BREA, CA. December 31, 1987… The year that was – a first. They say there’s a first time for everything. Steve Saleen designed a car based on a classic Ford chassis for the performance enthusiast, developed a nationwide dealer base for sales and took it one step further. “Putting a true performance car on the market, I felt, deserved to be put to the test in an arena unique to the automotive and motorsports community. That arena proved to be the SCCA Escort Endurance Showroom Stock Series”, Saleen commented. After successfully debating the merits of the Saleen Mustang, Steve was rewarded with the opportunity to campaign the car “heads up” against the world’s top manufacturers by the Sports Car Club of America. “I was given the chance to prove the value of our car in many different formats and we were very determined'”, said Saleen.
The Saleen Mustang and the new Saleen Sportruck (based on the Ford Ranger platform) were showcased in various “pro” and amateur aeries across the country. The efforts of Dave Frezza, of Beaverton, Oregon, took the Saleen Mustang to the winner’s circle in the SCCA Northwest Regional Championship and the Pacific Coast Race of Champions in the CP-1 category. Dave also won two Solo II events with his Saleen. Saleen Autosport also went to the drags in an NHRA A/Gas Comp Eliminator in the Northwest Region where Jim Van Cleve captured four national records with an ET of 8.06 and 166.97 MPH. Winner of two events at Yakima and Seattle, Jim also made the semifinals at Calgary and the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indy.
Saleen Autosport’s reasons for racing and winning were many, but one of the more important has been the sponsors’ commitments, some of whom had never been involved with a motorsports program, or manufacturers like General Tire and Monroe Shocks, who had developed their own performance line and needed a platform on which to prove their products. Montgomery Ward Auto Center, Hunter Engineering, Flofit Seats, Team One Ford were all valued first time motorsports sponsors. Ford Motor Company, Motorcraft Quality Parts, American Racing Equipment, and TRW are experienced sponsors who believed in the program and contributed to a most successful year.
The year that was – a generation later. Twenty years ago, another determined young man by the name of Carroll Shelby campaigned his Mustang to a championship for Ford. His drivers – Parnelli Jones, George Follmer and Jerry Titus helped bring him this honor. A generation and three legendary careers later, P.J., George and Jerry’s son, Rick, helped bring like honors to Steve Saleen and the Saleen Mustang. Steve Saleen and Rick Titus won the Drivers Championship Award in the #19 car and finishing 3rd and 4th in the #20 car were our most talented all woman team of Lisa Caceres and Desire’ Wilson.
These regulars were joined throughout the year by: Trams Am Starts Pete Halsmer and Scott Pruett: new lady drivers – Donna Sue Landon and Molly Elliott, as well as Skeeter McKitterick, Danny May, Danny McKeever and Saleen Sportruck drivers – Tim Evans and Rob Stevens.
The year that was -memorable. There are many memories in a championship year. Some reflect statistics – 5 wins out of 7 races, 3 pole positions for the Mustangs and 2 wins and 2 pole positions for the Sportrucks. So many more reflect the emotions and physical efforts-so-often pressed in an endurance series.
Four championships won in 1987:
- SCCA Escort Endurance Team Champion – #19 Saleen Mustang
- SCCA Escort Endurance Manufactures Champion – Ford/Saleen Autosport
- SCCA Escort Endurance Drivers Champion – Steve Saleen/Rick Titus
- SCCA Escort Endurance Tire Manufacturer Champion – General Tire
The year that was – an end to the beginning.