John Zeilinga’s One-Of-A-Kind Saleen Drag Edition 2018 Mustang

When you’re a firefighter who works 24-hour shifts on duty and then has 72 hours off-duty, it leaves plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Such is the case for Boynton Beach, Florida’s John Zeilinga, who has filled his life with many car related endeavors.

Images courtesy of KFletch Photography

“In my in-between time, I run Cars and Coffee Palm Beach, I have my detailing business, Exquisite Details, that I’ve had since the ‘90s, and I kick-started the Florida Drag Racing Association this year. I’ll be doing a few drag racing events local and eventually venture out of Palm Beach and get the circuit going into the other tracks that are down here: Bradenton, Orlando, and Gainesville,” he says.

The Cars and Coffee event is held at Palm Beach International Raceway and sells out every month, with thousands of cars and spectators attending to check out South Florida’s hottest cars.

He’s also found time over the last several years to play with the beautiful 2018 Mustang we see here, which was a sort-of collaboration between Saleen and Zeilinga’s long-time partners at Blow By Racing in Boca Raton, Florida.

“It has the off-the-shelf BBR Stage 2 Demon Killer turbo kit. It has a Precision PT7675 turbo that makes great power, although we’re starting to get what we think is valve float right around the 900-horsepower mark,” says Zeilinga.

The car is an ongoing project; it’s safe to say that Zeilinga is never satisfied with the status quo and is always looking to make more improvements to it.

Although the car wears a Holley intake manifold in this photo, John says his new Plazmaman billet intake showed up recently and he hasn’t had a chance to install it yet.

Underneath, the rear suspension is a mixture of Steeda and UPR Products components along with Viking adjustable shocks, and a BMR K-member and Viking front struts are on order to help lighten up the front. He also just received a billet intake manifold from Plazmaman that’s to be installed soon. The 10R80 transmission is currently on its way to Brett LaSala for internal upgrades as Zeilinga continues to seek the best performance possible from it.

“I worked on the car from day one with a gentleman that worked at Saleen; they hooked us up with everything in terms of converting the car appearance-wise to a Saleen. The whole idea behind it — before SEMA got canceled last year — was to have this be the only Drag Edition Saleen at the show. Obviously, that got shut down,” says Zeilinga.

The question all of you Mustang Melvins are asking: is it, or is it not, a real Saleen Mustang?

The events of 2020 had a large effect on the answer to that question.

“It is, but it is not. The guy that I was working with left the company when we were in the process of getting the serialization done; I’ve got some of the plaques with the serial numbers, but I don’t know if he embedded everything into their VIN system and all that. I have the VIN plates. It’s stuck in limbo. You can’t buy the stuff that I have, so let’s say it is a special Blow By Racing/Saleen joint effort,” says Zeilinga.

Zeilinga, a lifelong Mustang nut, also competed in NMRA Factory Stock with an S197 several years ago, and can’t leave well enough alone. There are big plans for this car moving forward, as he continues to exploit its capabilities over the next couple of years while continuing to enjoy its performance today.

“I plan to add a Haltech engine management system, a Powerglide, convert to a solid rear axle, and to take the car off the street. That’s the overall goal. It’s realistically a year-and-a-half, two years to get everything done. I like to grow into things. I’m looking to have a fun, fast car,” he says.

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About the author

Jason Reiss

Jason draws on over 15 years of experience in the automotive publishing industry, and collaborates with many of the industry's movers and shakers to create compelling technical articles and high-quality race coverage.
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