With the upcoming announcement of the Focus RS500 in Europe, it’s time to take a look back at North American efforts. One particular interesting production Focus was the 2004-2005 Saleen N2O Focus.
As background remember that the Focus of these years was fully engineered by Ford of Europe, and was built in Mexico for the North and Central American markets. During these years, the Focus was a true “world car” (something Ford won’t achieve again until the new 2012 model arrives). Compared to it’s European cousins, the American models were missing several options, engines, and models. Also missing was Europe’s “ST” model – that is, until Ford simply re-badged it and sold it as an SVT for a short (and not very successful, as it’s competition rapidly obsoleted it) production run. The North American Focus of these years was a direct relative of the current European Focus, with only generational differences in the strut front and Control Blade rear suspension.
It’s not widely recognized that Steve Saleen built several models of cars other than Mustangs. These included F-150s, Rangers, Explorers, and Focuses (Foci?). Only the Mustang was a continuous production model – the other offerings were all limited runs. Concepts that didn’t go into production were built on a Tempo, Taurus, Contour, and Thunderbird. Saleen has a very rich history, and it’s certainly too broad to cover in this blog post.
Each Saleen was built in a dedicated assembly plant in Irvine California (which we once had the pleasure of touring). If you have been following Saleen over the years, you know that Saleen was registered as a vehicle manufacturer in the eyes of the Federal Gov’t, with all that implies. Saleens are not in any way shape or form “tuner” cars.
The Saleen N2O Focus was designed by the Saleen rulebook: Racecraft suspension, body kit, improved seats and shifter (Momo in this case), signature white-faced gauges. And, breaking the Saleen rulebook, a nitrous kit (more on that later). The net result of any Saleen production is a complete car, with each aspect of the driving experience well-thought out.
The Saleen N2O Focus was limited to 2004 and 2005 model years (a lessor model, the S121, was also built). Saleen started with a 2.3 liter Focus (2004) or a 2 liter Focus (2005) base, with the standard MTX-75 5-speed manual transmission. Struts, springs, sway bars (1.25 fr/ .98 rr) with urethane pivot bushings, and a front strut tower brace were all added. Unique 17×7 TSW Revo wheels with Pirelli 215/45-17 tires were used (extra-sticky Pirelli Corsas were optional). Brake pads were replaced, but the front disc/rear drum system was otherwise untouched. 13″ 4-piston brakes were an option up front (and didn’t change the rear).
The suspension is the centerpeice here; roadtests of the Saleen N2O Focus all reported that it worked very well. Read the review in Modified magainze here: http://www.modified.com/roadtests/0503_sccp_2004_saleen_n20_focus_road_test/index.html
And now the numbers, with the 75-shot Nitrous: 227 hp and 226 torque. In a 2600 pound car, this results in a 6 second 0-60 (traction and open-differential limited), and a 14-second flat quarter mile. Very respectable.
The market for used Saleens varies widely. The high-water mark of the Saleen N2O Focus is probably this $18,500 example: http://www.investmentmotorcars.net/inventory/detail/04focus/detail.htm. You’ll note that this blue example only has the Alpine option. 88 2004 models were produced, in 2005 Saleen adapted the new Focus front end and 75 were produced.
Some friends of ours recently added this 2004 model to their collection. It’s their first Saleen, after a history of SVT ownership (and a quasi-Saleen ’91 Mustang GT). This example has the optional Alpine stereo ($2744), but not the Saleen brake package ($1365) or the Saleen color changing paint (a $16,000 dollar option!).
We were generously given time to test drive the Saleeen. Our first impression was very positive – the Momo seats work extremely well. The shoulder “wings” are in exactly the right place and are exactly the right size for street or track use, without inhibiting the ability to turn slightly for backing up. They are padded very well, and there is no doubt the driver could spend several hours in these seats, or any number of racetrack laps.
The handling is excellent - it has a “go-cart” feel without the typical evils of bump-steer or bump-stop crashing. And this despite coming from the Saleen factory much lower than a stock Focus. Steering is very quick, and your first impression of it would be that this would be a nice ride for an autocross. Typical for Saleen, the suspension is very well thought out.
Lets backtrack a bit and talk about the nitrous. Since Saleen is a manufacturer, and offered a full warranty on all of their products, the Nitrous kit was delivered disconnected. It was up to the owner to connect it and fill the bottle, which then voided the standard Saleen and Ford warranties. This was an obvious trick to get around emissions laws – certainly anything running on Nitrous has absolutely zero chance of passing emissions laws. Saleen at first ignored that problem, since it was by owner decision. Then the California Air Resources Board (CARB) stepped in. This, and missing certification of two other Mustang models in the same years, resulted in a $700,000 dollar fine from the CARB. Oops. History doesn’t record why Saleen choose nitrous… superchargers and turbochargers were (and still are) available.
To leave emissions compliance behind, simply fill the nitrous bottle, connect it, purge the lines, and away you go. Various Hondas, Nissans, and Ford’s own SVT Focus will also all be left behind. Otherwise, without the nitrous, the Saleen N2O Focus will return as much as 34 MPH in mixed highway driving. Very nice.
Back to the driving. A quick trip to try out a new BBQ joint across town offered an opportunity to try the Saleen on a variety of back roads, across both poor pavement and good. The suspension again surprised us with it’s compliance – the Saleen easily ate up bumpy roads and never crashed or bump-steered. This would make a fun car for back-roads driving… just don’t hit the nitrous in a blind crest!
So now this Saleen starts life with it’s second owner. We’ll report back later on what kind of events or drives it participates in.
We have a complete set of images in our new Gallery section here: 2004 Saleen N2O Focus Gallery
Reference: Saleen N2O and S121 Focus forums: http://saleenforums.soec.org/forumdisplay.php?f=75
Here’s another photo from the Texas State Fair Auto Show. I encountered three Saleens at the show – including the ridiculous Saleen Expedition.
This particular Saleen Mustang has a built engine with supercharger – running somewhere around 450 horses. I say somewhere because the salesman didn’t know!
For a much higher res version of this image, see: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-ford/FMC-products/platform-s197/saleen/xIMG_2629.JPG - this version (995 kb, 3072 x 2048 pixels) will allow you to explore the engine compartment a bit further.
This brings up a point… DrivingEnthsuiast.net has over 5000 jpeg images - not counting gifs – and several thousand pages. The majority are of various Ford topics – mostly cars and engines (I have, for example, the largest set of 2000 Cobra R images in existence, and my “Cammer” engines pictures are very popular). I’ve also moved several thousand more images and pages to other sites that I own which are linked to by this one.
How many of these thousands of pages and images have you seen since I started the site 7 years ago? The answer is probably very few, despite site stats showing a good amount of browsing by some users. I’ve reorganized the site several times… I believe the current organization is the most straightforward I’ve had yet.
Many images are embedded in blogs… I’ve posted >1800 blogs to date. To help you find topics of interest inside those, I’ve split the blogs up into several categories. You can use the calender in the upper right corner to navigate to blogs in the past. I’ve also added an index for each category so that you can search titles back in time to the beginning. You can also subscribe (via RSS) to just the categories you want.
Altogether, these >12,000 blogs, pages, and images represent some of my automotive interests from the last 7 years and beyond. Since these are personal sites – absolutely not commercial - my sites evolve and change as my personal interests expand and grow. What started out 7 years ago with some unique pictures of the IRS on my then-new ’99 Cobra has grown into a monster that I fully admit is challenging for readers to navigate. How do I maintain all this? Read my “About This Site” section. I owe it all to persistence, a digital camera, and Microsoft FrontPage.
I’m always open to organizational suggestions. I do have some limitations in what I might be able to do, particularly in converting ”legacy” pages and blogs to any other format. At any time, you can use the “feedback” link at the bottom of every page to send notes to me.
MustangEvolution.com and several other sites report on an interview with Steve Saleen. Steve claims the 2009 Mustang will offer an upgraded 4.6 making 350 HP.
Not much new information here and it’s only speculative at this point. 350 HP for a car weighing ~3800 pounds isn’t much. One could hope for perfect overall gearing, but that’s frankly too much to hope for given both the budget (lack thereof) and the state of the available Tremacs.
MustangEvolution.com also (naively) hopes for a weight reduction – and very clearly there is absolutely zero hope for that. The chassis is inherently heavy; the V-8 engines are inherently complex and heavy. We can only hope that the 4.6 sticks with its aluminum block… the iron-block 5.4 won’t get any further major investment and will IMHO be replaced by the well-overdue Hurricane (“Boss”) V-8 in 2-3 years.
Other sources are reporting the 350-HP engine will arrive for 2008, although perhaps only in a special edition.
Saleen’s latest special model is more serious than the others, and offers a 370 HP 5-liter mod V-8. And a $55,000-plus price tag. Question is whether or not it’s worth the money… the suspension is crude and for the money you can get a Z51-equipped ‘vette that will run circles around the Saleen.
Continue at link: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=109996
Source: Inside Line Automotive News;
Now Introducing for 2006 – Saleen Scenic Roof & Saleen Speedster
ANAHEIM, Calif., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — California International Auto
Show: Saleen Inc., the specialty automobile manufacturer that puts the Power
In The Hands Of A Few, presents Saleen Cool Tops.
The Cool Tops line begins with the 2006 S281 coupe, with the new, sleek
Saleen Scenic Roof. Surrounding all the vehicle’s passengers, the Scenic Roof
gracefully extends from the front windshield to the back window. The Scenic
Roof captures nature’s unsurpassed beauty by protecting its passengers from
the weather’s elements, all while allowing them to experience the seasons in
The spectacular Scenic Roof captures sunrise to starlight views while
eliminating howling winds that are often created by standard moon-roofs. And,
because the Scenic Roof is engineered as part of the car, it remains
stationary and never moves up and down like conventional convertibles. The
glass itself is laminate safety glass with UV ray protection. The Scenic Roof
is sure to provide a unique driving experience that is unmatched by previous
innovations, and will be in production by January 2006.
For those who still love the wind through their hair, the latest Saleen
offering is the 2006 Saleen Speedster, which offers a beautifully designed
tonneau for ease of use in addition to the sport bar. Painted in matching
Saleen colors, the sport bar and the tonneau offer a complementary design to
the already aggressive Saleen styling. The S281 Speedster will be available
by November 2005.
Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced over
10,000 complete and EPA certified vehicles, more than any other specialty
manufacturer. In addition, Saleen has equipped more than 600,000 vehicles
worldwide, further emphasizing their commitment to excellence.
An eight-time Manufacturers’ Champion in GT sports car racing, Saleen’s
corporate facilities include research, design, engineering and manufacturing
capabilities, as well as the coating/painting division. Saleen also has
manufacturing facilities in Troy, Michigan where the assembly and paint of the
Ford GT (40) is done. Additional Saleen manufacturing sites are located in
Canada and Saudi Arabia.
Chicago Auto Show: Saleen S281 E MSN Autos covers the Saleen S281 E debut at the Chicago Auto Show. 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. Only the original block is retained (and that could be a problem – I would doubt it could take the pressure in the long term). And I’d like to see what kind of cooling tests were done ont his thing – Saleens I’ve seen at the racetrack over the last several years haven’t had any cooling upgrades at all and have failed because of it. Does this one? I am frankly disappointed. For the last several years (99 and up), Saleen has been taking what has been a good looking base car and making is purely ugly. Before that, form followed function and the cars offered sensible good looks. This new car is ugly – the stylist has created every possible conflicting angle by adding on every possible tack-on. What could have been an extremely handsome car doesn’t look much different than a Civic with a fiberglass styling kit. Functionally, the car isnt’ any great shakes. Solid axle: blah. Stock block: reliability concerns. Modified stock seats: very poor. And then there are the design features Saleen couldn’t change: the huge steering wheel (probably none are available to fit, or more likely the testing that would have had to be done was prohibitively expensive – Saleen does ride on several Ford certifications after all). The dashboard too, with it’s tiny gauges inside huge pods. All in all, while I can afford it, I wouldn’t go near it or even consider it.
MSN Autos covers the Saleen S281 E debut at the Chicago Auto Show. 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. Only the original block is retained (and that could be a problem – I would doubt it could take the pressure in the long term). And I’d like to see what kind of cooling tests were done ont his thing – Saleens I’ve seen at the racetrack over the last several years haven’t had any cooling upgrades at all and have failed because of it. Does this one?
I am frankly disappointed. For the last several years (99 and up), Saleen has been taking what has been a good looking base car and making is purely ugly. Before that, form followed function and the cars offered sensible good looks. This new car is ugly – the stylist has created every possible conflicting angle by adding on every possible tack-on. What could have been an extremely handsome car doesn’t look much different than a Civic with a fiberglass styling kit.
Functionally, the car isnt’ any great shakes. Solid axle: blah. Stock block: reliability concerns. Modified stock seats: very poor.
And then there are the design features Saleen couldn’t change: the huge steering wheel (probably none are available to fit, or more likely the testing that would have had to be done was prohibitively expensive – Saleen does ride on several Ford certifications after all). The dashboard too, with it’s tiny gauges inside huge pods.
All in all, while I can afford it, I wouldn’t go near it or even consider it.
AutoWeek: 2005 Saleen
I’m getting more and more concerned about the bastardization of the new 2005 Mustang GT. Now it’s the turn of Saleen to announce their own variant. The styling has been changed a lot – a mix of old and new. Nice to see is that there are only 4 fake scoops on this Saleen – not the dozens found on the last S281 and the other Saleen products. Whatever happened to “form follows function”?