For a long while, the Ford GT500 and its 662 horsepower V8 was the benchmark for high-octane American muscle. The closest factory competition was the 580 horsepower Camaro ZL1, and Dodge’s Challenger SRT brought up the rear with over 100 horsepower less than that. In the aftermarket scene, things were a bit different — intrusions into the 700, 800, and higher horsepower clubs were and are not uncommon. Then the Challenger Hellcat and its 707 horsepower showed up, and reset everyone’s expectations for what a factory muscle car was capable of at a reasonable price (it retails for roughly $60,000).
Currently, there is no other traditional muscle car of the trio that can compare on that level of sheer output straight from the assembly floor. Companies like Hennessey, Roush, and Shelby have all added their touches to new contenders — the Ford Mustang, specifically. And now Saleen Automotive, which built its name on the galloping horse brand, has entered the fray with a Hellcat fighter of its own. And it packs a 730 horsepower wallop.
Saleen is largely known for its work on Mustangs, but in more recent years, the aftermarket performance specialist (led by its namesake Steve Saleen) has branched out into other facets of the muscle car world, and now boasts Challengers, Camaros, and even Teslas as a part of its offering to the marketplace. But while a new Camaro and new Challenger are still waiting in the wings, the company has been busy with the latest iteration of Ford’s performance spearhead.
Saleen’s Mustang offerings run the gamut from the S302 White Label (450 horsepower and $42,754), the Yellow Label (640 horsepower and $53,720) and now the Black Label, at 730 horsepower and a competitively priced $73,214 (other Black Label Mustangs are available for less — both in power and price). “Since I started building cars in 1984 my goal has always been to go above and beyond where anybody has been before,” Steve Saleen said in the press blast. “This will by far be the most refined and advanced Mustang we have built to date.”
The car retains Ford’s 5.0 liter Coyote V8, but it has been augmented with a twin-screw supercharger, which adds 600 pound-feet of torque to its impressive horsepower figure, when running 91 octane gasoline. Of course, serious go power requires serious stopping power as well, so Saleen has fitted some 15-inch brake rotors up front, larger than the entire rim you’d get on an economy car. The wheels are a set of house-made 20-inch rims, wrapped in equally impressive rubber.
Outside, the car is adorned with Saleen’s traditionally aggressive bodykit, lengthening the car by an inch and a half in the front and almost two inches in the rear. This helps to increase the airfoil, thereby increasing downforce over the entire vehicle. A large wing crowns the rear deck lid to help ensure that the power being sent to the back wheels is applied to the asphalt appropriately.
Saleen then added S4 springs, shocks, swaybars, and bushings to ensure that the new S302’s track performance would be on par with its ¼-mile times. In all, it provides a full package that should suit Ford performance enthusiasts quite well in the void left as Ford gets its ducks in a row with a successor to the GT500.
Inside, black leather and suede seats are highlighted by contrasting chevrons. The gauge cluster has been re-worked and re-styled, and in an homage to Saleen’s racing heritage, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio and the center stack display ties the cockpit together. “Unique badging finishes off the interior that includes a dash plaque signifying year of manufacture and serial number of each vehicle,” Saleen says.
Saleen’s release comes as Chevrolet prepares its reveal of the next-generation Camaro for 2016, and Dodge has been having trouble keeping the Hellcat model on its lots despite its higher price and excessive power. This spells good things for American muscle heads. It implies that as the power wars continue, a 1,000-plus horsepower OEM vehicle may not be far off. Consider it the Moore’s Law of autos. The last few years have seen tremendous gains in terms of what we see as feasible for automotive performance.
“From the beginning of this project, we have always known that we wanted to create the most powerful production Mustang we have ever built,” Sven Etzelsberger, Saleen’s vice president of Engineering, said in the company’s statement. “I can happily say that we have accomplished this goal with great success.”