Frank H. Cicerale
December 1, 2007
Photos By: Peter S. Linney
Molly's Saleen showcases 20-inch chrome five-spoke rims shod in Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires, setting off the pink hue just that much more.

In 1986, the Saleen brand and its flagship, the Saleen Mustang, were a mere two years old. The head of the newly founded Saleen Autosport, founder and then-chairman Steve Saleen, used his racing experience to turn the new Fox-body Mustang into a car that felt at home both on the street and at the track. Sporting different bodywork fore and aft, as well as a "whale-tail" rear spoiler ( la Porsche 911), mesh rims, and a host of other goodies, the Saleen Mustangs looked every bit the part of a road-race car-best of all, you could pick one up at specified Ford dealerships. Inside, there were Saleen-specific enhancements such as gauges and a racy steering wheel. Throw in a Racecraft suspension and the ever-popular serial numbering, and the Saleen Mustang quickly became a desirable machine on its own.

While Steve was getting Saleen onto its feet and on its way to being one of the most iconic companies in Mustang history, he and his wife, Liz, were raising their young daughter, Molly. At the same time, teenagers were hitting the movie theaters to check out a new movie in which a poor high school girl named Andie falls in love with a "richie" named Blaine, while her best friend, Duckie, swoons over her. The movie was Pretty in Pink, and the girl playing the character Andie was none other than arguably the '80's biggest teenage actress, Molly Ringwald.

Fast forward some 20 years, and while Molly Ringwald is just a tick under the big 4-0, Molly Saleen is a recent college graduate in her 20s, making her own version of Pretty in Pink with every jaunt in her Saleen S281-SC Mustang.

Why all of this talk about pink, you ask? One glance at Molly's ride and you'll have the hot-pink iridescent answer. Behind every car is a story, though, and Molly's is no different. To tell the tale of this explosive Mustang is to tell the tale of Molly Saleen and her famous father.

Molly got her car from her parents upon graduating from the University of Southern California, and it's one of the most unique Saleens ever. "I graduated from USC as a psychology major and a law minor, and started working at a law firm as well as at the Saleen Store," Molly says. While she could've had a career helping us MM&FF staffers deal with our car obsessions and getting out of speeding tickets, Molly wanted to go her own route, both in life and with her ride. "My parents let me make my own decisions and go my own direction, and that was why I worked at both the law firm and at the Saleen Store after graduation."

With Molly's last name being Saleen, she pretty much had the pick of the litter when it came time to option out her Mustang. One of the items she went with was the Scenic Roof option. Not wanting to deal with a windy convertible, but knowing she wanted an open-air feel to her Saleen, the Scenic Roof was the perfect compromise.

Eventually, though, Molly's passion for the Saleen Mustang and racing overwhelmed her desire to stay in the law field. "I've always been passionate about the family, the brand, and about racing," Molly explains. "That's why I went in the direction I did."

That direction was manager of the Saleen Store. Around the same time, her father retired, leaving many to question what would happen to the company. "A lot of customers were concerned when Dad left," Molly says. "That's why it helps being the manager of the Saleen Store. Customers see me and recognize me as his daughter. I wasn't handed the job because I am his daughter, though. I worked hard to get this position."

Liz and Steve are no longer involved in the company, but they still have an influence on how Molly maintains her role within Saleen and those surrounding her. "My dad has always been my mentor, and my mom has always been supportive," she says. "That's why I am able to do something I have wanted to do for myself."

Being in the public eye and holding the position she does with the company meant that her own Saleen would have to make just as huge of an impact as the first one did back in 1984

Molly wanted a pink car that would stand out from all the rest of the Mustangs out there. Since mom, Liz, had her own color, Molly figured it would only be right to come up with one, too. The iridescent hot-pink color fits right in with the rest of the Saleen paint lineup.

As you can see, Molly is a big fan of the color pink. Since her mom already had a paint color named for her (Lizstick, which is a vibrant red), Molly wanted her own shade. The result is what you see here. "It's my favorite shade of pink," Molly says. "I wanted the car to be magenta or hot pink, but with some iridescence to it as well."

How did dear old Dad take to the color? "At first, he thought it was pretty dramatic, but he liked it," Molly says. "He wasn't too sure how so much pink would look on the car, though. I had the paint crew come up with a few samples, and my dad and I picked out the color that the paint guys aptly dubbed 'Molly Pop.' After that, the car moved into production."

In addition to choosing the color of her one-off Mustang (which bears the number 001), Molly also chose the Scenic Roof option offered by Saleen. "I went with it for a couple of reasons," she says. "I love convertibles, but I don't like having my hair blown around. With the color pink I chose, it would be a bit overboard on a hardtop. The Scenic Roof is the best of both worlds, and it's nice because it lets the light in like a convertible without having to deal with the wind. Plus, it looks really cool when it rains."

Molly had the engineers go over the Mustang's Three-Valve mod motor inside and out. The result is a supercharged powerplant tipping the horsepower scales at 500. Sitting on top of the 4.6L engine is a (you guessed it) Saleen twin-screw supercharger. The blower comes complete with a two-stage water-to-air intercooler for maximum efficiency and power.

With the color and body style settled upon, the car was fitted into the S7 production line to be finished-but don't think for one second that Molly wasn't an integral part of the car's build. "During the buildup process, I was constantly checking on the progress of the car with the engineers. As far as the performance upgrades went, though, I let them know it was in their hands."

The engine mods started with the stock Three-Valve powerplant, which had its innards replaced with Saleen-specific components. A forged-steel crank has forged-steel connecting rods swinging from it, while a set of forged-aluminum pistons are slung up and down the eight-cylinder walls. The rest of the powerplant, such as the camshafts and heads, were left stock, though the induction and exhaust portions of this modern-day teenage movie were enhanced with some crafty film editing. Topping the mod mill is a Stage VI integrated twin-screw supercharger that came complete with a two-stage water-to-air intercooler. A Saleen high-flow inlet tube and airbox, a 98mm MAF, and the company's stainless 2.5-inch variable exhaust system allow the modular powerplant to thump out a thundering 500 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. There's no wimpy automatic for Molly here, either. Backing the blown mod mill is a Saleen-worked, five-speed stick complete with one of the company's short-throw shifters. The rearend is fortified with a set of 3.73 gears and Saleen's MaxGrip differential.

While Molly's ride sports a full complement of S281 bodywork, it does have the carbon-fiber front splitter and rear diffuser normally found on the S281-E.

The underpinnings of the S197 can trace its roots back to the Saleen Mustangs of lore. The front suspension showcases the Saleen Racecraft system, which consists of MacPherson struts with lower control arms, linear-rate coilover springs, and a 1.38-inch tubular antiroll bar. The rear of the car features a Watt's linkage-style suspension system. The live-axle rear is located by three links plus the Watt's system, and is also aided by a pair of linear-rate springs and a smaller 0.79-inch tubular antiroll bar. The final credit goes to the braking system, which is made up of Saleen four-piston calipers and front-specific 14-inch slotted and vented rotors.

Even though Molly enjoys the power and subsequent clutch depression needed for each gear change with the manual tranny, she wanted to be comfortable behind the wheel. A pair of Saleen sport seats with louvered headrests replaced the factory chairs, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. A Saleen-designed dash with custom dash vents and bezels went in next, along with the 200-mph speedometer; black-faced gauges; and the dashboard-mounted, twin-gauge pod. Rounding out things in the looks department of the tinted cabin are Saleen-specific driving pedals, a shifter knob, doorsill plates, custom floor mats, and the Saleen-badged steering wheel and serialized dash plaque. The Shaker 500 stereo system was removed and replaced with a Rockford Fosgate "Punch" 12-inch long-throw subwoofer that gets juice from a 150-watt amp housed in a custom-contoured box.

The exterior upgrades consist mostly of tried-and-true S281 panels. The front fascia and grille link up with the rear fascia, center body panels, and rear spoiler and end caps for the S281 look. Since the car features the blower, it gets the supercharger-specific aluminum hood with heat ventilation ducts. The difference between Molly's S281 and the others lie in the fact that her S281-SC is equipped with the front spoiler and rear diffuser normally seen on the S281-E. Finalizing the look is the rolling stock, which consists of 20x9 front and 20x10 rear Saleen forged five-spoke rims shod in Pirelli P-Zero Rosso shoes, P275/35ZR20s in the front and P275/40ZR20s in the rear.

When the car was unveiled in front of the Saleen Store, everybody, including Molly, was taken back by the finished product. "The car had a great reception," Molly says. "It was delivered to the Saleen Store, and when I saw it, I freaked. I didn't expect the car to be that dramatic. All of the guys have respect for it, and everyone from all age groups ask where the paint came from. I get more women taking photos of the car, but the guys like it and come to see it also."

Just because the car looks good doesn't mean that Molly won't whip things up. In fact, she just finished competing in the Great America Run, where she drove from Miami to Los Angeles. "I raced with 200 other cars, and I had the fastest time," she says. "The idea is to maintain a 61-mph average, and I averaged 91 mph." Oops!

"I am starting to do my own thing and develop my own apparel line, appropriately called Molly Pop," she says. "The apparel will be women's fashion combined with a race theme, almost like a Bebe Sport. This has always been a hobby and passion of mine, and when I finally started working full-time at the Saleen Store, I made more and more contacts that allowed me to become involved with that industry and start up my own line."

Being the daughter of a Mustang icon has its good points and bad points. "As for my last name, it and my car allow me to meet a lot of people and get invited to a lot of parties and events," Molly says. "You'll always get people who want to hang out with you because of your last name, but by the same token, you also have people who are pretty down to earth."

One thing that's obvious in Molly's life is her feelings towards her Saleen. "I love everything about the car-the power, the color, and of course, the fact that it's named after me," she says. "For now, this is my baby. I don't plan on getting another Saleen Mustang, but I do foresee getting a Molly Pop S7." Sounds like the recipe for a summer blockbuster. All it needs is a marketing campaign shrouded in tire smoke.