The vintage and collector car hobby has always been fertile ground for raising questions concerning vehicle authenticity.
"Is that a real Shelby?" is probably the most-asked question floated in the world of collectible Mustangs. There are others, of course, and few understand this better than Ben Moura of Buckeystown, Maryland.
In Blue Oval circles, Saleen Mustangs rank right up there with Shelbys in many ways. Both Steve Saleen and Carroll Shelby produced factory-sanctioned performance cars based on regular production models. Both built models strictly for racing, and variations destined for the showroom. Both have legions of followers and admirers. And invariably many owners of either breed have fielded the authenticity question at one time or another.
Ben gets hit with the doubters' queries every time he parks his '89 Saleen on the showfield.
Sure looks like the car Steve and crew were racing so many years ago. Yet the car is in immaculate condition and boasts a scant 3,000 miles on the odometer. Is this for real? How could it be?
Ben has fancied Mustangs since he was a kid, and has had a special hankering for Saleens for many years. This is his third, and he still owns an SSC model (number 01), but this number 19 General car (actually number 259 as '89 models are counted) elicits the most unusual looks from passersby.
A Saleen MCA judge, Ben heard about this particular Saleen from a friend, and was able to buy it at auction in November 2000. Sound like a lot of hoopla for "just another Saleen?" Well, Ben's car was anything but.
As it turns out, number 259 was built exclusively for Bob Bennett Ford of Blacksville, West Virginia, on November 23, 1988. The car boasted all of the standard Saleen goodies of the time, including the Racecraft suspension, crossmember brace, Fivestar wheels, General tires, 65mm throttlebody, 1.72 roller rockers, five-speed, and a 3.55 traction-lock rearend. What you wouldn't necessarily find on the standard Saleen models was the four-point roll cage, Modplastia racing bucket...oh yeah...and a striking white and yellow Saleen race team paint scheme with a full-blown graphics treatment.
It looks like a racer car, but it's not?
"It is a promo vehicle race car," says Ben. "The car is equipped with an automatic fire extinguisher, Hurst race shifter, four-wheel disc brakes, Ford Motorsport gauges, special Saleen interior, Saleen sport airdam, and Saleen rear wing. The car has all of the sponsors' decals to exactly resemble the actual race car."
In an inquiry to Saleen about the car, Ben received the following information.
The records also indicate this White Exterior/Grey Interior Hatchback with Race Car Graphics and wheels was manufactured for the Ford dealer as a promo vehicle for his dealership. The records also indicate your particular Saleen is one of a kind with these colors and options.
Naturally, this unique piece of Mustang history causes some confusion on the showfield.
"Clubs are not sure how to judge it," says Ben, "and the public assumes I threw the decals on it myself!"
So all of you doubters out there who may happen across Ben Moura's way-out Saleen, just remember-it's the real thing...sorta.