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R Model Means Race Ready

In the spirit of ‘R’ models, a Saleen Mustang is suited for the street and road course

Story Barry Kluczyk - June 19, 2011 09:00 AM

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It’s difficult to convey the difference in handling enabled by the unique suspension components that help keep this red Saleen Mustang pinned to the tarmac.

We were able to judge it with back-to-back runs around South Haven, Michigan’s challenging 1.88-mile Gingerman road course in a brand-spanking new 2011 Mustang GT and Peter Basica’s double-throw-down street/track Saleen.

Despite similar silhouettes, they were essentially different cars. Certainly, the 2011 5.0 liter Mustang is the best-handling factory GT we’ve experienced, with a noticeable improvement over even the 2010 model. But around Gingerman, it rolled around like a ’70s-era land yacht in comparison to the direct, lean-free driving characteristics of this modified red Saleen car. Braking performance was something to behold, too, as the stock ’Stang’s discs were begging for a break after only a few hot laps, while the Saleen’s big discs were just getting warmed up – figuratively and literally.

For the record, the Saleen – with racer John Buttermore at the wheel – lapped the course in 1:33.9, which was good for seventh on Gingerman Raceway’s best lap times list. The car’s performance was augmented by the Saleen supercharger system, which pushed the engine’s output to 446 rear wheel horsepower and 419 lbs-ft of torque at the tires. (This was a 2010 model, with the 4.6L engine.) The intercooled high-performance engine delivered strong, consistent performance that didn’t fall off as the underhood and ambient temps rose. Better still, the overall performance of the car was consistent and dead-nuts reliable. Throughout a long, hot and humid summer day at the track, it performed without an issue. It was almost too easy.

The Saleen Mustang is owned and built by Pedders USA, LLC to develop suspension and chassis parts for the Saleen brand. It’s a partnership that has bred components that are very effective for the street and track.

“Think of this as a Saleen ‘R’ model,” says Pedders’ Peter Basica. “It’s a package for those who want to experience the full capability of their car on the track.”

The changes over the standard Saleen setup include a lengthy list of components, including track coilovers with camber plates, front sway bar and rear sway bar with adjustable end links, anti-lift/dive and caster kit; adjustable Panhard bar and rear control arms, a variety of chassis braces and more. Among the most important changes was the addition of Forgeline 19x10.5-inch wheels (wrapped in identical Bridgestone RE-11 305/30ZR-19 tires) with custom offsets that square the Mustang’s front and rear tracks.

“That’s important because, from the factory, the rear track is 16mm wider than the front, which contributes to the car’s tendency to understeer or push through the corners,” said Basica. “It’s hard to drive fast around the track when the car pushes, so equalizing the tracks is a significant contributor to the car’s greater performance on the track.”

The stock Mustang GT front track is 1,582mm and the rear track is 1,598mm. The Saleen is set at 1,600mm, front and rear. That’s a huge adjustment, considering alignment adjustments are made in tenths or hundredths of a degree. The substantially wider track also makes the car more stable at speed and helps reduce roll in the corners.

Sway bar tie-in

One of the simplest yet most effective components developed by Pedders is a stabilizer bar tie-in bracket that mechanically links the stabilizer bar (also known as a sway bar) to the factory engine cradle. From the factory, the stabilizer bar swings out in front of the cradle, but is only attached to the chassis via thinner sheet metal at the bottom of the radiator core support. The Pedders-designed bracket is a simple, lightweight aluminum part that bolts to the bar and cradle.

“The improvement in feel during corner is immediate and dramatic,” says Basica. Through the licensing agreement with Saleen, the bracket won’t be sold by or carry the Pedders name. It’s officially a Saleen part, along with all the other suspension goodies that turned the car into a true track star.

There simply isn’t enough room in this story to outline the effect each different component on the car’s performance, but our seat time confirmed they work cohesively and seamlessly. A stock, 2011 Mustang GT was supplied by Performance Autosport president and Saleen guru Mark LaMaskin. There’s no denying the inherent capability of the Mustang, as the 2011 GT performed admirably around the Gingerman circuit. It rotated well in the corners and felt well balanced, but simply didn’t have the buttoned-down feeling of confidence that the Pedders-equipped Saleen did when entering the corners.

That the modified car felt more at home on the track than the stock Mustang GT wasn’t a surprise, but the overall composure of it was. The Pedders car is a street car with the racing suspension parts bolted to it. That means it still wears a full interior, air conditioning, leather upholstery and no roll cage. The Pedders coilovers stiffened the ride considerably.

“For most people, the ride quality is beyond what you’d typically expect in a daily driver,” says Basica. “But for the enthusiast who really wants a dual-purpose car that can be competitive during track day events, it’s a compromise you can easily live with. And if you’re building a dedicated race car, we believe the parts will deliver a competitive edge.”

Sounds like a true “R” package to us.

Vehicle

• 2010 Saleen Mustang

• 4.6L three-valve V-8 engine

•5-speed manual transmission

•Rear wheel horsepower: 449

•Rear wheel torque: 419 lbs-ft

 

Powertrain

•Saleen positive-displacement supercharger

• Saleen insulated cold air intake

• American Racing headers

• Saleen Borla exhaust

 

Wheels/tires

• Saleen SR racing wheels by Forgeline, 19x10.5-inch (front and rear)

• Brigestone RE-11 305/30ZR19 tires (front and rear)

 

Brakes

• Saleen 15-inch/six-piston front brakes

• Saleen carbon ceramic brake pads

(track use only)

 

Chassis/suspension

• Ford Racing differential cover

• Saleen adjustable Panhard bar

• Saleen adjustable rear control arms

• Saleen anti-lift / dive and caster kit

• Saleen front single chassis brace

• Saleen front triangulated chassis brace

• Saleen rear chassis brace

• Saleen supercharger-compatible strut

tower bar

• Saleen sway bars with adjustable supercar

end links and adjustable front bar

• Saleen track coilovers with camber plates

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