Born in Inglewood, California, and a 1967 graduate of Whittier High School in Whittier, California, Saleen (pronounced suh-lean) worked at his father's manufacturing business before attending the University of Southern California and graduating with a degree in business.
With an interest in fast cars sparked by his father's purchase of a Porsche, Steve joined the Porsche Owners Club and worked his way up through the ranks of club racing, which led to a career in professional racing. He entered the Formula Atlantic series where, in 1980, he finished third in the final standings behind eventual champion Jacques Villeneuve. He progressed on to the SCCA Trans-Am Series in 1982, driving a Ford Mustang. From here, a passion for one of Ford's most famous automobiles begin to manifest itself.
Saleen formed Saleen Autosport in 1983 and set to building the first Saleen Mustang, equipped with special aerodynamic, suspension and handling packages and a completely redesigned interior. The car was completed in 1984 and was immediately tested against the world's top sports cars with great success, finishing first in its class at the Mosport 24-hour race that year.
1966: STEVE SALEEN’S FIRST CAR
Steve gets his first car, a 1956 Porsche Type 356 Coupe European Model
1968: STEVE’S PORSCHE GETS PAINTED
Steve paints his Porsche Robin’s Eggshell Blue and adds more horsepower.
1969: STEVE BUYS HIS FIRST MUSTANG
Steve buys a Shelby GT 350 from the Hollywood School of Self Defense and quickly gives it a flashy new paint job
1969: STEVE MODIFIES THE MUSTANG
Steve, not satisfied with the current paint scheme, repaints his Shelby GT350 to Big Bad Green Lime with black stripes. This is also where Steve begins to transform his street car to a race car by changing the wheels, suspension, adding a roll cage and side exhaust. This year Steve also begins engine work by adding two 4-barrel Weber carburetors and takes it to his first time trial.
1971: RACING IS FOR TRACKS
On July 6th, 1971, Steve learns that racing is for the track when he drives his Shelby GT350 off a cliff in Turnbull Canyon in Whittier, California. Steve spends months recovering from his injuries.
1972: STEVE’S MUSTANG PASSION EXPANDS
Steve’s passion for Mustangs is unwavered as he purchases another Shelby GT350 for $300 and tows it to the same spot where he wrecked his last Mustang for its inaugural drive.
1974: STEVE BEGINS HIS PROFESSIONAL RACING CAREER
Steve was the runner up in the Southern California B Production Championship with his second generation metallic blue over white Fastback Mustang. He began his professional competition career as well.
Steve Saleen starts racing Formula Atlantic, in a March 76B. Steve Saleen won the Southern California championship and also set numerous track records. Due to his ability and speed on the track, Steve earns the new nickname of “GAS-SALEEN”
1980: SETTING RECORDS
Steve runs the complete Pro Formula Atlantic series in a Ralt RT1 where he sets several track records, and leads the championship up until the last race, where he finished 3rd, only 3 points away from 1st place.
1983: BIRTH OF SALEEN AUTOSPORT
Steve Saleen forms Saleen Autosport from his dinner table at his home in Santa Rosa, CA.
1985: SALEEN MUSTANG
Saleen Autosport releases the 1985 Saleen Mustang, featuring all new aerodynamics, suspension, tires, wheels, and interior. In 1985, Steve Saleen’s secretary miscounted the vehicles produced that year, omitting vehicle number 6. Since 1985, Saleen has had the tradition of not issuing the #6 bumper number on any of its vehicles. The single race for 1985 was at his home track at Riverside International Raceway, California where he had won his first race twelve years earlier. This time though, he was competing in a prototype from his company, a black Saleen Mustang race car with two gold stripes.
1987: STEVE DOES HIS FIRST ADVERTISEMENT
The ad is for Monroe shocks with the tagline “Monroe helped Steve Saleen handle some wild horses.”
1989: SALEEN SSC
Steve builds the Saleen SSC, the most powerful Mustang built to date. The SSC boasted 300 HP! In this year Steve begins using his trademark chevrons.
1993: SALEEN SA-10
Saleen celebrates its’ 10 year anniversary with the Saleen SA-10 Mustang. The SA-10 is a special edition that was offered to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Saleen Automobiles. All examples produced received sequential VIN numbers as well as SA-10 specific options.
1996: SALEEN MUSTANG
The Saleen S281 model is introduced. Offered along side the existing Saleen model lineup, the S281 is available in both a convertible (speedster) and coupe option. Steve partners with Budget Rent-a-Car to build special Saleen Mustangs for their fleet.
1998: SALEEN MUSTANG
Saleen celebrates its 15 year anniversary with the Saleen SA15 Mustang. This was a special edition model that was offered in addition to the standard Saleen Mustang lineup.
2002: SALEEN MUSTANG
With the discontinuation of the S351 lineup, Saleen debuts the S281 Extreme model. Available in both a speedster (convertible), or coupe option; the Saleen Extreme also uses the all new Saleen Twin Screw Supercharger which debuted the same year.
2004: RELEASE OF THE 2005 SALEEN MUSTANG
With a dramatic redesign in 2005, Saleen debuts their new lineup at the OC Autoshow. All coupe models allow for the Saleen Scenic Glass Roof option, which is a Saleen innovative design. This year Saleen also develops and introduces an all new H.I.D. headlight system for the mustang.
2010: RELEASE OF THE 2011 SALEEN 302 MUSTANG
With a complete body style re-design, Saleen unveils the 302 Mustang under the signature series line (‘SMS’). Available as a supercharged or 4-valve version the 302 Mustang shows off the Saleen fender chevrons as well as the trademark Saleen design, power, and performance. New for this model is the F1 style tail light in the rear and the Chevron design seating in the interior.
2015: SALEEN DEBUTS ITS ALL NEW S302 BLACK LABEL MUSTANG
With a total re-designed body, independent rear suspension, and a host of other upgrades, Saleen’s Black Label raises the performance barto another level with 740HP. Further accentuating the new body work is the exclusive Saleen designed carbon fibre, air management system.
2020: SALEEN ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR ITS NEW BRONCO
With racing in his blood, Steve Saleen is never far from a checkered flag, and the Saleen Bronco is no exception. The new vehicle pays homage to Big Oly, the infamous machine piloted by Parnelli Jones. Big Oly took on the Mexican 1000 (now known as the Baja 1000) – one of the most grueling endurance races in the world – and achieved the monumental accomplishment of winning the race twice in 1971 and 1972.