Wes Duenkel
March 1, 2008

Horse Sense: In 1987, Saleen dithed the stock seats in favor of aftermarket units from FloFit. That company's couches remained a Saleen staple through 1991.

The story of '87 Saleen number 197 is eerily reminiscent of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. One could imagine George Gast in the role of Dr. FrankenSaleen.

The Final Act: In a dimly lit garage, Dr. FrankenSaleen readies his creation. A single light bulb sways slowly from its noose, dragging the doctor's shadow back and forth across the hanging garden utensils. He works nervously, for this night marks the culmination of years of endless searching and patient labor.

His back aches. He's been hunched over this engine compartment for-he's lost track of how long. Could it be days? The empty cans and wrappers are his only reference to the passage of time. He runs down his mental checklist-he doesn't want to forget any important details: fluid levels? Check. Header bolts? Tight. His dirt-stained index finger traces each spark plug wire: 1, 3, 7, 2, 6, 5, 4, 8.

It is time. The doctor nods, and his assistant, Yvonne, slides the key into the ignition switch. "Turn the key!" he commands. One click and the fuel pump gargles, pressurizing the arteries of the monster. Then it ceases. A blanket of eerie silence smothers the beast. Yvonne's right hand quivers, twisting the key ever further until

George Gast's 197 is completely legit, listed in the Saleen registry with him as the owner.

Whir-whir-whir-GrhOOOOoom! Droplets of water spews from the tailpipes as the monster bellows to life. Fresh oxygen rushes into its lungs as the pistons heave with every revolution. Headlights pierce the cracks in the garage door, slicing into the darkness that surrounds the garage.

"It's alive!" exclaims the doctor, turning back to his patient. There are vital signs to check. He retrieves his timing light from the top of the passenger-side fender.

Act 1 began in the fall of 2004 when George "Dr. FrankenSaleen" Gast was on the lookout for an '85- to '93-era Saleen. He had lusted for one ever since he first laid eyes on the whale-tailed Foxes. An eBay search uncovered a large number of Saleen parts that belonged to an '87 Saleen, number 197. "I e-mailed the seller asking about the complete car," George says. "He informed me he was selling parts because it was wrecked. I was fortunate enough to catch him before anything sold. I verified the authenticity with Liz Saleen and drove down to Gainesville, Florida, to see the car."

A TKO gearbox from Tremec and a SPEC Stage 3 clutch transfer all that power to a 3.55 gearset. Hardware for twisty roads consists of the Saleen-spec adjustable KONI dampers, Racecraft springs, rear lower control arms, and subframe connectors, and a 151/48-inch sway bar.

Upon arrival, George evaluated the 197's condition. "Unfortunately, the car was a mess when I found it-it had been in a terrible accident. It was black, and the entire drivetrain had been removed, along with the dashboard, steering wheel, and shifter knob." The Mustang vultures had already paid a few visits. Nonetheless, George was determined to resurrect the car-with or without the toe-tag. The carcass was dragged from beneath a palm tree and loaded onto George's trailer. Next stop: his home in Douglasville, Georgia.

Once unloaded, it was apparent this Saleen's body wasn't even worth a trip to a plastic surgeon. "I contacted a friend with the DMV and he suggested a body rebuild using a donor." Well-chosen words, Doctor. "After saving the rear hatch and wing, driver-side door, and a few other items, I had a certified rebuilder swap everything over to the new body. The DMV verified the work, switched the VIN to the new body, and signed off on the car." With that, Dr. FrankenSaleen gave 197 a new lease on life.

With something straight as a base, the assembly process began. "The interior was completely ruined from baking in the Florida weather, so it came out for full restoration. New upholstery and carpet were installed, and all the panels were removed, cleaned, and painted or replaced. The material for the original FloFit seats is no longer available, so with the help of Marietta Upholstery, we found a material so close that most people can't tell the difference."