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2 more Mustangs join the Ugly Mustang Rogues Gallery

by DrivingEnthusiast

This week brings news of two more ugly Mustangs for our rogues gallery.

First is the new Saleen 351 Mustang… a gadawful collection of mismatched parts to no purpose at all. And we’ve already seen some of them before in previous Saleens, such as the rear bumper cap extension and the giant Tonneau cover over the rear seat. And then there is the faux roll bar behind the front seats… a cheap piece of tin that will end up wrapped around the neck of whomever is brave (stupid?) enough to be seen in public in this monstrosity (get it in your head, Steve, a rollbar requires 4 or more points). Add in the obligatory and multiple fake scoops (none providing any function, especially the red-painted hood scoop feeding a non-existent carburetor) and you have the Saleen state-of-the-art for the last too-many years. And of course you must have 20-inch wheels, only because of the number “20” and not supported by the necessary suspension geometry or an amount of sidewall that will not result in snap-breakaway dynamics.

What a shame that a man and a company that started out as a serious car builder, with serious racing credits, and strictly following the forms-follows-function rule, had to fall down so far to the point of building pantomime cars, image cars meant to boost the self-importance of their nouveau riche buyers. The original 1986 thru 1998 cars were not only handsome, they were functional and they were tested on the track. Improvements to the suspension, seating, and aerodynamics were all offered as an integrated package. Instead, now we have all this crapola that will fly off in the first serious track event (or likely over the first pothole).

2014 Saleen 351 jpg

Our second entry into the rogue gallery comes from somebody who should know better, and who has done better: Ford Motor Company. Meet a one-off Mustang built to be sold at charity auction on Aug. 1 at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. Yes, it’s a great cause, we’ve been an EAA member ourselves in the past. But again we have a mishmash of conflicting parts to no purpose, including out-sized wheels, humongous flares, and gigantic front spoiler. And 22″ wheels? To what purpose?

US Air Force Thunderbirds Edition Ford Mustang

Then there are the tiny tiny tiny rear brakes… at least Ford might have used the opportunity to improve the overall braking of the car (and, given the extreme nose-dive braking because of the severely dated suspension geometry of the platform, will almost certainly grind off the front spoiler in any serious braking from high speed).

US Air Force Thunderbirds Edition Ford Mustang - rear brakes.

Ford, if you are going to build something, at least make a serious effort at building something serious. Especially for this good cause.

Taking a step back, here’s our problem with the worst of the aftermarket Mustangs. The Mustang is the most abused car in the world in terms of aftermarket crapola. You can’t possibly add enough fake scoops to a late-model Mustang to satisfy the immature tastes of their owners or (more often) the wanna-bes who dream of a Mustang (when they get old enough to drive). And let us make sure that you understand that we specifically mean late-model Mustangs… the original Mustangs were true enthusiast’s machines in ways we’ve only very rarely seen from Ford since then.

Here’s an example with only 6 fake scoops… and there are far worse examples from the aftermarket. Even Ford is happy to sell you 3 fake scoops on the GT (more on the Shelby), taking what might have been a cleanly styled car and ruining it with stuck-on scoops that do absolutely nothing. Perhaps the fake hood scoop brings back memories of the old days when a scoop over the top of a carburetor was (or at least could have been, since even then most weren’t) functional?

Why aren’t hood scoops functional anymore? Because we don’t have carburetors, and we haven’t had them since the early eighties. And even when we did, the engine didn’t react well to water and snow entering the filter thru large openings. Nor could it adjust it’s fuel metering for the influx of cool – and different – air. So only a handful of people back then wanted the daily bother for little gain. A few of the smarter companies eventually offered two under-hood openings to the air cleaner rather than just one – and later connected them to nice cool air inside the fenders for even more gain than a hood scoop ever provided anyway (the scoop-over-carb was likely not where the best airflow was anyway). Properly designed cool air delivery – but only with the electronic ability to take advantage of it – improves performance and emissions, and the practice is exploited today in many cars on the market.

As to the other scoops on the example above, well, they are just silly. The roof vents bring back memories of a tiny subset of Shelby-built Mustangs from the sixties where they were actually functional. They opened to release air from inside the car – very useful to evacuate what was probably cigarette smoke and also very useful to evacuate high air pressure at speed.

The lower body-side scoops go back to the original “Mustang 1” concept car of the early sixties, where they delivered air to the rear-mounted engine.

Production Mustangs since then have had fake scoops for many of their years. They might have been useful to deliver air to the rear brakes (drums originally) but they weren’t ever truly functional from the factory for that or any other purpose. Sharp owners will remember that the ’94-95 Mustangs actually vented air thru the rear fender scoop, near the discs, and the effect might have been quantifiable in a very small way but was dropped in late ’95. The fake scoops that after that, all stuck-on, have broken lines which have otherwise become cleaner (again) over the years. And contributed to the developing kid-stuff mania which surrounds the car… making it much less desirable to serious drivers.

And then there is SEMA, which debuted the absolute worst Mustang we’ve ever seen. This monster alone is reason enough for real enthusiasts to never buy a late-model Mustang ever again. Everything on this abomination is fake – even, undoubtedly, the engine under the hood. We completely and totally condemn it – and are surprised that somebody in ‘vegas didn’t pull out their chrome-plated Magnum and put it out of its misery. No matter, the first bump in the road it goes over will knock all the cheap trash off anyway.
the worst aftermarket mustang ever

Our last example is one of the worst aftermarket Mustangs ever – for one of the worst TV shows ever. The Knight Rider franchise should have been left as it was. This was headed to the auction block with Mecum a few years ago.

According to Mecum:  Three versions of the 2008 Mustang were employed in the 2008 series remake of Knight Rider, which featured an impressively high-tech and well-armed transformer car known as KITT: the KITT Hero, a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR; the KITT Attack, a super high-speed version of the GT500KR Hero car that transforms into Attack mode with the help of air-ride technology and specialized body parts, and a KITT Remote, a driverless version of the Hero vehicle. The car offered here is the Attack version, which was conceived by famed car designer Harold Belker and built by Cinema Vehicle Services. One of two built for the Attack role, it incorporates the full gamut of custom features, including the requisite “heart beat hood” lighting, spun aluminum high-speed wheels, special aero bodywork and spoilers, a wild hood treatment and an adjustable rear wing. This wild TV car is one of only two built, the other serving as an attraction at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California.


  • This version of the Knight Rider car was referred to as the “Attack” version in the 2008 series remake
  • Designed by famed car designer Harold Belker and built by Cinema Vehicle Services
  • This is the Hero Attack car which was used for both exterior and interior filming
  • Custom lighting and traditional “heart beat hood” lighting as well as positional rear wing are just some of the many features
  • Only one of two built. The other is still at Universal Studios a tour attraction

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