5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
2008 Saleen S302 Extreme - Extremely Civilized
Saleen backs up the body kits and flashy paints with a Mustang of true performance substance
Saleen has been owned by Hancock Park, an investment and holding firm, for approximately four years. Until late spring of 2007, Hancock Park remained in the background to outside observers behind company founder and front man Steve Saleen. When Steve left the company, along with engineering head Bill Tally, designer Phil Frank, and others, Hancock Park stepped into a more visible position.
In the summer of 2007, Hancock Park bought American Sunroof Company and has since combined the management of Saleen and ASC using mainly ASC personnel. After evaluating and reorganizing Saleen throughout the summer and early fall of 2007, the new regime made its public debut with a press introduction of the '08 Saleen model line. Held at the former MCAS El Toro--another proud entity undergoing fundamental change (the runways being pounded by ploughshares to twist a phrase)--the press intro was our chance to meet with Saleen/ASC President and CEO Paul Wilbur, Saleen General Manager Marques McCammon, Vice Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Chris Theodore, Saleen Powertrain Lead Rob Simon, and Saleen Chassis and Dynamics Engineering Lead Derk Hartland.
While it was our pleasure to meet Paul and Marques for the first time, Chris was familiar from his previous career at Ford, where he had a lot to do with bringing the Ford GT to fruition. Likewise, Rob and Derk are old friends with years of Saleen employ under their belts.
Many changes have taken place, not the least being the shift of all production to Saleen's Troy, Michigan, facility. This will contain shipping costs and make best use of Troy's up-to-date production facilities.The plant also installs Saleen superchargers on Ford's Harley Davidson F-150 as an OEM vendor, along with painting and sub-assembling the Dodge Viper SRT-10 for Chrysler.
Saleen engineering continues at the Irvine, California, headquarters, which seems empty now that it houses just engineering, the small S7 build team, the pranksters in the fabrication shop, and headquarters staff. No Mustang or truck production remains in Irvine, although Saleen service, modification and prototyping activities remain. Saleen will remain in the current Irvine building, but will no doubt retain a California presence in a smaller, more rationally sized building when it's time to leave 76 Fairbanks.
Saleen management positions the brand as "America's premiere niche car manufacturer" and vows to "under promise and over deliver." Its message is of "reawakening" and "a new vision."
That new vision was summed in the press materials: "We remain true to the careful balance and integration of Saleen products, but we are raising the bar: creating the one true American exotic automotive designer and manufacturer. Now, we are free to pursue this audacious but well-in-reach goal.
"Saleen is no longer the vision of one man--it is the collective passion of each employee," the press release concludes. Our thought is Saleen is headed upmarket, similar to the migration Porsche made from curio sports car maker to exotic marque decades ago.
As for Steve Saleen, he's no longer associated with, represents, or has any position in the company that bears his name. Currently, he's involved in importing Chinese cars and trucks into the U.S., an effort that hasn't quite reached the publicity spotlight, but will soon. This is keeping him fully occupied, but having known Steve for 20 years, we don't believe he's left high-performance cars behind forever.