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AUTOS : O.C. Custom Car Maker Gives Mustang Lots More Horsepower

Compiled by John O'Dell, Times staff writer

Ford Motor Co. has gotten a lot of grief lately for rolling out a futuristic 720-horsepower super car, the Ford GT90, then announcing that it is merely a concept car and not destined to be anything more.

But fast-car enthusiasts, especially those who favor the Ford logo, need not be too dismayed.

There’s a company in Orange County that turns the Ford Mustang into a pretty powerful package and has just introduced as its latest product: a 480-horsepower Mustang convertible that it claims is the most powerful car that can be bought over-the-counter in the United States.

The company is Saleen Performance Cars. Since race driver and engine builder Steve Saleen started the business in 1984, it has turned 3,500 Mustangs into superhigh-performance autos that are sold like stock models, complete with factory warranties, through selected Ford dealerships.

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In all, there are 58 Team Saleen dealers across the nation, including Theodore Robins Ford in Costa Mesa and Burch Ford in La Habra.

The new Saleen Speedster comes standard with the company’s 371-horsepower, 351-cubic-inch V-8 engine, special intake and exhaust systems, transmission, brakes, radiator, drive shaft and a lightweight carbon fiber hood.

The 480-horsepower supercharged model rides on 18-inch wheels and tires, and it hits 60 m.p.h. from a standing start in 4.7 seconds.

The price tag for all that performance isn’t cheap. The suggested retail is $59,900, enough to buy two of Ford’s factory-built Mustang GT convertibles at $22,600 apiece with a $14,350 base Mustang coupe thrown in to fill that third bay in your garage.

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Saleen does make slightly less costly performance cars as well. The base 371-horsepower Speedster (no supercharger) is a mere $48,490. The Saleen 351 Mustang coupe is $39,990.

Saleen, based in Irvine, is the nation’s biggest specialty car maker.


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