How much is this thing, anyway? Fifty grand? Fifty-five grand? [Actually, it's $57,000--Ed.] I guess it doesn't much matter: the Mustang fans out there who are forever on the hunt for the newest, latest, greatest, most different Mustang variant will love it, and enough of them will pony up (pardon the pun) whatever it takes to have one of these over-the-top pony cars in their garage to make the exercise worthwhile for Ford to have undertaken.
It's kind of refreshing to drive a raw, muscular, high-horsepower car like this, knowing that, if one chooses to prod the rear tires (nineteen-inch Pirelli PZero Corsas) to a lack of adhesion, one has only one's own wits and driving skill to call upon to keep the car from the ditch: no electronic stability control here, thank you very much.
This car reminds me a lot of the Roush Mustang that we recently had in the office, in the way the Saleen has been tarted up with racing-inspired body trim and interior accents, plus of course the beefed-up brakes, the firmer chassis tuning, and the supercharged V-8 engine. I preferred the much more precise, shorter-throw aftermarket shifter in the Roush car, though.
The fact that people will pay a huge premium for the privilege of driving a car simply because one of these two old guys (Jack Roush is 66; Dan Gurney, 77) has signed off on it is an apt testament to the power of American celebrity, racing division.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I'm probably the biggest, dorkiest Gurney fanboy in the office, but even I don't care much for the graphics on the outside of this thing. Love the way it drives, love the suspension, can't stand to look at it. Such is life. Perhaps, when I am rich and famous, I can commission a Dan Gurney Mustang that is both visually subtle, historically referential, and just as nice to drive as this one. The steering is decent for a Mustang, the tuning of the dampers and the antiroll-bars is spot-on, and the engine is nice with plenty of midrange, just like a good street 'Stang should be.
Still, I can't help thinking that a little bit of tweaking might make for a better car. The exhaust note is both a bit loud and a bit boomy (Roush actually does the whang-crackle-thump small-block Ford noise a little better, and without the highway boom), and the shift linkage is a bit too notchy for my tastes (again, Roush's cue-ball, Hurst-copy lever appeals to me more here, with its lighter effort and equally short throws).
Dan, if you're reading this, forgive me for not absolutely, no-question loving your car. Long live the Gurney Eagles! Long live the spirit of '67!
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
Decades from now, the Saleen Dan Gurney H281SC Signature Edition (whew!) could be a hotly sought-after collectible, limited as it is to 300 copies. Right now, though, it strikes me as perhaps the most ostentatious car in a seemingly endless string of pricey Ford Mustang iterations.
That's not to say that the Gurney isn't any good. That 465-hp, 281-cubic-inch (4.6-liter) V-8 can certainly take you for a good ride, particularly with more than 7 psi of boost registering on the dashtop gauge pod. Apply more than a kiss of throttle in first gear and you're goin' sideways; short shift into second and jump on the gas--sideways again. (Like my colleagues, though, I prefer working the throwback shifter in some of Roush's hotter Mustang variants.)
Rounding corners can be huge fun, too, although (as Joe noted) you've got to pay attention if you want to avoid mangling or scratching all the Gurney-specific garnish against a nearby fence. Those stripes, eagles, hood pins, banners, and stickers all help to make this car stand out from more prosaic 'Stangs, but honestly, I prefer the purer look of Ford's base Mustang GT, sans spoiler.
Surely the $57,000 base price includes earplugs! Cruising at 55 mph or so in fifth gear is ear-splitting, thanks to the boomy powertrain resonations inside the cabin. I regularly selected a lower, less economical gear so that the sounds didn't make my head spin. The interior sights can also be a bit much, what with the host of eagles and logos and Detroit Lions-esque Alcantara seat covers. Our car, serial number 57, did have a real Gurney autograph on the dashboard, though: VERY cool.
Still, I can see how a hard-core Mustang lover could save a prominent spot for a Gurney in his or her dream garage.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I had a ton of fun in this Saleen Mustang. Sure, nearly $60K is a ton of money for a rude, crude, solid-axle car, but that raw feel is also endearing. I drove like a total hooligan all weekend and loved every minute.
The Saleen looks good and got a ton of looks. I like the front end, the wheels, and especially the hood pins. I find the rear not quite so good and a bit busy with the decals and the plastic license-plate trim. At least it doesn't have a big wing. The interior is less successful as the seats are not very attractive.
The Pirelli PZero Corsa tires take some time to warm up but offer a ton of grip once they have some heat. They also lead to a bit of tramlining, and their stiff sidewalls surely don't help the ride. Not that the Saleen Mustang rides that bad. The upgraded suspension improves body and wheel control considerably, but there's still only so much you can do with a solid rear axle. On anything but relatively smooth pavement, the Mustang gets knocked around constantly. The upgraded brakes are strong, although the steering still doesn't offer enough feel for my taste.
I love the power and the acceleration of this Saleen 'Stang. The short shifter is perfect for the car, even though it can be somewhat notchy at times. The supercharger sounds cool, but I wish it were a normally aspirated engine; to me, supercharging is cheating. I also wish it revved like an old Trans-Am motor and sounded a bit more like a regular Mustang engine, only louder and more purposeful.
This is a car for the rich old guy who loves muscle cars and watched Dan Gurney kick butt back in the day.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor