I wasn’t out in the desert on a horse with no name, this one’s called Mango. The 2004 Saleen S281 SC Speedster replica’s nickname stems from the hue of its rich Competition Orange paint. The car had blessed the garage for some 8 years and time had come to give it a new home. The Mustang has been a special one, a fun time companion to car shows and road trips.
Delivering it from Arizona to New Mexico required a long last drive through the mountains and high desert vistas of the West that are connected by old Route 66. While the Mother Road is barely a shadow on the maps of today’s interstate system, the oft traveled lines still exist along with a smattering of small towns.
Motoring along under power of the Saleen Series IV supercharger in the early morning hours, a beautiful desert sunrise lit Mango up so bright. It was time to pull off and take some photos before the moment passed. Minutes later I rolled into Holbrook, AZ to which the town Radiator Springs in the Cars movie took much inspiration.
As I cruised down the main drag looking for a place to get some bacon and eggs I could almost see Luigi and his mate waving me down and hoping I’d need some new tires. And surely Flo and Ramon hoped I might want a chassis lube. In this modern age, the Mustang needed no tires, oil or organic gasoline from Fillmore. Mater was obviously out on a call because his yard gate was open and he was nowhere to be seen.
I did stop at the Wigwam Motel for some photos. The place that inspired Sally Carerra’s Cozy Cone Motel really exists and still rents rooms to nostalgic travelers in Holbrook. They keep a display of old bombs around to make it look right. Didn’t stay there today but friends who have said the tee-pees are smallish but fun as the walls are indeed slanted inside just like a tee-pee or cone.
After grabbing a bite to eat at Joe & Aggies Cafe I fired up the Mustang and headed back off into the sunrise for New Mexico. While passing through Holbrook I was reminded how this car draws stairs and waves, compliments and questions as people stopped and stared. It was both the joy and bane of ownership for this car, you could never hide.
Still thinking of the Cars movie I passed the row of red mesas along I-40 near the state line, a collection of jutting plateaus that inspired the Cadillac Range Sally and Lightning McQueen raced through together in their courtship.
The baritone growl of the Saleen center exhaust is so sweet accelerating from a stop, but just rolling along at 75 mph on the freeway it sings such a beautiful song too. Its rather expensive supercharged 375 horsepower 4.6 V8 was a bragging right back in 2004 but now easily gets passed by a 2013 Mustang GT with its standard equipment naturally aspirated 420 horsepower 5.0 mill.
As the trip came to an end I handed off the keys to Mango’s new keeper. It was a poignant drive and my path through the folds of Americana only made it more so. The modern Mustang like these small towns of the Mother Road has its soul in days of a different time but molded to the new reality of today. So live on Mango and may your miles be many.