As members of the media trying to cover as many events as possible during the course of a year, our mode of transportation to those events is not always something of our choosing. Often times, our personal Ford muscle is left behind in favor of something more economical or dependable. There are those rare occasions, however, when we get to play with our own toys while we work.
Then there is the even more rare and special occasion when someone else tosses us the keys to their toy, and let’s us play with them while we work. The latter is exactly what happened last August as we headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, to cover the 2018 Saleen Nationals. Avid Saleen collector Travis Smith tossed us the keys to his Legend Lime 2005 Saleen S-281SC for the the trip, making it one we will not soon forget, and allowing us to fully engulf ourselves in everything that is Saleen.
I picked up Mr. Smith’s Saleen right outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina, for the last hour or so of my journey to the Saleen Nationals. Travis and his wife, fellow Saleen enthusiast Mallory Smith, were already on their way to the Nationals in their his and hers Fox-body Saleen Mustangs when I arrived at the Smith compound to pick up my Legend Lime ride.
This particular specimen is 1 of only 7,741 Mustangs produced in Legend Lime for the 2005 model year (making it the rarest of the ten colors available for the first year S197 Mustang). I found it sitting out front of the Smith’s house parked right where he said it would be – he was not pulling our leg! This was really happening! Once inside, I found the keys in the center console, a full tank of premium gasoline, and an Alice in Chains CD loaded up and ready to go in the six disc changer. This was no doubt going to be an awesome road trip!
As I made my way toward the interstate headed for Charlotte, I could not help but notice that the Saleen felt very familiar. It was a lot like my personal (basically stock and very boring) 2005 Mustang GT. As I approached the on-ramp, my mind flashed back to the conversation I had with Travis the night before. “Enjoy it,” he told me. “There is nothing you can do to the car that I have not already done.” With that in mind, I pushed the throttle toward the floor, experiencing the boosted 3-valve for the first time.
“Impressive!” I thought, as the 400-horsepower 4.6-liter pinned me back into the wider and much more comfortable leather Saleen seats. It is certainly no GT500, but it pulls nice, and offers a large improvement over my stock GT. As a speed faster than the law would allow quickly approached, I stabbed the Saleen brakes for the first time. A huge grin crossed my face as they quickly pulled the car back into the realm of legal speed. This was definitely a car I was going to enjoy driving! It did not take me long to see what all the Saleen fuss was about!
The Charlotte area is known for its motorsports and automotive events. The area is home to Charlotte Motor Speedway, zMAX Dragway, and Mooresville Dragway just to name a few. It also plays host to dozens of NASCAR teams, as well as the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. Most recently, the Mustang Owners Museum has opened up in town, providing yet another destination for automotive fans coming into the area.
The Saleen Nationals (you can check out the entire article here) provided us a chance to cruise around Charlotte with a couple of dozen other Saleen Mustangs, hitting some of the aforementioned spots along with Dennis Carpenter Restorations. Having a Mustang worthy of cruising with all the other participants from the Saleen Club Of America definitely made the event more enjoyable! If you are looking for a Saleen Mustang of your own, the club is a great place to start for everything Saleen!
Until Next Time
As the Nationals flew by and Saturday morning quickly came, we got to personally experience the unique and gorgeous body lines of the S197 Saleen as we cleaned the car up for the Saleen Nationals car show. While the girl had some road grime on her from the previous two days of fun, it did not take long to have her shining bright again. Getting to proudly park and show off “our” Saleen among some of the finest in the country to bring an end to an awesome weekend was definitely a treat. Saleen owners are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Even though they all knew that technically I was an “outsider,” I was treated like family from the time I got there to the time I left.
While we regretted tossing the keys back to Travis on Sunday, we could only hope he would let us play in his Legend Lime beauty again some day. In the time since we borrowed the car, Travis tells us he has made several improvements to it, including a better sound system, lighter wheels, and more boost under the hood, along with a custom tune just to name a few. While the 2019 Saleen Nationals have come and gone, we hear there is a big party being planned up in Wisconsin for the 2020 Saleen Nationals. Mr. Smith, need an extra driver again?