Like Carroll Shelby before him, Steve Saleen is a former racer who has made a name for himself building performance cars. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Saleen Focus N2O may not have the cachet of Carroll's name, but is its price noteworthy?
Steve Saleen started out racing Porsches in club events. He transitioned to Formula Atlantic and eventually to SCCA Trans-Am where his Mustang ride sparked an addiction to the Ford pony car that would last over two decades, and would reignite the tuner industry for American muscle.
Saleen didn't confine his mods and ubiquitous badges & embossings to just Mustangs however, other Fords felt his touch including the F150 pickup and today's contender, the 2005 Ford Focus. The Escort-replacing Focus was arguably one of the most entertaining to drive small cars offered in the U.S., although by 2005, it had started to get long in the tooth, and even a mid-cycle upgrade only seemed to make the car a little duller than different. Enter Saleen with their S121 and today's hotter S121 N2O edition, and the little Ford comes back into sharper focus.
The S121 is powered by Ford's Duratec 2-litre twin-cam, which thanks to a fatter air intake ahead of the MAP, and a cat-back exhaust upgrade, pumps out 150-bhp. This S121 is the up-rated N2O which, as its name implies, gets laughing gas. That squirt of hurt puts an additional 75-ponies through the five-speed transaxle to the front wheels, and offers up an under-hatch mounted 10-lb bottle to impress all the backwards cap-wearing onlookers at car meets. The final drive is 3.82:1. NOS can be engaged with the push of a button, coming on at 3,000 rpm, and cutting out 200 short of redline. That provides performance when you want it, while hopefully not grenading the engine when you don't.
Along with the go-faster stuff under the hood and hatch, the S121 gains over the standard Focus a Racecraft-developed suspension, which includes linear-rate coils, fatter anti-sway bars with urethane bushings harder than last-years circus peanuts, and a strut-bar under the hood. For braking, Saleen increased the front rotor size by .7 inches, and seeing as those do most of the work, they left the 8" rear drums to try and keep up. Both disc and drum brakes are wrapped in 6- spoke 17" alloys which are in turn wrapped in wide-body fiberglass flares. Those wrap into a ground effects package that includes unique bumpers and a hatch-mounted wing. The whole package could be a poster child for Introverts Anonymous as the add-ons, and the silver staple emblazoned on each door mean this is not a car in which to blend in. Subtly has never been a hallmark of Saleen's designs, and this Focus embodies that in-your-face styling sentiment, as does apparently Steve's daughter, Molly. Vroom, vroom.
Inside the S121 is actually a little toned down for one of Steve's creations, there being far fewer than the usual fifty-five or so instances of his name in there. Instead, it's only the headrests that tell you you're in the house that Steve built, and that plus the nondescript NOS button next to the radio are the only dress-up items in here. This being a 2005, one other thing you'll find in here is plastic, acres and acres of the stuff, but that's too be expected - this is a Focus after all - and at least, with 51K on its clock, all that plastic seems to be in good shape.
There were only about 200 of the S121 N2Os built in 2005, that being the only year for the car. Back then it was targeted at the 2F2F crowd, but intended to be an affordable performance option evidenced by its sub-$27K price tag. Today, that's way-sub, as the dealer offering the car is asking $9,550, to drive it away. Sure, it doesn't have the performance or the panache of Saleen's Mustang models, but it is an official model from the guy that gave the world the S7, and built Ford's fabulous GT, so historical significance is on its side. But what do you think, is $9,550 a price that would have you naming this as a good deal? Or, does that amount miss the boat for this Saleen ship?
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