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Gears & Grins

Gears & Grins
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GEARS & GRINS

You have just arrived on the planet Zorgda and Buck Rodgers has handed over the keys to his rocket ship with the instructions “Be back in a half an hour and don’t burn up the afterblasters”.

Producing and hosting over 325 episodes of television’s VINTAGE VEHICLE SHOW over the past 14 years has resulted in finding myself in many great situations: touring very impressive private car collections, driving at a NASCAR event, visiting with Jay Leno a couple of times, putting my foot to the floor in a million dollar Ferrari, having lunch with George Barris, flying to car shows in the back of bi-planes and, now, being given the keys to one of the automotive world’s most desired limited edition cars.

 
 
 

Since 1984 Steve Saleen has been the designer and manufacturer of the famous Saleen Mustangs. Ford supplies him with the cars and he supplies the public with a car that defines the term “Muscle Car”. I have had the pleasure of owning a 1988 Saleen and will swear on a stack of car magazines that this guy knows how to turn a good car into a great car. Now he has joined with world famous race car driver Parnelli Jones to create the Saleen/Parnelli Jones Mustang. How smart is Steve? Smart enough to team up with Mr. Jones and create a muscle car combining the styling cues of Parnelli’s world conquering 1970 Boss 302 Mustang with the modern technology of the Ford/Saleen marriage. How dumb is Steve? Dumb enough to give me the keys along with the instructions “Be back in a half an hour and don’t burn up the tires.” I was out the factory door and in the car before the sentence was finished. Just being able to climb into the car took my breath away. Turning the key started a symphony that was an audio combination of the Rolling Stones playing real rock & roll and hand grenades exploding at the same time. I pulled out of the driveway, drove just out of view, and put my right foot to the floor. It rocketed forward like a Blue Angel on a sunny day while staying stuck to the concrete like bubblegum to a tennis shoe. I felt totally in control as I went through the gears and the grins. The Saleen factory is located in an  industrial portion of Irvine, CA, that provides areas of winding roads and few stop lights, although, downshifting the five speed manual transmission while approaching intersections allowed the Stones to grind out solos that created enough endorphins and testosterone to float the QE2.

One half hour later I joined Steve Saleen as he gave the VINTAGE VEHICLE SHOW cameras a tour of the facility. There are eight stations within the factory that transform an already amazing Mustang into a Saleen/Parnelli Jones Mustang. The original suspension and motor are replaced with race engineered equipment that Steve Saleen and Parnelli Jones feel are just the thing to liven up a weekend. The 302 cubic inch 400 horsepower V8 will remind you of why many old muscle cars now sell for over $1,000,000. This power source, along with the Saleen designed interior seating and exterior front & rear panels, will be appreciated both on your neighborhood streets and at race courses across the nation.

 What was my overall impression of my day with Steve Saleen? Last week I traded in my 1988 Mustang for a 2006 Mustang. Not a Saleen/Parnelli Jones Mustang, but one step closer.