"Power in the Hands of a Few"

     Bob Lewis '88 Saleen 

“Taking great care to preserve the original graphics, the factory paint was wet sanded and buffed back to life”
— Bob Lewis

    

     Way back in 1983, a Formula Atlantic driver named Steve Saleen decided to strike out on his own and build tuner cars. The first of three cars were released in 1984, and a legend was born. In 1985, Saleen Autosport was gaining steam, with 140 Saleen Mustangs produced. That same year, a clerical mistake was made that omitted the #006 car, and from that year on, Saleen never produced #006. Saleen was contracted with Cars & Concepts out of St. Louis to build the cars, but when they went belly up in 1991, Saleen brought production back in house. Back to 1986, a race prepped Saleen Mustang won the 24 hours of Gosport in the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship. Saleen Mustangs went on to win the championship in '87, and in '88 where they finished first through third place. With such a rich history in racing, Steve Saleen was able to apply his knowledge to the fox body Mustang. Front air dams helped with downforce, and the famed "Racecraft Suspension" tighten up the fox chassis. Several fox body Saleen models were made, all with varying levels of handling and power upgrades. Famed models like the SC, SSC, and SA10 raised the bar even higher for power and balance.    

    Already a true performer for the time, the foxbody evolved quickly under Saleen. Over the years many tuner car manufacturers have come and gone; Saleen has stood the test of time. Hundreds of wins have solidified the brand as the authority in excellence on the track and street. The fox body Mustang being at the very core of this effort will forever reserve its space in automotive history. Other competing brands never had the honor, or carry the clout of what Ford and Saleen did together.

    Robert Lewis '88 carries this pedigree. Shipping from Saleen Autosport on June 9, 1988. Number #0566 coming with gold graphics, and the beige interior make it 1 of 17 in 1988. Robert's '88 sold new 5/17/88 at Basil Ford in Buffalo, New York according to Saleen records. Robert acquired the car in May of 2014, and despite having only 67k original miles, she had seen better days. Robert set to work on the car going through all of the mechanicals first. Having sat for many years, much attention was needed to replace dried up seals, and other aged parts. The interior was in pretty good shape, considering the rest of the car. After hours of scrubbing and steam cleaning, she looks as good as new. The paint was another story, and presented a major challenge for Robert. Anyone who ever owned a car with factory decals knows what a bear they can be to work around. Taking great care to preserve the decals, the car was wet sanded and buffed back to the slick finish you see here. Yes, that is original paint on her flanks. The wheels were in great shape, thankfully due to being ultra rare Speedlines from the early Saleen catalog. If you've ever tried to find a set of these wheels, you already know why.    

     For 1988 there were a few changes in equipment and options. Now all cars wore Monroe shocks, the Saleen 170 MPH speedometer, and a new for '88 rear valance. The Pioneer KEH-6050 cassette deck (remember those) was new as well, and below that was a Pioneer BP880 graphic equalizer to control the six speakers. The prior year (1987) Saleen had added several upgrades to the cars, including five lugs, and four wheel disk brakes. This change solved another major shortcoming of the fox body Mustangs, and brought them out of the stone age in the braking department.

    The interior was another great detail in the Saleen Mustangs, with a healthy dose of upgrades being added. The first thing you notice is the Flofit seats, replacing the lackluster factory units. The new seats offered excellent lateral support, and look right at home in the fox interior. The three spoke Momo steering wheel, leather wrapped shift knob, and custom embroidered door panels finish the look perfectly. On the console just forward of the shifter, you find the custom engraved plaque stating the year and build number of the car.

    So why all the hype, you ask? The history and trajectory of the fox body Mustang into the future began here. The iconic "whale tale" spoiler that you saw on nearly every fox through the 90's, began right here. No, this is not a history lesson. Then again, maybe it is? Thirty-two years after Steve Saleen took the fox body racing, the legacy continues. On tracks and streets across the country, Saleen is still renowned as a coveted icon of the Mustang community. As the ads used to read: "Power in the hands of a few".   CR


National Parts Depot: Restoring American history since 1976