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.

Sporting an S281-E front spoiler and rear diffuser, Molly's ride is also unique in the body panel category. Aside from that, the rest of the body is pure S281 Saleen.

In case you're wondering, no, we haven't driven Molly's car. It doesn't match our gray beard, and we've already driven a representative of every Saleen street vehicle ever built except the Extreme. Besides, it's Molly's personal driver. It's something of an unexpected challenge for her. The car is a real whip, of course, so it's a blast to pedal, but people's reaction can make ownership a busy experience. On the highway Molly says she gets "totally paranoid" over the squadrons of rubber-neckers and their cell phone cameras swooping around her rear quarters. She's constantly worried they'll drive right into her, an understandable fear we can confirm from years of driving wildly attractive cars. People hover around you on the freeway, sitting in your blind spot for 15 minutes, mouths drooping and brains freewheeling. After a while you wish they'd just buzz off, but instead someone invented cell phone cameras, so now they drive with one hand on the wheel, the other desperately trying to hold their cell phone steady and their brains split between maintaining directional control and shooting the next National Geographic cover.

Saleen's regular wheel finish is a satin aluminum, but with Molly Pop, the chrome wheel option was a given. Saleen has been offering a couple of upgrade wheel and tire packages. The wheels can be chromed, and several ultra-high-performance tires are available.

Once at work, Molly parks her car in front of The Saleen Store and the experience continues. "I can't keep the women off it." Taking temporary leave of the social contract, women literally lay across the car to have their photo taken-again, typically by a cell phone camera. Considering Molly Pop is layered from roughly 30 clearcoats and numerous base, tint, color, and metallic coats and therefore can't be retouched, the fear of deep scratches can cause hives.

To be honest, everything considered, the attention is fun, especially for a young snap like Molly. Her plans for the car center on daily street driving, but she's planning on one competitive event: the cross country Cannonball Rally. She'll ship her Saleen to Miami and wheel it back to Los Angeles, aiming for the mandated 61-mph average and enjoying the parties at night. The event includes a single track day event, so the car will see some track action along the way.

So guys, if you want to attract gals, forget the polished supercharger. Just have Saleen color your world, and the gals will be leaping onto your hood. If you have the stuff for it, that is.

Fast Palette
Porsche offers an excellent test gauge of how color can elevate a car company. Through the '60s, Porsche was a boutique sports car builder for enthusiasts in the know. They were pricey, but not so much a dedicated enthusiast couldn't reasonably aspire to own one. Silver, of course, was the popular color.

In 1973, Porsche supplied 911 coupes for the Inter-national Race of Champions, with those 12 cars painted in Easter egg colors. The daring paint carried over to Porsche's street cars, which became hugely visible and soon backed up by blazing turbo models. Porsche was moving on to exotic status and its current reputation for huge performance and equally elevated prices.

It's similar with Saleen. Appearance has always been a Saleen strong suit. With a longtime association with BASF, the company has pushed the envelope in what automotive paint can be. Currently there are nine Saleen-specific colors, each with an indescribable contradiction of deep, almost dark color, a silvery sheen, sparkling highlights, and impossibly deep gloss. Equivalent to enameled fishing lures in their depth, color, and specular highlights, they're brash, yet sophisticated. Other good descriptions are "iridescent feel" or "glitter," and they all pop in sunlight.

Much about these colors are trade secrets, but in general, each requires a basecoat, several color coats, an application of trick metallics, and many clearcoats. Some colors, such as the new Molly Pop, aren't particular about the basecoat. Molly says her car started out as Torch Red from Ford. Other colors require a specific basecoat. Most are sensitive to the number of coats and require considerable skill on the painter's part-wet color looks completely different than the dry colors covered with metal and what seems to be an inch of clearcoats. Typically, the more color coats, the darker the hue; Lizstick, for example, picks up a distinct black look if there's too much color.

Of course, matching these paints is impossible, so work must be done in batches and collision or heavy scratch repair requires a complete respray.

As you may have guessed, these unique Saleen colors are expensive. The materials are costly and a lot is used, so the work must be done correctly the first time around. Specialized skill is required and people pay for the exclusivity. Pricing is $18,000 except for Rainbow, which is $20,000. That's just for the paint job-not the entire car.

Once painted, it pays to take special care to avoid damage. The paints are UV resistant, but they motivate owners against parking lot dings and other accidents. For the company's part, all the cars are shipped in enclosed trailers; the rest is up to the owners.

The nine special Saleen paints regularly available for2007 are:*Black Metallic*Beryllium*Lizstick*Pearl White *Saleen Extreme Rainbow Paint *Saleen S7 SilverSpeedlab YellowTrilogy SilverVictory BlueTwo new colors, Molly Pop and Liquid Mercury-a very special silver-have been applied to a total of four '07 Saleens, but both will be regular options for 2008. The Liquid Mercury Saleens include Liz Saleen's S331 pickup and a pair of S281 program cars.

The first time we saw Molly working a Saleen event, it was from a distance, and we momentarily confused her with her mom-who shares her long blonde hair and fair skin. Molly has put her own stamp on the The Saleen Store, and she seems poised to extend that mark with new goods and stores.

Miss Molly
For years, Saleen the company was Steve and Liz Saleen. Steve was everywhere in the young startup, of course, but his wife Liz was very active as well. She handled most of the public relations, as well as incredible hours-24 hours nonstop was typical for the enduros-as the Saleen racing team timer. Recently, Liz ran the Saleen registry and kept track of the 12,000 Saleen vehicles that have been sold.

While Liz has retired from active participation in the company, her daughter Molly has taken an active role. A 2005 USC honors graduate in psychology with a minor in pre-law, Molly joined Saleen after graduation while working part-time at a law firm. When The Saleen Store was coming together, Molly concentrated on the new retail outlet. She quit her law job and is now the general manager of The Saleen Store, a job she's taken to with impressive skill, her father says.

While running the store is demanding, Molly finds time for her boyfriend, the nearby beach, and the occasional foray to Las Vegas. Still, the store is her focus, and we're sure its success is largely due to her efforts. She says The Saleen Store has surpassed all expectations for sales and visibility. She reports no one class of Saleen product dominates the store's activity; apparel, accessories, hard parts, and cars all sell well. In May 2007, no fewer than 14 Saleens were sold through the store (several mega-dollar S7s sold through the store in its first few months). Hard parts, mainly for Mustangs, are a quick mover as well. Customers can drop their cars off for valet delivery to Saleen's main facility a few miles away, or take them directly to the factory and enjoy a tour while their parts are installed. Those customers typically purchase superchargers.

Molly says her customers come from all around the United States. It's typical for people to stop in the store on their way to Disneyland or another major attraction. Furthermore, the Irvine Spectrum Mall assures a steady stream of traffic, augmenting the visiting car clubs and touring individual enthusiasts.

Molly finds the apparel business especially interesting, and plans on offering her own clothing under the www.molly-pop.com banner. Her other passion is opening more Saleen stores. Look to Las Vegas as the next likely location.





The standard Saleen interior is brightened considerably by the all-glass Scenic Roof option. We've tried this roof on a couple of test cars and have really enjoyed it. It's tinted and treated just enough to keep the blazing summer sun at bay, but the air conditioner still sees considerable use. We might not go for the fish bowl effect in Phoenix, Houston, or Miami, but wouldn't hesitate in any northern clime.





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5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
BlockFRONT SUSPENSION
Aluminum 4.6Springs
Cylinder HeadsSaleen Racecraft
Ford 3-ValveStruts
INtake ManifoldSaleen Racecraft
Saleen Stage VI superchargedBrakes
CamshaftsSaleen 4-piston, ABS w/14-in slotted and
Fordvented front rotors
Power AdderWheels
Saleen Stage VI twin-screwSaleen chrome 5-spoke 20x9-in
ExhaustTires
Saleen stainless steelPirelli P-Zero Rossas, 275/35ZR-20
Fuel PumpREAR SUSPENSION
FordSprnigs
Fuel InjectorsSaleen Racecraft
FordShocks
TransmissionSaleen Racecraft
5-speed manualWheels
RearendSaleen chrome 5-spoke 20.10-in
8.8-in, 3.75gears, Saleen MazGripTires
limited-slipPirelli P-Zero R ossas, 275/40ZR-20
Brakes
ELECTRONICSSaleen
Engine ManagementTraction Devices
Saleen Power FlashFord 3-link w/Saleen Watts link
Ignition
Ford
Gauges
Saleen faced w/200-mph speedometer, twin
gauge pod w/charge cooler temp. boost
pressure