During the first official press tour of the SMS Supercars facility in Corona, California, company founder Steve Saleen debuted his latest take on the modern musclecar: the 2011 SMS 302 Mustang.
The imposing gray machine we saw was a prototype, with the body gaps to prove it, but it served as a rolling showcase of the SMS transformation. Saleen sources cars from their respective manufacturers or from dealers, depending on availability. After transporting the cars to Corona, the SMS team performs a teardown, removing the body panels, interior, wheels, suspension, and engine. Each is replaced with SMS goodies, which are engineered and manufactured for the majority in house. The finished cars are then sent to dealers for sale.
SMS, according to Saleen, is recognized as a vehicle manufacturer. Each model is re-certified by government agencies and sold as new. This is far more than adding go-fast bits and kicking the car out the door.
But go-fast the SMS cars should. In the SMS Mustang, the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter under hood boasts 440-horsepower, thanks to a new head design, exhaust, pulleys, and additional engine calibration. SMS claims 0-60 mph acceleration at 4.5 seconds and a quarter mile pass in 13.5 seconds at 116 mph. We extracted a 4.3 second 0-60 mph and 12.8 second quarter mile times from the stock 2011 Mustang when we tested it, so we're assuming SMS is being conservative.
The suspension is all SMS too, including new front and rear springs and swaybars, front struts, rear shocks, and a bespoke Watts Link. Twenty-inch rolling stock sits at all four corners, shod with rubber sized 275/35 front and 275/40 rear. The brakes feature cross drilled rotors all around and upgraded brake pads.
New bodywork consists of a redesigned nose with prominent, large grille openings and brake ducts; a hood with an exaggerated "power bulge" and heat extraction vents (a ram-air "butterfly" hood with throttle-actuated openings is optional); sculpted side skirts; and a completely redesigned rear end with a large diffuser and relocated license plate. Inside are leather and Alcantara-upholstered seats, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, and a 200 mph gauge cluster. Unique SMS details include a vehicle identification plate and a signature from Saleen himself. The Shaker 500 stereo found in the standard Mustang makes the transition unchanged, as does Ford's nifty SYNC interface.
The price? $54,990. Add $5,000 if you want a convertible. Meeting crash requirements and emissions testing isn't cheap. Take the SMS Challengers, for example. Entry cost for the 500-horsepower version hits $66,586, while 700-horsepower models can total $86,986. Then again, Saleen says his 700-horse Challenger runs on California's 91-octane fuel and passes a sniff test in all 50 states.
"Where can you get a [50-state legal] 700-hp car for 80 grand?" he asked me in January, at the Detroit auto show. The all-mighty Corvette ZR1 can't make that claim.
If you're eager to jump on board, the SMS 302 Mustang goes into production next month. Power-hungry buyers should wait, though, as the company is gearing up to sell two supercharged models: a 302SC, with 535-horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, and a 351X, which Saleen isn't saying anything about.