Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
March 28, 2014

White Hot

Reassembled by Steve Saleen, his namesake company is growing in its Corona, California home. Currently offering 14 variations of Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers, Saleen specializes in fast and always stylish rides. One new item is an affordable, entry-level Saleen joining the expected high-end models.

Saleen's Mustang offerings are found in two lines, the Heritage Collection and the Label series. Heritage cars are patterned from classic Trans-Am racers and feature modified engines and extensive upgrades. The Mustang Label series are contemporary treatments in five variations ranging from the 440hp, 302 White Label at $39,095, to the $82,634, 700hp, 351 Black Label. The Label series gets its name from Saleen's traditional colors: white, yellow, and black.

As an entry-level vehicle, the White Label wears minimal mechanical mods—performance engine calibration, air filter, rumbly exhaust with polished tips, higher rate springs—and a strong dose of Saleen badges, embroidery, plaques, windshield banner, sillplates, and other trim. Major players are the Saleen-specific grille, taillamp panel, and wing, plus 20x9-inch wheels trimmed with summer performance tires in 275/35ZR-20 front and 275/40ZR-20 rear sizes.

Let loose in the White Label demonstrator for a couple of days we had a blast thanks to better than expected handling and muscular acceleration. An electronic tune accounts for the 440-horsepower rating, but it was the optional 3.73 rear gears that put the real snap into this car's get-along. The gearing is low enough to make first gear mainly optional in casual driving and second is a rowdy, tail-sliding good time between tight corners. Another highlight was light-effort, accurate shifting from the six-speed manual, even at high rpm. Driveability from the modified engine control software was fair, with improvements always in process.

Handling benefited from greater than stock Ford spring rates giving a rapid turn-in followed by a slightly slower response once the car was set in mid-corner and the tires fully occupied with the S197's substantial weight. Grip is high, precision good, and the chassis pointable in fun driving. The ride was essentially stock, too, so call it plush for a performance car.

An electronic tune accounts for the 440-horsepower rating, but it was the optional 3.73 rear gears that put the real snap into this car’s get-along.

In Gotta Have It Green, the ...er, White Label was no shrinking violet. It's a great car to enjoy the public's attention in. Saleen always turns out a sharp-dressed car, and we got the thumbs up and smiling gals to prove it. Up close, all that Saleen signage garners attention, plus there's some SMS (Steve Michael Saleen) monograms on hand as Steve continues to use that trademark as well.

As an enthusiast's ride, the White Label is a ton of fun, affordable enough you can actually own and feed one, and is plenty sophisticated for daily driving without sacrificing comfort. Steve Saleen says no other car offers the same combination of performance, style, and exclusivity for the price, which clearly rivals a regular Mustang GT.

Our carps are few. The exhaust doesn't sneak through the 'burbs too well (we're getting old—we admit it) and drones like a UAV at low rpm—it rips with a soul-satisfying tear going up the tach, so we doubt buyers will complain. We could go for a more aggressive brake pad, too, but then we're getting ahead of the game. At $39,845 as tested (which includes the $1,350 chrome wheel option), the White Label is a fun drive, a great starting platform for modifications, and allows real-world entry into the Saleen club.
—Tom Wilson


Drive It Now

Sadly it's going to be a few months before any of us gets behind the wheel of a real, live '15 Mustang. However, we can all jump behind the wheel of the virtual version and drive it like we stole it in the new Need For Speed Rivals (www.ea.com) video game available for the Playstation and Xbox gaming systems.

"We worked closely with the development team at EA to provide them with engineering data for the new Mustang, several months before we showed it to the rest of the world," said Mark Bentley, Ford product licensing manager. "Computer design models enabled the game developers to create an accurate representation of the new Mustang before it goes on sale."

Not only will you be able to drive the latest Mustang, but you can even race around in the wide-body hero car from the upcoming Need For Speed movie as well.

"During the past five decades, Mustang has become so much more than just a car," said Andrea Zuehlk, Ford digital marketing manager. "The feeling of freedom and independence Mustang inspires has made it popular around the world. Making it available in Need for Speed Rivals helps us share the joy that comes from driving a Mustang to even more people."

There is even a tie-in from Ford's popular Mustang Customizer in the new game. "In the game, players can choose from five custom designs to give their new Mustang a unique look," said Zuehlk. "Four are selected from the designs that received the most votes in Ford's award-winning Mustang Customizer online, mobile and tablet application, plus a special bonus design created by RTR founder and Drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr."

Hellanor

At last year's SEMA show, we ran into an intriguing, new tweaked Mustang offering from HyperStangs (www.hyperstangs.com) and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ford dealer, Rich Ford [(505) 259-8888; www.rich-ford.com]—the HyperStangs Hellanor. Obviously tipping its hat to the movie-star car, but with a more sinister leaning, this modern tuner Mustang joins the fray with other pre-modified 'Stangs carrying a rather unique combination. While most of these vehicles are available with optional superchargers, this version puts the hell in Hellanor with a Hellion twin-turbo kit!

"We started with a brand-new '14 5.0 Mustang and had our friends at Hellion do their magic to the already potent Coyote powerplant.," explained company reps. "Capable of producing over 800 hp, this system is dialed down a bit to keep it tame enough for the streets. "

Built in a limited production run, the Hellanors are far more than just big power. They are rounded out with a sharp wide-body kit, and massive three-piece wheels (20x9 front and 20x13 rear) wearing 265/35R20 and 345/35R20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports, respectively. Helping these massive tires stick to the ground is a revamped suspension featuring gear from Tokico, BMR, and Maximum Motorsports. Plus a complete '14 GT500 braking system keeps things under control.

Sounds like a wicked ride, indeed.

We started with a brand-new '14 5.0 Mustang and had our friends at Hellion do their magic to the already potent Coyote powerplant.