Tag Archives: Saleen


Steve Saleen
Steve Saleen

By: DOUGLAS FRANTZ on November 10, 1988
Original Article: LOS ANGELES TIMES

Carroll Shelby, meet Steve Saleen.

For those who may not remember, Shelby is the guy who put race-car muscle into Ford’s sporty Mustang more than 20 years ago. He started in a garage outside Los Angeles and rode his famous Shelby Mustang into a multimillion- dollar business that he eventually sold to Ford.

Saleen started in a California garage, too, and the agility and eye- popping speed of his Saleen Mustang have earned it cult status among slightly fanatical driving enthusiasts in just four years.

As heir to the Mustang crown, Saleen transforms assembly-line, V-8-powered Mustangs from Ford into something special, with racing suspensions, aerodynamic alterations and other refinements. The final result, says Car & Driver magazine, “looks like a take-no-prisoners street fighter.”

William Bryant, an actor who loves cars, owns a candy-apple red 1968 Shelby Mustang convertible. He heard about Saleen from other Mustang loyalists and wound up getting a ride from him in one of his cars.

“We entered a freeway on-ramp and came out at 97 miles an hour,” Bryant said. “I said, ‘I’ve got to have one.'”

He wound up with three in the family stable, a 1985 fastback and a 1987 convertible for himself, and an identical ’85 fastback for his daughter. All three cars are black. Bryant has also persuaded 15 friends to buy Saleens.

Saleen has not reached Shelby’s legendary stature. However, Motor Trend magazine recently called him “one of America’s hottest limited-edition automotive designers,” and his business has accelerated faster than a Saleen Mustang. The number of cars turned out has grown more than twenty-fold in four years, and employment has gone from three to 65 people.

In May, the privately held company, Saleen Autosport, moved into a new 45,000-square-foot plant. The company maintains its racing and engineering division in Detroit, close to Ford headquarters. However, Saleen said he doesn’t intend to move design and production out of Southern California. “The trends and the fads really are created here.”

In the sparkling-clean, hangar-like building in Anaheim, Saleen is tapping a trend that started in Southern California, hot conversion trucks. A special- edition Ford Ranger truck, with high-performance additions, is being added to the Saleen line.

In addition, Saleen is refining an ultrafast supercar for the ’89 model year that he promises will outperform a Chevrolet Corvette. A mean-looking prototype sits in a corner of the building; the standard fuel-injected, 225- horsepower, 5-liter Ford V-8 is juiced to 300-plus horsepower and a roll bar arches over the leather interior.

By moving into the growing sport truck market and producing 250 of the supercars, Saleen expects to double production to 2,400 vehicles next year, an optimistic projection but based on an impressive track record that actually started on the track.

At 39, he has been racing professionally since 1975 — and his first win came in a Shelby Mustang. He moved up through Formula Super Vee to Formula Atlantic. Last year, his Mustang racing team won four major championships on the Sports Car Club of America circuit, and Saleen plans his debut in the Indianapolis 500 next year.

It was on the race circuit in 1983 that Saleen met Ford officials and decided to produce his cars with their cooperation.

In 1984, he turned out 50 Saleen Mustangs. The next year output jumped to 180. In 1986, it was 290; in 1987, 400. This year he will turn out 1,100 to 1,200 Mustangs.

The suggested price of $21,500 for a Saleen hardtop, while not in a league with a Corvette or Porsche, is heady for a Mustang. A top-of-the-line stock hardtop Mustang sells for about $13,000 to $15,000. Saleen’s convertibles, which make up about a quarter of the annual run, list for nearly $24,500.

These are not the crude hot rods of mechanics who bolt on parts for pure performance. They are the result of years on the track and race-bred engineering.

The basic car is a Mustang LX, with the 5-liter V-8. Most of the cars have a five-speed transmission, although occasionally a buyer wants an automatic. The car also has luxury options such as power windows and locks and air conditioning.

The process begins when Ford ships the cars by rail to Saleen’s shop, where they are stripped of their interior, suspension, brakes, wheels and many body parts. Saleen does not monkey with the engine or transmission, which means that Ford’s power-train warranty and the emissions-control certification remain in effect.

Workers install special sport seats and matching rear seat upholstery and door panels. A leather-wrapped, three-spoke Italian steering wheel goes in, along with Hurst shifter linkage. An 80-watt, six-speaker stereo cassette system is installed alongside instrumentation that includes a 170-mph speedometer.


ANAHEIM, CA., September 9, 1988… The Saleen Mustang team has recently completed a back-to-back confrontation with the rain and the Chevy’s.

Road-America was the first stop on August 27 for an inaugural appearance for the Escort Endurance Championship. Saleen Autosport also welcomed for an inaugural appearance with the team, two very talented drivers from Brazil. Leon Duarte’ and Fabio Greco joined David Hellweg in the #21 Saleen Mustang. Leon and Fabio are very experienced drivers representing Ford of Brazil in the U.S. “We are delighted to have ‘The Boys from Brazil’ join our group. They are not only very talented and aggressive drivers, but every bit the professional,” said Team Owner, Steve Saleen.

The rain soaked three hour race caused a roll-over crash for one of the Chevy’s and the #21 Saleen Mustang. Neither driver was injured. The two remaining Fords driven by Steve Saleen, Pete Halsmer, Desire’ Wilson and Rick Titus finished in a very hotly contested 3rd and 5th place, keeping a 3 point lead for the Championship.

On to more rain the following weekend in Atlanta, Georgia for the Labor Day 3-hour event. Joining Steve Saleen in the #19 car, George Follmer helped lead the car to 3rd place, while Desire’ Wilson and Rick Titus brought #20 home in 4th. The #21 Saleen Mustang of Fabio Greco and David Hellweg suffered an engine failure on lap 19 after challenging for the lead. Still leading the Championship by 1 point going into a 12 hour event at Mid-Ohio on September 24; the team is preparing for their specialty – a real endurance race. The team will be welcoming many representatives of our sponsors this weekend in a special hospitality area. A Saleen Autosport sponsored Mustang Corral is also part of the very special day.


August 9, 1988 – Boston, Massachusetts – Saleen Autosport introduces the 1989 Saleen Mustang SSC prototype, the newest edition to an already rare breed. This special limited edition of the Saleen Mustang is backed by approximately 300 HP as well as additional high performance capabilities expected of the Saleen Mustang.

The Saleen Mustang SSC, to be produced in the spring of 1989, is the next phase in the Saleen Mustang’s evolution and brings with it a special quality with its refined handling, high horsepower output, very limited production run of 250 and namesake.

Below listed are some of the features that will be available on the Saleen Mustang SSC.


  • 3:55:1 REAR END RATIO
  • GENERAL XP2000Z TIRES P245/50 ZR16 – Rear
  • GENERAL XP2000Z TIRES P225/50 ZR16 – Front
  • Grooved BRAKE ROTORS




ANAHEIM, CA., July 18,1988… Saleen Autosport brought the whole show to town for the Pepsi Grand Prix at Brainerd International Raceway, July 16 and 17. The three Saleen Mustangs were scheduled for a 3-hour event in the SCCA Escort Endurance Series on Saturday and the two Saleen Sportrucks for the Coors Racetruck on Sunday.

The weather was scorching, as was the competition. The #19 Saleen Mustang driven by Steve Saleen and, newcomer to the Saleen team, Kees Nierop finished in third position just seconds out of the lead. The #20 Saleen was only moments behind in fourth place, expertly handled by Lisa Caceres and Desire’ Wilson. The #21 car suffered very early brake problems that caused the car to finish laps down. Rick Titus and David Hellweg, in his very first professional race, drove a very demanding skillful race to bring their Saleen back through the pack.

The Saleen Ford Ranger Sportrucks had a very difficult race the following day but with consistent finishes this year, Steve Saleen is only 13 points out of the Driver’s Championship Title.

Aside from racing, the weekend also included a Saleen Autosport hosted Mustang Corral attended and supported by the Upper Midwest Region Shelby American Automobile Club. Autograph sessions and give-a-ways were highlights for the Club.

The Northland Ford Dealer Association also gathered for the weekend utilizing Saleen Autosport display racing vehicles. Over 500 dealers from the area joined with other Ford enthusiasts to support the General Tire/Ford sponsored race team.

Lime Rock, Connecticut is the next host for the Coors Racetruck Challenge August 6 and Mosport Park near Toronto, Canada will be the next venue for the Saleen Mustangs in a 24-hour race on August 13 and 14.


ANAHEIM, CA., July 11, 1988… The SCCA Escort Endurance Championship took the Saleen Mustangs to Portland International Raceway for the second race of the season on Saturday, June 11.

The driver line-up included Steve Saleen and Pete Halsmer in the #19; Lisa Caceres and Desire’ Wilson in #20; and Rick Titus and Calvin Fish in #21. The cars qualified in the same order in 4th, 5th and 6th position. After challenging for the lead, the #19 Saleen Mustang was soon sidelined with brake problems that could not be remedied in the pit stops. The #20 and #21 car suffered like problems, which cost the team valuable time off the track during the four-hour race. Finishing 3rd, 5th and 6th still keeps the team in a close battle for championship standings going into the next event at Brainerd, Minnesota, July 16.

Meanwhile, the Saleen Sportrucks were being prepared for another street race. This time over the potholes of Niagara Falls, New York on June 25. The #20 Ranger was driven by George Follmer and, remaining with the team for this event, Pete Halsmer took #21. Steve Saleen’s Ranger suffered through the weekend, but did make the inverted grid pole position with George and Pete side-by-side just two rows back.

On lap 2 of the 31-lap race, the forth-placed competitor in a Mitsubishi drove straight into a wall taking Halsmer and Follmer and three other trucks out of the race, due to a very close bump drafting style of the Racetruck Challenge. When the green flag fell again, Saleen had to ask his Ford Ranger for everything it had and more. Despite significant horsepower disparity, he finished second and was also awarded, for the second time this year, the Timex “Speedtrak Move of the Race”. This event is being televised on Sunday, July 17 on the TNN Network, “American Sports Cavalcade”. Look for the action!


BREA, CA., May 10, 1988... The “hunting season” opened for the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship and the Coors Racetruck Challenge on April 23, 1988 at Sears Point International Raceway. Saleen Autosport campaigned three Saleen Mustangs and three Saleen Sportrucks at the opener. After a very competitive start, the #19 Saleen Mustang was sidelined out of first place due to a faulty brake light, Steve Saleen and George Follmer in #19 finished only 25 seconds behind the leader with Desire’ Wilson and Lisa Caceres in #20 in third and Rick Titus and, newcomer to Endurance Racing, Calvin Fish in fourth.

“All three cars led the race at some point during the four hours and all three came back with no damage – a very successful weekend and a great start in the hunt for our second championship”, said Steve Saleen, Team Owner.

Rainy weather aside, the Saleen Autosport sponsored Mustang Corral had a great weekend as well. Classic Mustangs and Saleen Mustang owners from all over Northern California gathered at Sears Point for free prizes, which included a set of General Tires and an Escort Radar Detector provided by Cincinnati Microwave. The group also enjoyed their own parade lap around the racecourse on Saturday afternoon.

The Coors Racetruck Challenge began on Sunday afternoon with the #19 General Tire Ford Ranger driven by Steve Saleen, on the pole. George Follmer and Winston West star, Herschel McGriff drove the #20 and #21 Saleen Sportrucks. With a first lap, first turn crash amongst three trucks, the field bumped and crashed their way for 20 laps. Avoiding the crunch, Steve Saleen was awarded the “Timex Speedtrack Move of the Race Award” and finished fourth. Transmission problems put Follmer in the pits after 11 laps and Herschel McGriff fought a very tough battle to finish 12th.

The trucks move on to the Dallas Grand Prix and Riverside International Raceway right away. The cars will next be seen June 11th at Portland International Raceway for the Rose Cup Week.


FORD MOTOR COMPANY is “Racing into the Future” in 1988 with the Saleen Autosport team. The Saleen Mustangs and Ford Rangers will prove Ford’s performance, endurance and reliability standards in “head to head” competition with General Motors, Porsche, Nissan, BMW, Audis and others.

GENERAL TIRE is returning with the Championship winning “General Tire Performance Team” this year. Saleen Autosport will be their representative in the GT Class and Sportruck class. The Saleen Mustangs will be featuring the XP2000Z and the XP2000V will be choice for the Saleen Sportruck, demonstrating General’s new generation of high performance tires.

MONTGOMERY WARD is entering their second year of motorsports in 1988 to broaden their exposure of their “Auto Express Centers”. Their sponsorship includes the entire General Tire Performance Team in both the SCCA Endurance Series as well as the SCORE/HDRA Off-Road Series

HUNTER ENGINEERING is also returning in 1988 to motorsports promotion. Their support of the Performance Team will help to highlight their quality alignment and balancing equipment, which is also used in the production of the Saleen Mustang and Sportruck street models.

MONROE FORMULA GP SHOCKS AND STRUTS are engineered with individually selected valve components for precision control. Gas-charged Formula GP shocks feature polyurethane bushings for a firmer ride with more control, adding up to a winning performance for the Saleen Mustang and Saleen Sportruck on the track and street.

GNB/CHAMPION BATTERIES are planning a big year with the Performance Team with their new line of quality products for performance vehicles.

WALKER DYNOMAX MUFFLERS significantly reduce exhaust backpressure, which increases flow and horsepower. The Super Turbo and Turbo Tube mufflers help the Saleen Mustang and Saleen Sportruck achieve optimum engine output for championship performance again in 1988.

CHAMPION SPARK PLUG COMPANY is joining Saleen Autosport in their efforts to put the Saleen Mustang and Sportrucks in the Winner’s Circle. As a long-standing supporter of motorsports, Champion and their affiliate, Anco Wiper Blades will make the difference.

MUSTANG TIMES is the Mustang Club of America’s monthly magazine. Its purpose is to report on all aspects of the Mustang hobbies, both past and present. The Mustang Times staff members are enthusiastic supporters of Saleen Autosport’s racing efforts and have signed on as official sponsors for 1988.


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.


BREA, CA. September 16, 1987… Titus, Follmer and Parnelli Jones – legendary names in legendary cars of automotive racing history. All three championship-winning drivers for Ford team up a generation later in a Saleen Mustang to run the 24 Hours at the magnificent Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Saleen Autosport has brought together a team of drivers – the likes of which many of us race fans never expected to see again.

Rick Titus proudly steps in for his father, Jerry Titus, the 1967 Trans Am Champion driving a Ford Mustang prepared by Shelby. As co-leader with Steve Saleen in the Drivers Championship and a Saleen Autosport team driver for two years, Rick will more than expertly fill in for his father to bring the Manufacturers Championship back to Ford in a Mustang chassis.

George Follmer, 1972 and 1976 Trans Am Champion, is a very welcome addition to our “All Star” Mustang driver line up.

Parnelli Jones, not only a 1970 Trans Am Champion, in his Bud Moore prepared Mustang, but a 1963 Indy 500 winner, honors Saleen Autosport and its sponsors in joining us for one of the most important and grueling races of the year on September 25, 26, and 27.

Our driver line up for #19 will be Team Owner, Steve Saleen, Trans Am and Indy star, Pete Halsmer and GTO pilot, Danny May. Saleen Mustang #20 will again be fielded by our most impressive all-woman team of internationally famous, Desire’ Wilson and Hollywood stunt driver, Lisa Caceres. Can Am and current GTU driver Skeeter McKitterick will again be joining the Saleen team with his “fast lane” skills.

The Saleen Mustangs are currently leading the GT category of the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship over the 944S Porsche. With only two races remaining, the #9, #19, and #20 Saleen Mustangs are being prepared for their final tests for 1987.

Saleen Autosport and its sponsors, Ford, General Tire, Montgomery Ward, TRW, Motorcraft, American Racing, Monroe, Hunter Engineering, Team One Ford and Flofit are proud to present our team of drivers to represent their products.

The past meets the future at Mid-Ohio. Saleen Autosport, Ford and General Tire will be there.


BREA, CA. September 15, 1987… After 122 years, Atlanta was on fire again, Saleen Autosport came to town. Bearing 3 Saleen Mustangs and 2 Saleen Sportrucks, the track at Road Atlanta on Sept. 6 & 7 “felt the heat”.

Out of 5 vehicles representing Saleen Autosport and its sponsors, they took home a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th.

In a 6 hour SCCA Escort Endurance race the Saleen Mustang #19 driven Steve Saleen & Rick Titus took 1st, the #20 “ladies team” of Desire’ Wilison & Lisa Caceres took 2nd and newest entry #9 piloted by Trans-Am and Indy star Pete Halsmer and Danny May took 4th. All 3 cars finished on the same lap and all 3 cars led at some point during the 6-hour event.

The Saleen Sportrucks had their best finish yet in the Coors Racetruck Challenge with Steve Saleen, team owner and designer, finishing 3rd in his #20 and Pete Halsmer in the #19 finishing 6th after losing the lead due to an “altercation” with a Nissan and a subsequent flat tire.

The “Saleen March” through the South continued on to Memphis and to the brand new Memphis International Motorsports Park for the 6th round of Coors Challenge on Sept. 12 & 13.

Steve Saleen and Pete Halsmer returned to field #19 & #20 Saleen Sportrucks against the best of the imports. Nissan, Toyota and Jeep had proved to be the fiercest competitors for the Ford Ranger, but the “March through Georgia” kept up the steam through Tennessee and brought home a first win for Ford and General Tire in the new Racetruck series.

The Saleen Sportrucks grabbed a 1-2 lead in the first turn and showed their off shore buddies the rear bumper view the remainder of the race.

Saleen Autosport, Ford, General Tire, and all the associate sponsors are appreciative of the support received by the team at every location across the country. We continue on to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the second 24-hour race of the year. The heat is on!