This S281 Saleen may have appeared in just one scene, although epic and memorable.
Anybody familiar with the movie 2Fast 2Furious should recall a red Saleen Mustang that appears in a highway race early on. Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) are the main characters in the movie, and they're on a mission to the impound lot to grab a package out of a Ferrari, but of course, they must compete against and fend off other drivers of high-performance cars with the same idea.
A senior producer for the F&F movies, Craig Lieberman tells the story of the red Saleen in this YouTube video. In fact, he helped choose the cars for the movie along with procuring the parts, overseeing the builds, and supported both production and post-production. With a heavy import presence in the movies, Lieberman wanted to add some American muscle to the mix. Filming started back in 2002, and mentions that trying to find the perfect domestic car for the role back then was not an easy task. Back then, there wasn't a new Dodge Challenger or Charger, and the Camaro was at the end of its run. However, there were plenty of Mustangs on the market, and the Saleen Mustang was receiving rave reviews and was a well-known name on the track.
Coincidentally, Lieberman had worked with Saleen back in the '90s performing engine turning. The two had a good relationship on a personal level so Steve Saleen offered support and provided a S281 Saleen Mustang, but it had to be painted his signature color Liz Stick Red, a hue named after his wife.
The Mustang appears in just one scene, although epic and memorable. It's a cringe-worthy sight to any American muscle enthusiast. In the take, 3 separate crashes take place with the Saleen ultimately being crushed under the wheels of a tractor trailer. Stunt cars were needed along with the actual crash vehicle, so that made a total of six Mustangs to film the scene. The one hero Saleen was top-of-the-line with a supercharged 4.6-liter V8 engine that was shifted via a manual transmission. Other stunt cars included a mix of naturally aspirated V8s or V6 automatics. In fact, three Mustangs were destroyed during the filming process. The empty shell of a Mustang painted and modified to look like the Saleen was dropped in under the wheels of the semi truck sans driver. If you play the scene frame-by-frame, it shows fake smoke, fake sparks, and stock wheels on the back of the car. Even more, if you watch closely you can see that the car was swung under the truck by a crane arm along with the unnatural movement of the crash.
Another fact involving the crash scene is that the Corvette that smashed into the wrecked "Saleen" actually rolled over afterwards which was completely unplanned. Attached to the passenger floor board was a pole strap that the driver could loop his arm into to stay down in case of a rollover, and it basically saved the man's life.
The hero Saleen was for sale in 2011 in Las Vegas, and as of earlier this year it still resides in Sin City. One would think that the destroyed car would have a junkyard fate, but it was fully restored by an owner of a body shop and crossed the Barrett-Jackson auction stage in 2004. One of the camera cars was sold to a man in Virginia who added a Vortech blower and other mods, and car No. #87 is a street-driven show car.
Source: Road & Track
Amazingly, most of the Mustangs are still around, according to Lieberman. The hero car supplied by Saleen popped up for sale in Las Vegas in 2011, and still resides in the area. The stunt car that was crushed was, shockingly, rebuilt by a man with his own bodyshop before being sold at Barrett-Jackson in 2004. Another stunt car is owned by Nick Yelovich on Instagram, who maintains it as a show car. Finally, one of the camera cars was sold to a buyer in Virginia, who gave it a supercharger. Lieberman doesn't know anything about the last two cars, but believes they're still around in some capacity.