What Is the Mustang Saleen S281-C Extreme Rainbow?

The Mustang Saleen S281-C was a variant of the Mustang SVT Cobra that was available between 1996 and 2004. Taking as its base the impressive SVT Cobra, the Saleen package added a number of enhancements to improve its overall handling and performance. Only a handful of Saleen 281-Cs were produced, although the most famous by far was a 1997 model with an Extreme Rainbow paint job.

Saleen S281-C Extreme Rainbow MustangAbout the Saleen S281

The Saleen S281-C begins with the Mustang SVT Cobra, one of the first products of Ford’s Special Vehicles Team (SVT). In 1996, the first year the Saleen upgrade was available, that car featured a 4.6L V8 outputting 320 horsepower and 300 foot pounds of torque. Over the years, two main Saleen variations were available — the supercharged S281-SC and the non-supercharged S281-C. Both featured distinctive aerodynamic bodywork and a refined suspension.

Extreme Rainbow Paint

Production numbers for the Saleen S281-C were extremely limited — in a given year, typically no more than 20 were produced. Rarer still, however, is the Extreme Rainbow paint option, which is estimated to exist on between 14-16 Saleen Mustangs in total. Similar to Ford’s equally rare Mystichrome option, the Extreme Rainbow paint contains tiny flakes of aluminum and chrome that reflect light, causing the vehicle to appear to change color depending on the angle it is viewed at.

Unfortunately, this unique effect came at a high price — adding the Extreme Rainbow paint job to a Saleen Mustang cost anywhere between $12,000 and $18,000 depending on the model year. And, of course, any repairs or bodywork on the car were considerably more expensive, too.

The Extreme Rainbow Mustang Saleen S281-C

Of the handful of Extreme Rainbow Saleen Mustangs in existence, a supercharged Saleen S281-C is one of the most notable. The car, serial number 97-173, is a true one-of-its-kind and features a fully painted engine compartment.

If you’re in the market for an Extreme Rainbow Saleen Mustang, be prepared to wait for a while. Given the rarity of these cars, and the fact that most owners are quite protective of their unique vehicle, it’s very uncommon for one to come up for auction.