The old saying race on Sunday sell on Monday is still as true today ,and has been a marketing term for many years
Steve Saleen is known for building custom street cars starting in 1984,Saleen started racing in 1986 and has continued thru the years to help market and test parts.
Saleen raced these 86-89 cars in Endurance racing so they had to withstand 24hr races and multiple drivers. The race series was sponsored by the Escort radar dector company, hence the name Escort endurance series.
The most recognized Saleen race cars are the nicknamed bumble bee cars from 87-89. Saleen built only 8 Factory R models compared to Shelbys 26 R models ,so these are rare cars seldom seen buy the average Mustang enthusiast. These R model Saleens were built from new cars and were race cars from day one. The Escort endurance series was intended to showcase the best that all the manufactures had to offer. The series was better known as showroom stock, this was because the cars had to be raced in the same trim as if you purchased the car off the dealer showroom floor. This was supposed to prevent Ringers custom built by the manufactures. All cars must have a production VIN and only minor modifications can be made to the STOCK car. Engine blueprinting and balancing, shock and spring changes were about it. All the cars had to have SCCA approved roll cages and Racing seats.
Saleen went one step farther buy hiring Dave Dixon a former F1 engine builder to head up the engine program. A factory stock Mustang 5.0 would put down about 200 RWHP on a chassis Dyno ,but the Dixon Build motors put down 265 RWHP and gave the Saleen team a distinct advantage to their competitors.
The way Dave managed to eek the extra power was a pre-production GT-40 cylinder head with the stock E7 casting and stock looking rocker arms with different ratio’s for the SCCA official’s to see. The other key part was a new process in the 80’s called extrude hone, it opened up the intake with a putty type friction material and was used on the lower and upper intake. This increased the flow to match the GT-40 style heads. To help conceal the unapproved modification Saleen had the heads and intake shot peened to look like factory castings. This sounds like a huge task but there are a few more modifications to the 5.0 motor, we can’t forget the camshaft,Dixion had custom ground cams that measured out to stock lift but the overlap and duration was optimized for performance. The other thing you may notice is that all the 87-89 Saleen R cars were speed density not mass air. Dixion found the stock speed density computer’s worked better with these modification’s but he need to add 24lb injectors in place of the stock ones for added fuel to make up for the increased air flow . Dixon actually had to try dozens of ECU’s to find the best one for each motor because they could not be re programmed.
The other parts Dixion concentrated on were a Lincoln LSC Speed density intake tube because it flows more air than the stock mustang part and the stock Ford headers were also ported for better flow. The cars used a Ford motorsport off road pipe and 2 1/4 Dynomax mufflers
The cars ran stock T-5 Transmissions but they too were blue printed to ensure 24HR abuse,the ratios remained stock but Saleen would use 3.55 and 3.08 ratios depending on the track. The rear differentals were prototype parts from Auburn,the Pro differential they currently sell was prototyped on the Saleen race cars. This is a cone type Differential that gave Saleen a better launch off the corners.
This completed package also included secret stamps on all the parts so each motor has specific number so when they were rebuilt none of the parts got mixed up.
The trick of the Bumble bee cars does not end with the drive train,saleen also massaged the body to accommodate 8in wheels in the front with 1in of added track width,this kept the cars square due to the 1 in wider rear track from the Saleen rear disc brakes with 8in rear wheels. The 86-88 cars ran the stock Saleen brakes on all 4 corners but the 89 cars had upgraded JFZ front brakes because Ford offered them in the Motorsports parts catalogue. Saleen’s tire sponsor was general and they provided the team with G compound race rubber that was much bigger than the tire size on the actual tires, another advantage Saleen!
The suspension was also not quite stock, Saleen had some harder bushings installed in a few of the control arms and each car had specific springs to account for the drivers weights and to optimize corner balance and cross weights. Each car had its own set of crew members that set up the cars to their specific drivers’ requests. The 88 cars had 750 pound fronts and 300 lb rears depending on the tracks but the later 89 cars ran 1000lb fronts .
With all these modification’s the cars were still close to the factory weights due to the addition of the roll cages but the cars started as lighter than stock due to the lack of a/c and other power options.
The racing history for each car is unique due to the fact that there could be as much a 5 drivers at any one race. These cars competed at Road Atlanta,Mossport,Mid Ohio,Sebring,Sears point,Portland,Road America and Brainard.
Even thought they were called SHOW ROOOM STOCK these cars were far from stock.
The cars not only raced but were also used to open new Saleen dealerships and promote the other sponsors of the team,Saleen bought new cars each year for the next season.
These cars are a huge part of Mustang history and are still driven at Open track events but there current owners.