As a driver, team owner, and even as a manufacturer, Dan Gurney has racing credentials like no one else. He is one of four American drivers to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix, and the only one to win in a car of his own manufacture. Dan was the first driver to win races in Formula 1, NASCAR, and IndyCar (only two have done so since-Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya), and he's also captured victories in Can-Am and Trans-Am. As a team owner he won the Indy 500 three times and captured three IndyCar championships. His All American Racers won a total of 78 races, including the Indy 500 three times, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Dan is even the one who started the tradition of spraying the champagne on top of the podium after his victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Starting to get the point?
With Gurney having such an incredible impact on motorsports, both in America and on the international stage, it's no surprise that Saleen chose him as a subject for its Signature Series vehicle lineup. Introduced at the 2008 New York International Auto Show, the Gurney Mustang is the second signature Mustang to come from Saleen, the first being the Parnelli Jones Limited Mustang introduced two years prior at the same show that commemorated his championship-winning 1970 Trans-Am race car.
Like Parnelli's, Dan's Mustang is styled after his Trans-Am Mustang, but from the 1969 season rather than from 1970. Interestingly, Gurney didn't have too much success in Trans-Am with the Mustang. He was brought in late in the 1969 season with only four races left as part of the Shelby team to take on the dominant Camaros. Gurney brought home a Third-Place finish at Laguna Seca and a 10th place in Kent, Washington, but factory support from Ford was transferred to the Bud Moore team for 1970 and Dan switched to a Plymouth Barracuda for the 1970 season. With Gurney's uncharacteristic lack of racing success with the Mustang in Trans-Am, would the two make a suitable pair for a modern rendition of the American muscle car? We aimed to find out, and convinced Saleen to let us behind the wheel of a Gurney Edition Mustang.
The S197 Mustang's retro look lends itself to a variety of classic interpretations, and Saleen came up with a styling package for the Gurney Edition Mustang that Dan would be proud of. To create the look they wanted, Saleen started off with its Heritage body kit, including the front and rear fascias, side skirts, chrome trim, and classic hoodpins. Everything else is unique to the Saleen lineup, from the Stinger-style hood to the ducktail rear spoiler. A special graphics package, including side stripes and No. 2 roundels, mimics Dan's original race car, and the Gurney Eagle, the symbol of Dan's race teams, can be found throughout the car. The result is a Mustang that deservedly received Gurney's stamp of approval. "I am pleased that they could make a car that is so beautiful but still so true to my old race car," he told the crowd at the unveiling in New York.
Saleen continues the combination of form and function with the interior, installing leather sport seats with Alcantara inserts and the Gurney Eagle embroidered in the headrests. The bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, and we love the look of the off-center triple racing stripes. A unique six-gauge instrument cluster with a 180-mph speedometer replaces the stock piece, and a dash-mounted gauge pod showing boost pressure and intake air temperature makes sure the car is running smoothly. Other details provide a more upscale look, from the leather-trimmed billet shift knob to the performance driving pedals. Saleen also adds chrome dash vent bezels, unique floor mats, and Gurney Edition badging on the steering wheel and door sill plates. To top it off, Dan signs the dash of each car, signifying his stamp of approval.