Tom Wilson
February 17, 2008
Photos By: Jerry Heasley
Shelby or Saleen? Randy Fontenot's GT 500 looks a bit of both thanks to a complete Saleen SC body kit. At front, the Saleen face is set by the SC bumper, hood, and HID headlights; it's a personality familiar and different at the same time.

Horse Sense: Modest of his collecting habit and still in awe of his good fortune, Randy Fontenot was adamant we give all the credit to Carlos Duran, Sean Saleen, and especially Steve Saleen, saying the car never would've happened without his approval.

Luck. Some people think it just happens, others believe they make their own. Randy Fontenot would probably agree with both points of view. After Randy suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident, Hurricane Rita crushed his house with a pair of oak trees. He knows about stuff just happening.

Randy also knows about making good decisions. While Rita was thrashing his house into matchsticks-a hurricane-bred tornado did the actual totaling job-Randy and his wife were safely at his mom's house. They had traveled there to get out of the storm's path, so we'd say Randy made his own good luck that time. And as any married man can tell you, listening to your wife-she had insisted on getting out of the hurricane's way-is always good luck and certainly a good policy.

Strictly Saleen are the signature Saleen center exhaust and biplane wing. Both have been Saleen identification signatures since the mid '90s.

Accident aside, Randy has made some good luck in the automotive field as well. As a retired salesman, he has always been a car enthusiast, but like most of us, his dream cars stayed out of reach for decades. Dreams cars do that, but after some Mustang Cobra purchases, eventually Randy bought a new '03 Saleen S281 SC.

While the Saleen designation doesn't show it, this was 1 of 11 S281s built from Mustang Cobras in 2003. The Four-Valve cars have always been a Saleen offering, something few folks know and fewer yet have taken advantage of. In Randy's case, his car was one of six Cobra-based Saleen coupes built in 2003 (the other five were convertibles). Most interested in collecting and showing his cars, Randy had his car autographed by Steve Saleen and John Coletti, the head of SVT at the time.

Unfortunately, when Rita came crashing down, Randy's insurance money helped, but it wasn't enough to rebuild. He found himself forced to sell the special Saleen to replace his house. That was bad luck.

Saleen didn't have the time or parts to develop its screw supercharger for the GT 500, so the powertrain on Randy's car remains completely stock. He would've loved extra power, but he said he's even happier Saleen didn't force experimental engine mods. It's one reason why he's such a Saleen fan-it makes only completely engineered improvements.

Then Randy made some good luck. Having always wanted a Shelby since the originals in the '60s, Randy went straight to his Ford dealer when the Shelby GT 500s were announced in 2004 and took his place at the head of the line. He was determined to have a Shelby, and being an experienced car trader and collector, Randy hammered out a deal and he put down a deposit. He only did that with the stipulation that he would not pay more than list price for the as-yet unseen Shelby.

Horse trader, indeed. The negotiating dealership went out of business before Randy received his GT 500, and the dealership that bought out the original store's business, nice guys that they are, agreed to honor Randy's contract and sell him his GT 500, but at only a $15,000 premium as someone had offered them $25,000 over list. Now, Randy may pay market rates for a seafood dinner, but not a GT 500 when he has a contract in hand for list price. After standing his ground, the dealership relented.

As you can imagine, Randy was a happy man. His white Shelby was the car he had been wanting for four decades. And thanks to his good luck, he owned one.

Randy is especially fond of Saleen's rear treatment. It reminds him of the old Plymouth Barracuda with Shelby's later classic treatments. The rear-window slats are straight from the Saleen-Parnelli Jones or Heritage body kits depending on how you want to label them.

Randy is also a huge Saleen fan. Give him half a chance, and he gushes over Saleen and its special place in the Mustang world. Obviously he loved and missed his Cobra-based S281 SC, and so he approached Saleen about a performance package for his GT 500.

As Randy's luck would have it, Saleen was re-energizing its aftermarket program, and Randy's GT 500 was an ideal post-production project. Not only did Saleen agree to take on the GT 500 as a development project, but it was free of charge.

Wow. Free car upgrades, especially what Saleen rates as $18,000 worth, just don't happen. In Randy's case, he was a previous Saleen customer and through his contacts had helped Saleen set up two dealerships in Louisiana in years past. As Saleen's aftermarket manager Carlos Duran told us, Randy's past association with Saleen, as well as his timing in providing just the right car for modification when Saleen was looking for a promotional vehicle to pump its aftermarket program are what made the cha-ching ring in Randy's favor.

Randy's car continues the signature theme with Carroll Shelby's moniker here, but the car is signed in numerous unorthodox places, including the differential where the tech that installed the Watt's link left his mark.

While a Saleen supercharger change was originally envisioned, this didn't happen as the manifolding and other work necessary to fit the Saleen screw-type supercharger to the GT 500's Four-Valve heads proved too much this time around. What Saleen did fit was its SC bodywork with a few mods, including Heritage rear window louvers and painting the side stripes instead of relying on a vinyl kit. Furthermore, the hood and wing were painted to match the GT 500's standard white color.

Underneath, Saleen springs, struts, front sway bar, rear shocks, rear springs, and Watts link replaced the stock parts. These were highlighted by a set of white Saleen five-spoke 20x9 and 20x10-inch wheels. The crowning touch was Saleen's HID headlight upgrade. Transportation between Randy's Louisiana home and Saleen's Irvine, California, site was accomplished by Saleen's usual enclosed transport, a good thing as Randy's main goal for the Shelby is car shows and the necessary blemish-free presentation that entails.

From straight ahead, Randy's GT 500 could easily pass as an S281 Saleen, except for the water-to-air charge cooler lurking behind the fascia.

To date, Randy has put precious few miles on his special "Shaleen" as we came to call his car around our offices. The machine had just over 17 miles on it when it arrived from the Ford dealership, with only transportation miles showing when it went in the semi to California for its Saleen Speedlab modifications.

Randy says he's saving up for a truck and trailer to shuttle his one-off creation, but in the meantime, he drives it to several local shows. None are more than 20 miles away, so this is one odometer that won't ever get dizzy.

Until Randy can swing that truck and trailer, his unique Mustang will remain a local celebrity. After that, we expect a much wider audience will appreciate this one-off confluence of Ford, Shelby, and Saleen history. As for Randy, we have only one wish: Good luck.

Randy Fontenot's GT 500 is a Shelby with Saleen modifications. Built and registered as a Shelby, this now one-off car was modified by Saleen as an aftermarket special. Thus it was not assigned a Saleen serial number-that's for production Saleens only. It fits in the Saleen hierarchy as a Speedlab-modified car. "Rare" best describes this shot of Randy motoring his Shelby-Saleen hybrid. Wanting to keep mileage as low as possible and exhibiting far more restraint than us, he has driven his one-off GT 500 only to a few local shows. A collector, Randy intends to trailer his rarity as soon as he replaces the truck and trailer he was forced to sell to rebuild his house.

As with the underhood, the interior vista of Randy's car is familiar to anyone who's been around GT 500s. Purely stock Shelby, it's definitely a good view. Randy Fontenot says he's "you know, just a Cajun," but his string of Mustang Cobra and Saleen Mustangs says he's maybe more of a cagey Cajun. A confirmed collector and car show fan, Randy is keeping his one-of-a-kind Shelby strictly for display. His favorite comment about the car is, "It's a dream come true."

Founded in the later '90s as the racing arm of Saleen as the Saleen/Allen Speedlab (Hollywood's Tim Allen had money to spend then), the Saleen Speedlab name has long since been applied to Saleen's aftermarket parts division.

In recent years, the Speedlab bumped along without much interest from the main Saleen organization, but that all changed according to Speedlab Sales Manager Carlos Duran. He says the Saleen board of directors recognizes the huge sales potential of Saleen-branded aftermarket parts and wants Carlos to make them happen.

Look for the expected Saleen Mustang and S331 truck parts, along with assemblies such as superchargers and complete engines. Carlos also says the Saleen retail store will be reconfigured to emphasize retails sales-our recent story on store manager Molly Saleen had barely hit print when she left the company. More such stores and Speedlab Centers (service shops) are planned around the nation. The main Speedlab Center and R&D facility will remain in Irvine, California, while Saleen production cars and trucks are now all being built at the Troy, Michigan facility.

Keep in mind that Speedlab Centers aren't limited to Ford products, but are free to install any part on any vehicle it believes is in keeping with Saleen standards.

Randy asked to have everyone who worked on the car to sign it, and they were happy to oblige. Most of the crew-18 of them-made their mark on the radiator shroud, but there are other signatures on the Watt's link and underneath the car behind the right rear bumper. Steve Saleen signed in his customary spot along the dashboard, which was one of the last times he signed a Saleen while still at the company on a daily basis.

As part of the parts sales push, Carlos says Saleen will remain active in its traditional road racing role, and add a more grassroots drag racing arm in Fun Ford Weekend, as well as likely NMRA and World Ford Challenge events.

Expect continued Speedlab emphasis on supercharging. Saleen has enjoyed strong aftermarket Mustang blower sales because its kits are packaged for easy installation, come nearly fully assembled, are cost competitive, and carry a warranty-an especially popular selling point. Even though the Saleen blower kits aren't engineered for over-the-top power, they've definitely carved a meaningful notch in the market.

Thus, "We might have a supercharger for everything shortly," says Carlos. They already have the Harley pickup blower, which has been adapted to the Navigator and Expedition as the Speedlab works its way through the complete Ford truck line.

Carlos confirmed the Speedlab is working on a new blower. It's the same twin-screw supercharger, but packaged to incorporate a Shaker hoodscoop. Just the thing for PJ and Classic Design people who'd love to go blower but don't want to give up their Shaker or change their hood. Preorders will be taken on this system in late winter of '08 with parts showing up next summer for those interested.

5.0 Tech specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINA-arms
BlockStock
Stock IronCaster/Camber
DisplacementStock
281ci, 5.4 litersStruts
Cylinder HeadsSaleen Racecraft
Stock Four-ValveSprings
Power AdderSaleen Racecraft
Stock Eaton Hybrid RootsWheels
IntercoolerSaleen, 20x9-in
Stock air-to-waterTires
ExhaustPirelli
StockBrakes
Fuel SystemStock 14-in Brembo
Stock 
TransmissionRear Suspension
Stock six-speed manualSprings
 Saleen Racecraft
ELECTRONICSShocks
Engine ManagementSaleen Racecraft
StockControl Arms
IgnitionStock
StockWheels
GaugesSaleen, 20x10-in
StockTires
 Pirelli
SUSPENSION AND CHASSISBrakes
Front SuspensionStock
K-member 
Stock