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Super Saleen

Rumble and grunt to the tune of 495hp in the supercharged '98 Saleen S351!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

This article was first published in 2004.
If more torque and more power equal a better car then, boy, get a load of this! The limited edition Saleen supercharged S351 gives you a gut-wrenching 666Nm (490lb-ft) of torque and a drag strip ready 369kW (495hp). With claimed 4.5-second 0 - 60 mph (96 km/h) performance - traction permitting - it's easy to understand how the supercharged S351 once wore the crown of America's Fastest Sportscar.

Let's get one thing straight - the S351 is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. The big blown eight thunders into life after an extended scream from the starter motor and it settles into an offbeat murmur that shakes the chassis from sill-to-sill. Don't try balancing a full cup of Coke inside this mutha! Stand on the clutch - and we do mean s-t-a-n-d - force the shifter into first and give the 'Stang a boot. J-eeez! The Vortech blower howls and the mechanical cacophony needs to be heard to be believed.

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Oh, and then there's the speed - ahh, the speed... The supercharged S351 pulls hard from the moment you boot it and you can feel it rearing back on its hind wheels and torquing over to the side. This thing is bloody quick - but it's also a challenge to drive. The 351 is a short revver, which means you've always gotta keep an eye on the tacho and the relationship between gearbox and clutch is somewhat less than silken. It's also ear-bleedingly loud - pedestrians dive for cover when they hear you approaching from a hundred metres away...

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Pop the lid and the source of all this madness is revealed. The pushrod 90-degree V8 block is a specially prepared 351 Lightning ute item stuffed with dished Weisco pistons for a low 8.3:1 static compression ratio. There's also a wild Competition Cams hydraulic roller bump stick, Rousch pushrods, Twisted Wedge aluminium heads with Trick Flow valvetrain components - there's more than a bit of aftermarket influence in the mix!

Note that this is last real performance 351 - it's a collector's item.

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The Vortech S-trim centrifugal supercharger is geared for a standard 8 psi of boost, which enters a modified Cobra intake manifold. A massive 80mm MAF and 65mm throttle body are also installed. Exhaust flow is taken care of by a pair of ceramic-coated short tube headers and a twin 2½-inch system.

Engine management is based on the EEC-V system, but is extensively reworked to control a set of eight 30lb injectors. Rated power and torque is 369kW at 5700 rpm and 666Nm at 3500 rpm - note that not even the V10 Dodge Viper from the same year can match the S351!

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Copping the anger of the supercharged 351 is a heavy-duty clutch and a Tremec 5-speed 'box. A short-shifter comes standard - and we advise pumping some iron before driving the S351 for a day! An 8.8-inch diff was fitted with a choice of a 3.27:1 or 3.55:1 final drive ratio. The diff centre also features a Gleason Torsen LSD to maximise traction from the rear-end - but not even an LSD and the optional 295mm tyres can contain this animal! Power oversteer is a throttle squeeze away in almost all urban driving situations.

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What can you say about the handling of a beast like this? With so much grunt on tap, you can steer it by the rear wheels just as much as it can from the fronts! The suspension layout is traditional Mustang - MacPherson front struts and a 4-link live axle rear - with settings finessed by Saleen. The ride is decent, but there is the feeling that the unsprung mass is pretty monumental.

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The S351 is anchored by a pretty serious braking arrangement - 13-inch grooved front discs with 4-pot Alcon calipers and 10.5-inch grooved rears with standard Ford calipers. These big brakes help provide the safety essential in a car of this performance, but the chassis is widely criticised for having unsettling nose-dive during heavy braking. And slowing a 1533kg flier inevitably produces a lot of front brake dust - it's not uncommon to cover the whole front quarter panel in dust. Just as well the 5-spoke rims are easy to clean!

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Those big 5-spoke Speedline magnesium rims are certainly eye catching. The base S351 comes with 18 x 8.5 inchers, but optional 18 x 10s (as seen on this vehicle) were also offered - the 18 x 10s coming with humungous 295/35 rubbers. The S351 also comes equipped with Saleen front, side and rear facias, a competition rear wing and rear taillight trim. Some examples are also fitted with a carbon fibre bonnet with radiator outlets. Visually, there's no doubt this is a special machine.

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The carbon fibre theme continues inside with carbon in the gear knob and steering wheel centre. Saleen also revamp the S351 interior with its own leather and trim, a Mach 460 sound system, white face dials, a dash pod with boost and fuel pressure gauges as well as Recaro seats. Interestingly, these seats are mounted further rearward than in a typical Mustang - this provides easier access and more comfort.

Released in America in 1998, the supercharged S351 was not cheap - almost US$60,000 in fact. Not many supercharged S351s have made their way outside of the US, but this second-hand example is currently being sold (in right-hand drive form) by Melbourne's Sports and Luxury Cars for AUD$99,000. Craig from Sports and Luxury Cars explains that this is a particularly collectable model since it was the latest and greatest version of the 351 V8 - the 4.6-litre DOHC V8 has taken over the rein since.

If you've got a thirst for torque and horsepower you know where you can satisfy it!

1998 Saleen S351 Supercharged Fast Facts...

  • Brutal power and torque
  • Devastatingly quick, but demanding to drive
  • Looks and sounds tough
  • Huge 295/35 optional tyres
  • On demand power oversteer
  • Carbon fibre bonnet on some examples
  • Expensive - but the last of the mighty 351s

Test Car supplied by Sports and Luxury Cars.


Sports and Luxury Cars +61 3 9753 5799

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