By: ANDREW DIETDERICH on November 11, 2002

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.