Brad Bowling
June 21, 2010

Sanyo and Kenwood stereo cassette systems were offered throughout '85 as options, but the Sanyo radios were phased out early in the year. The original '84 package was applied to the '85 cars built in Brodie's work bays with only a few exceptions.

The suspension, bodywork, and interior enhancements were carryovers from '84, except for a late change involving the vendor for the air dam and other aerodynamic pieces. In November, toward the end of Saleen's time at the Brodie shop, he replaced the three-piece fiberglass air dam from Spoilers Plus with a three-piece urethane part from A&A Specialties and went from the '84 "big wing" spoiler to a slightly smaller model.

Production went smoothly at Brodie's, but too slowly for Saleen's aspirations. Even as the first '85s were being shipped to dealers, he was working out details for a move to southern California. He decided to relocate his operation to the Burch Ford dealership in La Habra, a larger facility closer to his parts suppliers.

The new production facility at Burch Ford was actually the dealership's paint and body shop, located a block away from the main lot. Three stalls were dedicated to Saleen's enterprise, and there was ample room outside for a fenced-in area to house LXs and occasional GTs as they awaited conversion.

With production capacity problems solved, Saleen's next step was to hit the road to make sales calls at Ford dealerships around the country. Creativity being one of his strong suits, Saleen came up with a unique way to keep travel costs low-he signed on with Bob Bondurant to work on Ford's dealer training program for its new Merkur line. In early 1985, Ford was making every effort to support the 800 dealers who had signed on to sell its imported Merkur franchise. Saleen's role was to fly to different locations around the country, where he would spend the morning showing the Merkur to potential buyers and dealers. Once his obligations were met for the day, he spent the rest of the afternoon visiting Ford dealers and district offices to pitch his Saleen Mustang.

Although Saleen never visited Skyline Ford in Floyd, Virginia, during his Merkur training, a letter he sent to George Spangler's father resulted in the sale of 85-0053, a white five-speed hatchback with blue stripes and gold 15x7-inch Hayashi rims. George, who was working in his father's service department when the Saleen arrived in March 1985, immediately claimed the Mustang as his own. He was so happy with the Saleen package that Skyline would certainly have ordered a few more had the dealership not caught fire a few weeks later. The good news is that a mechanic drove the Saleen to safety, even as smoke poured out of the dealership garage.

Perhaps overly cautious about his car's safety, George parked the Saleen with his '65 Mustang convertible, '69-'70 Mach 1s, and Torino Talladega while he worked off his driving energy on the local racing scene.

"I thought it would someday be like a Shelby," Spangler said. "As it got older, I really wanted to keep the miles low. I've only driven it 2,900 miles so far."

Spangler has retained every scrap of paper pertaining to 85-0053, including Saleen's original sales pitches, which he keeps in a thick binder that once was a '97 Lincoln-Mercury Product Portfolio. There are even photographs of the Saleen sitting in the dealership parking lot while the building burns down less than 50 feet away.

In spite of the car's unusual history and extremely low mileage, Spangler does not show it off very often, preferring to enjoy it in his own garage. Rare exceptions have included a visit to the 35th Anniversary Mustang Celebration at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the 40th Anniversary Mustang Show at Nashville Superspeedway.