Saleen R-R-R Mustang
Magazine name: Road & Track
Issue: Volume 45, Number 10
Date: June 1994
Cover: More Power! (Photograph of Tim Allen and Mustang)
Article: Saleen R-R-R Mustang (Page 96)
True to his sitcom persona, Tim Allen gives his Mustang a dose of home improvement.
By Joe Rusz
What kind of dishwasher can't clean simple food stains off a dinner plate? Certainly not one that lives under the same roof as Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. Taylor, actually, stand-up comic Tim Allen, plays the host of an imaginary cable television, do-it-yourself show called Tool Time. A Bob Vila run amok, Tim's solution to improving the performance of anemic dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, ice makers, assorted power tools and just about any mechanical device is embodied in two words (all together now, audience): "More power!"
So when Tim reworks the family KitchenAid -- super-powering its water jets with a blast from a Binford heavy-duty air compressor -- the machine not only makes plates come clean, it flat blows them across the kitchen. Nor do automobiles escape Allen's power play -- in his top-rated ABC TV sitcom, Home Improvement, and in his real life as well. Simply put, Tim's a car guy. Born in Denver, he grew up in Motown where his uncle worked for Ford and his father "vicariously" for Chrysler.
"It was during the Newport era," says Tim, as he lays on a bit of Allen humor.
"Ah, the Newport. What a car." [Makes car-starting sound:]
"Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya. Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya."
"Gee, Dad, I see you bought another Chrysler."
"How did you know?"
"You started it!"
Jokes aside (but not for long), Tim is understandably biased toward American cars even though his personal collection includes both domestic and foreign muscle (Cadillac STS with the Northstar V-8 engine, GMC Typhoon, Mercedes-Benz 500E, Ferrari 365GTB). But ponycars, specifically Ford Mustangs, have been high on his wish list since Tim was a teen. And while he once owned a Mustang SVO ("It got stolen after my wife took it to the Detroit Zoo-oo," gripes Allen), like his TV counterpart, the comic has always wanted something with more power -- like a Saleen Mustang R-R-R, a rolling FoMoCo showcase with 576 supercharged horses under its carbon-fiber hood. No stranger to Saleen Mustangs, Allen and Steve Saleen met one evening in Hermosa Beach, California, where Tim was performing at a comedy club. After the show, the comedian test-drove two of the cars Steve had brought along for an "audition." Impressed by their performance and quality, Allen -- who says, "Saleen always does things with class" -- popped the question. "I said, 'How far can you go?'"
Quite far, as it turns out. In fact, the spec list for Allen's Mustang is crammed with Saleen and Ford SVO performance baubles including a somewhat eclectic powerplant, a Vortech-equipped Ford 302-cu.-in. V-8. "The supercharger was Steve's idea," says Allen. "My original wish list included Ford's new modular twincam, but we couldn't get that to fit." Skeptical of superchargers ("They always feel like they're loading down the engine"), Tim changed his mind after Saleen, who had built a Vortech-charged Mustang for SCCA World Challenge racing, convinced him that the application would produce more than enough horsepower.
To prove his point, Steve let Tim drive a customer's supercharged Mustang, a quasi-racing car that spends most of its time on the racetrack at Willow Springs. "This thing was scary," says Allen. "And after I got out, Steve said, 'I can actually make it faster!'"
Scary or not, Tim liked what he saw and told Saleen "to take the technology of that car and mellow it out -- double the size of the brakes, install aluminum and urethane suspension bushings, hide the rollbar, add a lot of sound-deadening insulation, put in a kick-ass stereo."
Tim would probably have been very happy with the 450-or-so horsepower the "normal" Saleen Mustang put out. "But somehow, Steve came up with another 100 horsepower. And even I went, 'You know, enough's enough.'"
"Enough" in this case is a 576-bhp, 302-cu.-in. Ford V-8 that's been balanced, blueprinted and fitted with Ford Motorsport/SVO (longer) connecting rods, forged TRW pistons, ported and polished aluminum cylinder heads, Saleen supercharger-grind camshaft, Saleen intake manifold, Ford Motorsport 65-mm throttle body, high-flow fuel injectors, Saleen/Diversified Fuel Injection speed-density engine-management system, high-capacity fuel and oil pumps and Saleen racing oilpan with baffles. But not with the Ford Motorsport/SVO short block one would normally expect to find in a high-horsepower application. "The stock block and crankshaft are plenty strong," says Steve, "because we're only turning the engine a little over 6000 rpm. And while the Type-B Vortech supercharger kicks out 12-14 pounds of boost, the compression ratio is a relatively low 8.8:1."
In anticipation of this quantum leap in performance, Saleen made the requisite modifications to what was originally a 1993 Mustang LX, borrowing liberally from his racing parts bin. For example, much of the stock driveline was, ahem, recycled and replaced by heavy-duty components such as a Centerforce clutch, Tremec 5-speed gearbox, aluminum driveshaft, 3.55:1 ring and pinion, Auburn Traction-Loc differential and heavy-duty axles. Likewise, the stock Mustang suspension was replaced by a host of Saleen/Racecraft componentry including progressive-rate front and rear coil springs, gas-pressurized front struts/rear quad shocks, stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars, aluminum front A-arm bushings, adjustable front camber/caster plates, rear lower control arms, numerous urethane bushings and a Panhard rod. And, lest we forget, a front strut tower brace, G-Load brace, numerous subframe supports and a modified steering rack.
Then there are the brakes: "Steve told me they'd be expensive [$3500 plus labor], but I said, 'If it's safety, I'm willing to pay for it. 'Cause if it goes this fast, it's gotta be able to stop as fast.'"
It should. Stock Mustang LX 10.8-in. front and 10.1-in. rear discs have been replaced with Saleen/Racecraft rotors that measure a humongous 13.0 in. up in front and 12.2 in. at the rear. Four-piston calipers are fitted all around, as are 5-lug wheel hubs that support Speedline alloys (8.0-in. front/9.0-in. rear) shod with 255/40ZR-17 Goodrich Comp T/A tires. Unusual as they may be, those fancy (and pricey) Speedlines are capped with body-color, aero-style wheel covers.
"Those were my idea," says Tim, who claims he got his inspiration from Al Unser Jr.'s Indy car. "When I told Steve, he said, 'That's interesting. I use those on my racing cars.' Whatever. They're so simple they make the car look totally different," says Allen.
For that matter, so does the bodywork, which includes a carbon-fiber front facia fitted with Ford Thunderbird headlights. This really was Tim's idea, and although it's a good one, it gave the folks at Saleen more than a little grief.
Because the redesign called for a lower hoodline, the supercharger, alternator and air-conditioning compressor had to be relocated. Likewise, the front fenders had to be reshaped before the bodywork could be reproduced in carbon fiber. Saleen topped off the aero package with urethane front air dam, side skirts, rear valance and a Centrex (plastic) rear wing. And it was Tim who insisted that his car be fitted with a proper rollcage, albeit an unobtrusive one that doesn't detract from the appearance of the Mustang's mostly black interior. Peek inside the cabin and you'd swear it's nearly stock, proving that the Saleen people did a superb job -- on the rollbar and the rest of the interior.
Because a picture is worth a thousand words, we'll let the photos do the "talking" in describing most of the interior. But just so you know, the seats are by Recaro, the stereo sound system's by Pioneer and those zoomy pedals are by Lonza. 'Nuff said?
So, other than "awesome," what do we call this 180-mph, $50,000 hyper-customized Mustang? Tim Allen would call it "a real bad-boy of a motorcar," punctuating his description with his familiar apelike grunts that sound like "aargh, aargh, aargh" and look like R-R-R when spelled out -- in script on the windshield band.
On the track, what the Saleen R-R-R sounds like is "Rowrr, screeech! Rowrr, screeech! Rowrr, screeech!" With a few wows and expletives thrown in by yours truly, Road Test Editor Kim Reynolds and Saleen himself. Low gear begets mountains of wheelspin, 2nd gets you sideways, and even 3rd will spin those T/As. "The problem," says a shaken Mr. Reynolds, "is that thing there [the gas pedal]."
With Saleen himself behind the wheel, the R-R-R goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and reaches the quarter mile in 12.4 sec. With better traction, it should accelerate quicker. And stop shorter too, although 114 ft. from 60 mph and 203 from 80 are nothing to sneeze at.
Nor were we disappointed with the Saleen's skidpad showing where it managed to pull an impressive 0.98g.
In an all-too-brief visit we didn't have a chance to drive Tim's car on the street, and maybe it's better that way. We still have our license. So does Tim, but then, hey, he's a TV star. Anyway, our host confesses, "You can't take the race car out of the car. We put insulation everywhere, but you can still hear and feel this thing. It's also a little too wiry for the street. First gear, it's ready to take off; 2nd gear, it chugs. It's happy cruising along with fast-moving freeway traffic."
Although Saleen changed the gearing and turned down the boost (to 10 psi), the car still doesn't like traffic. "There's so much torque in that motor...," Tim tells us.
"Indeed, there is, good neighbor" is what Wilson, Tim's TV neighbor, might say. "In fact, there's 527 lb.-ft. or 715 Newton-meters coming off that flywheel, Tim."
Tim Taylor, on the other hand, might say to his TV wife Jill, "Honey, did you know that there are 527 pounds of feet and a whole bunch of Fig Newtons stuck to my flywheel?"
Which is just the way Tim Allen likes it. "It's an absolute temptation to have a car that -- I don't care who pulls up next to me, in front of me, behind me, in a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or spec'd-out Porsche -- there's just not much out there that can come close to the thing. It's basically a street version of a Trans-Am car."
And no, it doesn't need more power. Right, Tim?
ACCELERATION Time to speed ........... Seconds 0-30 mph ................... 2.3 0-40 mph ................... 3.3 0-50 mph ................... 4.2 0-60 mph ................... 4.9 0-70 mph ................... 6.1 0-80 mph ................... 7.3 0-90 mph ................... 8.3 0-100 mph .................. 9.8 0-110 mph .................. 11.4 Time to distance 0-100 ft .............................. 3.0 0-500 ft .............................. 6.9 0-800 ft .............................. 9.7 0-1320 ft (1/4 mi) ......... 12.4 @ 116 mph BRAKING Minimum stopping distance >From 60 mph ............. 114 ft >From 80 mph ............. 203 ft HANDLING Lateral accel (200-ft skidpad) ....... 0.98g Speed thru 700-ft slalom ................ na