MM: Let's end with the "elephant in the room" question. How are high gas prices and the slow economy going to affect the high-performance automobile market?
Saleen: What do I look like, a crystal ball? Just kidding. I think it will have a short-term effect. People temporarily change their spending behavior when we go through tough economic times. Overall, the economy will rebound at some point. Fuel prices will never go back down to what they were; they will probably continue to climb. The type of vehicle SMS will build should not be hurt because even though the cars can be used as daily drivers, they really aren't. They are mostly driven on special occasions or at the track. People are passionate about their cars, especially fast ones, and they will sacrifice a lot of other things before they quit spending money on their cars.
Where the biggest effect will be is in terms of the base vehicles the OEMs offer. How they are equipped over the next three, four, or five years can be heavily affected. From my standpoint at SMS, our ability to design, produce, and certify cars and trucks should not be impacted in a major way.
I've seen this before. The economy, the fuel prices, competing products from the big automakers-we've all been through this before. What's different this time is that a company like ours will really cater to the enthusiast in a way that was not possible in the '70s, when I first lived through a slow economy. You pretty much had to drive a Pinto dressed up like a Mustang back then if you wanted something different.
In short, the answer to your question is this: Performance will never go out of style.
Editor's Note: Brad Bowling has been involved with Steve Saleen and his Mustangs since 1986. He conducted Mustang Monthly's first interview with Steve in 1988, and later worked for Saleen Autosport as public relations coordinator. In 2004, Brad wrote and published The Saleen Book: 20 Years of Saleen Mustangs. For more information, visit www.thesaleen book.com.
Wait! Don't rush to your Ford dealer to put down a deposit on this '08 SMS 25th Anniversary Mustang. Only one is being produced, and it is already spoken for. To celebrate a quarter-century of turning stock Mustangs into high-performance machines, Steve Saleen created for himself a one-of-a-kind coupe with enough horsepower and handling prowess to keep him happy for the next 25 years.
From its mirror-like Chromosome Silver paint to its Red Butterfly induction system, Light Blade LED taillamps, clear roof, and carbon-fiber splitters and diffusers, this anniversary car will not be mistaken for anything else in the parking lot. The interior is wearing white, black, and yellow-Saleen's traditional anniversary colors. Handling is superb owing to a billet-aluminum Watt's link suspension system; 275/35ZR20 Pirellis (305/35ZR20 in back) on billet-aluminum wheels; and cross-drilled, 15-inch, six-piston rotors in front (12-inchers in back).
The centerpiece of Saleen's new ride is the aluminum-block 5.0L V-8. Saleen's new-generation supercharger, aluminum heads, and cold-air intake augmented by SMS's patented Red Butterfly induction system help squeeze 720 hp (612 rwhp) and 667 lb-ft (565 at the wheels) out of the powerplant.
A smooth-shifting six-speed gives the engine tremendous flexibility when commuting or driving around town, but then lets the driver stay in the powerband under hard acceleration or-as we found out during our test drive-when the mountain roads get twisty.
The 25th Anniversary Mustang is the first Ford-based product from Saleen's new company. SMS's debut vehicles were the 570 and 570X Challengers, road rockets built from Dodge's retro ponycars that deliver between 500 and 700 hp.