Interior upgrades followed the traditional Saleen lines with Recaro sport seats and matching rears, a Saleen shift knob, white-faced gauges including a 200-mph speedometer, a Racecraft steering wheel cover, and floormats. Ford's Mach 460 stereo was stock equipment unless the optional Pioneer sound system was ordered.
The S-351 had the company's highest level of Saleen content to date. After stripping a Mustang coupe or convertible to its bare shell, it took Saleen's craftsmen more than 120 hours to create an S-351. Because all Mustangs underwent this teardown upon entering the Saleen facility, it has been erroneously reported over the years that all S-351s were built from the less-expensive V-6 chassis. According to production records, the majority started life as V-6 models, but a few were created from GTs.
With the basic S-351 platform sorted out, Saleen worked with AER to develop a supercharged version that cranked out a reported 480 hp. There was no model distinction between the blown and unblown S-351s, Saleen simply considered the Vortech centrifugal supercharger as an option.
The plain S-351 would sticker that year for $34,990; the Vortech installation added $6,000. Just north of these two on the gotta-have-it list at $59,990 sat the SR, the closest thing to a racing Mustang to ever wear a license plate.
Built on the S-351 platform but considered a separate model with its own serial-number line, the SR model came standard with the 480hp Vortech-blown V-8, plus a wild appearance package that included a dual-plane rear wing and carbon-fiber hood. Inside was a rear race tray taking the place of the back seat, a four-point roll bar, four-point safety harnesses, drilled racing pedals, a trunk-mounted battery box, and racing Recaro SPG seats trimmed in purposeful cloth. A Torsen locking rear differential with 3.27:1 gears was standard with the SR, as were boxed lower control arms and a Panhard bar. The front 18x8.5-inch and rear 18x10-inch magnesium wheels and front Dunlop P255/35ZR18 SP8000 and rear P285/35ZR18 SP8000 tires were standard equipment on the SR. Brakes were Alcon-built 13-inch grooved discs in the front and 12-inch at the rear. Company literature advertised the SR as weighing 3,094 pounds, compared to the GT's 3,280, and having a more competitive weight distribution of 56 percent in front, 44 percent in the rear.
Only two SRs were built in the first year. The first SR, 94-0011, was cosmetically completed (still fitted with its stock engine, the body parts were held on with tape and other shortcuts) on April 8, just in time to be shipped to Charlotte, North Carolina, where it debuted alongside the first S-351 at Young Ford the evening before the Mustang Club of America's 30th anniversary show. Fifty thousand people viewed the roped-off display during the four-day event, amazed that the future of performance Mustangs was so bright. The second SR, 94-0001, was built as a press car and stayed with the company at its new facility in Irvine.
Saleen used the SR to homologate parts and equipment for a planned return to racing, which he undertook the following year in the SCCA World Challenge with Tim Allen and the Saleen/Allen RRR Speedlab. The RRR crew would take the racing SRs to victory several times in the United States and to Le Mans in 1997.
The Owners Registry section of The Saleen Book: 20 Years of Saleen Mustangs records a total of 27 SRs built during the model's run: 2 in 1994, 7 in 1995, 2 in 1996, 5 in 1997, 3 in 1998, 2 in 1999, 5 in 2000, and 1 in 2001, but these numbers are a bit misleading. In order to keep the SR legal for competition, Saleen renumbered a few cars and updated a few others; some were sold as street cars that later became racers, so the true count of these rare and potent performers is still to be worked out by Mustang historians. We're certain, however, that the first '94 SR was taken back to California after its Charlotte debut, where it was properly outfitted with production bodywork, Racecraft suspension, and a blown 351 engine.
Mark Tcherkezian purchased the yellow show car immediately after seeing it on display at Charlotte and eagerly awaited its return to the East Coast. As with any prototype, it had certain deviations from the rest of the model run. For example, most S-351s and SRs have a Saleen identification plate on the firewall, but it was posted on the driver-side fender on 94-0011. The yellow coupe was also equipped with a custom set of caster/camber plates that never made it into production.
Ten years and 6,600 miles later, the SR found its way to Mark LaMaskin's Performance Autosport dealership in Richmond, Virginia, where we captured it on our camera. It now belongs to Larry and Carol Moneypenny, who have dreamed of owning Saleen's yellow supercar since its debut.
Brad Bowling is the author of The Saleen Book: 20 Years of Saleen Mustangs. For more information about the book, visit www.thesaleenbook.com.