Let’s say you’re a fan of all-American muscle, and you want to stand out from the legions of other Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger owners prowling the streets. You need presence. You want to intimidate. You won’t be satisfied until you have the ability to instantly vanquish large amounts of fossil fuels with your right foot. Enter Saleen. No mere tuner, Saleen is one of the leading performance houses in the world and they are creating arguably the most fearsome street machines ever sold with a warranty. I took a quick spin through their spotless, near-showroom-quality factory recently and saw where these beasts are born.
Saleen currently produces three different cars: the Saleen 570 Challenger, the Saleen 302 Mustang, and the Saleen 620 Camaro, as well as a handful of special editions. The factory is nestled at the end of a long corporate park in Corona, CA, the access road for which has a peculiar abundance of black tire marks. The cars in the parking lot are driven by employees to shake down new parts.
It’s hard to believe they build cars here, it’s too clean. The facility is basically two assembly lines and it was designed to feel as much like a showroom as it does a factory. The cars come here straight from Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge, brand-spanking new, and are immediately disassembled. Every car is going to get the Saleen visual touch: bumpers, wheels, grills, hoods, interior trim as well as a baseline performance enhancement in the powertrain and suspension. But some cars get entirely new engines and major components that completely takes things to a new level. The orange convertible in the lead image above is undergoing the transformation to a 700+ horsepower monster Saleen 351, the most ridiculous Mustang Saleen has ever made. It gets a whole new 351 cubic inch motor that has been punched out from the 5.4 mod V8, as well as serious braking and suspension upgrades.
Other, slightly less insane packages add supercharged power to the existing 5.0 Coyote engine, but these motors still can churn out 625 horsepower under boost. Incredible.[AdSense-A]
The star of the whole show for me was this George Follmer edition Mustang, #001. For those who don’t know, George Follmer was a legend in the world of Trans Am and road racing in general, who drove in anger some of the most incredible BOSS 302 Mustangs ever built against fellow legends like Sam Posey and Parnelli Jones. Click here to see some photos of the original ’69 Follmer BOSS Mustang tearing up Lime Rock Park last year at the Vintage Festival.
The 5.0 liter Coyote equals 302 cubic inches in displacement which makes it perfect for a tribute to the Trans Am days; the Follmer edition stays naturally aspirated but fully built including camshafts, valve springs, a tuned intake manifold backed up by a free flowing exhaust to achieve 470 horsepower and well over 400 lb/ft of torque. Would you be mad if I told you they fired this beast up for me? They did. It sounded perfect.
There are a ton of cool touches on this car, not the least of which are these gorgeous 20″ retro-modern wheels. Good lord those are special.
Inside the Follmer, more custom touches including custom seat covers and door inserts.
The MT-82 six speed is operated by this custom “GF” shifter.
George Follmer and Steve Saleen’s signatures on the dashboard.
The floormats have a track map of the old Riverside, where George had great success, and secured the Trans Am championship in 1971 (driving an AMC… shhhh.)
Saleen has a tradition of numbering all their cars on the front driver’s side bumper. This is the number you want to see.
In case you have always thought that Saleen was just “some Mustang tuner” it’s hard to ignore this gorgeous red sports car sitting in the corner. That’s Steve Saleen’s personal S7, the supercar he designed and built in 2000 and the track version went on to win four GT championships in 2001. These machines sold for upwards of 400,000+ when new and they are still highly regarded today.
Fun fact: Saleen at one time had OEM manufacturer status. That means they were held to the same Federal standards as any other car manufacturer with regards to safety and quality. Arguably no company has combined an OEM approach to modified production cars as successfully as Saleen.
Sitting in the lobby is another one of Steve’s cars, this time a Mustang GT racer that was campaigned in the American Le Mans series and probably driven by Ron Johnson.
Everywhere you look in Saleen’s facility you see actual motorsports heritage. It’s a killer factory, and if you’re in the Corona area just drop by or give them a call. It’s worth the trip.