Brad Bowling
November 1, 2008
At $60,000 a pop, it's not surprising the supercharged 480hp SR only found two buyers in 1994. The ultra-performance Saleen was a thinly veiled race car whose existence on the company's brochure opened the door for Steve's competition versions.

The other area of big improvements is in electronics. That has come to play such a big part in automotive products. The ability to do calibration changes on engines has helped dramatically. In 1984, the Saleen Mustang had 175 hp. Today, we can have 720 hp with better emissions. It also gets better gas mileage. That's actually pretty good progress in that respect.

That's a point I need to make that's relevant to what's going on in the world. In the past, high-performance cars were real gas hogs, but with modern computer controls, better aerodynamics, and six-speed transmissions, they don't have to be anymore. My 25th Anniversary car can get very high gas mileage on the highway-of course, that depends on how hard you use your right foot.

Saleen Autosport always paved the way for aftermarket performance products. Look at it from my standpoint. We were the first to really do this type of business. There have been a lot of people who have come along and tried. There is a big difference between offering aftermarket parts and being certified to meet OE standards. We were the first to start certifying the engines. We were first to use superchargers-at first centrifugal designs, later Roots-type, now twin-screw technology. We were the first to adapt four-wheel disc brakes to a V-8 Mustang for production. We were first to put glass roofs in Mustangs, the first to offer complete paint jobs on our cars.

In April 2003, Saleen began building its "Hollywood Horsepower" commemorative packages. The company had just seen its products appear in three big Hollywood productions and chose to release replicas from two of them. Customers could order one of 18 red supercharged coupes as featured in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but older, more sedate drivers could imitate Harrison Ford as they cruised around in 1 of 23 Hollywood Homicide silver convertibles.

MM: What is going on with the Chinese deal? The last we heard, you were going to work for ZX Automobile to import cars and SUVs. Now there seems to be some litigation pending.

Saleen: Technically speaking, SMS is not one of the firms involved in the litigation in New Jersey. A number of other people and I brought litigation in this case. I can't comment any more on that. I'm still doing consulting work for other larger OEs on a global basis.

MM: Tell us about the anniversary car.
Saleen: As you know, historically, I have always created an anniversary model every five years, the first being the SSC. It was the unofficial Saleen and Mustang anniversary car. What I've tried to include with every anniversary car is the best of each current model, plus a sense of what was to come in the future. Back in 1989, the SSC was a fully certified engine in a unique package-a formula we immediately took into the '90s. Five years later, we put a centrifugal supercharger on the SA-10 anniversary car, which we carried into the 21st century, plus some suspension innovations. Five years later, the SA-15 introduced a Roots-style supercharger, hard tonneau cover, and some unique pieces. Five years later, the SA-20 introduced a twin-screw supercharger, different suspension, and exhaust system that again showcased where the future was going to take us.

At 25 years, this car now represents where SMS is heading in terms of horsepower. The engine is a 5.0L aluminum V-8 that produces 720 hp-612 at the rear wheels -and 670 lb-ft of torque. The complete drivetrain, including the six-speed manual transmission, is different from the radiator back. Even the supercharger we're using has been significantly changed to add horsepower. The suspension has a new type of Watt's link built from billet aluminum that has taken the ride to a whole different level of performance.

We've created a new induction system we call the Red Butterfly that's very effective. It allows air through the hood's ducting into the new airbox. The current hood is a composite, but we will probably use carbon fiber on some models and aluminum on others. One thing I've always taken pride in is that everything is functional. The butterflies open and close with the throttle, just like the intake on an AA dragster. It's pretty cool to watch it cruise through a parking lot and see them activate as the engine revs.