Championship driver, race car manufacturer, and team owner are three occupations that define Dan Gurney's career. There are many more words that can describe the Long Island, New York born wheelman. Gurney started racing in 1955, and after he retired following the 1970 Trans Am race in Riverside, California, he went on to buy and continue to own All American Racers, a company started by Carroll Shelby's Shelby America.
Gurney's name carries with it a long and distinguished resume, both on road courses and oval tracks. For starters, only Gurney and Mario Andretti have won races in NASCAR, Indy Car, Grand Prix, and Sports Car, which in the '60s, were the four major categories of motorsports. He was a runner-up in the Indy 500 twice, and was the only United States driver to win a Grand Prix race in a car he built. During his 15-year racing career, Gurney amassed 51 wins, including victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Still, the one machine Mustang enthusiasts remember the most is Gurney's blue number 2 '69 Boss 302 Trans Am Mustang. Gurney took over the driving duties of the Shelby America-owned ponycar at the August 1969 Trans Am event in Laguna Seca from Horst Kwech. He went on to finish Third in that event. Following the '69 season, Gurney moved on and Shelby America stopped receiving factory support from Ford, but the image of Gurney slinging that Blue Boss 302 through the twisties lives on in the minds of many.
Fast forward to 2008, and once again, a Gurney car is on the road. No, it's not a total reincarnation of the original Trans Am Mustang, but one that bears the Saleen moniker and a close resemblance to the '69 racer. We are talking about the '08 Saleen Dan Gurney Edition H281SC Mustang.
To learn more about the special edition, we chatted with the man himself, Dan Gurney. We had the chance to talk about the car, how it compares to his old Trans Am, and more.
"It is a great feeling to have something like this, especially in an era where this car catches people's fancy," Gurney says. "Older people will really enjoy the nostalgia of the car, as it has a great deal of it."
With the Gurney car following on the heels of the '07 Parnelli Jones special edition Saleen, the company went a different route with the Gurney car, mostly due to the fact that Gurney himself had input on how the car would be setup in terms of the powerplant and the suspension. Unlike the Saleen PJ's supersized 302 naturally aspirated engine, the Gurney Saleen showcases a stock dimension 4.6L Three-Valve topped with a Saleen Series VI integrated twin-screw blower pumping in 5 psi of boost. Helping the engine breathe and create the 465 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque is a 98mm mass air meter, high-flow inlet tube, and airbox cover and filter. A set of 39-pound injectors increases the fuel volume, while the ECM has been reprogrammed with a Saleen-developed PowerFlash performance calibration. The mod mill exhales through a 2 1/2-inch stainless steel dual-exhaust system with nifty-looking charcoal dual aluminum tips that match up nicely to the color choices for the car, as well as the look given to the rims. The power is transferred to the 8.8-inch rear stocked with 3.73 gears.
"Many have asked why [we went with] the 281 supercharged motor and not the 302," says Carlos Duran, Saleen's Aftermarket Sales Manager. "First, Mr. Gurney wanted a car that was faster than Parnelli's. Second, he wanted a car that was affordable to the market, so the combination forced us to narrow things down to the 281. We ended up with a configuration that Mr. Gurney was happy with. I would say the buyer of this car is any real car enthusiast. We have had everyone in our company, from 20-something car designers to 40-something executives, raise their hands to get in line. Besides, you can never ignore Mr. Gurney's huge list of loyal fans."