Imagine the disappointment of buying a supercharged 2005 Saleen S-281 to campaign on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series circuit, only to find that it won't be homologated for that series. We guess the only thing worse would be learning that your $150,000 Ford GT supercar won't be competing in the American Le Mans Series, either.
Meet the guys at Kinetic Speed Shop, who found themselves with a surplus of speed last year when those sanctioning bodies refused to assign classes to their two project cars. We won't delve into the politics of homologation in this article; let's just say KSS had to reconsider reconsider its plans for the Saleen and GT, and that's where our story really starts.
Being 'stuck' with a new Saleen is not in itself a bad thing, of course. The new-for-2005 S179 Mustang design sent Steve Saleen and his numerous competitors back to their CAD/CAM programs to take advantage of the car's retro- 60s styling. Saleen's designers combined the Mustang GT's overall pleasing shape with the predatory looks of the company's 200-mph S7 - a two-seat rocket so revered by speed freaks that the name is often mentioned in the same breath as Ferrari, Lamborghini and jaguar. The 05 S-281's taillight panel, wing, rear valance and ducts made it a younger brother to the S7.
Saleen extended the S-281's tail section, which lengthened the car's profile and addressed the Mustang's weak rear design by recessing the 1960s-style taillamps. Blacking out the taillamp panel enhanced the aggressive look. The flat rear wing, triangular quarter-window inserts, deleted foglamps, functional hood vents and snarling face further distinguished the Saleen from the less-expensive Mustang GT.
As had been the company's habit since its founding in 1984, Saleen leapfrogged the stock Mustang's wheel and tire package, installing 20x9-inch alloys similar to the S7 rims and 275/35R20 Pirelli PZero Rosso ultra-performance radials.
Powering the base S-281 was Ford's aluminum- block 4.6-liter three-valve v-8, which Saleen rated at 325 horsepower - higher than Ford's advertised 300 due to some programming mods and better breathing equipment. Installing an aluminum Saleen Series vI integrated twin-screw supercharger with two-stage water-to-air intercooler created the S/C model, which produced 400 ponies at the crankshaft. Both engines were available with standard manual five-speed transmissions (3.55:1 rear axle) or five-speed automatics (3.31:1 rear axle). Racecraft suspension components lowered and stiffened the chassis, giving the S-281 Corvette-killing performance. Interiors benefited from traditional Saleen upgrades, such as standard sport seats, race-inspired metal pedal covers and a short-throw shift lever. All this high-tech, high-performance equipment didn't come cheap, however. Even in the premium marketplace, eyes opened wide at seeing Saleen's entry-level v-8 Mustang going for $39,043 and the S/C wearing a $46,134 price tag. Test drives made believers out of doubters, though.
All early 2005 S-281s were built without the supercharger package. The S/C was not introduced until sometime around car number 500, which means that any earlier supercharged coupes or convertibles were retrofitted by dealers or speed shops.
When Niclas "Nic" jonsson and Russell Smith formed Kinetic Speed Shop last April, their intent was to develop a team of professionals that could deliver cost-effective products and services to the motorsports industry. The partners purchased a 42,000-square-foot facility in Buford, GA, only 15 minutes away from the world-class Road Atlanta facility. A true "onestop shop," KSS can address every aspect of competition, from building a car with its on-site fabrication, composite, machine and engine shops to marketing, public relations, merchandising and team website designs.
Before founding KSS, jonsson was known primarily for racing exotic sports cars such as the Porsche GT3 and a Riley prototype, but jonsson and Smith wanted their company to aggressively pursue products and services for domestic brands as well. Tim Olsen was hired to be the resident Ford expert and immediately put to work on his first task. (Olsen had previously worked on john Maffucci's land speed record Cobra that's discussed in this month's "In the Spotlight" - Ed.)
"We wanted to show off our talents at SEMA," Olsen said, "but we only had a few months to get a project together."
In june of '05 KSS bought a Torch Red Saleen from Ciener Woods Ford in Kernersville, NC. It was a very early '05, number 05-0016, which wasn't built by the factory as an S/C, but the dealership installed the blower and S/C hood. We turned it into a road course race car in time for the vegas show. All along, our intention was to race it in the Rolex series, but that fell through.