Even enthusiasts close to the operation could not see all the stages of research, development, construction and assembly of the various components that went into his high-performance Mustangs because so many parts and processes were handled by outside vendors or in facilities separate from the main office.
Today, however, Saleen’s 150,000-square-foot plant at 76 Fairbanks in Irvine brings together under one roof everything the 20-year-old company requires to produce its S-281, S-281E, S7 supercar and Thunderbird models.
Approaching the plant, which is situated in a gigantic new industrial complex, one is greeted by the sight of several Saleen-produced vehicles on display in the parking lot. A row of S-281 company convertibles grabs attention just before the eye notices a pair of Saleen concept vehicles and a couple of retired race cars. Just visible at the rear of the building is the beginning of the packed stock Mustang lot, where GTs and Cobras await transformation into vehicles of vastly improved performance.
Once past the contemporary wood-and-wire styling of the lobby, a visitor finds himself walking down a corrugated aluminum corridor with black Kiwi tile floors reminiscent of a spaceship interior set from Star Wars. Off this hallway are offices devoted to engineering, powertrain certification, supercharger construction, powerplant assembly and machining.
The sense of being in a big Hollywood production is maintained as the tour progresses to the S7 delivery showroom – a high-tech marvel where individual supercars are displayed to buyers in a complementary full-scale diorama. (Purchase of an S7 includes first-class airfare to view the car before it is shipped to its selling dealer; custom fitting of the driver’s seat, pedals and steering wheel; a stay at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point; and the use of a Saleen Mustang while in town.)
Every station related to production of the S7 is within easy walking distance from the other, including the paint room, engine assembly and chassis construction.
The S-281 and S-281E production line is a vast open floor where individual chassis are moved from work station to work station on purpose-built dollies. Build sheets and a host of other documentation indicate to the workers – all decked out in company shirts and, where required, safety goggles and other protective equipment – which equipment goes on which car. E models can be identified in the line by the nearly empty engine bays, as that car receives a Saleen-built and supercharged 4.6-liter.
Cars whose buyers have paid for custom paint are stripped to the chassis and given their new hues in a state-of-the-art booth near the room where bumper fascia and other composite pieces are produced.
Once assembled, all Saleen Mustangs are test driven, detailed and shipped to receiving dealers all across the United States.
Saleen will shortly go into production with its version of the new Ford Thunderbird, which will be worked into the same assembly line as the Mustangs.
Because Saleen credits its success to the enthusiastic following it built during its first two decades in business, the new plant is also home to two annual car shows – one in the spring, one in the fall – both of which allow owners to tour the facility and give input into the company’s products, as well as participate in caravans to enjoy the beautiful sights of southern California.
Even though the trip to 76 Fairbanks was a long and sometimes trying one, the company’s founder feels it was worth the effort.
“It’s a lot more efficient this way,” Steve Saleen said about the all-inclusive plant. “When we were operating out of our 9 Whatney offices from 1994 through 2001, we eventually were paying for rent on five different buildings separated by several miles and a lot of transportation costs.
“Now every part we produce in-house can be walked or wheeled from station to station.”
For information about Saleen products, phone 949-597-4900 or visit www.saleen.com.