Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
2002 Saleen Mustang - Love At First Sight
Jesse Marquez Fell In Love When He First Saw His '02 Saleen Extreme Mustang.
It happens time and again to those in the Mustang hobby. Your pride and joy is wrecked in an accident, or you have to sell it for any number of reasons. It pains you to see her go, but the day comes when you and your Stang have to part ways. Still, the itch to own a high-horsepower ponycar lives on. It sits there inside of you, festering, pestering, until one day, you can't deny that feeling anymore. You just have to have another Mustang.
Finding the perfect steed once during a lifetime is difficult-finding it twice is nearly impossible. Luckily, that wasn't the case for Hayward, California, native Jesse Marquez. Jesse had the Mustang bug deeply embedded in him since he was a teenager, but it took a friend totaling a horse of a different brand to get him back over to the proper side of the fence.
"I've been a Mustang lover since I was 14, and it started with my uncle, who owned a California Edition '91 5.0," Jesse says. "He used to let me wash it for him, and I was hooked. Then my brother got a '66 coupe, and I finally got my first Mustang, a '92 LX convertible 5.0, which I still have."
While he already had his Mustang, Jesse also held the pink slip to a Brand-X fullsize ride that had been totaled. The insurance money he got out of it allowed him to go after another dream car, again with a Pony emblem on it. "At the time, I really wanted an '03 Cobra," he says. "I really had my heart set on one. I was looking for something that would be desirable and could serve as my daily mode of transportation."
As luck would have it, Jesse never did slide behind the wheel of a Terminator. In fact, a chance phone call from a friend set up a blind date between Jesse and an '02 Saleen Extreme Mustang. "[My friend] worked at a local dealer and told me about a Saleen they had, so I went to check it out," Jesse says. "It had everything I wanted, with a tad bit more power, and it was a rarer car. I like collectible cars, and when I found out it was one of only 54 built, and one of four with the options it had, I didn't hesitate. To be honest, I'm happy I didn't get the Cobra. I go to car shows, and those cars are like a dime a dozen. You don't see too many Saleen Extreme cars there."
Jesse happily plunked down his hard-earned Benjamins and motored home. At first, he was content to leave well enough alone. That was until he got hooked up with the crew from CA-Mustangs. "I loved going to car shows, but I wanted the car to get more attention," Jesse says. "I was hanging out with everyone from the car club, and all of them had Mustangs that were heavily modified, so I knew it was my turn to do the same. I wanted to keep the car original, so every modification I made was not to the original part. In fact, I have all of the original parts put aside in case I return the car to stock one day. You know how it is, though. Once you start modifying the car, you never stop."
Jesse began the modifications from the inside, then moved out, around, and under the Stang. The leather-clad interior remained as Saleen intended it to be, though a set of Recaro chairs replaced the original buckets. A Saleen 200-mph speedometer and white-faced gauges made their way into the instrument panel, and a twin-gauge pod stocked with Saleen boost and intercooler temp gauges was fabbed up as well.