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Damerow Ford Joins Thomason Auto Group Under Asbury Auto Group Banner

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan. 14, 1999–Damerow Beaverton Ford, the Pacific Northwest’s largest Ford dealer, has announced a merger with Asbury Automotive LLC (Asbury), whose headquarters is located near Philadelphia.

In May, 1998, Thomason Auto Group of Portland, the largest automobile multi-dealership in the Pacific Northwest also merged with Asbury and formed Asbury Oregon Automotive (Asbury Oregon).

Scott Thomason said the two local dealerships, operating under the Asbury umbrella, will have sales nearing $1 billion by the year 2000.

With the addition of Damerow to its other 90 franchises, Asbury becomes the third largest auto retailer in the nation with 1998 annualized revenues of $3.2 billion.

When the merger is completed, Thomason Auto Group and Damerow will hold the number one local market sales position in every one of the following brand categories: Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

Thomason is president and chief executive officer of Asbury Oregon. Roderick Livesay is chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Asbury Oregon. They will work with John Francis who remains as senior vice president and general manager of Damerow Beaverton Ford. Francis also will be responsible for the Ford Motor Company relationship for Asbury Oregon.

Thomason said the merger will strengthen the position of Thomason and Damerow, giving customers greater selection, lower costs and better service.

Damerow executives George R. (Randy) Francis, long-time president of the company, and his son, John Francis, were instrumental in the merger decision. Financial terms were not disclosed regarding the merger, which should be completed by March 31, 1999.

Damerow’s 1998 sales were nearly $175 million, making it the leader among Ford dealerships in the Pacific Northwest. The company employs 280 and occupies 15 acres of property at its various dealership sites in Beaverton. The Damerow dealership headquarters is located at 12325 S.W. Canyon Road in Beaverton.

Asbury Oregon Shows Significant Growth

Together with Thomason Auto Group, Asbury Oregon projects $850 million in sales in 1999. The combined companies will have approximately 1,200 employees.

“The goal of the merger is to provide customers with lower prices and better service,” said John Francis.

“In addition to advantages for our customers, it will bring more opportunities for many of our employees,” Francis continued.

Thomason said, “Our merger with Asbury Auto Group gave us the capital needed for expansion. This is the first step in our expansion plans and we are very excited about it.”

“Consolidation is occurring in the auto sales industry,” Thomason said. “We can offer our customers economies of scale and we can maintain strong local sales, marketing and services with less threat of domination by an outside force.”

In addition to strengthening Asbury’s position in the Northwest, the Damerow acquisition also provides Asbury with a major entry into the growing Beaverton market.

Damerow: Beaverton Success Story

The Francis family has been involved in the automobile sales and service business since 1913 when the Francis Motor Company opened its doors on Grand Avenue in northeast Portland. The company was founded by Randy Francis’s uncle, C.E. Francis. Randy’s father, George L. Francis, later joined his brother and became general manager. The company eventually grew into one of the largest Ford dealerships in the nation.

In 1952, Herb Damerow was awarded the Ford franchise in Beaverton and asked Randy to join him. The Damerow location appeared to offer a better career opportunity and Randy accepted a management position there in 1955. Herb Damerow died in 1958 and Randy Francis purchased the dealership.

“It’s been my life. I’ve always been fond of the industry and it has always fascinated me, even in the beginning when I was involved as a race car driver,” Randy Francis said.

John Francis has been in the auto sales and service business for 31 years. He graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in business and returned to the family’s dealership to advance from assistant new car manager to new car manager. He then joined a business partner to purchase Gresham Ford and they sold that business to Brian Bickmore in 1989. Francis returned to Damerow to become a partner, senior vice president and general manager.

Thomason Ranks Nationally

Thomason Auto Group began as a single Ford dealership that Scott Thomason purchased from his father. Since that time, the company has entered the top tier of dealerships in the nation. Last year, the company sold over 27,500 vehicles. Net annual sales have climbed from $240 million in 1993 to approximately $545 million in 1998. Thomason ranked number 32 among the nation’s 22,000 dealerships in 1997.

[Source: Business Wire]


By: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on July 7, 1998
Original Article: AP ONLINE

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) Tim Allen will be behind the wheel this weekend at the first-ever West Michigan Grand Prix.

Allen, who plays Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on the popular sitcom “Home Improvement,” will drive a Saleen Ford Mustang Sunday in the World Challenge Championship series’ Touring 1 division race. He’s also expected to take a few practice laps on Friday.

“There couldn’t have been a better time to get the news that Tim Allen is coming,” said race spokesman Tim Wondergem.

While more than 33,000 people have purchased tickets for the weekend event, Allen’s appearance is expected to boost attendance by as much as 25 percent.

Allen’s driving has been in the news for two reasons. He has raced professionally for four years in the World Championship T1 series, and is part-owner of the Saleen-Allen RRR Speedlab racing team. He also pleaded guilty in 1997 to drunken driving and checked into a rehabilitation clinic as part of a court-ordered sentence.


LEXINGTON, Ohio — 13 June 1998 — Terry Borcheller, in the No. 56 Saleen/Allen Racing Saleen Mustang, checked out early in the 30-lap, 67.5-mile Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic World Challenge T1 race for 9.005-second margin of victory over the No. 65 Saleen/Allen Racing Saleen Mustang of teammate Ron Johnson, while Hugh Plumb scored his first series win in the T2 Class.

Borcheller, of Phoenix, Ariz., rocketed from his start on the pole and had a comfortable lead until a lap 12 full-course to clean up debris on the circuit. On the restart, Borcheller checked out for good in the 50 minute, 37.624 second race, leaving the rest of the field to battle for the remaining podium positions.

“It’s real nice having the horsepower to get around traffic,” said Brorcheller. “I love driving the Saleen Mustang. The power is much better, but I really have to take care of the brakes to keep the handling balanced. This was a good race for the Saleen/Allen team.”

Behind Borcheller, teammate Johnson was in a tight battle with David Schardt, in the No. 94 Toyota Motorsports/The Wheel Source Toyota Supra Turbo and Neil Hanneman, in the No. 31 Viper Speed Dodge Viper.

“At the start the Toyota really took off,” said Johnson. “He was pulling me down the straight — and straight-line speed is my strength. I was a little worried but as the race went on I was able to get a handle on the car and be competitive.”

Hanneman also chased Johnson the entire race, but was never able to mount a serious challenge for the runner-up spot, finishing third to capture the final podium position. Paul Brown in the No. 96 H.P. Motorsports Ford Mustang and Jeff Conkel in the No. 7 Kurlin/Applebee’s Porsche 911 followed Hanneman in fourth and fifth, respectively.

“We’re happy to be here on the podium,” said Hanneman. “This is the first race that we felt like most of the bugs were worked out of the car in our setup.”

In the T2 Class, rookie Hugh Plumb raced his No. 16 European Racing Technologies BMW 328is to a 0.411-second margin of victory over veteran Michael Galati .

“This is a dream of mine to race in the World Challenge,” said Plumb. “It’s definitely a bad feeling to drive with them (Galati and Pierre Kleinubing) in your mirrors, but to win is a great feeling, and it’s an honor to be racing with these guys.”

Galati, in the No. 44 RealTime Racing/Comptech Acura Integra R, started on the pole and led until Johannes Van Overbeek, in the No. 23 Last Minute Racing BMW 328is, made a lap-three pass, holding the top spot for six laps until Galati slipped back into the lead on lap 10. For the next nine laps Galati led the 24-car T2 field, but Plumb used his horsepower advantage to take a lead he would never relinquish on lap 20.

“Our car was good the entire race, we just did not have as much straight-line speed as the BMW,” said Galati. “When he passed me, we came into the Keyhole side by side under braking and it was real tight. He had the edge coming onto the straight.”

Earning the final T2 Class podium spot was Kleinbing, in the No. 43 RealTime Racing/Comptech Acura Integra R. Second-fastest qualifier Kleinubing lost several positions in the opening lap, and spent the rest of the race driving his way back onto the podium, ahead of the VanOverbeek in fourth and Jeff McMillin in fifth.

After three races, Johnson leads the T1 Class Drivers’ Championship standings with 84 points, followed by Peter Cunningham, 56, and Borcheller, 53. In the T2 Class, Kleinubing leads with 93 points, followed by Galati, 89, and Van Overbeek, 71.

LEXINGTON, Ohio — Results from Saturday’s 30-lap, 67.5-mile World Challenge race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, class, car, laps and reason out.

1. (1), Terry Borcheller, Pheonix, Ariz., T1, Saleen Mustang, 30.
2. (4), Ron Johnson, Wayzata, Minn., T1, Ford Mustang, 30.
3. (5), Neil Hannemann, Livonia, Mich., T1, Dodge Viper, 30.
4. (7), Paul Brown, Omaha, Neb., T1, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 30.
5. (20), Jeff Conkel, Lincoln, Neb., T1, Porsche 911, 30.
6. (8), Jerry Isaacson, Long Grove, Ill., T1, Porsche 911 RSR, 30.
7. (13), Walter M. Swick, Concord, Ohio, T1, BMW M3, 30.
8. (9), David Farmer, Albemarie, N.C., T1, Chevrolet Camaro, 30.
9. (12), Hugh Plumb, Chadds Ford, Pa., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
10. (10), Michael Galati, North Olmsted, Ohio, T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
11. (11), Pierre Kleinbing, Erexim, Brazil, T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
12. (23), Johannes Van Overbeek, Pleasanton, Calif., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
13. (14), Jeff McMillin, Erie, Pa., T2, BMW 328is, 30.
14. (15), Chuck Hemmingson, W. Des Moines, Iowa, T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 30.
15. (24), Will Turner, Newburyport, Mass., T2, BMW 328i, 30.
16. (17), Lance Stewart, Jupiter, Fla., T2, Acura Integra R, 30.
17. (18), Taz E. Harvey, Danville, Calif., T2, Honda Prelude, 29.
18. (28), Steve Lisa, Scottsdale, Ariz., T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 29.
19. (22), Charlie Downs, T2, Mazda RX-7, 29.
20. (26), David Rosenblum, Langhorne, Pa., T2, Saturn SC, 29.
21. (16), Alain Chebeir, Pelham, N.Y., T2, BMW 328is, 28.
22. (45), Mark Reed, London, UK, T2, Oldsmobile Achieva, 28.
23. (31), Tom Baker, Wilmington, Del., T1, Eagle Talon, 28.
24. (30), Dick Reed, Hoopeston, Ill., T2, Pontiac Sunfire, 28.
25. (32), Walter Dethier, Warren, Conn., T1, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 28.
26. (35), Alex Krugman, Great Neck, N.Y., T2, Mazda RX-7, 28.
27. (39), Michael Sturm, Grafton, Wis., T2, Honda Prelude, 28.
28. (40), David Bruener, Port Edwards, Wis., T2, Honda Prelude, 28.
29. (27), Brad Creger, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, T2, Acura Integra R, 28.
30. (37), Fred Meyer, Dallas, Texas, T2, Acura Integra R, 28.
31. (36), Grant Lockwood, Cumming, Ga., T2, BMW3, 27.
32. (38), Brian Wade, Newfields, N.H., T2, BMW 328, 26, Mech.
33. (43), Denny Baglier, Butler, Pa., T2, Mazda MX6, 26.
34. (6), Grant Carter, Severn, Md., T1, Chevrolet Camaro, 23, Mech.
35. (21), Pat Nowak, Ann Arbor, Mich., T1, Mustang Cobra, 18, Mech.
36. (25), Jeff Demetri, Omaha, Neb., T1, Ford Mustang, 18.
37. (3), David Schardt, Dayton, Ohio, T1, Toyota Supra Turbo, 14, Mech.
38. (2), Peter Cunningham, West Bend, Wis., T1, Acura NSX, 3, Mech.
39. (19), Walter Puckett, Shelby, N.C., T2, Saturn SC, 3, Mech.
40. (34), A.J. Frank, Bluffton, S.C., T2, Honda Acord, 0, Mech.
41. (33), Chris Reinke, Wilmington, Ohio, T2, Ford Contour, 0, Mech.
42. (41), Alfred DuPont, Kennett Square, Pa., T1, BMW M3, 0, DNS.
43. (46), Reese Cox, Marietta, Ga., T1, Chevrolet Corvette, 0, DNS.
44. (44), Scotty B. White, Puvallup, Wash., T1, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R1, 0, DNS.
45. (42), Chris Wiehle, DeKalb, Ill., T1, Chevrolet Corvette, 0, DNS.
46. (29), Pierre Bareil, Cap Madeleine, Canada, T1, Ford Mustang LX, 0, DNS.

T1 Class time of race: 50 minutes, 57.264 seconds.
T1 Class average speed: 79.482 miles-per-hour
T1 Class Margin of victory: 9.01 seconds
T1 Class fastest race lap: Terry Borcheller, 1:35.019 (85.246 mph)
T1 Class lap leaders: laps 1-30, No. 56 Borcheller

T2 Class time of race: 52 minutes, 13.501 seconds.
T2 Class average speed: 77.549 miles-per-hour
T2 Class margin of victory: .485-second
T2 Class fastest race lap: Pierre Kleinbing, 1:39.260 (81.603 mph)
T2 Class lap leaders: laps 1-2, No. 44 Galati; laps 3-9, No. 23 Van
Overbeek; laps 10-19, No. 44 Galati; laps 20-30, No. 16 Plumb.

World Challenge Drivers’ Championship Points after three races

Touring One Class
Pos., Driver, Car, Points, Purse
1, Ron Johnson, Saleen Mustang, 84, $6,000
2, Peter Cunningham, Acura NSX, 56, $3,000
3, Terry Borcheller, Saleen Mustang 53, $3,500
4, Reese Cox, Chevrolet Corvette, 48, $2,000
5, Neil Hannemann, Dodge Viper, 46, $1,9506,
6, Jeff Conkel, Porsche 911, 42, $1,700
7, Paul Brown, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 41, $1,550
8, David Schardt, Toyota Supra Turbo, 39, $500
9, Bill Cooper, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 134, $3,000
10, Chris Wiehle, Chevrolet Corvette 34, $1,200
11, Walter Dethier, Ford Mustang Cobra R, 34, $1,050
12, David Farmer, Chevy Chevrolet Camaro, 33, $1,050
13, Walter M. Swick, BMW M3, 31, $650
14, Grant Carter, Chevrolet Camaro, 30, $1,000
15, Jeff Demetri, Ford Mustang, 30, $500
16, Bobby Archer, Dodge Viper, 25, $1,200
17, Randy Roatch, Porsche 911, 21, $850
18, Stuart Jones, Pont Firebird, 20, $750
19, Jerry Isaacson, Porsche 911 RSR, 20, $750
20, Alfred DuPont, BMW M3, 19, $650
21, Kenneth Lubash, Chevrolet Camaro, 19, $650
22, Pierre Bareil, Ford Mustang LX, 17, $500
23, Tom Baker, Eagle Talon, 17, $500
24, Bob Schiesser, Ford Mustang, 14, $500
25, Pat Nowak, Ford Mustang Cobra, 14, $500
26, Michael Pettiford, Chevrolet Chevrolet Camaro, 14, $500
27, Scotty B. White, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R, 114, $0
28, Peter Polli, Chevrolet Corvette, 13, $0
29, Guy Pine Pavageau, Chevrolet Camaro, 12, $0
30, Darren Law, Ford Mustang, 12, $0
31, Cliff Nystedt, Chevrolet Corvette, 11, $0
32, Thomas Safar II, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 9, $0
33, Kim Baker, Chevrolet Corvette Z-R1, 9, $0
34, Doug Johnson, Chevrolet Corvette, 8, $0

Touring Two Class
Pos., Driver, Car, Points, Purse

1, Pierre Kleinbing, Acura Integra R, 93, $7,200
2, Michael Galati, Acura Integra R, 89, $6,000
3, Johannes Van Overbeek, BMW 328is, 71, $3,050
4, Hugh Plumb, BMW 328is, 68, $4,150
5, Lance Stewart, Acura Integra R, 59, $1,950
6, Will Turner, BMW 328i, 54, $1,700
7, David Rosenblum, Saturn SC, 49, $1,750
8, Taz E. Harvey, Honda Prelude, 49, $1,500
9, Alain Chebeir, BMW 328is, 47, $1,250
10, Chuck Hemmingson, Oldsmobile Achieva, 43, $1,750
11, Mark Reed, Oldsmobile Achieva, 42, $1,000
12, Walter Puckett, Saturn SC, 38, $1,200
13, Jeff McMillin, BMW 328is, 35, $850
14, Steve Lisa, Oldsmobile Achieva, 32, $1,000
15, Jim Lovett, BMW 328i, 30, $650
16, Brad Creger, Acura Integra R, 27, $0
17, Fred Meyer, Acura Integra R, 25, $500
18, Steve Lisa, Oldsmobile Calis, 23, $500
19, Charlie Downs, Mazda RX-7, 15, $500
20, Tom Kelly, Volkswagon GTI, 14, $0
21, Dino Hamilton, Dodge Neon, 14, $0
22, Fred Pignataro, Ford Contour SVT, 12, $0
23, Dick Reed, Pontiac Sunfire, 11, $0
24, Alex Krugman, Mazda RX-7, 11, $0
25, Chris Reinke, Ford Contour, 10, $0
26, Manny Matz, Mazda RX-7, 10, $0
27, A.J. Frank, Honda Acord, 9, $0
28, Michael Sturm, Honda Prelude, 9, $0
29, David Bruener, Honda Prelude, 8, $0
30, Grant Lockwood, BMW Z3, 8, $0
31, Walter Markes Jr., BMW 325is, 7, $0
32, Hugh Stewart, Volkswagon Jetta, 6, $0
33, Richard Ellinger, Mercedes-Benz 190, 5, $0
34, Brian Wade, BMW 328, 4, $0
35, Denny Baglier, Mazda MX6, 3, $0


By: on MAY 4, 1998

Children’s Hospital Foundation of Orange County’s Padrinos will present the fourth annual Heroes of the Heart benefit at the Hyatt Regency Irvine on May 16. Tommy Lasorda, who retired as Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager last year, will be the public recipient and featured speaker. Other recipients include Jack Finnerty, Laguna Hills, Jon Rodberg, Irvine, Jason Purcell, Garden Grove and Caring K-9s of CHOC. For ticket information, call (714) 532-8690.

In addition, CHOC is searching for a director of marketing and public affairs and a public relations specialist. Anyone interested in these positions can submit a resume to the human relations department at CHOC, Mention the OCBJ sent you.

Concordia University, Irvine will host its 8th annual Eagle Golf Classic May 18 at the Strawberry Farms Golf Club. Proceeds will support the school’s athletic program. For registration information, call (949) 854-8002.

The city of Garden Grove Community Services Department will host its 19th annual Strawberry Ball May 21 at the Community Meeting Center. The ball will honor an outstanding senior man and woman who have done exceptional volunteer work in the City during the past year. For tickets, call (714) 741-5253.

Main Place Mali merchants will donate a day of primping and pampering this Wednesday to 12 mothers from the House of Hope in Orange, a shelter for homeless women and children.

“Eyewitness News” anchor Michelle Tuzee will serve as emcee for Saddleback Women’s Hospital’s 10th anniversary celebration May 30. Tickets to the event are $75 per person, with proceeds going to the Baby Alumni Club, a support group of Saddleback Memorial Foundation.

Comcast Online will maintain a website for Orangewood Children’s Foundation (www.inorangecounty.com/orangewood) that will include a schedule of Orangewood’s fundraising events such as this month’s child abuse prevention activities. and a sign-up form for interested individuals.

Marie Callender’s has launched a Partners in Education program through which its outlets will adopt area high schools. During last month. the schools received 50 cents for every slice of pie sold above the April 1997 sales level. A minimum donation of $100 per school was guaranteed.

Canyon Acres Children’s Services, an Anaheim Hills facility assisting abused and emotionally disturbed children, has received a $200,000 donation from the former and current owners of Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook. Former resort owner, Newport Beach-based Mark IV Capital Inc. and new owner Seattle, Wash,-based Triple Tree Corp. joined together to present the funds.

Mission Viejo-based Merit Property Management and Merit Association Services raised more than $36,000 for United Way charities through a week-long series of fundraising events that culminated in a company chili cook-off.

Arts International, a division of the Institute of International Education, has announced a grant of $2.15 million from the James Irvine Foundation to establish and support the California Presenters Initiative that would provide non-renewable grants of $75,000 each to 21 performing arts organizations.

Toshiba’s Electronic Imaging Division, Irvine has pledged to once again sponsor the Orange County Marine Institute’s Tallships Festival in Dana point, the second year it has provided such support. Toshiba has also donated matching funds to pay for repairs to the brig Pilgrim, a 52-year-old replica of the vessel that brought Richard Henry Dana to California in 1935.

Mimi’s Cafe last month debuted its new Second Chance program designed to support domestic abuse prevention and rehabilitation by donating a portion of the proceeds raised from the sale of Mimi’s French onion soup at all its locations to the program. Mimi’s will also host monthly lunches with women’s shelters, culminating in a yearly event at whiCh monetary grants will be presented to women who have successfully escaped domestic abuse.

Roger Johnson, former head of the U.S. General Services Administration and former CEO of Western Digital Corp., and his wife Janice, pledged $500,000 to UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology to establish a chair they hope will assist in bringing improvements in the way government is managed and for increasing citizen involvement in the political process.

Lake Forest-based Professional Community Management raised over $38,000 in a week-long fundraiser for United Way. The contribution represents a combined effort of all four of PCMs offices, including the Lake Forest headquarters and a Laguna Hills branch.

The West County Family YMCA raised over $71,000 in its annual support campaign to help needy families join various YMCA programs. More than 100 volunteers contributed to the effort. For information about contributions to the West County Family YMCA, call (714)847-9622.

Sprint PCS, Irvine, donated 36 phones with unlimited local service for the current school year to the Cox Elementary School of the Fountain Valley School District. The program is designed to introduce 100% digital PCS communications to the classroom and improve parent/teacher communication.

St. John Knits raised more than $30,000 for breast cancer research at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital through a recent private showing of its spring 1998 collection. The event featured the fashion show, tours of the St. John factory and a luncheon.

United Parcel Service donated $50,000 to the Saddleback Memorial Foundation’s Partnership for the Future campaign to assist in raising funds for Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s new Critical Care Pavilion. The new facility will house a new emergency care center and critical care unit. Partnership for the Future has raised $12 million of the $15 million needed to construct the pavilion

Irvine-based Saleen Performance donated its services to Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County by granting a Huntington Beach boy’s wish to have his Mustang customized. The teen’s customized car was unveiled after a special luncheon at Hard Rock Cafe and limo service to Saleen’s facility.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco Laguna Beach recently presented a $1,600 donation to Brandy’s Friends, a Laguna Beach-based family and youth drug counseling and intervention center.

The Southern California Frozen Food Council, Huntington Beach, served ice cream and held an ice cream decorating contest for children and their families at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in recognition of National Frozen Food Month.

Santa Ana-based NEXTLINK, a telecommunications provider, is participating in a joint program with the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Ana School District and city businesses called “Linking Schools to Business.” The program will culminate in 30 internships at Santa Ana businesses this summer.

Jeep Jeepster: Truck Trends

By: MATT STONE on April, 1998
Original Article: Motor Trend

Future Trucks

A Street Rod For The Rubicon Trail

Think of it as a V-8 Plymouth Prowler (with a back seat) that can also tackle a challenging trail with the best of the Jeep family. With its new-for-’99 4.7-liter/275-horse SOHC V-8, which will debut in the Grand Cherokee, and its unique, electronic four-wheel, independent adjustable suspension, you really could go anywhere with confidence-street or stream, boulevard or boulder-strewn trail.

The Jeepster’s dashboard-adjustable suspension switch allows the rod/ute a 4-inch range of travel, from a ground-hugging 5.75 inches to a rock-climbing 9.75 inches of clearance. The two-plus-two Jeepster, which takes its name from the now rare and collectible ’50 Willys Convertible, has a roster of useful features like water-resistant leather seats, a global positioning system, altimeter, grade and roll indicator, and exterior temperature gauge. Its full-time 4WD system is viscous coupled to a four-speed automatic that rotates huge 19-inch “Hot-Wheels”-inspired wheels equipped with “run-flat” Goodyear Extended Mobility Tires, eliminating the need for a spare.

The cool “what if” exercise certainly raises the possibility of eating your Rocky Road ice cream at the drive-in diner or at the top of the nearest mesa. It seems multiple personalities could pay dividends, after all.-Chris Walton

Performance Test

Saleen Explorer: A Performance/Utility Vehicle

Saleen Explorer XP8
Saleen Explorer XP8

The sport/utility vehicle market continues to subdivide itself. There are now full-size luxury SUVs, convertibles, and others. To this, add the newest trend: the PUV, or Performance Utility Vehicle. Everywhere we look, someone is slamming, supercharging, brake-equipping, and killer-suspending SUVs to perform like-believe it or not-cars.

Saleen Performance has been manufacturing steroid-injected Mustangs for more than a dozen years, and decided the top-selling Ford Explorer was an ideal canvas for its brand of performance redo. Steve Saleen and his band of designers, engineers, and assemblers have taken their customary approach to enhancing the Explorer; upgrading not only the engine, but (if desired) the braking, suspension, appearance, and interior accommodations.

The Saleen Explorer comes in two- or four-wheel-drive four-door configurations, packing either a SOHC 4.0-liter V-6, a 5.0-liter V-8, or a Saleen-developed supercharged 5.0-liter/286-horsepower V-8. Packing a dealer-installed Powerdyne blower, this top-of-the-line model is the subject of our test.

Saleen lowers the Explorer about 2 inches, for both improved handling and appearance. Springs and shocks are swapped for the company’s Racecraft components, and rolling stock is upgraded to Saleen’s own 18-inch genuine magnesium wheels wrapped by Pirelli 255/55SR18 Scorpion S/T radials.

The exterior appearance package includes special front and rear fascia, side skirts, door cladding, roof-mounted rear wing, and faux carbon fiber trim. The cabin is treated to either a real wood or carbon fiber appearance package, depending upon color choice, as well as Saleen gauge faces and floor mats. A particularly nice, though pricey, option is Saleen/Recaro leather seating ($3950), offering 10-way power adjustment up front and hip-hugging support.

According to Saleen, the goal is to enhance the Explorer’s on-road handling and performance with a minimum reduction in its off-road capability. Many SUV users will never leave the asphalt, so max ground clearance is seldom an issue to these folks. On the pavement, the Saleen corners much more confidently than just about any standard sport/ute. There’s a bit of a ride penalty, but the reduction in body roll will be worth it to many drivers.

Our test showed a 0-60-mph time of 7.4 seconds (an improvement of 3.3 seconds over a stock V-8 Explorer). Also significant: 60-0 braking distances are reduced by 26 feet. A big portion of the 0.09 g jump in max cornering forces (0.76 for the Saleen, 0.67 for the stocker) goes to the serious wheel and tire package. Though we did not test its towing capability, we suspect the Saleen Explorer will be popular among those sporty, active lifestyle folks who haul a boat or trailer full of personal watercraft. Increasing supercharger boost would add even more horsepower, but punchy midrange power and long-term dependability were judged more important than Top Fueler acceleration. And you’ve gotta love the tunes issued by the rumbling Saleen/Borla exhaust system.

The MSRP for a V-6 Saleen Explorer is $41,990, and a fully loaded supercharged V-8 model with all available options will run around $56,000. Both Ford’s and Saleen’s own warranties apply. See your Saleen-qualified Ford Dealer.

What’s next, the Swiss Army knife SUV?


By: SUE ZESIGER on March 2, 1998
Original Article: FORTUNE, VOL. 137, ISSUE 4

Unless you’re a racing-team owner like Roger Penske, chances are you don’t keep a few hand-tweaked, high-powered Chevy Suburbans in your stable, good for bigtime hauling as well as for sinful joy rides. For the rest of us 4×4 plebes, real high performance has been out of reach. But now, car companies are catching on that there’s a huge segment of urban and suburban sport-ute buyers who never go off-road and who see these hulks simply as status symbols, the automotive equivalent of a Gucci bag. (Now that we have bigger, what do we want? Faster!) Mercedes-Benz is planning a high-performance version of its M-Class SUV for model year 2000, with a bigger V-8 and sportier handling. And Porsche is looking into building a 4×4–which would be genetically incapable of sluggishness.

In the meantime, racer and vehicle-visionary Steve Saleen of Saleen Performance–a Ford-sanctioned small-volume manufacturer, based in Irvine, Calif.–is betting on the appeal of “performance utility vehicles.” He’s hot-rodded a Ford Explorer to prove his point and hopes to sell 500 this year. The Saleen Explorer has a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that produces 286 hp and 333 ft-lb of torque. Plus Recaro seats, 13-inch four-piston racing-style brakes, lowered suspension, 18-inch Pirelli Scorpions…. It all adds up to lots of throaty burble, lots of torque, lots of opportunities to take corners at an alarming clip–and not heel over. “SUVs have been practical; now they need to be appealing,” says Saleen. For about $50,000 you can own this very distinctive beast (note extreme body flares)–and no one will mess with your kids when you pick them up after school.


By: N.A. on February 17, 1997
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 47, ISSUE 7

First lady. Desire Wilson, whose credits include stints in F1, Indy cars, prototypes and Trans-Am, will be the first woman to compete in the North American Touring Car Championship. She’ll drive a Mazda Xedos campaigned by Schader Motorsports.

A new horse at le Sarthe. Steve Saleen and comedian Tim Allen will enter the first Mustangs ever at Le Mans next June. Saleen plans a world tour with GT-2 Mustang Cobras to promote his street cars. Scheduled stops include FIA GT races at Suzuka, Silverstone and Laguna Seca, with Price Cobb and Rob Rizzo in one car, and Dave Warnock and Phil Smith, winners of the 1996 British GT Championship, in another. Considering that Allen was just about the slowest driver at Daytona (and that’s saying something), let’s hope that he’s smart enough to stay out of the car at Le Mans.

Leader of the pack. Robert “Buster” Auton has replaced Elmo Langley as the Winston Cup pace car driver. Langley died happy, of a heart attack while practicing for the NASCAR exhibition at Suzuka last November. Auton was previously a NASCAR inspector and support truck driver.

Oui, oui. Former Indy Lights champion Eric Bachelart has signed Frenchman Christophe Tinseau to drive for his new Indy Lights team. Tinseau raced in European F3000 last season; Bachelart may drive a second car.

Academic success. Jeff Shafer, 21, and Matt Sielsky, 18, former karting champions, have won the scholarships from CART owner Barry Green’s Team Green Academy. The two were chosen from 25 drivers after a series of tests They’ll get a fitness program, an Indy Lights rest and unspecified financial help for the 1997 season.

Black boxes return. Ford has stepped in to continue the black-box crash data program for CART. GM initiated the program several years ago, but switched its technical support to the. Indy Racing League last season. Ford’s boxes are an evolution of the units used by GM, and are made by the same company, Impact Sensor Technologies.


By: DAVE BURNETT on November 1, 1996
Original Article: AFTERMARKET BUSINESS, VOL. 106, ISSUE 11

Saleen Performance is offering its own fully serialized Saleen S281 Mustangs through Team Budget Rent A Car franchises. Like the collectible Shelby GT-350H cars, each S281 will have its own serial number beginning at 01B, with the “B” designating it as a vehicle from the Budget Rent A Car fleet.

Team Budget will rent Saleen S281 Mustangs at selected locations. Thirty 1996 models will be available beginning in August at selected Team Budget’s Southern California, Arizona and Nevada offices. The program will be expanded in October 1996 with an additional 100 Saleen S281 Mustangs to be dispersed throughout the country. By Spring 1998, Saleen Performance expects to have a total of 300 Saleen Mustangs available for rent at Team Budget locations nationwide.

“We first tested the rental car market by providing several cars to Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car earlier this year. These cars were so popular with Mustang enthusiasts and tourists, that the cars were always on rent,” says Steve Saleen, president of Saleen Performance. “We then decided to pursue rentals further and reached an exclusive agreement with Team Budget as the official rent-a-car company for Saleen Performance.”

Like the Shelby/Hertz deal, the Team Budget program will allow buyers the opportunity to test drive a Saleen Mustang before purchasing one. Saleen Mustangs are sold only through selected certified Saleen Ford dealerships across the country.

“Having Saleen Mustangs at rental car agencies is a great opportunity to reach new consumers,” adds Saleen.

The Saleen S281-B Mustang sports its own 18-in. magnesium alloy wheels and tires, complete Racecraft suspension, Saleen designed air management and extensive features such as a Saleen Performance air filter, spark plug wires, close ratio shifter, and a Saleen exhaust system. The S281 features Ford’s newest 4.6 liter, 215 HP modular engine. The cars will be available primarily as a convertible with sport bar and coupes at some locations.

Team Budget owns and operates numerous Budget Rent a Car franchises with a total of 161 locations engaged in car, truck and passenger van rentals in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The company also operates airport parking facilities at certain locations, leases vans for pooling operations in 22 states and markets retail used vehicles in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Richmond, three locations in Southern California, four locations in Indianapolis and two locations in Dayton.

Saleen Performance, the internationally-known specialty vehicle manufacturer of high-performance Mustangs, is based in Irvine, California. Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced more than 4,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s line includes Saleen Mustangs and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter a complete line of performance and appearance products for 5.0 liter Mustangs.


By: PARNELLI JONES on September 23, 1996
Original Article: FORBES FYI, VOL. 158, ISSUE 7

The Saleen Mustang may be street legal, but it feels every inch a race car

I HAD BEEN AT INDIANAPOLIS FOR THE 500. It’s always a great week down on pit row, or sitting up there in the stands watching time trials. But if you’re an old racer like me, you start to get the itch to be out on the track yourself. People still ask me how it feels tearing down that straightaway and into Turn One at Indy, and I always tell them the most apt description I ever heard: it’s like driving down the street at 200 miles an hour and turning left into your driveway. Not for everybody,! suppose. But, for me, a great feeling.

The itch was still pretty bad when! got home to Los Angeles. And that’s when I got a call asking if I’d like to drive up to the Willow Springs race track out near Mojave and try out the new Saleen Mustang on a closed course. It’s a pretty safe track since there’s not much to hit in the desert except sagebrush if you go off the asphalt. Sounded like just the cure to me.

The Saleen Mustang is named after Steve Saleen, himself a former race driver who went on to become a team owner and builder. So he knows something about the serious driver. The car he builds is so tough and fast, even George Foreman has one.

So, what’s a Saleen? Well, basically Steve’s company orders a select number of stock Mustang GT 5.0s each year from the Dearborn plant where they’re made. Then a team of technicians takes each car apart, throwing a lot of the factory parts away and installing custom replacements. Changing one of these Ponies over from top to bottom takes about 120 hours. They’ll add a new camshaft, cylinder heads and intake manifold to the engine, for example. And by the time they’re done, it’s about 75% more powerful than the car that left the Ford factory. (Since they upped the power to about 150 hp, they had to add a new speedometer as well; the new one goes up to 200 mph.)

It was about 103 degrees the day I got out to Willow Springs, two hours north of L.A. I used to run the course years ago, and I also used to scramble trucks and dirt bikes up in the hills around the track, so I know the area pretty well. It’s real scrub country out that way, but I love it.

When I got behind the wheel of the Saleen, the car sure didn’t look or feel like your basic Five-Oh anymore. They’ve added Recaro racing seats–real buckets–that are comfortable and come up high along your butt so you really feel supported in the car. The gear shift has a closer ratio, and the gauge cluster on the dash has a white background that is easier to read than the usual black.

Now, whenever you test a new car it’s always a good idea to inch your way up to speed little by little. So I hit the track at about 100 mph, and then started concentrating on going fast.

Saleen has changed a lot more on this car than just the engine. (Each car is so altered from the machines that come out of the factory, in fact, that Saleen is legally registered as a manufacturer.) The chassis has been pretty well tuned up, and they’ve replaced the springs and struts. They’ve added a sway bar, side skirts, and a rear wing and front spoiler, so at 120 to 130 the ground effects combine to provide good stability on the track. None of the slipping and sliding you’d expect from a street vehicle.

The Willow Springs track has got one long high-speed corner just before you pass the pit area on the straightaway, and it’s in high-speed corners that a car’s true colors will come out (and this car comes in quite a few crazy colors). A lot of people don’t know that handling high-speed curves is the toughest job a race driver has. In fact, they think driving an oval course is just “going around in Circles.” But nothing could be more wrong. Tight, slow curves might look more dramatic because the driver is throwing the car all over the place, but in a high-speed curve you’ve got to hold the car out there on the edge. You make any mistakes and you won’t be easily forgiven. And that’s where the Saleen came through. The model I drove was a 35I, so it had a lot of torque to begin with, and the supercharger gave it even more top end. The harder! got on it, the better it handled.

Coming to the end of that high-speed turn at 110 mph, I down-shifted into third. The gear was a little hard to find–my one complaint about the car–but when I tapped the brakes I knew right away that they were better than anything that came with the Ford stock package. Much better. Saleen will install four-piston calipers with 13-inch disks. Plus, they’ve added big 18-inch wheels and ram-air intakes, which means you get much-needed cooling on each wheel.

All in all, Saleen has put a lot of thought into the car, and it’s really fun to drive. You look at the price range it falls into and, well, it may sound high, but considering what you get it’s not out of sight. There are two basic packages: the 281 engine that starts at about ,29,000, and the 351 engine, the one I drove, for about $43,000. Add-ons here and there can put the price up over *50,000, but to a lot of folks it’ll be worth it, and they’re the same folks who won’t mind putting premium fuel in every trip to the gas station.

You know, race cars are built strictly for that: racing. They’re too ugly to run on the street. The beauty of the Saleen is that it feels like a race car, but once you throttle back it becomes a street car again, smartly laid out and quiet inside. In fact, when I came off the track at Willow Springs, I cranked up the radio and the air conditioning and was ready to head home on the freeway.

But then I decided that I wasn’t quite ready.! had spent the afternoon going clockwise around the track, and since there was plenty of daylight left, I thought I’d spend a little time doing counterclockwise laps. Driving backwards; it’s just another one of those itches some old racers get from time to time.

For dealers: 800-SALEEN-4; or hook up on the ‘Net at www. saleen.com.