Before I write another word, let’s get one thing straight: the Saleen S331 Supercharged Sport Truck is a RIDICULOUS MACHINE. Climbing into its cab is like boarding the Space Shuttle. The S331’s engine fires-up with all the subtlety of the shuttle’s SRB’s. After the small voice in your head counts down to zero, the truck launches with all the fury of… Well, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Suffice it to say, you don’t have to be a Three Stooges Fan to know that something completely ridiculous can also make you laugh with delight.
All S331’s begin life as a standard-issue F-150. Saleen’s team strips Ford’s pickup truck to its frame, and then remanufactures it using a mix of Ford and Saleen-manufactured high performance parts. The result is a more refined and coherent product than you’ll find at your local aftermarket tuning shop, and a toe-to-toe competitor with Ford’s official and identically-powered Foose Edition F-150.
Before each S331 leaves Saleen’s assembly line, the company paints a serial number on the bumper below the left headlight. My tester, number 138, sported [optional] blingy seven-spoke chromed wheels, a tow package and 15” brakes. The Sport Truck actually sits two inches higher than a stock F-150 to accommodate its 23” low-profile High Performance BF Goodrich KDW 305/40 series tires.
Saleen replaces the F-150’s bright work with a flat black grille. The customized, low-hanging front fascia channels the air flow to cool the big rig’s brakes, ventilates the intercooler and improves aerodynamics. A bulging vented hood distinguishes the supercharged version of the Sport Truck from its less powerful S331 three-valve siblings, and disburses the enormous engine heat created by the mas macho mondo motor.
Just in case observers mistook Saleen’s Frankensteinian Ford for their plumber’s pickup, Saleen-fitted exhaust ports interrupt the Sport Truck’s side skirting just ahead of the rear wheels. Lower body cladding, crisply defined wheel wells, a spoiler and a black tailgate appliqué complete the roadster look.
Inside the donor truck’s “tough luxury” cabin, Saleen supplants the F-150’s instrumentation with custom gauges (including boost) in the binnacle and on top of the dash. The only other indications of customized hotness: brushed aluminum panels, silver bezels and new seat cushions (reinforced for greater lateral support) swathed in racy two-tone leather.
An optional Rockford Fosgate “Punch” sound system looks enticing on paper, but 150 watts of tuneage is hardly enough oomph to compete with the muscle car symphony playing through the truck’s side pipes.
While obnoxious to many, the V8’s Wagnerian cacophony is easily the S331’s most distinctive feature. The S331 is nicknamed “Thunder” (to Ford’s old Lightning) for good reason; it's guaranteed to wake neighbors, terrorize pets and rattle glass. Passing a Dodge dealership I gave a WOT hello to the Hemis waiting for new homes. They seemed to shrink back in deferential horror.
The Sport Truck is not all bluster and no muster. Saleen tops the 5.4-liter block with a high-performance three-valve SOHC head and a patented twin-screw water-to-air supercharger. The set-up serves-up 450hp at 5200rpm and 500 lb-ft torque at 4000rpm. It’s enough boost to launch this 2.5 ton pickup to 60mph in 6.1 seconds. Ford likes Saleen’s engine treatment so much it's destined for the next Harley Davidson Edition F-150 (due this summer).
Power finds pavement by way of a Ford four-speed tranny with overdrive and a limited slip differential. Fortunately, light throttle tip-in keeps exuberant drivers from vaporizing the rear donuts everytime a stoplight turns green.
All this weight and power is kept in line by nitrogen charged front struts and rear shocks, in tandem with customized specific-rate Saleen springs. The racy bits nearly eliminate all yaw pitch from this 6’1.5” tall 5500lbs leviathan.
When designing the Sport Truck, Steve Saleen was determined to preserve the F-150’s pickup truck utility. Properly configured, the S331 can tow 9500lbs. Even with wheel well-filling 23” rear tires, the S331’s bed payload capacity remains an entirely useable 1350lbs (2/3 tons).
Despite these capabilities, it’s highly unlikely that a Saleen S331 Supercharged Sport Truck's treads will ever feel the cold of snow, squish in mud or slip in the rain. Owners may call upon their $61k pickup to haul a widescreen TV home from the big box store, or schlep a favorite Harley to a bike show. Or not. It's just as likely that the Saleen's handiwork will be carefully garaged– saved for those sunny Sunday afternoon romps that intimidate econoboxes, bounce seismographs and plaster tire tracks on unsuspecting pavement.
Of course, even without inevitable pedal-to-the-metalitude, the S331’s mileage starts off somewhere south of unconscionable. So what? Sensible, environmentally conscious motorists will smirk at Saleen’s aesthetically and sonically aggressive rendition of America’s most popular vehicle. But the S331’s owner will be the one wearing the ear-to-ear grin.