A Saleen Mustang had a brief but memorable appearance in 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious," getting torn to shreds by a semi truck after just a few minutes of screen time. That scene almost didn't happen, according to Craig Lieberman, who served as technical advisor for the first two "Fast and Furious" films. It wasn't even in the script.
In the movie, the Mustang is destroyed during a race between the undercover-cop heroes and a group of bad guys competing for the same criminal gig. That part was in the script, but a highway race was deemed too boring on its own, so the production crew decided to add some crashes to liven things up.
Producers were also looking for a greater variety of cars. To contrast the heroes' Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder and Mitsubishi Evo VII, some muscle cars were thrown in—hence the Mustang. At the time, Saleen was at the height of its popularity, and Lieberman had a connection with company founder Steve Saleen, having previously worked for him.
Saleen Mustang from
The company provided one real S281 Mustang, which Saleen insisted on painting in his signature "Liz Stick Red" (named after his wife). Three more cars were purchased for stunts, including two V-6 cars, plus a bare shell, according to Lieberman. Another car was designated as the sacrificial lamb, but it wasn't a real Saleen Mustang. It was a 2002 Mustang GT with an automatic transmission, according to Lieberman.
To pull off the stunt, the car was swung underneath the semi trailer using a crane, without a driver onboard. You can tell this isn't the same car used in other shots because it has different rear wheels, Lieberman noted. In the movie, the Mustang is crushed under the trailer's wheels, and the wreck is then hit by a chasing C5 Corvette. That crash was planned, but the Corvette wasn't supposed to roll over, as it did in the shot, Lieberman said.
The crushed Mustang was sold after filming, and was fully restored by its new owner, according to Lieberman. The authentic Saleen S281 Mustang was located in Las Vegas as of early 2020, and at least two of the other Mustangs used for filming are known to survive. Saleen itself is still building cars, and recently announced plans for a tuned 2021 Ford Bronco.