Travis Smith's '89 Saleen
Photos by: Lue Creative
Ah the mod debate. Almost daily, there isn't much that gets cars guys more fired up than whether or not you should modify a specific car. There is some changes going on in the community, however. Even just five years ago, there was no debate when it came to a standard fare GT or LX. Times were good, and there were plenty of fox body Mustangs to go around. The conversations did change when it came to the more rare models, such as a Cobra or Saleen. The comments usually go like this: "Such a shame to let it sit around and not enjoy it" or "these cars were meant to be driven". Yes, everyone has a different take on when it's ok, even a shame not to modify a car.
The foxbody Saleens are iconic cars, and there aren't many cars more recognizable to people who aren't necessarily into them. The wheels, decals, ground effects, and "whale tail" spoiler are etched into the tablets of automotive history. The jury is, and probably always will be out on if it is a moral sin to turn wrenches on these cars, and add your personal touch to Steve Saleen's tuner cars.
When Travis acquired '89 #374, she was a project that had begun by his good friend Troy Raby of Southeastern Foxbodies. Travis had a bit of a resto-mod plan for the car, wanting to do more than just leave it all stock. The plan was to keep the car looking fairly original, and true to the Saleen form, but put the goods where it counts.
The build began with an R block 337 built by Kuntz & Co. engines. The forged bottom end is made of a Scat crank, Scat rods, and forged Venolia pistons. The cam is a custom ground unit from Comp, and actuates 2.08/1.60 Ferrea valves, in the Roush prepped AFR 205 heads. The intake is an old school Saleen piece, that was given a hefty port job by Tom Moss. Huffing massive amounts of atmosphere down the throat of the forged mill is a Vortech supercharger, and is augmented by a Snow Performance methanol injection kit. The results of all the hard work were 691/680 on the Powercurve Motorsports dyno. Calling this car a beast, does not fully describe the power this car lays down.
Once the recipe for big power was complete, Travis moved on to fortifying the rest of the car to balance things out. To live behind the blown small block, a Tremec Magnum T56 trans was enlisted, with a Mcleod twin disk clutch, linking engine and trans together. The 8.8 rear gets the power via a custom aluminum driveshaft, and the 31 spline axels are spun by 3.73 gears.
Despite the Racecraft suspension being a solid base, Travis wanted to improve on it with some upgrades from Maximum Motorsports. A MM k member, coilovers, caster/camber plates, lower control arms, and steering shaft were all welcome additions. Finishing things off with Bilstien shocks and struts, this fox body Mustang can handle any curve it gets thrown into, while Travis holds on for dear life.
The finishing pieces to the puzzle are a complete brake system upgrade from Baer. Color matched to the car, the six piston calipers up front, and four piston calipers in the rear are more than capable of hauling the car down. Where the rubber meets the road is a set of True Forged Victory wheels, which have tinted bronze centers, that tie in perfectly to the Saleen graphics. Wrapped in Nitto NT555 tires up front, and NT555 R drag radials in the rear; the wheels and tires are a perfect match.
Travis is quick to state that while the car does make big power, it's plenty docile on the street, thanks to a spot-on tune from Powercurve Motorsports. Not only that, but the a/c is still hooked up, and functional for those humid South Carolina summers. So despite what your opinion is on modifying rare cars or not, you have to hand it Travis for building one amazing fox body Mustang. Sure he could have left it alone, and still had a sweet ride, but would it have been a "Wicked Saleen"? CR