1996 Saleen S281 Specs

by C. Taylor

Steve Saleen masterminds the transformation of a Ford Mustang GT to the head-turning Saleen S281. Although the first Saleen Mustang appeared in 1984, the Saleen S281 did not make its debut until 1996. The "S281" references the 281-cubic-inch engine, with the "S" standing for "Saleen." In contrast to its big brother, the S351, the 1996 S281's performance increase was primarily that of suspension and appearance, with little alteration to the stock GT's V-8 engine.

Engine and Performance

Slightly increased from the stock 1996 Ford Mustang GT, the Saleen's 4.6-liter single overhead cam engine produced 220 hp, five more horsepower than a stock Mustang GT. The increase was due to a deep, throaty Borla exhaust and Saleen air filter. Ford claims 0 to 60 performance times of 6.3 seconds, although Motor Trend's test figures were 6.9 seconds. Likewise, quarter-mile times were advertised at 14.7 seconds at 95 mph, but were realized at a slower 15.3 seconds at 89.8 seconds in Motor Trend performance tests.


Suspension modifications lowered the Saleen and stiffened up the suspension. This was accomplished with Saleen/Racecraft struts and shocks and variable rate springs in the front and rear live axle. This resulted in a 0.92g skidpad trial with a 120-foot stopping distance from 60 mph. Although impressive, this was only a small improvement from the Stock GT.


Extensive Saleen badging quickly separates it from a stock Mustang GT. The Saleen S281 adds ground effects with a replaced front fascia, rear valance and side skirts. Stock rims are replaced with five-spoked 18-inch wheels and wider, stickier tires. The optional tires are the Dunlop SP Sport 8000s measuring 255/35ZR18 in the front and a wider 285/35/ZR18 in the back. Interior modifications are subtler, including a Saleen shifter, plate of authentication and Saleen dash gauges.

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