Ask Jack: We All Need Somebody to Saleen On

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Chalk one up for the Widow Douglas — or maybe for Aunt Sally. Both of them tried to “sivilize” Huck Finn. His response was to “light out for the Territory,” which was the wildest and least “sivilized” place he figured he could reasonably reach.

How many boys read that book and nodded in sympathy at Huck’s desire to get away from the coddling and constraining arms of civilization? How many of them used it as a model and pattern for their lives, whether they ended up breaking the sound barrier or starving to death in an abandoned schoolbus? And for how long has our primary impulse as young men been to get out and experience life face to face, on our own terms?

Those days are mostly gone. Today’s young men are “sivilized” by default. If they have any desire to leave their mothers, it is just so they can move to a big city and experience life as part of a communal organism. Whatever desire they might have had for some sort of frontier has been ground out of them bit by painful bit until their default approach to the empty and unknown is a fearful one. A few weeks ago, I read a screed by a young man who was planning to quit his job because his employer was forcing him to ride in an unsafe vehicle. Remembering the thrice-wrecked, permanently dogtracking Plymouth Arrow stakebed conversion I drove for David Hobbs BMW in 1989, I eagerly scrolled down until I could get the details of the deathtrap in question: a 2017 Ford Fusion, which apparently did not receive top marks in some part of the Euro NCAP test.

This is not to say that every young man is afraid of his own shadow. There are still a few dudes out there who imagine themselves rolling towards the unknown in the coolest or hottest car they can (not quite) afford. Which brings us to this week’s episode of Ask Jack.


This wasn’t the usual question-via-email that you, or anyone else, can submit to askjack@calamarco.com. Rather, it was advice-by-proxy, given to the very sensible neighbor of a not-quite-sensible young man. We will call him “Jordan.”

Jordan’s currently driving an SN95 Mustang with 203,000 miles on it, a bent unibody, a blown heater core, a salvage title, and an arm’s-length list of aftermarket performance parts. He’s been approved for not a penny over $25,000 in auto loan, and he wants something outrageous. In particular, he’s been looking at Saleen Mustangs built between 2005 and 2010. He’s not a track rat and he has no interest in the weekend drag races. He just wants a cool Mustang that he can use to drive around and meet girls. The fact that all the girls are at home watching Netflix and swiping on Tinder does not dismay him one bit. He has no interest in being sivilized.

One of our mutual friends suggested a 2011-era 5.0 Mustang with a few performance mods. That’s easily acquired and such a vehicle would have more real-world pace than any Saleen based on the 4.6-liter three-valve engine. Yet Jordan isn’t necessarily interested in the most speed for the buck. He wants the most outrageous Mustang he can get.

Generally, that means buying a spoilers-and-louver-panels special like a Saleen or a Roush. Between the two, I’d much rather have a Roush. My impression, which is perhaps unjustified, is that Roush builds a more durable, better-performing car for the same money. The problem is that much of the market has the same impression that I do and as a result the prices are a bit higher than they are for Saleens. I’ve seen a couple of the early “427R” conversions for $25k. So that would be my suggestion, if Jordan is dead set on maximum flash.

If he is not set on that — if he is willing to have a slightly lower profile in exchange for a much more capable vehicle — then I think the answer is blindingly obvious. The 2007 Shelby Mustang GT500 is more than a bunch of go-fast bits applied to a cooking-grade Mustang. It has a bespoke 32-valve 5.4-liter engine derived from the mighty Terminator Cobra of 2003 and 2004. The suspension tuning was done by SVT and the thing really handles in all circumstances. It runs low 12s out of the box and can reach high 11s with $500 worth of tuning components.

The “Shelby” name is a misnomer; at the time, Ford SVT personnel confirmed to me that 99 percent of the car was developed in-house. Mr. Shelby gave it his blessing and that was about it. It’s a bad-ass ride and it’s available all over the place for $25,000 in good condition.

The GT500 has just one Achilles’ heel: it’s heavy. Iron block heavy. Two tons heavy. Later on, Ford would cut weight and boost power with the 662-horsepower “Trinity” engine, thus creating an all-time legendary pony/muscle/sports car. Still, Jordan isn’t going to be stocking up brake pads for weekend runs around Thunderhill.

Get the GT500, Jordan. Put in some cutout pipes. Let it roar. Get your motor running. Head out to the highway. Ignore those Widow Douglases in HR and the Aunt Sallys on Bumble. Don’t let ’em sivilize you, my friend. You, and your Mustang, were born to be wild.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Mechimike Mechimike on Apr 04, 2018

    When I met my wife, I was driving a weathered '68 Volvo 122. This was in 2009. Her daily was a 10 year old GMC Jimmy, but she had a secret- a '68 Camaro she kept stashed away except on sunny days. Our first date was in my Volvo. Our next date was in her Camaro- her driving us to a local pool hall. The next date we took my '64 Corvair convertible and her Camaro (we drove separately) to a cruise-in and parked together. A few dates later she helped me clean the carburetors on the Volvo. I didn't wait long to propose to this girl.

  • Compaq Deskpro Compaq Deskpro on Apr 09, 2018

    New or couple year old base V6 (with manual if possible) and an extended warranty should be doable at $25,000. Assuming girls care in the first place, which they don't, they won't know the difference. No forced induction, no 10 year old stuff, no tape stripes, no no no.

  • SCE to AUX 08 Rabbit (college car, 128k miles): Everything is expensive and difficult to repair. Bought it several years ago as a favor to a friend leaving the country. I outsourced the clutch ($1200), but I did all other work. Ignition switch, all calipers, pads, rotors, A/C compressor, blower fan, cooling fan, plugs and coils, belts and tensioners, 3 flat tires (nails), and on and on.19 Ioniq EV (66k miles): 12V battery, wipers, 1 set of tires, cabin air filter, new pads and rotors at 15k miles since the factory ones wore funny, 1 qt of reduction gear oil. Insurance is cheap. It costs me nearly nothing to drive it.22 Santa Fe (22k miles): Nothing yet, except oil changes. I dread having to buy tires.
  • AZFelix 2015 Sonata Limited72k when purchased, 176k miles currentlyI perform all maintenance and repairs except for alignment, tire mounting, tire patching, and glass work (tint and passenger left due to rock hit). Most parts purchased through rockauto.com.Maintenance and repairs during three years of ownership:Front rotors and all brake pads upgraded shortly after purchase.Preparing for 17th oil change (full synthetic plus filter c.$50), one PCV valve.Timing & accessory belts, belt tensioner.Coolant full flush and change.Fibrous plastic material engine under tray replaced by aftermarket solid plastic piece $110.One set of tires (c.$500 +installation) plus two replacements and a number of patches due to nails, etc. Second set coming soon.Hood struts $30.Front struts, rear shocks, plus sway bar links, front ball joints, tie rod ends, right CV axle (large rock on freeway damaged it and I took the opportunity to redo the rest of items on this list).Battery c.$260.Two sets of spark plugs @ $50/set.Three sets of cabin and engine filters.Valve cover gasket (next week).Averages out to c.$1400 per year for the past three years. Minor driver seat bolster wear, front rock chips, and assorted dents & dings but otherwise looks and drives very well.
  • 3-On-The-Tree 2014 Ford F150 Ecoboost 3.5L. By 80,000mi I had to have the rear main oil seal replaced twice. Driver side turbo leaking had to have all hoses replaced. Passenger side turbo had to be completely replaced. Engine timing chain front cover leak had to be replaced. Transmission front pump leak had to be removed and replaced. Ford renewed my faith in Extended warranty’s because luckily I had one and used it to the fullest. Sold that truck on caravan and got me a 2021 Tundra Crewmax 4x4. Not a fan of turbos and I will never own a Ford again much less cars with turbos to include newer Toyotas. And I’m a Toyota guy.
  • Duke Woolworth Weight 4800# as I recall.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X '19 Nissan Frontier @78000 miles has been oil changes ( eng/ diffs/ tranny/ transfer). Still on original brakes and second set of tires.
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