Tom Wilson
September 11, 2007
Photos By: E. John Thawley III E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: Where does one get the idea for a personalized custom car color? Molly Saleen figured if her mom, Liz Saleen, had her own color, she could have one too. Liz's color is Lizstick, a lusciously deep red with impossibly bright highlights. It's occasionally seen on Saleen Mustangs, but it's nearly obligatory on the S7 supercar.

In the understatement of the year, Molly says the Molly Pop coupe wears a"pretty intense paint job." It's just the thing if regular Ford paints don't satisfy and you have enough coin for a second car in your Saleen's paint budget. Typically Saleens numbered 10 and below are reserved for family, friends, and promotional vehicles, but even so, we were impressed Molly was able to swing the coveted number 1 serial number. It's also a Saleen tradition that Mustang number 6 is skipped. That was started decades ago when that number was accidentally overlooked and not built.

Here's a question for you, Mr. Macho Mustang Man: Do you boast the stuff to drive this supercharged S281 Saleen Mustang through town? We didn't think so.

But you want to. This mega-dollar, high-power Saleen is a smoking ride, and besides the eye-searing color, it sports the all-glass Saleen Scenic Roof, a short-throw shifting five-speed, and extra tuning by the Saleen factory engineers under the blower hood.

Oh, but the color. That's Molly Pop, the latest in unique Saleen hues available only from the Southern California boutique car builder. Believe us, the color can't be fully captured by photography, even with ace lensman Thawley at the controls. The paint is far too glossy, reflective, metallic, and way too far off the standard color chart for CCD receptors to accurately capture or printing presses to reproduce. Similar to most complex things, Molly Pop is difficult to work with and inherently expensive.

In fact, the color is so unique it's available right now only if you're Molly Saleen, daughter of Steve and Liz Saleen. Next year it will be a regular Saleen option. Regular, that is, if you have the 18 large required.

For now, Molly Pop belongs strictly to Saleen S281-SC number 07-001. That's Molly Saleen's personal car, her daily driver as she heads to work as the store manager at The Saleen Store in the Irvine Spectrum Mall.

Molly ordered the car before '07 Saleen production started. Since she knows people at the company, she was successful in snagging the coveted number-one serial number. She was also happy to get her dad's approval for her special color. Starting at the in-house Saleen paint shop, Molly conferred with the experienced color men there to arrive at eight variations of pink, a color she had always wanted on a Saleen Mustang. Colors were mixed and sprayed on sample panels, which she carried to her dad's office. A notoriously picky detail man, Steve took the samples outside into the sunlight for review. Without any extended drama, they agreed on the color seen here-he's open to new concepts as long as they're exciting-and "Molly Pop" was born. It joins a long and growing list of explosive paints unique to Saleen, as detailed later.

Any girl wanting to bust a big social move should have no trouble with Saleen's new Molly Pop paint. Unique this year to this car-Molly Saleen's daily driver-the color will be a regular Saleen option next year.

Painting the first '07 Saleen meant stripping the starting point Mustang to a bare body shell so the finicky, multi-step paint could be evenly applied to the most remote areas. We spotted the painted unibody in the Saleen factory at this point, which was easy to do. Eyeballing the empty shell emphasized what a massive project a first-class repaint job is.

Along its rebirth as a Saleen Mustang, Molly's S281-SC had all Saleen standard and optional equipment bolted on. The internally stock, or so we assume, Three-Valve V-8 was fitted with Saleen's Series VI twin-screw supercharger and liquid intercooler, as well as Saleen's upgraded cooling package. The usual Saleen spring, bar, and shock suspension was hung, along with the optional Watts link covering the 3.73 geared 8.8-inch differential hosting a Saleen MaxGrip limited-slip. The MaxGrip is a different sort of beast-instead of gears or cones, it uses differential rotation of the axles to power a small oil pump, in turn powering the squeeze applied to a stack of friction plates that resemble a motorcycle or automatic transmission clutch.

Molly was coy in describing her S281-SC's engine. The hardware is standard for a supercharged Saleen, but she says her friends in the engineering department gave the car a few extra horsepower. With a standard rating of 465 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque, we can report the normal Stage VI supercharged Saleen Three-Valve delivers plenty of entertaining thrust.

Inside, the Shaker 500 sound system was upgraded with Saleen's optional Rockford Fosgate package for some serious 150-watt, sub-thumping tunes. The car was covered with the glass Scenic Roof option. Similar to the paint, the Scenic Roof is one of those truly special perks-it's a convertible without the wind and brightens the interior with a softened direct sunlight that really releases our endorphins. In this case, it also keeps the Molly Pop riot contained-if the roof was flaming pink, we're sure the fashion SWAT team would show up with flat black spray cans hissing.

While you're forgiven for not noticing due to the paint shock, Molly's S281-SC is sporting the S281-E Extreme's front splitter and rear diffuser to put more edge on the body lines. The chrome wheels are part of Saleen's regular wheel and tire upgrade packages. They measure 20x9 inches in front and 20x10 inches in back. The tires are ultra-high-performance Pirelli P-Zero Rossas, 275/35ZR-20 in front and 275/40ZR-20 in back. The final option is the Saleen HID headlamps. They employ a single HID lamp and a moving shield to provide low and high beam HID illumination.

If this sounds like a lot of options, it is. In fact, Molly's ride sports everything Saleen offers for a Mustang, short of the all-out 550hp Extreme engine. For those not keeping score, this drives the retail price to hyperventilating levels. Molly says her car would retail for "like $96,000." Our goofing off on the Saleen Web site and clicking the option boxes in the "build" function shows something in the mid-$80,000 range. If you're swinging in this league we're happy for you, but this isn't one of those '65 Mustang pink re-sprays Daddy used to send his girl off to college in.