All posts by Jim Dvorak

Managing Director of SOEC since 2005. Veteran of the Southern California automotive scene. Involvement with Saleen dates back to the mid 1990s.

SPEED DEMON

By: LAWRENCE S. DIETZ on July 2003
Original Article: LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE, VOL. 48, ISSUE 7

Entrepreneur And Designer Steve Saleen
Has Made Irvine America’s Capital Of High-end Sports Cars

No one will mistake modern, master-planned Irvine for the ancient town of Maranello, Italy Nor will anyone confuse Orange County’s SUV-clogged stretch of the 405 freeway for the AI autostrada, prowled by the Ferraris that are Maranello’s most famous products.

Yet unassuming entrepreneur Steve Saleen has turned equally unassuming Irvine into Maranello West, the capital of high-end American sports cars. For nearly two decades he has rebuilt Ford Mustangs into hot performance vehicles. Three years ago his company launched the S7, which Road & Track has declared the fastest production car ever made. The 550-horsepower, carbon fiber-bodied speedster can hit 220 mph and go 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds. And now Saleen Inc. is helping to manufacture a new version of Ford’s legendary GT40 race car, a vital part of the ailing giant’s recovery program.

At first glance the 53-year-old Saleen seems to be an unlikely architect of high rollers’ automotive dreams. About five feet seven, mustachioed, and balding, he looks like a middle-aged everyman, the sort of guy you’d expect to see selling insurance or riding around in a Camry.

Hardly Saleen is a USC business major turned race car driver who recognized a demand for very fast yet relatively affordable cars that were at home both on the track and on the street. Saleen’s vehicles have won titles for eight straight years and made their creator a hero among auto buffs–as well as a wealthy man. (Sales of the S7 have already hit $24 million.) Saleen Inc. also is making a splash on the big screen, its Mustangs appearing in summer releases including 2 Fast 2 Furious and Hollywood Homicide. (Saleen himself drives a Beryllium Saleen Extreme Speedster, the top of his Mustang line.)

As he sees it, the reason for his success is simple: “I have a tremendous passion for cars, for racing cars, and for driving.”

Saleen was first seduced by fast cars when his father, a manufacturing executive from Whittier, bought a Porsche while he was in college. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Saleen started racing and was good enough to turn pro. He set 13 Sports Car Club of America records and finished third for the 1980 SCCA championship.

In the 1960s, racer Carroll Shelby had parlayed his track reputation into big money by modifying stock Mustangs. In 1984, Saleen started giving them better engines, suspensions, transmissions, and brakes, transforming cars that sell in the mid $20,000s into growlers that go for $36,000 to $70,000.

Saleen’s Mustangs outperform their rivals–the Porsche Boxster, Corvette hardtop, and SVT Mustang Cobra R–in terms of speed, lateral acceleration through turns, and braking. They carry a lower retail price, and just as important, they have a history of holding their resale value.

The cars quickly became winners on the SCCA circuit, capturing awards for driver, team, manufacturer, and tire in 1987. The Saleen Mustang has won the SCCA Manufacturer’s Championship six times, most recently in 2000.

During the late 1980s, Saleen moved his company into Indy car racing, hoping that victories at an event like the Indianapolis 500 would translate into a huge spike in his Mustang sales. “Looking back, it was the right thing to do at the wrong time,” he says. “From a marketing perspective, the concept was to expand our sphere of influence to new Saleen buyers. But we didn’t have the resources to race at that level, and a bad month of May [1989] in Indy killed us. The recession hit, and we had dealers going broke and not paying us for their cars. It was a lethal combination.”

His firm might have gone under if not for Tony Johnson, whose company owns many of the country’s largest (and most profitable) makers of original equipment for auto manufacturers. Johnson, president and CEO of Hidden Creek Industries in Minnesota, saw the marketplace value of Saleen’s brand identity.

“Steve is a great creative thinker, car person, and marketer,” says Johnson. “We needed to add just an additional touch of professionalism and business savvy” He gave Saleen financial backing (no one will say how much). Johnson, who became a partner and chairman of Saleen Inc., and Saleen, who retained the title of president, focused their efforts on the Mustang. When business picked up in i995, Saleen formed the Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab racing team with Home Improvement star Time Allen.

Saleen now had the resources to realize a dream he’d harbored from the day he started manufacturing: He wanted to build and sell a supercar–a two-seat exotic that could cruise at 150 mph or more and win at the highest levels. In November 1999, he was ready to try. Johnson said yes. A year later the first S7 appeared.

Saleen managed to get from concept to finished vehicle so quickly because there was no bureaucracy no massive corporate infrastructure, no focus group. The only eyes that counted were his. Computers did most of the design work, an advance now used by most automotive manufacturers to shave months, even years, off development cycles and to trim costs. In the world of supercars, where a McLaren FI goes for a million dollars, the $395,000 S7 is something of a bargain.

The first seven S7s were snapped up by racing teams and outfitted for competition. An S7 won the 12 Hours of Sebring road race, and another placed a respectable third in class during June 2001’s rain- and crash-plagued 24 Hours of Le Mans. By that September S7s had competed in 25 races and won 17 of them, a stunning achievement for a newcomer.

Deposits were coming in from private buyers, including celebrities like Allen, Sylvester Stallone, and Jay Leno. By last December it was time to prove the S7’s advertised street readiness. The car passed its government tests, including a “coast down,” in which it was shifted into neutral at a speed of 120 mph and allowed to freewheel for a mile. How fast was it going after that? One hundred mph.

In the spring, Saleen produced three cars earmarked for press trials. The auto magazines were rapturous, starting with the design. “From every angle and from any distance, the Saleen S7 looks like a supercar,” wrote Joe DeMatio in Automobile. “Every pedestrian strolling along Santa Barbara’s State Street on a spring evening notices it. The gill-streaked body is very long, very wide, and very low… When the winglike doors are open, the S7 looks like something Martians would off-load from a spaceship.”

But the true measure of a car like the S7 is the driving. An hour spent behind the wheel of one is an extraordinary experience. The S7 is fast–I accelerated on an empty toll road and then “loafed” along at what I thought was an extremely comfortable 100, perhaps 110 mph. It felt as though the car could maintain that speed all day long. Then I looked more closely at the small speedometer; the needle was hovering over 140.

The S7 also can maneuver, hugging the road far better than anything most of us will ever drive. Move the wheel a tiny amount, and the S7 goes exactly where you want, no fuss. You find yourself smiling in pure pleasure.

The S7 gives Saleen Inc. a very profitable, if narrow, specialty. (With 62 sold, it has a planned production run of 300 to 400.) Working on the Ford GT, however, could offer the little company entree into the automotive big leagues.

The GT (it was nicknamed the GT40 because it was only 40 inches high) recalls Ford’s glory days in racing, as well as Henry Ford II’s hubris. In the early 1960s, he tried to get Enzo Ferrari to join him in developing a race car. When he was rebuffed by the patrician Italian, he decided to create his own. Once the GT’s engine and other specs were set, Carroll Shelby said, “Next year, Ferrari’s ass is mine.” And it was. Shelby raced and won in the GT40, as did Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.

These days Bill Ford Jr., Ford’s chairman, knows he needs a “halo-effect” car–one few in number but great in reputation–to help propel the company out of the misery caused by the Explorer/Firestone debacle in the late ’90s and quality problems typified by multiple recalls. The revived GT, which unlike its predecessor will be street legal, is supposed to be an icon of the new Ford Motor Company, crowning a rollout of ten models and vehicles in the Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln divisions in the next two years (and a total of 65 in the next five).

Saleen’s involvement with the GT started with a college connection. He had always kidded his public relations rep, Jack Gerken, about Gerken’s rabid partisanship for his alma mater, Notre Dame. In 2001, as it turned out, being a member of the Fighting Irish became as valuable in the car business as being a Harvard grad was in other corporate circles.

As part of a Ford management shakeup, several executives with Notre Dame ties came to power. Nick Scheele, the new group vice president in North America, was an alumnus whose son was attending the school, and Jim O’Connor, head of the Ford division, sat on the board of trustees.

Along with practically everyone else who did (or wanted to do) business with Ford, Saleen sought a way to meet Scheele. At the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the annual million-dollar antique car show where industry nabobs gather, Saleen joshed Gerken about playing the Notre Dame card with Scheele. Gerken took it seriously; especially since he had known Scheele since 1990, and his son and Scheele’s son were in the same dorm.

Introductions were made. Saleen, Gerken, and Tony Johnson later flew to Detroit to remind Scheele that Saleen Inc. was a good customer and to update him on the progress of the S7. They also had one crucial question: How can we be a better part of the Ford family?

The answer–Saleen should help build the GT–became clear at a meeting between Johnson and Scheele, held as Ford rushed to ready its prototype for introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, 2002.

After the car generated the intended buzz at the show, Ford went to builders and designers around the world, including Italy’s renowned Pininfarina. Saleen’s track record with the Mustang and the S7 earned it a spot as one of Ford’s four partners on the project. It will make the rolling chassis, frame, and suspension and will paint the body panels. The vehicles will be assembled at a Ford plant near Detroit, with major production scheduled to begin next year. The deal could cover as many as 5,000 cars. (Only 133 original GTs were built.)

“This is a process of producing a handful of cars each day;” says Neil Hannemann, Ford’s chief program engineer for the GT. “Ford didn’t want to learn how to do that, and Saleen does it.”

Besides providing such expertise, Saleen hopes to prove to the mainstream auto world that he can help to produce a special vehicle at a relatively reasonable price–according to industry, speculation, the GT will sell for about $125,000.

After all, Saleen already has the ultimate testimonial when it comes to his ability to fill a niche for a supreme power car. In the recent movie Bruce Almighty, he notes, God drives an S7.

HOLLYWOOD HORSEPOWER

IRVINE, Calif., June 6, 2003 — Okay, gang, here’s your quiz for the day. What has 12 wheels, 989 cubic inches, almost 1,300 horsepower and seats up to 8 consenting adults?

If you answered, “the all-new Saleen S989 double semi-dually competitor to the Porsche Turbo Cayenne and the M-B ML 55 AMG,” please move to clue #1.

#1 This 12-wheeled wonder will be seen by more than 43 million people at over 10,000 locations during the next month and have over $100 million spent on its advertising and promotion.

Figured it out yet?

Er, no . . . it’s not the long-rumored Saleen supercharged V-10 diesel powered combo Zamboni machine/wooden floor polisher that will allow the NBA and the NHL to schedule back-to-back doubleheader championship games with only a 30 minute intermission. Sorry, that vehicle isn’t scheduled to make its long-awaited debut before 2006 at the earliest.

So try clue #2.

#2 Every one of the 43 million viewers will be screened during the course of his or her exposure to this vehicle and many of them will be placed in stadium seating.

Still can’t figure it out?

Okay. One last clue: one of the drivers could easily be known as Mr. Indy, yet he’s never raced at the Memorial Day 500 Mile Classic. Another of the drivers’ fancies himself as God, but he’s never won a race. And lots of people consider him a real joker.

Give up? We admit it. We haven’t made this easy. But what sort of satisfaction would you derive from having the answer handed to you on a silver platter . . .unless, of course, we also served it up on the silver screen.

Okay. Is the light bulb glowing brighter? We’re talking movies here, three of them. And not one car, but three Saleens: an S7 supercar, a supercharged S281 Mustang convertible and a supercharged S281 Mustang coupe. We’re calling this trio of summer releases Hollywood Horsepower, a triple knockout punch of comedy, speed and murder.

Hollywood Horsepower premiered nationally on May 23 with Bruce Almighty, a Universal Pictures starring Jim Carrey as an average Joe who gets his wish when God, played by Morgan Freeman, agrees to change places with Carrey for a week to prove to Jim that being God ain’t all it’s made out to be. Two ladies co-star, Jennifer Aniston and a silver Saleen S7. Jennifer certainly has the softer curves, but the S7 is one fast lady and a real handler. Aniston is a heart breaker; The S7, what else, is the late braker. The Pope may occasionally be driven in a Ferrari, but Bruce Almighty confirms that God drives an S7!

Premiering June 6 is another Universal Pictures release, 2 Fast 2 Furious, starring Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson. A Lizstick Red Saleen S281 supercharged coupe joins the cast of this sequel to the original Fast and the Furious. Former cop Brian O’Connor (Walker) teams up with his ex-con pal Roman Pearce (Gibson) to transport a shipment of “dirty” money for shady Miami-based import-export dealer Carter Verone, while actually working with undercover agent Monica Clemente to bring Verone down.

And finally, Hollywood Homicide, a Sony Pictures/Revolution Studios film, opens June 13 and stars Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as two LAPD homicide detectives who moonlight in other fields. Joe Gavilian (Ford), a real estate agent, and K.C. Calden (Hartnett), a yoga instructor and an aspiring actor, investigate the on-stage slaying of a rap group. The detectives drive around in none other than a silver Saleen S281 supercharged convertible. For fans of Bullitt, you’ve got to see the chase scene.

In recognition of its “starring” roles in Hollywood Horsepower, Saleen will produce special editions of its Hollywood starlets, as well as promotional material, for distribution through Saleen-certified Ford dealers throughout the nation. You can obtain a poster of Hollywood Horsepower by test driving a silver “Hollywood Homicide” convertible and/or a red “2 Fast 2 Furious” coupe at your local Saleen-certified Ford dealer.

Celebrating its 20 th anniversary this year, Saleen is widely recognized as a niche manufacturer of high-performance vehicles for the American enthusiast. Its Saleen Extremes are the most powerful (445 hp) production Mustangs in the world; while its new S7 is recognized as the only American supercar (see Road & Track’s June cover story where the S7 was the fastest production car ever tested by Road & Track). The Saleen S7 has demonstrated its speed on the track as well, winning eight GTS championships in its first two years of competition. Saleen has been commissioned to assemble Ford’s legendary GT beginning this summer.

IRVINE, CALIF., CAR COMPANY TO OFFER FORD-AUTHORIZED THUNDERBIRD

By: DANIELLE HERUBIN on November 29, 2002
Original Article: ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, THE (SANTA ANA, CA)

Nov. 29–IRVINE, Calif.–Ford Thunderbird.

The name conjures up an image of sporty cool, a powder blue two-seater with a porthole window.

Now Saleen Inc., the Irvine company best known for taking stock Mustangs and transforming them into very hot cars, is branching out to Thunderbirds. It’s producing a Ford- authorized model that will be sold in dealerships across the country.

“It’s intriguing,” said Jim Campisano, an editor for Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords, a monthly magazine. “The regular Thunderbird is a nice car but lacks any pretension of high performance. Saleen injects enough steroids to make it interesting.”

Ford first brought out the Thunderbird in 1954 to compete with Chevrolet’s Corvette. The first cars sold for $2,695; convertibles were $2,765. The 198-horsepower model came in five colors: Thunderbird Blue, Raven Black, Snowshoe White, Goldenrod Yellow and Torch Red.

Nicknamed the T-Bird, the cars were an instant success. But, over the years, Ford began changing the styling, size and concept of the car until it no longer resembled the classic two-seat roadster. In 1997, Ford pulled the plug on the Thunderbird altogether.

Recently, Ford decided to bring back updated designs from the company’s heyday in order to reignite some of the old spark. Bill Ford Jr., grandson of Ford’s founder, is touting the “Living Legends” series with remakes of the Thunderbird, GT40 racer and others.

Ford Jr. himself drives a T-Bird.

Ford asked independent design houses to take a crack at its legends series.

Competition for the Saleen version of the Thunderbird was won by Bonspeed, an Anaheim- based design and engineering group that specializes in performance wheels, precision gauges and accessories. Brad Fanshaw, president of Bonspeed, said his company competed with about 30 other firms to come up with a custom version of the T-Bird.

Bonspeed extended the car’s nose by three inches and replaced the T-Bird’s stock egg-crate grill with a sleek aluminum one. They added twin roll bars and restyled parts of the exterior.

Bonspeed’s design beat out show Thunderbirds, hot-rod Thunderbirds and even more retro-looking models. It’s the first car Bonspeed has designed that will be produced in any quantity. “We’re really excited,” Fanshaw said.

Bonspeed hooked up with Saleen after Steve Saleen, a race-car-driver-turned-carmaker, saw the drawings. The resulting Ford-Bonspeed-Saleen partnership plans to have its first cars available by spring.

Saleen started making cars in Orange County in 1984. Saleen has built or modified more than 8,000 vehicles, including the exotic Saleen S7 supercar and the Saleen Mustang.

Ford’s stock T-Birds sells for about $36,000. A Saleen Thunderbird-Bonspeed Edition may fetch $50,000 and up, although the final cost hasn’t been set yet.

The Saleen version will feature a 365-horsepower V-8 engine, beefed up from Ford’s stock 256-horsepower engine. It has lost the white-sidewall tires and fins associated with the early classics. Instead, it’s aerodynamic and low to the ground. And fast. The stock version can do at least 145 mph and go 0 to 60 in 7 seconds; the Saleen version will top that.

Saleen, which starts with stock models, then tears the them down and rebuilds them with custom parts and add- ons, will offer an optional 6-speed manual gearbox. Saleen adds a supercharger, modifies the intake and exhaust systems and installs special seats and instruments. Saleen has beefed up the braking system.

“I think for the niche they serve, their prices are right in line,” Campisano said. “While it may seem high to some people, you’re giving yourself an awful lot of performance.”

Only one Saleen Thunderbird exists — it was unveiled at a car show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The concept car was so well received that it won a top award and orders began to arrive.

ASSEMBLER OF FORD GT SUPERCAR CONSIDERS TROY SITE

By: ANDREW DIETDERICH on November 11, 2002
Original Article: CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS, VOL. 18, ISSUE 45

A California company contracted to assemble the much-anticipated Ford GT is eying a former door manufacturing plant in Troy to build the speedster.

So said Jack Gerken, director of public relations for Saleen Inc., the Irvine, Calif.-based company in charge of final assembly and painting of the Ford GT.

Gerken said the company, which specializes in manufacturing high-powered sports cars such as the Saleen S7 Supercar, Saleen Mustang and Saleen Thunderbird, is considering several sites in metro Detroit to assemble the Ford GT.

One site in the running is the former location of Stanley Door Systems on 15 Mile Road near I-75. Saleen would invest at least $10 million in the site and eventually employ 100, according to documents filed with the city of Troy.

“We are going to build a factory in the Detroit area, and we’re down to the last laps,” Gerken said. “We are very close to finalizing where exactly the plant will be built.” Gerken would not reveal other possible sites.

The Troy City Council approved the site as a brownfield Oct. 14 after the property owner, Southfield’s Real Estate Development and Investment Corp., applied for the brownfield status on behalf of Saleen. That means Saleen could recoup cleanup expenses associated with setting up shop at the site.

Troy officials, who voted 5-0 to approve the site as a brownfield, favor Saleen taking over the plant, vacant since Stanley closed it in 1997.

“It’s a great project,” said council member David Lambert. “It would definitely be an asset to the community and the taxpayers of Troy.”

The next step? Filing for state tax breaks.

Troy City Manager John Szerlag and Doug Smith, real estate and development director, said in a letter last month to the council that Saleen could file for a 10 percent tax credit on development costs and a single-business tax credit.

“Turning the old Stanley Door building into an assembly plant for high-performance automobiles, that would provide office, museum and demonstration area in the front of the building, would create an exceptional new image for this building and this area of Maple Road,” the letter reads.

The building is 180,000 square feet located on 15 acres. It had been a unit of Stanley Works until October 1997, when the company shut it down and moved 250 employees to a new plant in Charlotte, N.C.

As Automotive News reported Nov. 4, Ford said it would build about 1,000 GTs annually starting in 2004, at “substantially less” than $150,000 each.

And as AutoWeek reported Oct. 21, Ford wants to make sure it builds at least a few GTs to commemorate its 100th anniversary next year. However, just three will be built in 2003 for the anniversary. Automotive News and AutoWeek are sister publications of Crain’s.

According to AutoWeek, the GT’s aluminum body and chassis will be constructed by United Kingdom-based Mayflower Vehicle Systems.

Also, a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 engine modified by Livonia-based Roush Industries Inc. will produce about 500 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Lear Corp. will work on interiors while Saleen will put the car together with direction from the Ford Performance Group.

Saleen has a history of building sports cars such as the Ford GT. Steve Saleen, a member of the Mustang Hall of Fame, founded the company in 1984, the same year he built the first Saleen Mustang.

To date, the company has made more than 7,000 cars.

SALEEN THUNDERBIRD-BONSPEED EDITION

MAKES ITS WORLD DEBUT AT THE SEMA SHOW

IRVINE, Calif., Nov. 5 — Steve Saleen announced today that the Saleen Thunderbird-Bonspeed Edition concept car that makes its world debut on the Ford display at the 2002 SEMA Show will be going into limited production.

Initially,” Saleen president, Steve Saleen says, “our plan was to build the T-Bird to showcase the growth and diversity of Saleen, Inc., and to celebrate the hot rod spirit of the SEMA show. But as we started thinking about the flavor and character of the Thunderbird,” Saleen continued, “we decided to join forces with a company that is immersed in the hot rod industry. And we picked Bonspeed, a manufacturer of automotive aftermarket products and a design and engineering firm specializing in wheels, gauges and accessory products.

This car was only planned as a one-off concept. But the reaction to the T-Bird has been so positive that we have decided to move from concept to prototype and then to production at our manufacturing facilities in Irvine, Calif.”

It’s What’s Up Front That Counts

Starting under the hood, the Saleen T-Bird’s 3.9-liter V8 has undergone a now typical and well-proven Saleen route to increased power and torque. A Saleen Series IV twin-screw supercharger is added, fed by a specially designed Saleen 80-mm cast aluminum inlet tube, a Saleen cast aluminum intake manifold, and a water-to-air intercooler. Sequential electronic fuel injectors flowing 30 lb/hr and a Saleen PowerFlash™ performance calibration computer handle engine management. Exhaust gases in the concept car are routed through a Borla stainless steel exhaust system.

Initial dyno runs indicate an output of around 365 bhp and 390 lb-ft of torque for the 3.9-liter V8.

The engine is mated to a 5-speed automatic, but the production version will also offer an optional Saleen 6-speed manual gearbox.

Vehicle Dynamics Are Equally Important

The concept T-Bird has an Air Ride Technology suspension all around, but production versions will feature Saleen Racecraft suspension at every corner, including racing-developed shocks and springs and a rear end assembly featuring the Saleen MaxGrip speed-sensitive limited-slip differential.

A Saleen braking system, including slotted 2-piece, 14-inch Brembo front brake rotors and calipers, handles stopping power on the show car.

The Saleen-Bonspeed T-Bird rides on Bonspeed forged alloy wheels, 18 x 8 inches up front and 19 x 10 inches at the rear, fitted with Pirelli’s legendary ultra-high-performance P Zero radials: 245/40ZR18 and 285/35ZR19, front and rear, respectively.

Head-Turning Styling

Saleen and Bonspeed designers jointly created the concept T-Bird’s hot rod-inspired exterior styling. The nose has been extended three inches and reshaped, and the stock Thunderbird’s egg crate grille has been replaced by a sporty billet aluminum grille fabricated by Lil’ John Buttera, a hot rodding icon.

Every T-Bird is a convertible, but the Saleen-Bonspeed concept ’Bird is more than that: It’s a Speedster. A special rear deck has been crafted, incorporating a hard-shell Speedster cover that features a split-wing rear spoiler, evoking the flavor of hot rods and prototype sports racing cars of the ’60s. At its forward edge, the Speedster cover mates with twin rollover hoops positioned behind each seat.

Along the sides, the lower rocker panels have been extended and reshaped, while at the rear, the bumper has been re-contoured with an aerodynamic rear diffuser panel integrated into the underbody. Exhaust pipes are conspicuous by their absence: They are hidden in the diffuser panel.

The stunning silver paint that covers the Thunderbird’s contours is a special Saleen color provided by BASF. This paint has also been applied to the sheet metal surrounding the sharply raked windshield and to the front fender vents.

Inside: Hot Rod Inspired!

We wanted to create a hot rod flavor for the car, inside and out,” says Brad Fanshaw, president of Bonspeed. That flavor starts with an interior swathed in luscious leather. Pearlescent black and charcoal gray tones predominate with accent areas covered in pearl black and brushed metal-tone leather. Door panels have been re-covered in these accent tones with metal door surfaces featuring metal-tone leather.

The body-hugging seats incorporate head rests re-sculptured to mimic the design of the dual roll bars. And if you look closely, you’ll note that the stitching used on the seats is a unique design and is a slightly lighter gray tone.

Other interior modifications include the armrest portion of the center console, which has been reshaped to make it sleeker and lower. Also, the console has been wrapped in leather as have the lower dash and the panels behind the seats. Luxurious, deep-pile, black carpeting offers a dramatic contrast and highlight to the rich leather used throughout the Saleen Thunderbird–Bonspeed Edition.

We’d bet there weren’t many hot rods running around with eye-popping three-tone leather interiors like the one on this Saleen–Bonspeed Thunderbird, but you must admit, it fits this car to a “T”.

It’s For Sale

Saleen will take orders on the production version of the Saleen Thunderbird– Bonspeed Edition starting in November 2002 with first deliveries scheduled for spring of 2003.

Niche Manufacturing, A Saleen Specialty

During the past 20 years, Saleen, Inc. has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to design, engineer, manufacturer and market high-performance specialty vehicles working closely with Tier 1 suppliers around the world.

“Our expertise has been primarily focused on high performance,” Steve Saleen explained, “but it’s been diverse as far as the types of vehicles we have produced — everything from Mustangs to Explorers to our S7 supercar.” And the Saleen Thunderbird-Bonspeed Edition is just another example of our expanding product capabilities.

“Saleen has experienced rapid growth recently,” he continued. “Last year we introduced the S281E, the Extreme, the fastest, most powerful production Mustang on the planet. And this year Saleen engineers have found ways to increase the output of its supercharged 4.6-liter engine to 445 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque.

“We also have a much improved base supercharged Saleen model for 2003, featuring a new Lysholm twin-screw supercharged engine pumping out 375 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.

“In addition,” Saleen explained, “starting in June we began our first deliveries of the production version of the exotic, mid-engine Saleen S7 supercar.

“And if that’s not enough, we are also immensely pleased and proud to have been selected by Ford as one of the four core suppliers to the Ford GT project, a reflection of Ford’s confidence in our niche manufacturing capabilities.”

Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced over 8,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. An eight-time Manufacturers’ Champion in GT sports car racing, Saleen’s facilities include research, design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. The company’s line of products and services also includes the Saleen S281 and S281-E, the exotic, mid-engine Saleen S7 supercar, Saleen Competition, Saleen Performance Parts, and Saleen Engineering and Certification.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Monday, October 28, 2002

This last weekend only had one Saleen competing.

John Young and Apex Racing were at VIR in Virginia for the Speed World Challenge final round.

John qualified on the front row only .025 seconds off of the pole due to a slight miscue on his qualifying lap. He traded the lead several times and finally took the lead for good on the second to last lap. He won the race by a margin of .44 seconds over second place. This win, combined with some poor results by other competitors, moved John to fourth in the final points standings. This is an excellent result for a driver in this series in his rookie year. John had already clinched the Rookie of the Year award at the previous round at Road Atlanta.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The last two weekends have been busy for teams racing Saleens.

Over the October 4-6 weekend in Miami, Graham Nash Motorsports S7R qualified sixth and finished sixth after brake problems caused by a sticking throttle cable during the race. The second GNM S7R crashed during practice and could not make repairs in time for the race. Konrad Motorsports S7Rs qualified on the pole with the #26 car and did not make qualifying with the #25 car as it was damaged during practice when it hit the wall. The #26 car finished 8th in the race with a failed clutch while the #25 car finished sixth.

The October 9-12 weekend at Petit Le Mans took place at the Road Atlanta circuit. Konrad Motorsports qualified third with #26, and ninth with #25. The #26 car led early and for most of the first hour before having mechanical problems that cost considerable time in the pits, finishing sixth in class. The #25 car also had lots of small mechanical problems and several off-course incidents that dropped it back to fifth in class.

Graham Nash Motorsports qualified fifth with #84 and tenth with #83. The #84 suffered with engine problems in the warm-up and was not able to take the green flag. The #83 car suffered from several small problems that kept it from running to its full potential and only finished eighth in class.

The same weekend at Atlanta the Speed World Challenge ran with Apex racing qualified in eighth on a set of inconsistent tires. During the start of the race John was caught up in an incident between two other cars and was put in the gravel trap. He lost a lap while being extracted and finished the race in 13th one lap down. John has now clinched the rookie of the year title with one race remaining. With a good finish and some luck he may be able to edge back into the top five in points championship.

The Spanish GT championship was awarded this weekend in the next to last round in Jerez, Spain. The pole was set in the Graham Nash Motorsports Saleen S7R with Pedro Chaves and Miguel Ramos driving. They won the race and set fast lap on their way to the podium. This gives them the driver’s championship and Miguel has won the Amateur Standings championship for their efforts this year.

The next race is the World Challenge finale in Alton, VA the weekend of October 25-27.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Monday, September 23, 2002

This weekend was busy for Saleens around the world.

In Spanish GT, the Graham Nash Saleen S7R qualified on the pole for both races, and with 65 second success penalties in each race finished Second in both races. The drivers Miguel Ramos and Pedro Chaves have increased their lead in the driver’s championship points. The next race is October 11 in Jerez, Spain.

In ALMS at Laguna Seca, Terry Borcheller qualified second in the Konrad Saleen S7R. They finished second in the race and Terry was short of the fast lap of the race by only one tenth of a second. This should move Terry to 5th in Driver’s points in GTS. The next race is in Miami the first weekend of October. There will be four Saleen S7Rs at this race.

In the Speed World Challenge at Laguna Seca John Young Jr. qualified 10th with an engine problem in his Saleen SR, and battled his way to sixth in the race with a less powerful back up engine. John was awarded the Rogaine Hair Raising Pass of the Race award, and extended his lead in the rookie of the year points standings. There are two races left in the season with the next one being at Road Atlanta in three weeks.

In the British GT Championship, Tommy Erdos won the Top Gun Championship for most pole positions of the year and Graham Nash Motorsports won the Team Championship. The Driver’s Championship was clinched last weekend by Tommy Erdos and Ian McKellar. Saleen S7Rs qualified 1st and 3rd and Tommy and Ian finished second after an unscheduled stop for a damaged tire. The second Saleen S7R had an incident on the first lap and did not finish the race.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Monday, September 16, 2002

This weekend Graham Nash Motorsports ran in the British GT with 2 Saleen S7Rs at Thruxton in England.

Tommy Erdos and Ian McKellar qualified second and won the race clinching the Driver’s Championship for Tommy and Ian as Co-Champions. Robin Liddell and Justin Law qualified third and finished second to give Graham Nash a 1-2 finish with S7Rs this weekend. The last race of the year for British GT is next weekend at Donington and the team will be trying to win the Team and Top Gun Championship for most pole positions this year.

In Mont Tremblant, Canada this weekend the TF Racing team qualified third after working all night to rebuild their car after a fire. They retired the car after 5 of the 6 hours of the race in third place. Saleen currently leads the manufacturer’s points in GTS and Chris Bingham has clinched the Driver’s Championship in GTS. Chris won the championship driving an S7R this year. He is also 2001 Driver’s Champion, making this a back to back championship for Chris and Saleen.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Tuesday, September 3, 2002

This weekend Graham Nash Motorsports raced at Snetterton in the British GT series. Tommy Erdos and Ian McKellar qualified the Saleen S7R in second position and finished the race in second spot. Robin Liddell and Nathan Kinch qualified in fourth and finished in First, and Robin Liddell set fast lap and a new lap record on the way to the front.

The TF Racing/ Zippo Saleen SR qualified sixth and finished eight in a rain soaked weekend at VIR in the Grand Am Cup series.