Piston Slap: 2006 Saleen Mustang Convertible S281: Pedigree Pony or a Handful of Horse—?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Joe writes:

Last Christmas, my wife bought me a 2006 Saleen Mustang Convertible s281. As it was winter in Idaho and the last week of the year, what with Saleen Corp announcing that it would be filing for bankruptcy, the dealership was very eager to remove this very beautiful car from their showroom.

I would like to think that the Saleen could be a decent long-term investment. That being said, it is just an S281 model, no supercharger. So do I hope I made a good investment and keep the car as built? (Really sucks that a kid in a 300zx can keep up with me.)

To protect the car’s collectibility, should I upgrade the power with very expensive Saleen parts, or forget about long term resale and go with other superchargers that provide more bang for the buck?

Sajeev replies:

Unless you’re happy waiting 30 years, paying thousands a year to keep her pristine and putting fewer than 10,000 miles (3000 miles per year) on it, the Saleen Mustang Convertible s281’s collectibility factor is minimal. Even if you do, it’s a crap shoot. With or without superchargers. Want a good long term investment? Buy a condo in Miami in the next year or two . . . or something like that.

Please, stop thinking of this car as an investment: it’s a black hole. Only now are certain (i.e., low mile, fairly unique) Fox Body Saleens pulling out of their depreciation curve with a somewhat large number of followers. And I don’t see them fancy-Fairmonts reaching Barrett-Jackson boner-worthy BOSS 429 status any time soon. Or maybe ever.

That said, having fun while your money burns isn’t so bad. Upgrading your “pedigree” with a Saleen supercharger and the necessary upgrades to bump it to a higher-echelon package is a good idea. Saleen receipts and anything else “Saleen” (that you can get your hands on) accomplishes what you want: keeping kids in Z-cars away; and the period-correct upgrades stand the test of time.

But the Mustang’s beauty lies in its blizzard of performance options available from countless entrepreneurs: not just the guys with savvy marketing, cozy relationships with Ford and a turnkey solution to a problem. After speaking to Mr. Saleen and other famous names at press/enthusiast conferences, I’ve noticed their solution changes when a new answer makes them more money. While not always a bad thing, it kinda broke my heart when they’d marginalize past accomplishments at the altar of the almighty dollar.

And the Fox Body generation (once again) proved that the best Mustangs are wild and free: not show horses with pedigree-enhancing papers. I’m remembering the INCON twin turbo kit, TFS Twisted-Wedge heads, Griggs road-race suspension and Baer brakes: with zero support from the likes of Ford or Saleen. I spent my formative years reading tech articles of such manufacturers in MM&FF magazine, so Saleen never really excited me. (Or Roush, for that matter.)

But you are not me. (That’s a compliment . . . trust me.) And you already have a Saleen, a vehicle I’d never consider in the first place. So do whatever you think is right for your money’s future and be happy. Then wait for the right buyer to come along when you’re ready to sell.

[Send your technical queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • RogerB34 RogerB34 on Aug 05, 2009

    "That’s true, cheap gas and horsepower go hand in hand."... My only brand new personal car was a 57 Bel Air HT, 3278 lbs, V8 283, 185 HP BRAKE. My 05 Accord Coupe, V6, 3124 lbs, V6 183, 240 HP SAE NET. The Honda has brakes, suspension, ride, handling, reliability, mpg that weren't dreamed of 1957. You can't go home again. Who would want to?

  • Joemoc1 Joemoc1 on Aug 06, 2009

    Thanks to all of and especially Sajeev for posting my question. I will probably keep this a while and go with a SC in the near future. For now this car is a whole lot of fun and I intend to enjoy it while I can afford to drive it and still look young enough to own it. The car does constantly bring a smile to my face and so very many compliments. The kid in the 2nd gen 300z was modified. (I do like the 2nd gen 300 Z's by the way.) As far as the corvette comments against Mustangs, I bought this low enough to say dollar for dollar I am sure I got the better deal. I could put 8 or 9 k$ into this car and still be half the price, with equal or better performance. In the past we have been thru a couple of mustangs and they are an emotional attachment to the past and the great marrage I have. Joe

  • Chiefmonkey Bet on it getting 5-10 MPG less than the advertised rating.
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