Tag Archives: Saleen Special Vehicles


From our friends at Saleen Automotive

Saleen is awarded two contracts to build the new Ford GT (40) for Ford. Saleen was commissioned to engineer, manufacture and assemble the vehicles, including all of the paint production and shipping.

Saleen’s Chief Program Engineer was responsible for the design, testing and certification of the supercar, including chassis, powertrain, body, interior and electrical systems.

Steve commissions an all new facility in Troy, Michigan to accommodate the manufacturing and engineering. Over the model run just over 4,000 units were built. The vehicle on display’s VIN# is “1966”, coinciding with Ford’s win at Le Mans.

[Source: Saleen Automotive]


Effective December 1, 2014, QEK Global Solutions, Inc. is now Penske Vehicle Services, Inc. The Penske name has significant brand-value and is held in high regard in the automotive space. It is our belief that the business will benefit greatly by being closely and directly associated with the Penske brand.

We invite you to tour the new website (www.penskevehicleservices.com).


Penske Vehicle Services, Troy MI
Penske Vehicle Services, Troy MI

WARREN, MI July 1, 2014 – Penske Vehicle Services Inc. (formerly QEK Global Solutions, Inc.), a global fleet solutions provider, announced today that it has acquired Alternative Automotive Technologies located in Troy, Michigan.

Alternative Automotive Technologies supports the automotive OEM engineering and marketing communities by completing prototype builds, early production builds, high-bake paint and standard mechanical/technical work with the ability to complete composites molding, CNC milling and expanded fabrication services.

“The acquisition affords our organization expanded capabilities to better serve and meet the needs of our existing clients and partner with potential new clients. We look forward to continued growth and development within the automotive landscape,” commented Jill Lajdziak, President & Chief Executive Officer of Penske Vehicle Services Inc.



By: CHRIS WOODYARD on January 29, 2013 at 4:41 am
Original Article: USA TODAY

GM, Ford and Chrysler get creative in finding buyers for the plants they closed

Mustang RTR by CDC awaits inspection.
Mustang RTR vy CDC awaits inspection.

TROY, Mich. — A stroll around the factory floor here reveals the kind of assorted automotive projects that fire imaginations.

Classic Fords and Chevrolets under restoration are parked in neat rows, including a Mustang customized for the ill-fated revival of the Knight Rider television series and another that’s a custom prototype for the Chinese market. A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, yet to appear in showrooms, waits to be prepped for auto show display.

So far, two small auto companies share the cavernous space in the former auto plant in this Detroit suburb. Working together as Automotive Performance Industries, the hunt is on for at least a couple more entrepreneurs who can join up to follow the same model — working on their own projects or as a team.

The rebirth of a former car factory as a business incubator for small start-ups aiming to make it big someday, points to a hopeful trend in the auto industry. More of the old factories left behind by the cutbacks of Detroit’s Big 3 automakers during the recession are becoming homes to myriad new businesses. Sometimes the sites stay devoted to automotive uses, but other businesses have swooped in as well — from herb growers to shopping-center developers. They are creating jobs that can begin to replace some of the thousands lost when General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler cut back over the past decade.

“There is a lot of activity. Capital markets are flowing again, and there is a demand for space,” says Bruce Rasher, redevelopment manager for the Racer Trust, created by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2011 to find buyers for General Motors’ shuttered facilities. “It’s an excellent way to diversify employment.”

In some cases, the new tenants for old automotive plants are leading the way to a new kind of auto industry. Tesla Motors, maker of the $61,070 all-electric Model S sedan, has set up shop in the former GM-Toyota joint venture plant in Fremont, Calif., that once churned out Corollas and Geo Prizms. Fisker Automotive, maker of plug-in hybrid sedans, hopes to start production of its next model in a former GM plant in Wilmington, Del.

And earlier this month, another start-up, Elio Motors, announced that starting next year it will build its $6,800, 84-miles-per-gallon economy cars at the former GM plant in Shreveport, La., that once built the Hummer. “It works out well for everyone,” says founder Paul Elio of the real estate deal.

In other cases, different kinds of businesses are coming on board. Florida-based grower Sunfest Organic Herbs is taking over a former GM metal-stamping plant in Ontario, Ohio. Developers are seeking other tenants for what is now being called Ontario Business Park. Though it will demolish many of the buildings, Sunfest plans to create up to 150 jobs in an expansion that will put it closer to its customers.

Yet for all the attractiveness of the notion of entrepreneurs setting up shop amid the ruins of an evolving auto industry, it hasn’t been easy. The auto plants are often dated, with low ceilings that don’t accommodate today’s high-tech manufacturing methods or other uses, such as warehousing. Also, the facilities have, in some cases, required extensive environmental cleanups.

For Automotive Performance Industries, or API, here in Troy, the plant was tailor-made for automotive-related businesses. It had been home to Saleen Performance, the specialty vehicles customizer and maker founded by racer Steve Saleen, who has since gone on to a new automotive venture. A building is a building, but what made the place special was its paint booths, which used a special higher-heat system to paint luxury cars.

Saleen, in its role as a contract builder and backed by Ford, had invested millions in the plant to help build and paint Ford GT supercars to exacting standards. Once the building became empty around 2009, it attracted business partners S.A. “Tony” Johnson and Karl Storrie, who had long worked together as auto-parts suppliers and on other deals. “We bought a paint system, and there happened to be a building around it,” Storrie says.

It was the kind of equipment that would be out of reach of most small businesses that specialize in customizing or small-batch manufacturing.

Bryan Chambers saw the possibilities. He had been a manager at the plant when it was under Saleen, and created his own business, Alternative Automotive Technologies, after the factory closed. At first, he was living “check to check,” but he soon saw how the old building could become a great place to make smaller batches of custom vehicles. In addition, he prepares concept vehicles for public displays and even takes on individual jobs, such as adding superchargers to further soup-up performance cars for enthusiasts.

Chambers was later joined by George Huisman, founder of Classic Design Concepts, which specializes in aftermarket parts, such as custom grilles and rear trim panels for Mustangs. He is working on a project to convert Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans into disaster-relief vehicles for the American Red Cross.

While they do their own jobs, they find room to collaborate. Huisman points to a Mustang being customized to suit the tastes of Chinese automotive enthusiasts that could provide work to both companies. It’s called the RTR Mustang, for “ready to rock.”

So far, though, there are only about 30 employees at work at API. Much of the building, larger than three football fields, is unoccupied. The goal is to bring in at least a couple of other companies, putting them under the API umbrella. “We’re not interested in renting space. We’re interested in business partners,” Storrie says.

Converting big plants can be challenging

Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press
(Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

API should be relatively easy to fill. The bigger challenge comes with the Big 3’s former auto plants, which measure square feet in the millions. Tesla, for instance, is using only a relatively small portion of its Fremont, Calif., factory even as its production of the Model S all-electric plug-in sedan continues to ramp up.

When Ford closed its assembly plant in Atlanta, which used to make the old versions of the Taurus, Porsche took a portion and the rest is being divided up for light manufacturing or warehousing, says Jay Gardner, director of real estate for Ford Land, which is taking care of the automaker’s former plants.

Ford has been trying to find a buyer for its now-closed plant in Wixom, Mich. But 4 million square feet, much of it built when it opened in the 1950s, spread over 317 acres is more than most manufacturers could ever handle.

Still, Ford, which has sold nine plant sites since 2006, has had some notable successes. A dump near Allen Park, Mich., was capped and the ground allowed to settle, then it eventually became a shopping center, Gardner says. That creates more jobs than the usual use of former dumps — turning them into open space or golf courses.

The Racer Trust, which says it has completed 24 sales out of 89 facilities in 14 states, just wrapped up its deal with Elio, maker of the novel three-wheel commuter car. “We’re very encouraged by the level of interest in the properties,” says Rasher, a former mayor of Marshall, Mich., who says communities are consulted about the uses they would like to see for the former plants.

Entrepreneur Elio sounds thrilled to have gotten a turn-key auto plant on the cheap. (Just how cheap, he won’t say.)

“The assets are worth more if you use them for their intended purpose,” he says. GM had a peak workforce at its Shreveport plant of 3,200, Elio estimated. He says he guaranteed Racer Trust that he would employ 1,500 eventually, and he plans to tap the pool of veteran autoworkers still in town.

Back at API, workers are relishing the start-up feel inside the business incubator — and the opportunity to collaborate with other companies.

Paul Elizando, 34, who works on the paint line, sees the possibilities of working with others in companies that are part of API. “You can cast a wider net and help everybody,” he says. If the others have projects involving painting, “They could give it to us.”

Over in the modeling shop, working in the small operation is a big change for 34-year GM veteran Dan Bommarito. But he says he likes it.

“It’s a little more one-on-one, and you don’t have all the red tape,” Bommarito, 57, says between projects. “It’s easier on everyone.”

He is teamed with a relative newcomer, Kevin Ryszka. “Everything is really exciting,” says Ryszka, 40. “Nothing is done by an individual anymore. It’s a team. If you can bring that expertise under one roof, how can it be a bad thing?”

Contributing: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal


By: MEGHANA KESHAVAN on July 30, 2012

Plan Is To Be Hub For Performance

A group of former auto executives is taking advantage of a real estate deal to create a hub for high-performance vehicle businesses in metro Detroit.

It’s an idea from a group of self-proclaimed gearheads to turn their hobby into a viable business, and who last month bought a vacant Saleen Special Vehicles manufacturing facility in Troy.

Automotive Performance Industries LLC was formed in January by a group of three investors, led by Karl Storrie, former CEO of Rochester Hills-based auto supplier Dura Automotive Systems Inc., and Tony Johnson, founder of Minneapolis-based Hidden Creek Industries. The third partner did not want to be named.

In the building, they plan to organize a stable of businesses that create high-performance vehicles, show cars and specialty fleets.

The API investors, through 1225 Maple Road Holdings LLC, paid $3.75 million last month for the 183,000-square-foot manufacturing space at 1225 Maple Road. The building has offices, a showroom and, notably, a “high-bake” vehicle painting system.

Storrie said that 35,000-square-foot painting facility cost $7 million when it was installed a decade ago by Saleen, the building’s former owner. Known for its work on the Saleen Mustang and the Ford GT, the firm moved its Troy operations to its headquarters in Irvine, Calif., in 2009.

“We have very clear expansion plans because of the unique capabilities we have with this building — particularly the high-bake paint system,” Storrie said. “One of our partners told me, ‘Get us the Saleen building, and we’ll triple our business.’ “

High-performance vehicle development will be a fast-growing industry as the economy and the auto industry rebound, Storrie said. It’s a $28 billion industry, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association.

Storrie said API had to compete against several bidders over a year to buy the Saleen building out of foreclosure from the original lender, Chicago-based PPM America Inc.

But it’s a deal that will give API an advantage, said Stephen Chue, president of Katech Inc., a Clinton Township-based company that builds high-performance motorsports engines.

“Honestly, finding deals like that today is what makes competition very stiff,” he said. “Because if somebody is in the body paint business and they have to compete against a company that bought a $7 million machine for a fraction of the price and can charge people at a much discounted rate, how do you compete against that?”

API’s plan is to use the building to host other companies in the high-performance, show car and specialty fleet market. Smaller companies can use space and grow in the building.

It’s also not the first deal for either Storrie or Johnson. Both have a history of building companies through calculated acquisitions. Between 1991 and 2003, Storrie grew Dura Automotive from $120 million in annual revenue to $2.5 billion, he said. Through Hidden Creek Industries, Johnson oversaw the acquisition of 55 companies through his five portfolio companies between 1989 and 2003.

The API investors plan to take equity stakes in the companies that use the building. They’ve started by taking an investment in the two anchor companies that have leased space in the building.

Alternative Automotive Technologies LLC moved in last month from its Troy location on Executive Drive. About 50 employees are working in the building, using 75,000 square feet. AAT’s 2011 revenue was about $3 million.

Wixom-based Classic Design Concepts Inc., which designs and builds vehicles for TV, movies and charity raffles, is moving in. Its 2011 revenue was about $2.8 million.

API’s equity stake will grow over time as the companies increase in value, Storrie said. API’s investors also loaned money to the two companies so they could have a minority stake in the building itself.

Through that structure, the goal is draw more companies and create 300 jobs by the end of 2014, with a revenue target of $30 million.

“The immediate goal is to consolidate a couple of companies and substantially grow their business by providing the building space and the management help that these smaller companies might need,” Johnson said. “But ultimately it may involve acquiring several other companies that are in high-performance and specialty vehicle markets.”


By: N.A. on March 31, 2007
Original Article: PRESS, THE


A run of 100 retro hot rod replicas of the 1932 ‘flathead’ V8 Deuce Coupe is to start next month at the Saleen’s facility in Troy, Michigan, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the car. The first has already been snapped up by a collector, who paid $NZ480,000 at the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction. The other 99 will be sold through US Ford dealers at $NZ225,000.


By: RONALD LEDERMAN JR. on August 31, 2005
Original Article: LIMA NEWS, THE (OH)

Aug. 31–LIMA — The sleek white car with blue racing stripes might not be one of a kind, but it is as close as most local car shoppers are likely to see.

Mike Pruitt Ford took delivery last week of a 2005 Ford GT. The high-performance two-seater is the reintroduction of a car the company dominated endurance racing with in the late 1960s, including a first-, second- and third-place sweep at the 24 Hours at Le Mans race in 1966.

Mike Pruitt Ford is the only dealer in Northwest Ohio with a Ford GT, General Sales Manager Ryan Swaney said. Ford will make only 3,000 of the GTs between the 2005 and 2006 model years. The Ford GT in the Pruitt showroom is No. 1,630.

Combine the scarcity of the car with its performance, and you get a car with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $156,945. Cars with similar performance capabilities sell for between $400,000 and $500,000, Swaney said. The names on those cars are Porsche, Ferrari and Saleen.

Swaney said he expects the car to sell by the weekend. By Tuesday, the dealership had heard from a potential buyer as far away as Cincinnati.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” Swaney said. “We’re just now getting onto eBay, which is where most of them are sold.” Thirteen Ford GTs were listed Tuesday evening on eBay, with asking prices ranging from $160,000 to $190,000.

The Ford GT is a driver’s car: The 5.4-liter, 32-valve V8 puts out 550 horsepower and 500 pounds of torque. The GT goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds. In a quarter mile, it gets up to 127 mph.

“The car just goes,” Swaney said. “The torque is what makes the car get up and go. Horsepower is good, but torque makes it do it now.” The Ford Mustang GT, by comparison, puts out 300 horsepower and 315 pounds of torque.


March 22, 2005 – The most powerful factory-built Ford Mustang in history will take to the street next year, following a unique collaboration between performance car legend Carroll Shelby and the Ford Special Vehicle Team (SVT).

Ford took the wraps off the 450-plus horsepower Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 show car at the New Year International Auto Show March 23. Designed in the unmistakable image of Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s, the Shelby Cobra GT500 melds SVT’s modern engineering with the big-block performance that made the original GT500 the king of the road.

“The all-new 2005 Ford Mustang is one of the hottest cars in many years,” says Phil Martens, Ford group vice president, Product Creation. “Its chassis was engineered from the beginning to be the basis of a high-performance, world-class sports car from SVT, and the Shelby Cobra GT500 is it.”

Carroll Shelby lends his support to SVT, adapting his earlier role as a senior adviser on the “Dream Team” that was assembled to develop and build the 2005 Ford GT. “I’ve worked with the SVT guys for several years now, and I know they have the guts, the talent and the passion to deliver the best performance Mustangs ever,” says Shelby.

A production version of the GT500 will go on sale in 2006, continuing the high-performance lineage of the SVT Mustang Cobra model line. It will be followed by a steady stream of performance products developed by SVT, possibly including a version of the production-intent Sport Trac Adrenalin, the industry’s first performance sport-utility truck.

“SVT led the modern-day factory performance trend with the Mustang Cobra and the industry’s first high-performance truck, the F-150 Lightning,” says Hau Thai-Tang, director, Ford Advanced Product Creation and SVT. “Today, we’re building on that pioneering vision with vehicles like the Ford GT, Shelby Cobra GT500 and Sport Trac Adrenalin – great performance machines that connect with enthusiasts in a way no other companies or vehicles can match.”

The production GT500 will be the first in a string of specialty Mustangs that SVT will help deliver. This will create Ford Motor Company’s – and one of the industry’s – broadest product portfolio, stretching from under $20,000 for the V-6 Mustang coupe to the 450-plus-horsepower GT500, each offering performance and value.

The GT500 and the production-intent Sport Trac Adrenalin teaser accelerate the wave of momentum at SVT since the launch of the 2005 Ford GT supercar. SVT also now will develop non-SVT branded Ford Division performance vehicles – including heritage-based performance Mustangs in the spirit of the 2001 Bullitt GT and 2003 Mach 1 – as it becomes more directly integrated into Ford’s mainstream product development process.

Shelby Cobra GT500’s supercharged 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 produces over 450 hp

Just as the original Shelby GT500 was the “step up” to big-block power from the GT350, the new Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 steps up to Ford’s 5.4-liter “MOD” V-8. The result? The GT500 is the most powerful factory Mustang ever. Its supercharged 5.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 evolves from SVT’s experience with supercharging the “MOD” engine to deliver more than 450 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque.

The cast-iron-block, four-valve engine is force-fed an air-and-fuel mixture via a screw-type supercharger at 8.5 pounds per square inch of boost. Aluminum cylinder heads, piston rings and bearings sourced from the Ford GT program bring a high level of proven durability to the drivetrain, while upgraded cooling components promise longevity. “Powered by SVT” camshaft covers are the finishing touch to the engine.

“This version of the 5.4-liter V-8 has a higher horsepower rating than any other factory Mustang in history,” says Jay O’Connell, SVT chief vehicle engineer. “It really delivers on the essence of two great names in Ford performance – a mix of SVT’s modern-day experience with supercharging and the Shelby GT500’s heritage of big-block power.”

The engine has been further tuned from its first application in a Mustang, the 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra R, a limited edition model of 300 units.

Helping to put the power of the GT500’s supercharged V-8 to the pavement is a T-56 six-speed manual gearbox. The evenly spaced gears mean less stirring is needed to find the “sweet spot” in keeping the revs “on cam” for power to pass, while at the same time making the most of the engine’s broad torque curve. The heavy-duty transmission has proven itself a willing companion to V-8 power in Mustangs in both road and track environments, including the 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra R, 2004 SVT Mustang Cobra and the new race-winning Ford Racing Mustang FR500C.

Great power requires great control

The great Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s were anything but one-trick ponies. They earned their stripes on twisty roads and race tracks across America and Europe. The Shelby Cobra GT500 show car continues that legacy of all-around performance.

The GT500 starts with the solid 2005 Mustang underpinnings. The all-new Mustang’s platform was designed from the beginning with performance derivatives in mind, providing an exceptionally rigid, well-engineered starting point for SVT chassis engineers.

Using real-world experience gained during more than 12 years of building great-handling SVT Mustang Cobras, SVT engineers retune and upgrade key chassis components. Improvements such as revised shocks, spring rates and upgraded stabilizer bars help the GT500 stop and turn with the same authority as it goes.

The GT500 features a MacPherson strut independent front suspension with “Reverse L” lower control arms, and a solid-axle, three-link rear suspension with coil springs and a Panhard rod for precise control of the rear axle.

This rear suspension design has been validated on the track by Ford Racing. The race-prepared Ford Racing Mustang FR500C was purpose-built from the base 2005 Mustang body structure and suspension geometry to run in the Grand-Am Cup series, a class of road racing for production-based cars. Competing against the best from Germany and Japan, a Mustang FR500C competed in and won its first ever race in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in February 2005.

“SVT and Ford Racing will be working closer than ever as we go forward on future projects, especially Mustangs,” says Thai-Tang, a Ford Racing alumnus who served as the race engineer for the Newman-Haas Racing team in 1993. “The Mustang FR500C racing program is an exact demonstration of the capability we engineered into the mainstream Mustang to be capable of. Now, we have both a Daytona victory and the return of the Shelby Cobra GT500 to showcase Mustang performance possibilities.”

To match this power and handling ability, SVT fitted some of the biggest brakes in the business to the GT500. Fourteen-inch cross-drilled Brembo rotors up front and 13-inch discs in the rear continue SVT’s legacy of great-braking Mustangs. Secure footing is provided by 19-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance tires.

The snake is back – Legendary looks with SVT function

The Shelby Cobra GT500 combines the dramatic design genes of the all-new Mustang with Carroll Shelby’s legendary performance image to create an SVT Mustang that broadens the power brand’s design approach and appeal.

“The restrained, performance-oriented SVT design theme has become instantly recognizable to enthusiasts without brash styling cues,” says Doug Gaffka, design director, Ford SVT vehicles. “The GT500 takes a huge leap forward by combining the modern Mustang muscle car with the classic Shelby performance look to expand SVT’s reach to a much bigger audience.”

The 2005 Mustang design team drew inspiration from classic Shelby Mustangs, the models that transformed the mild-mannered pony car into a muscle car with attitude. Envisioning an SVT model, the team tested GT500 design cues on the Mustang GT coupe concept that was unveiled at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. In 2004, designers further developed the GT500 look on the Mustang GT-R, a race-bred concept with the dual purpose of foreshadowing SVT’s Mustang design direction and Ford Racing’s plans to return Mustang to road racing.

The GT500 now comes into full light, punctuated by the classic LeMans-style white stripes that race along the top of the show car’s “SVT Red” paint from nose to tail. The stripes recall the Shelby Mustangs that marked another
important 1960’s Mustang transition when Ford put it on the track to becoming a racing legend. The GT500 nomenclature is prominent in the lower bodyside racing stripe, another cue from the classic Shelby Mustangs.

“The new Mustang has classic design cues from some of the best-looking Mustangs of all-time, including the Shelbys,” says Keith Rogman, Mustang senior designer. “The design of the GT500 has been at the forefront of our minds since the outset of the entire Mustang program.”

The Shelby design elements alone are enough to tell the GT500 story but are not the only visual cues that set this Mustang apart. The reworked front fascia features a functional air splitter and the unique hood has heat-extraction ducts, combining to provide improved airflow and aerodynamics. Revised headlamp insets offer a more aggressive look and result in symmetrical upper and lower grilles with large air openings, creating a visual connection to vintage Shelby Mustangs.

The unique rear fascia features strakes inspired by the Ford GT’s integrated rear airflow diffuser, and a rear spoiler reminiscent of a classic GT500. To mark the collaboration of two Mustang performance icons, the GT500 features Shelby and SVT badging.

Continuing the snake logo tradition of past-generation SVT Mustang Cobras, as well as late-model Shelby Mustangs, the fenders each feature an updated design of the Cobra. For the first time on any SVT Mustang, the front grille features an off-center snake in place of the standard running horse. “GT500” is emblazoned inside the side rocker stripes, and the name “SHELBY” is prominently featured across the rear deck. The SVT logo can be seen on the wheel center caps, a signature SVT location, as well as on the doorsill plates. To top if off, the “gas cap” medallion between the taillights reads “Shelby GT500” centered on the Cobra image.

The interior is completely wrapped in ebony black leather, including the top of the dash, door panels and center arm rest. Also wrapped in ebony leather are the shift lever, shift boot and parking-brake handle. SVT Red leather seat and door panel inserts provide a marked contrast to the rest of the leather-trimmed cabin, surrounding the performance enthusiast with luxury and comfort. Snake logos embroidered into the seat backs finish the package.
“We’ve taken leather design trends to a new level by using it on almost every exposed surface in the GT500,” says Rogman. “Leather has long been a performance fashion accessory for enthusiasts, from jackets to racing gloves, so it perfectly matches all the other driving oriented cues.”

The Shelby GT500 script and Cobra image are repeated on the steering wheel cap. Behind the wheel are titanium-faced gauges swapped in location so that the tachometer is dominant visually for the driver. The chrome accessories inside the cabin have been replaced with a satin aluminum finish, including the aluminum shift lever knob that is nicely positioned for quick, positive shifts of the six-speed transmission.

SVT and Shelby: The Legends Grow

With the look and legend one would expect from Carroll Shelby and the kind of power and performance enthusiasts have come to expect from SVT, the GT500 show car points to a brand new era in Ford Motor Company’s performance future. “Carroll Shelby is truly a living automotive legend, a Ford performance legend,” says Martens. “It’s a dream come true to be able to put the Shelby name on a Mustang again.”

Carroll Shelby first put his name on a Mustang back in 1964 when he was asked to inject some high performance into the brand-new pony car. The result was the GT350R, a lightweight, handling-focused race car that earned the Mustang its first performance credentials. Subsequent Shelby Mustangs included a street version of the race car, the GT350, and what was known as the “rent-a-racer” Mustang, the GT350H, a joint project with the Hertz rental car corporation.

The ultimate Shelby Mustang of the era was the GT500KR, or “King of the Road.” Powered by a big block 428-cubic inch “Cobra Jet” V-8, the GT500KR was one of the most powerful, and memorable, muscle cars of that period. Shelby Mustang production ceased in 1970 with a total volume of 14,559 units.

The Ford Special Vehicle Team brought performance back to Mustang in 1993. After 12 years and with nearly 80,000 high-performance Mustangs on the streets, and a total SVT vehicle production nearing 145,000 vehicles, SVT is primed for growth with the GT500 serving as the foundation for other performance Mustang projects.

By bringing together Carroll Shelby and Ford SVT, the company’s commitment to performance becomes as powerful as at any time in its history – including the famed “Total Performance” days of the 1960s. From the Ford GT supercar, the GT500, to a rejuvenated Ford Racing Performance Parts program – performance and racing adds luster to its proud brand heritage.

“SVT has been and will remain the leader in performance vehicle engineering and marketing,” says Martens. “SVT remains unique in offering the total performance experience. The return of Carroll Shelby to our performance family only strengthens our firepower.”


By: AMY WILSON on March 7, 2005
Original Article: AUTOMOTIVE NEWS., VOL. 79 ISSUE 6137

Dateline: DETROIT —

A management upheaval is unfolding at the supplier that operates the Ford GT assembly plant.

Rich Rinke, the 43-year-old COO at Saleen Inc., is out. CEO Steve Saleen fired Rinke in late January and several other employees in late February.

Saleen Inc. is best known as a West Coast Mustang tuner. But with its experience building the Saleen S7 supercar, the company was tapped by Ford Motor Co. to assemble the GT sports car.

Steve Saleen and Ford say the management changes are not related to the GT program or any of the quality glitches that the sports car has experienced. They also say the changes have not affected GT production, which is rolling again after a seven-week shutdown because of a recalled part.

In an interview last week, Steve Saleen downplayed the significance of the shakeup. “The facts are we made some management changes,” he said. “None of them affected the GT.”

But the terminations did involve employees who had been involved with the GT project.

GT players
Saleen hired Rinke, who is part of a Detroit-area car dealership family, in 2002 after Ford executives recommended him.

Rinke supervised Saleen’s conversion of a former door factory in Troy, Mich., into a mini-assembly plant. The 180,000-square-foot plant paints and assembles every GT, a five-day process. The plant recently began building the Saleen Mustang. Saleen ships the GTs to Ford’s Wixom, Mich., assembly plant for installation of the engine, transmission, seats and interior trim.

Steve Saleen acknowledges that Rinke did a good job setting up the Troy plant. Early in the program, Rinke even worked on prototype GT body panels in his home workshop.

Rinke said that he was fired in part because he requested a medical leave to deal with a family illness. Rinke also said Steve Saleen was punishing him for a dispute over business practices.

Steve Saleen declined to explain why he fired Rinke and several other employees. On Feb. 23, Saleen fired Joe Tori, the general manager of his GT assembly plant.

Tori, 47, worked for Saleen for a year and took over supervision of the assembly plant last fall. Ford executive Hau Thai-Tang called Tori “one of the key guys” at the plant.

Tori said that Steve Saleen told him he was fired in part for failure to meet financial and production goals on the GT project. Tori said his team had hit all of those targets.

New manager
In the wake of the firings, Saleen promoted Brian Walsh, general manager of its Irvine, Calif., plant, to oversee the Troy plant. Walsh started at Saleen less than a year ago.

Before joining Saleen, Walsh had no automotive manufacturing experience. But Walsh has managed production lines in other industries, most recently at appliance maker Thermador, Saleen said.

Thai-Tang, director of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team with oversight of the GT program, said Ford is comfortable with Steve Saleen’s management abilities and the team still in Troy.

“I’m interested in the results and not so much who’s back there in the kitchen stirring the pot,” Thai-Tang said. “That’s Steve’s call.”

Ford has some employees in the plant to monitor Saleen’s daily GT production. After its recall-related shutdown, the plant resumed maximum production capacity during the week of Feb. 28 — ahead of schedule. The plant produces nine GTs a day.

Tori said Saleen’s future with Ford’s niche car projects depends on its management of the GT program.

He said: “Opportunities like the GT don’t come along that often.”