttle body were added to the menu. Stephen replaced the previous owner's "crazy" exhaust system with Saleen headers, an NOS H-pipe, and Saleen SSC mufflers and tailpipes.
The original World Class T-5 transmission and 8.8-inch rear with 3.55 gears and an Auburn differential were freshened up and reinstalled. The suspension was also rebuilt to stock, other than replacing the front three-way adjustable shocks with Konis and adding Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings.
During the restoration process, Stephen got a call from the previous owner saying that he had located many of the Saleen's original parts, including the DP wheels. Another deal was struck. However, the rare wheels would go into storage since Stephen had already purchased a set of Saleen Speedline wheels and painted then to match the SSC's Oxford White hue.
Today, Stephen drives the heart out of this pure white Saleen, hitting the road whenever possible. The SSC gets a "thumbs up" wherever it goes, as the locals know that it's a rare and beautiful ride.