David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/28/19 11:29 a.m.

Time for a little history lesson. Don’t worry, the test will be open book. Back in the ’60s, retired racer Carroll Shelby added enough spice to the then-new Mustang to turn it from hot to hotter. Today a legit one is a six-figure proposition–or more, as a one-of-one, GT40-powered Shelby GT500 Super Snake just sold for $2.2 million.

Now let’s jump forward. Steve Saleen, also a driver, followed a similar recipe and likewise offered his own hotted-up Mustangs through select Ford dealerships. The Saleen Mustang debuted for 1984, with the big performance upgrade being its Racecraft suspension: stiffer springs, Bilstein dampers, Goodyear Eagle GT tires and Hayashi alloy wheels.

The Saleen package also included some visual flair, like an ’80s-appropriate aero kit; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and, of course, the requisite badges. Also standard: an Escort radar detector. In 1984 the Saleen package retailed for $4195 and could only be added to a Mustang L or LX coupe fitted with the 5.0-liter engine. Figure about $7100 for the Mustang itself.

Saleen offered modified Mustangs throughout the entire Fox-body run–and continues to reworks Ford’s latest. The firm tweaked the formula during the Fox-body years expanding to include upgrades like five-lug hubs, Hurst shifters and straight-through exhausts. Convertible and T-top cars were eventually put under the knife as well.

The firm offered more horsepower, too. The 1989 Saleen SSC celebrated the Mustang’s 25th birthday by adding a built engine, while a Vortech supercharger became optional for 1992, the year before the end of the Fox-body run.

Here’s the take-home message regarding these Fox-body Saleens: While the aftermarket has always offered the same upgrades, these cars have legit collector appeal. Those six-figure Shelbys? At one time they were just inexpensive used cars.

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