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!
Jeff Reasons was at a car show in Pensacola, FL, in 1991 when he saw one of the green Saleens that belonged to local Mustang collector Bruce Weiss. Not only did Bruce own a rare 7UP/Saleen, but he had ordered it with some custom work that included a Paxton-boosted 446-horsepower 302, rollbar, auxiliary lighting and a vented hood.
"I loved the way the car looked," the Jackson, TN, site grading contractor remembers. "The green paint was beautiful, and the white leather interior really stood out. I told myself I would have one like it some day."
Three years later, Jeff heard about a 7UP Mustang with only 2,000 miles in Albuquerque, NM, and bought it sight unseen so he could begin building his Saleen clone dream car. Once the Saleen body kit and wing were in place (thanks to body and paint specialist Robin Ellis), he installed a 13-pound Vortech S-trim supercharger with 2.95-inch pulley and swapped the stock cam for something more racy.
Jeff installed Saleen's complete Racecraft suspension and Tokico five-way adjustable struts. Because he's as serious about stopping as going, Jeff bought 13-inch Baer rotors for the front and 10.5-inchers for the rear, then tucked some brake cooling ducts behind the front spoiler. He hid the fancy brake hardware with a set of rare 17-inch Speedline five-lug wheels - 7.5-inches wide in front, 8.5-inches wide in the rear. 235/45-17 Sumitomos sit up front, and Nitto 555R drag radials make traction in back.
Jeff wasn't shy about introducing the gas pedal to the floor, though, and the stock 5.0-liter suffered a broken crankshaft. Under the two-inch cowl hood went a balanced and blueprinted DSS 306 long block with forged pistons, race-prepped rods and crankshaft; Anderson Ford Motorsports B31 camshaft with double roller timing chain; fuel rails; Vortech aftercooler; Aeromotive fuel system; Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads; a GT40 upper intake manifold with ported lower; 70mm throttle body; 80mm mass airflow sensor; 55-psi injectors; and a seven-quart Canton Racing Products oil pan full of Mobil synthetic lubricant.
Keeping the temperature gauge happy is a three-core Griffin aluminum radiator. Electricity is managed by an MSD 6AL ignition control box, 8mm Live Wire plug wires, Ford Motorsport sparkplugs and a trunk-mounted battery. Fuel flow is handled by an Aeromotive Eliminator fuel pump pulling from the stock tank and a sump.
Most of the recommendations for this engine build came from Rick Anderson and Danny Biggs of Anderson Ford Motorsport, a pair of enthusiasts who were also responsible for tuning it to 518 horsepower on the dyno.
"The engine could put out more power," Jeff says, "but I want it to be a good all-around performer.
"I had Anderson dynotune it 'fat' for the open track. I've only taken it down the quarter-mile three times; my best run was 12.2 seconds at 123 miles an hour. That was on worn Nitto drag radials and granny shifting."
Jeff backed up this healthy powerplant with a Tremec 3550 five-speed transmission, steel bellhousing, aluminum driveshaft, driveshaft loop, 3.73 gears, Auburn differential and 31-spline Moser axles. Bassani 1-3/4-inch shorty headers and mufflers route the hot exhaust gas to the back of the car with much gusto.
The chassis was also tweaked for the track, with the installation of a six-point custom rollbar, Hotchkis Tuning caster/camber plates and welded-in subframe connectors. Inside, Jeff applied Autometer gauges for boost, oil pressure and water temperature to the A-pillar, and an exterior Autometer fuel gauge to the cowl.
The 7UP/Saleens retained the Ford leather seats unless the customer requested otherwise. Jeff's clone still has the factory buckets in place, but their usefulness is enhanced with Simpson five-point harnesses and non-slip race pedals. A custom cloth convertible top headliner is a subtle touch Jeff installed to increase the rowdy car's creature comfort level.
The 7UP/Saleen clone owner was very happy with his powerful toy. It served him well during track events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Memphis Motorsports Park, Carolina Motorsports Park, and Nashville Superspeedway, but when the chance to own a true '90 Saleen LE came along in 1999 Jeff was on a plane headed east faster than you could say 'Steve Saleen'.
"Mark LaMaskin at Performance Autosport had car number 90-0217 for sale at his shopin Richmond," Jeff remembers. "It was one of three 7UP cars Steve built with the silvergraphics, silver wheels and no extra equipment. The car only had about 30,000 miles on it, and was in great shape. There was no way I was going home without it.
Now the two green convertibles sit side by side in Jeff's garage, teasing the occasional visitor with their unusual histories. They represent Jeff's two distinct philosophies about cars. One is heavily modified and customized to the owner's exacting wishes. The other is a carefully preserved piece of Mustang history, its only deviations from stock being a convertible top headliner and two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers.
"At first, people think the cars are identical," Jeff tells us, "then they get a closer look and have a lot of questions. The cars show really well as a pair, and I enjoy the looks they get when both a friend and I drive them on the street together." No doubt.
Play As Hard As You Work!
Jeff Reasons spends six or seven days a week running his family's construction business, but he squeezes every last minute out of his free time to play with his high-performance toys. When we visited him for our photo session a few months ago, his well-stocked garage included the following fun machines:
1990 Mazda Miata SCCA road racer
2005 Harley V-rod motorcycle
2002 Kawasaki ZX12R Ninja sport bike
1996 Honda XR400 dirt bike
2000 Kawasaki ZR7 motorcycle
Last, but not least, is the 2005 Cessna 182T single-engine airplane Jeff uses to travel to the 20 states in which The Reasons Construction Company does business.
He's attended enough driving schools to get a degree, has a SCUBA certification card, and recently got a taste of skydiving with a tandem jump over Las Vegas. In short, Jeff is our kind of guy.
Interior / Exterior
Jeff Reasons' 1990 7UP Saleen Replica
Six-point custom rollbar, Hotchkis Tuning caster/camber plates, welded-in subframe connectors; 13" Baer rotors (front), 10.5" Baer rotors (rear)
Saleen aerodynamic body panels, rear wing; 2" cowl hood
Autometer gauges for boost, oil pressure and water temperature on the A-pillar, exterior fuel gauge on the cowl; Ford leather bucket seats, Simpson five-point harnesses, non-slip race pedals, custom cloth convertible top headliner
Wheels And Tires
17" aluminum Speedline wheels (7.5" wide in front, 8.5" wide in the rear); 235/45-17 Sumitomos (front) and Nitto 555R drag radials (rear)
Special thanks to Clint Murchison, Rick Anderson, Danny Biggs and Mark LaMaskin
Jeff Reasons' 1990 7UP Saleen Replica
Balanced and blueprinted DSS 306 long block with forged pistons, race-prepped rods and crankshaft, Anderson Ford Motorsports B31 camshaft with double roller timing chain, fuel rails, Vortech aftercooler, Aeromotive fuel system, Eliminator fuel pump; Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, a GT40 upper intake manifold with ported lower, 70mm throttle body, 80mm mass airflow sensor, 55-psi injectors, seven-quart Canton Racing Products oil pan, three-core Griffin aluminum radiator, MSD 6AL ignition control box, 8mm Live Wire plug wires, Ford Motorsport sparkplugs, trunk-mounted battery, Bassani 1-3/4" shorty headers and mufflers
Factory ECU, PMS tuned by Anderson Ford
Tremec 3550 five-speed transmission, steel bellhousing; aluminum driveshaft, driveshaft loop; 3.73 gears, Auburn differential, 31-spline Moser axles
Saleen Racecraft components, Tokico five-way adjustable struts