All posts by David Bruno

Former club archivist as well as lead SOEC creative director, 2005-2018.

RACE-CAR DRIVER MAKES NAME BULKING UP MUSCLE CARS

By: CHRIS WOODYARD on June 11, 2007
Original Article: USA TODAY

Saleen Rolled Love Of Speed Into Company

IRVINE, Calif. — Among auto enthusiasts, the name Saleen carries a certain mystique — whether applied to the man or the company he founded.

Steve Saleen is the automotive Midas who turned Ford Mustangs and F-150 pickups into high-performance gold. He also produced the $580,000 Saleen S7, a worthy American-built rival to Ferrari and Lamborghini.

A race-car driver, Saleen decided 23 years ago that he could make a business out of installing racing components in Mustangs to create road rockets with a sizable boost in horsepower, road-gripping thrills and in-your-face looks.

From its start on the family dining room table, the privately held company known simply as Saleen has grown to nearly 400 employees. The company says it has about $100 million in annual sales.

After seeing it through more than two decades of growth, Steve Saleen sold the business to Hancock Park Associates, a private investment group, in 2003. He continued as vice chairman until May. Last week, Steve Saleen announced that he will be CEO of ZX Automobile of North America. A subsidiary of China America Cooperative Automotive (Chamco), it plans to bring Chinese vehicles to the USA.

He isn’t abandoning his namesake company. He says he’ll continue to support Saleen, including consulting on new products.

The company is now in the hands of CEO Dan Reiner, who wants to broaden Saleen’s customer base beyond Ford to include other automakers and projects.

Though they may have disagreed at times, Reiner says, Saleen has been a worthy partner as “the heart and soul of the company.” They share a common passion: “He likes to go fast, and so do I.”

Steve Saleen, 56, grew up in Whittier, a Los Angeles suburb. The son of the founder of a pet-food company, he earned a business degree at the University of Southern California. He worked for his dad, but his love was cars and racing.

While he was driving a Pontiac Trans Ams on General Motors’ racing team in the early 1980s, he noticed the slow-poke Mustangs. “Mustang has been one of the iconic cars of all time,” he says, but “We were beating Ford on the track.”

He switched to racing Fords and worked to make his own Mustang more competitive on the track. Other enthusiasts took notice and soon were asking Saleen for help. A business was born.

In 1984, Saleen sat down with his wife, Liz, in their dining room and figured out how to start the business with little debt. “I focused on cash flow,” he says. “If you were able to get a little bit of credit and turned the product fast enough and were paid on a (cash-on-delivery) basis, you could get a business up and running in a short time.”

He started with a single blue-and-white prototype Saleen Mustang, which he showed off at a race. His first plant began operation with five workers.

Over the years, the business hit some rough spots. One crisis came in the late 1980s when Ford considered stopping production of the Mustang in favor of the now-defunct Probe, a decision it rescinded. Another crisis came in the early 1990s, when the auto industry hit the doldrums. Saleen borrowed money and added some investors.

He credits his racing background with helping him grow Saleen: “The lessons learned and speed and accuracy apply to business.”

Saleen’s cars are known worldwide for pure, hard-driven American muscle. “Steven Saleen is one of the quietest influences in the exotic-car marketplace,” says Tom duPont, publisher of the duPont Registry listings of collectible cars. “He is so subtle and low-key, and his cars are just the opposite.”

Jim Julow, president of the Sports Car Club of America, says Saleens draw respect on the track. “Their reputation overall is very good.”

The product line today includes:
• Mustang. They come in three versions — hot, hotter and hottest. Or more accurately, 335, 465 and 550 horsepower, a big improvement on the stock version’s 300.

The hottest, called the S281 Extreme Mustang, has more content added by Saleen in Irvine than when it comes off Ford’s production line, the company boasts. The $70,999 car is repainted in Saleen’s own colors.

Saleen buys the cars from Ford, customizes them, then fills orders from about 200 Saleen-authorized dealers. “We are dramatically changing the DNA of the car,” Steve Saleen says.

Besides its own Mustang line, the company also makes a Saleen/Parnelli Jones Limited Edition. It’s a throwback to the 1970 Boss 302 that won races for Jones, complete with orange paint and broad black racing stripes on each side. The dashboard is signed by Saleen and Jones.

• S7. Customizing other automakers’ cars wasn’t enough. In 2000, Saleen embarked on building its own supercar. “We wanted to build the fastest, highest-performing car in the world,” Steve Saleen says. The resulting S7 blazes from zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds.

Each S7 takes about six weeks to build. The S7’s engine, sitting behind the driver, is so big that there’s no rearview mirror. Instead, a video display pops open that shows the view from a camera embedded in the rear of the car. The driver’s seat is molded to uniquely fit its owner.

The car has become a star. Jim Carrey drove one in the movie Bruce Almighty. So did bachelor Andy Baldwin in this season’s run of TV’s The Bachelor. The S7 also is racking up successes on the European racing circuit, setting a track record at the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 2001.

• F-150. The S331 Supercharged, a $53,999 Ford F-150 pickup, is so powerful that Saleen says it can beat a stock Mustang GT around a track and still tow up to 9,500 pounds.

Next will be Saleen-powered version of Ford’s already customized Harley-Davidson F-150.

To play up the brand’s exclusivity, all Saleen Fords have their vehicle’s sequential production number painted prominently on the bumper. That’s a big hit with buyers. “We’ve had customers who have had their numbers tattooed on them,” says Billy Tally, who was chief technical officer at Saleen. Tally will join Steve Saleen at ZX Automotive as CTO.

In keeping with CEO Reiner’s plan to broaden the product line, Saleen just landed a contract painting the next generation of Dodge Viper, its first contract unrelated to Ford. And it’s in the process of trying to acquire ACS, a small automotive supplier that pioneered installations of sunroofs and also does contract work.

Timing of the moves couldn’t be better, Reiner says, because of how the automotive industry is moving in an age of mass customization. The goal is to become a small manufacturer nimble enough to meet the needs of buyers who want cars tailored just for them. Saleen is suited to make limited-production runs of 500 to 1,000 vehicles at a time, which isn’t economically feasible for a big automaker.

Despite outside owners, the business has remained a Saleen family affair. Son Clint, 35, is controller, while Sean, 34, is in sales, and Molly, 23, manages Saleen’s nearby mall store that sells everything from racing jackets to cars.

Steve Saleen says his new job will take him “from one extreme to the other” as ZX will work at bringing entry-level Chinese cars to the USA.

Looking back, he credits intense focus for growing his first business.

“Don’t lose your dream,” he says. “Everything takes twice as long, twice as much money,” as you would expect. “But if you believe in what you’re doing and work at it and have the tenacity, you can figure out a way to make it work.”

S331: SALEEN SOLUTION

By: MARK VAUGHN on June 11, 2007
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 57 ISSUE 24

After decades of Mustangs, Saleen discovers the truck

Saleen made its reputation in Mustangs, producing tens of thousands of them in the more than 20 years of the company’s existence. Mustangs are fine things to make, since everyone loves to go fast. But when you look at the numbers, Ford sold only 166,000 Mustangs last year while moving almost 800,000 F-series pickups.

Now, we ain’t necessarily math wizards, but it appears there are more truck customers than Mustang buyers. This occurred to Steve Saleen, too, and he made the S331, Saleen’s first large-scale custom truck. (He did a production run of 50 Ranger pickups for homologation purposes in his wild SCCA truck-racing days in 1987. “Of all the racing I’ve done, the trucks were by far the most fun,” Saleen said.)

The S331 has everything you’d expect of a Saleen: a big fat supercharger underhood, big fat wheels and tires in the wheel wells and big fat aerodynamic add-ons over the rest of it.

The aero stuff is solid injection-molded plastic and includes about every edge of the truck-grille, skirts and rear spoiler, to name three. The hood is aluminum and includes a hole for “heat extraction.” Saleen engineers say the heat extractor hole works.

Air goes to a two-stage intercooler on the S331 Supercharged model from a 2.3-liter screw-type compressor. The screws are from Lysholm, but Saleen designed the rest. The air makes just one bend before feeding into the blower, located in the valley of the V, and then into the intake runners. Because the flow is so smooth, temperatures stay lower, and the whole thing needs only 5.5 psi of boost to bring power to 450 hp and torque up to 500 lb-ft. The normally aspirated S331 three-valve model still gets 325 hp and 380 lb-ft with bigger injectors, better airflow, custom accessory pulleys and a reflashed chip.

All that power stays on the road with a customized suspension-lower springs in front and Sachs shocks at all corners. Those are 23-inch forged wheels in the wells, bigger than even those on the out-of-production Dodge Ram SRT10, which has 22s.

There are two brake choices on the S331: 13.0-inch front and 13.7-inch rear vented discs or 15-inch slotted and vented rotors with six-piston calipers front and stock rear binders. The rear wheels are staggered offset to give the back end a wider, more stable stance.

Yes, there are kits from Roush that make 445 hp, and you could buy one of the last SRT10s on dealer lots to make similar power. The difference, Saleen says, is that his rig can haul as well as haul. We rode along in an S331 towing a Baja 26 Outlaw powerboat that, together with its tri-axle trailer, weighed about 7000 pounds. The S331 didn’t flinch.

The next day, we took the same truck to the Saleen Driving Experience, an autocross setup designed to teach new Saleen drivers the intricacies of proper car control. Again, the S331 felt fun, or as much autocross fun as may ever be possible in a 5500-pound, leaf-spring-rear truck. It was certainly more fun than a stock F-150 could provide.

Cost ranges from about $54,000 to $64,000. Again, we ain’t good at math, but that’s a lot of money. The Roush Stage 3 is about $56,000. The SRT10 is/was $45,000. Saleen has a deep cadre of loyalists, though, many of whom need or want trucks.

“The potential market for this is more than what we do with Mustang,” said Saleen. “Our dealers said three-quarters of their sales are trucks, so it made sense.”

LYNDON GROUP TAPS ANTHONY M. SALERNO AS MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

NEWPORT BEACH, CA–(Marketwire – June 1, 2007) – Lyndon Group, LLC (LG), a premier financial consulting firm serving some of the best-known companies in the world, as well as middle market and emerging growth businesses, today announced that it has hired Anthony M. Salerno to serve as managing director of business development.

In his new position, Salerno, 35, will play an integral role in continuing LG’s recent rapid expansion by leading all business development functions as well as positioning LG for future growth.

Recognized for its exceptional customer service and high caliber consultants, LG specializes in sophisticated project management, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, SEC reporting, information technology services, audit preparation, acquisition due diligence and integration, internal control outsourcing, lean manufacturing solutions and personnel placement.

“Given Tony’s diverse experience in Fortune 500, middle market and growth companies, he has a wealth of great relationships and we have high expectations for his contributions to LG,” said Kenneth L. Jones, CPA, founder and executive managing director of LG. “His outstanding leadership qualities are sure to further our recent successes and tremendous growth, and we are proud to have him on our team.”

Salerno was most recently the North American controller for Aston Martin, a division of Ford Motor Company, where he directed the financial growth of the company through its two most profitable years in history. Previously he led Saleen, Inc. to profitability and subsequent recapitalization as vice president of operations. Salerno’s other experience includes senior finance positions at Onex, International Speedway Corporation and Penske Corporation. Salerno has an MBA from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a BS in Finance and Accounting from Wilkes University located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

About Lyndon Group
Lyndon Group, LLC (LG) is a financial consulting firm specializing in sophisticated project management, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, SEC Reporting, information technology services, audit preparation, acquisition due diligence and integration, internal control outsourcing, lean manufacturing solutions and personnel placement. LG receives most of its referrals from Big 4 accounting firms and other professional service providers by offering clients a valuable alternative to conventional consulting firms and temporary service agencies. LG serves both public and private companies and has consultants engaged at some of the best-known companies in the world, as well as middle market and emerging growth businesses. Visit the LG website at www.lyndongroup.net for more information.

Contact Information
Media Contact
Emily Carlton
HKA, Inc.
(714) 426-0444
Emily@hkamarcom.com

[SOURCE: Lyndon Group, LLC]

STEVE SALEEN RETIRES FROM SALEEN INC.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STEVE SALEEN RETIRES FROM SALEEN INC.
~Saleen Continues Legacy as the “Go-To” Brand for OEM Performance Projects~

IRVINE, CALIF., MAY 14, 2007 – Steve Saleen, founder and vice chairman of the board at Saleen Inc., today announced his official retirement from the company’s executive team. After years of planning, Mr. Saleen will take a greater step back from the company’s day-to-day operations to act as corporate spokesperson and ambassador for the brand.

“I have a vested interest in the company’s future and intend to remain involved,” said Steve Saleen. “I take great pride in knowing I have assembled a team of the most talented and innovative professionals in the industry. Each person at Saleen has helped me achieve my dream and will help to continue my legacy into the next generation of Saleen products and
services.”

As founder and a major shareholder in the company, Mr. Saleen will continue to influence product design and development activities, as well as its branding strategies and promotional efforts.

OEM PROJECTS
Saleen Inc. has experienced tremendous growth in the past few years, producing nearly 5,000 vehicles in 2006 alone. Future manufacturing plans include multiple vehicle lines of Ford-derived vehicles (Saleen S281, Heritage and S331 Sport Trucks), as well as the S7 Twin Turbo, the world’s fastest production car. After tremendous successes in the design and production of the Ford GT for Ford Motor Company, Saleen Inc. will soon announce new original equipment manufacturer (OEM) programs with both Ford Motor Company and DaimlerChrysler to begin in spring 2007.

“Saleen has become a name synonymous with performance,” said Dan Reiner, chairman of Saleen Inc. “It makes a lot of sense to let Steve take on an auxiliary role to maintain his vision and continue building the world’s greatest performance products. Steve’s many years of hard work have provided a great foundation for the company in the automotive industry, propelling the company beyond Saleen-branded products to become an industry leader in the performance category.”

ABOUT SALEEN
Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced over 12,000 complete and EPA-certified vehicles, more than any other specialty automobile manufacturer. In addition, Saleen has equipped more than 600,000 vehicles worldwide, further emphasizing their capabilities and commitment to excellence.

A nine-time Manufacturers’ Champion in GT sports car racing, Saleen manufactures the American super car — the Saleen S7, as well as the S281 Mustang, S331 Sport Truck and the Saleen/Parnelli Jones Limited Edition Mustang. Saleen’s manufacturing facilities are located in Irvine, California and Troy, Michigan. The Michigan facility has just completed all paint and assembly of the Ford GT as a special project for Ford Motor Company.

Saleen Media Bureau
(949) 597-4900
pr@saleen.com

Click here to participate in the discussion.

ASC FILES CHAPTER 11, AWAITS SALEEN

By: High Gear Media Staff on May 4, 2007
Original Article: HIGHGEARMEDIA.COM

The company that invented the modern sunroof has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but company officials argue that the roof is half open, rather than half closed, what with ASC Inc. ready to be sold to the same private investment company that owns the high-performance specialty car manufacturer, Saleen.

ASC, based in the Detroit suburb of Southgate , has petitioned the courts to let it shed sizable assets and restructure debt incurred during its own, abortive push into the production of specialty vehicles. That included the Chevrolet SSR, a high-performance pickup truck ASC produced for several years on behalf of the General Motors division.

Barring a last-minute hitch, ASC expects to emerge from bankruptcy by mid-summer, with its remaining assets being sold to Hancock Park Associates, a private equity investment firm founded in 1986, which now owns Saleen, Inc., of Irvine, Calif.

“It’s terribly frustrating,” ASC President Paul Wilbur said of the bankruptcy, but referring to the impending sale, he told TheCarConnection.com that, “I think there’s a rosier future for this company.”

There’s little doubt that times have been rough for the Detroit supplier, formerly known as American Sunroof Corp. since the death of its founder, Heinz Prechter, in 2001. His widow, Waltraud, sold the firm to Questor Management Co., which shifted focus from sunroofs to low-volume vehicles, like SSR, a decision that also prompted the name change, which is short for American Specialty Cars.

Initially, things looked solid. The move away from sunroofs was no surprise, as they’d become little more than a commodity product, not the premium business Prechter envisioned when the German immigrant started out in Los Angeles , working from a two-car garage.

Detroit makers, as well as their import competitors, had been seeking ways to connect with consumers, and with the U.S. new car market increasingly fragmented, there seemed a tremendous opportunity to produce low-volume, high-margin specialty vehicles, such as the SSR and the Dodge Viper, a sports car for which ASC provided key pieces.

But the specialty niche hasn’t taken off as well as expected, and after an initial surge in sales off the SSR – which Wilbur says “took off hotter than anyone could have expected” – demand cooled quickly, Chevy pulling the plug on production. Compounding the crisis, the Viper’s big V-10 failed to meet government certification, forcing what has so far been a nine-month delay of the sports car.

With lots of ideas but no other immediate projects to replace the SSR and Viper, ASC lost roughly three-quarters of its business. Seeking a way out of the crisis, Wilbur and his senior management team, which includes former Ford Motor Co. product development chief Chris Theodore, began exploring a sale with a number of potential partners.

That included Hancock Park which, said Wilbur, pressed for a bankruptcy before completing a deal. That’s not entirely unusual, these days, added the Michigan executive. “Bankruptcy is becoming a financial strategy when you buy companies. You’re looking at the assets that create customer value and get rid of the assets that don’t make sense.”

In the case of ASC, that means cleaning up a balance sheet showing $31.2 million of total assets and $50.8 million of total liabilities.

ASC has already closed four manufacturing plants, in Livonia, Lansing and Gibraltar, Michigan, as well as in Bowling Green, Ky. , and three more engineering centers, eliminating 1000 jobs in the process. A technical center in Lansing will now be closed, as well.

According to Wilbur, “about 90 percent” of the remaining ASC workforce, approximately 250 employees, will remain on the job if the deal with Hancock Park wins final approval of the bankruptcy judge. Notably, that includes current ASC executives such as Wilbur and Theodore.

Under the law, ASC must still go through a formal auction process, likely to happen in the next 60 days or so. A new bidder could still enter the process, but in legal parlance, it would need to come up with a “better and higher bid.” Not only would it have to come up with more money, but also with a deal that would prove better, in the long run, for ASC, its debtors and employees.

Exactly what will come of the proposed partnership between ASC and Hancock’s Saleen division isn’t clear. The California-based firm produces the S7 supercar, as well as a high-performance version of such mainstream products as the Ford GT. Wilbur suggested there are plans in development which could result in several projects, possibly including both future niche vehicles and aftermarket performance products.

Asked for specifics, he demurred, insisting, “it’s too early to disclose them.”

What’s significant, Wilbur insisted, is that ASC will survive – at least in a slimmed-down form, anyway, once it works its way through the Chapter 11 process.

[Source: High Gear Media]

SALEEN SIMPLY SUPER

By: N.A. on March 30, 2007
Original Article: RECORD, THE (KITCHENER/CAMBRIDGE/WATERLOO, ON)

Auto expert Mark Perleberg of NADAguides.com, a leading U.S. vehicle pricing and information website, recently tested the 2007 Saleen S281 and the 2007 PJ/Saleen Special Edition in a weeklong, side-by-side and back-to-back comparison.

And now he weighs in on both cars’ features and handling.

“Since 1984, Steve Saleen has been remanufacturing new stock Ford Mustangs with a flare that only a businessman with a racing background could pull off,” said Perleberg. “Saleen has emerged as a leader in squeezing the most out of new stock Ford Mustang GTs, giving them near Super Car qualities at a relatively low price.”

Perleberg says the 2007 S281 features more of what all great performance cars need, more horsepower.

Up an additional 30 hp from 2006, the S281 now musters up 465 ponies, and according to Perleberg, acceleration that keeps the car’s passengers pinned to the back of their seats when the supercharger kicks in.

Along with this power, the car features a race-craft suspension that virtually eliminates the loose rear end feeling you typically find in stock Mustangs, with a confidence the car will go anywhere you point it at high speeds.

Perleberg says the 2007 Saleen S281 also features a comfortable day-to-day ride for a car of this nature.

Combined with a tail extension, body cladding and an upgraded interior in the mid-$50,000 US price range, Perleberg says the 2007 Saleen S281 has all the makings of a Super Car with the roots of a Mustang.

Next up, Perleberg tested the 2007 PJ/Saleen Special Edition, a high-performance 302 cubic inch V8-powered car with 370 hp and 370 ft/lb of torque.

Perleberg says the 2007 PJ/Saleen Special Edition is a modern-day rendition of the Boss 302 that raced in the SCCA Trans Am Series in the early 1970s, with less horsepower than its S281 sibling, but it feels quicker due to the normally aspirated engine with a torque that chimes in at 4,000 rpms.

“The 2007 PJ/Saleen Special Edition gives you truckloads of pull when you mash the throttle down in any gear,” Perleberg said.

“Handling is confident and very predictable with a somewhat lighter feel than the S281.”

RARE SALEEN MUSTANG FOR SALE IN CLINTON

By: MICHELLE KOETTERS on March 28, 2007
Original Article: PANTAGRAPH, THE (BLOOMINGTON, IL)

Mar. 28–CLINTON — A rare version of an American automotive icon is for sale at a Clinton car dealership. Anderson Ford Mercury has a Parnelli Jones Boss 302 Mustang in its showroom — one of only 500 that specialty vehicle manufacturer Saleen built and released for public sale.

The car honors Parnelli Jones, a legendary race car driver from the 1960s and 1970s.

The Central Illinois dealership expects a serious collector eventually will purchase the muscle car for about $60,000, co-owner Randy Anderson said.

The dealership received the car last week because of its reputation for selling high performance vehicles and parts, said Anderson. The company’s Anderson Ford Motorsport division specializes in designing and building high performance parts for Mustangs; clients come from throughout the world.

Meanwhile, the Boss 302 is an exact replica — but with all new technology — of the Mustang Jones used to win the Trans Am Series racing event in 1970, Anderson said.

“It is one of the most breathtaking, gorgeous cars out there right now. It’s a showstopper,” Anderson said.

The Mustang’s orange-yellow color makes it stand out, Anderson said. In addition, it has a modified engine with 400 horsepower, customized black and orange leather interior, special breaks for fast stops, as well as a suspension that makes it drive like a go-kart, he said.

Mustangs are a popular car right now because people love the look and comfort of the sports car, Anderson said. The dealership’s Mustang sales are up about 30 percent from five years ago.

“What has increased the most is the exotic Mustang,” Anderson said. The dealership has 10 of the exotics, including the Shelby GT 500, the Shelby GT, Roush and Saleen, all priced from $30,000 to $60,000, Anderson said.

“It’s just a gorgeous car to look at,” Anderson said. “No matter if you’re a Ford fan or not a Ford fan, everyone loves the look of a Mustang.”

ERINWOOD FORD ANNOUNCES ITS SECOND ANNUAL DRIVING FOR DOLLARS CONTEST

Scratch and win contest gives contestants the chance to win up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a new or pre-owned Ford.

Toronto, Ontario (PRWEB) March 12, 2007

One of the largest Toronto Ford dealers, Erinwood Ford, has announced its second annual Driving For Dollars contest.

Driving For Dollars takes place from Thursday, March 1 to Thursday, May 31, 2007. The scratch and win contest allows contestants the chance to win the vehicle they test drive or up to $10,000 towards the purchase of that vehicle. Any new 2007 or 2008 Ford model and all pre-owned vehicles are eligible for the contest . With SUVs such as the Ford Explorer to the two-door compact Ford Focus, and over 100 pre-owned vehicles in stock; a complete selection of cars is available.

“Last year, the contest was a huge success,” Sean Hallett, CEO of Erinwood Ford states. “It was so successful that we’ve decided to make it an annual event.”

To participate in the contest, contestants must test drive any new or pre-owned vehicle at the Ford dealership. The driver will then receive a scratch and win card to determine whether they are a winner. Odds of winning are 1 in 20.

One entry per driver and household. The complete rules of the Driving For Dollars contest can be found by visiting Erinwood Ford.

About Erinwood Ford
Located in Canada’s oldest and largest auto mall, the Erin Mills Auto Super Centre, Erinwood Ford is one of the largest volume Ford dealers in the Greater Toronto area. Erinwood Ford is also the GTA’s first and only retailer of Saleen, limited edition, high performance mustangs.

Specializing in the sales of new Ford cars and trucks, as well as all pre-owned makes and models, they are “committed to being the best dealer you will ever do business with.”

Press Contact:
Joanne Yulo
2395 Motorway Boulevard
Mississauga, ON,
L5L 1V4
905.828.1600

###

PERFORMANCE ON DEMAND BY SALEEN CANADA

By: ERIC DESCARRIES on February 22, 2007 | Updated: February 22, 2007 at 9:27
Original Article: AUTO.LAPRESSE.CA

Joe Visconti, president of Saleen Canada could more than double the capacity of its body shop.  Photo: Patrick Sanfacon, La Presse
Joe Visconti, president of Saleen Canada could more than double the capacity of its body shop.
Photo: Patrick Sanfacon, La Presse

The Texan Carroll Shelby was the first to discover the Mustang performance potential in 1965. He managed to convince Ford to change versions of high-performance and racing and make marketing. The Californian Steve Saleen took over in the eighties. This wizard automobile could see that there was a demand for its Mustang in Canada, but for Saleen US to import Mustangs that meet Canadian legal requirements and return them to the country once modified, made no sense from the point of economic view.

That was when the Montreal Joe Visconti suggested a deal with the transformation of Saleen Mustangs in Canada. It’s trade in exotic cars or luxury, in Dorval, Auto Bugatti, had already established a fine reputation. The American businessman hesitated because he believed in his own team. Mr. Saleen sent his vice president Fred Blum to Auto Bugatti. What Blum saw in the body shops of the Quebec company surprised him so much that he advised Saleen to trust Joe Visconti even mentioning that their work would be higher than Californian workshops.

Ford of Canada Joe Visconti helped to build a network of a dozen Ford dealers to display the Saleen product. In the first year, Saleen Canada found 27 buyers of S-281 Mustangs, quite a feat for a great car. In 2006, forty brand new enthusiasts have ordered their Canadian Saleen, but Mr. Visconti expects that it will need to build 80 to 100 next year.

Here is the S-331 pickup truck
This increase in production is due to the arrival of another vehicle within the Saleen range, the S-331. This is a pickup based on the Ford F-150. Saleen Canada workshops have had to work extra hard to build their copy, just in time for the Auto Show in Montreal. The truck had quite a success there and the manufacturer has twenty firm orders for the S-331, available in a basic version with 325 horsepower V8 ($59,000 USD) or supercharged 450 horsepower ($69,000 USD). Incidentally, the Saleen S-281-based 335 horsepower has a base price of $58,000, while the supercharged 465 horsepower Supercharged starts at $68,000.

These vehicles come in their original form to Dorval workshops where Saleen Canada technicians start by changing the mechanical (different suspension, souped, redesigned exhausts) before moving on to the body shop where the original bumpers are replaced by Saleen parts. The instrumentation and several interior details are also replaced by parts from Saleen. Wheels and original tires are replaced with performance parts.

It will enlarge!
The Saleen body shop is already busy despite its 12,000 square feet of surface. It can modified a dozen cars a day, a capacity that could double. But Mr. Visconti believes that it will not be sufficient (they are also repairing luxury cars). Of the thirty people who work at Auto Bugatti / Saleen Canada, fifteen are assigned to the body and the exterior finish. There is even a program to accept individual customer cars who want to turn their Mustang GT into a Saleen, if only partially.

[Source: LA PRESSE]