Selling Dennis Rodman’s Saleen was not a slam dunk

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There’s always an extra bit of intrigue when a celebrity car comes to market. Price-wise, it adds a variable on top of the usual combo of condition/mileage/history/rarity/options, and star power can add anywhere from millions to a car’s price tag all the way down to absolutely nothing. So when a Mustang owned by distinguished former ambassador to North Korea, Jean Claude Van Damme’s co-star, and nose ring enthusiast Dennis Rodman sold on Bring a Trailer this week, we watched closely.

Just 18 bids and $47,775 later, though, it appears that even five NBA championships and two Defensive Player of the Year awards couldn’t help this used car bring any more than mediocre money for the model. That extra Detroit Piston (eight under the hood and one behind the wheel) just didn’t add any power.

Dennis Rodman Ford Mustang Saleen front three quarter
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Rodman’s ride isn’t just a normal ’89 Fox body. It’s a Saleen from 1989, the same year “The Worm” won his first championship and first Defensive Player of the Year playing for Detroit. Though not as famous, Fox-body Saleens are a lot like the Shelby Mustangs of the ’60s in that they came from a racer-turned-carmaker who transformed Ford’s bread-and-butter pony car into an unapologetic, track-ready corner carver. For emissions reasons, early Saleens left the engine alone but added stiffer springs, Bilstein dampers, alloy wheels, stickier tires, nifty custom FloFit seats, and a body kit with bright graphics. Ford put them on the showroom floor right alongside LTDs and Tauruses, and Saleen Mustangs even came with a Ford factory warranty.

Being an expensive product from a small operation (an ’87 Saleen conversion cost over 20 grand compared to $13,000 for a normal LX), it wasn’t a big seller. Only people with deep pockets (like pro athletes) could justify that kind of ’Stang spending. Production totaled just a few dozen in some years, and even Saleen’s peak year of 1988–89 saw little more than 700 cars annually. Meanwhile, Ford moved more than 400,000 of its own Mustangs in that time.

By 1989 (the 25th anniversary of the Mustang), Saleen had begun adding power in addition to the suspension and cosmetic goodies found on earlier products. The company made the usual hot rod tweaks to create the Saleen SSC (Saleen Super Car) model, the fastest new Mustang you could buy at the time. A larger throttle body, upgraded intake, new exhaust with high-flow cats, and other improvements bumped power from 225 hp in the base car to nearly 300—big figures at the dawn of the ’90s.

Rodman’s car is #121 of the 161 Saleen SSCs built in 1989. It was sold new at Avis Ford in Michigan, finished in Oxford White with gray trim over gray and white leather. Other than a copy of a Texas title (Rodman grew up in Dallas) and a photo of him in front of a couple of Saleens, there isn’t much history represented and it’s unclear how long Rodman owned it. It’s also far from showroom fresh, with 87k miles showing, plenty of wear and tear, a replaced windshield, and several modifications including Borla mufflers and an X-pipe, a strut tower brace, modified suspension, and another set of wheels.

Fox-body (1979–93) Mustangs in general have shot way up in value over the past several years, but Saleens have accelerated at a faster clip and super-rare models like the SSC can be seriously expensive. The prior two SSCs to sell on Bring a Trailer brought $93,975 and $74,130, respectively. Yet this one, owned by a guy the NBA calls “arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history,” brought less than the car’s condition #4 (Fair) value in the Hagerty Price Guide.

Dennis Rodman Ford Mustang Saleen rear three quarter
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When it comes to celebrity cars and their value, there’s no exact science, but there is a basic formula. For star cachet to add major digits to a price tag, the owner needs to be household-name famous or close to it, and the owner needs to be known as a car person. Then there’s originality, whether the car itself is an interesting make/model, how much of a real connection it had to its famous owner, and when they owned it.

As for Dennis Rodman and his fast Ford, it just doesn’t tick enough of the boxes. Rodman is indeed very famous. You don’t have to be a basketball fan to remember the dyed hair bad boy on the court with the Pistons or his winning years with the Bulls. But even though he bought and probably sold this car well before some of his less-endearing antics, he’s famous for a lot of the wrong reasons.

Dennis Rodman Ford Mustang Saleen hood seated pose
Bring a Trailer/bigblockgt/Peter Yates

And none of those reasons include him being into cars. He apparently does like motorcycles and has had some cool cars (including a Porsche 993 Turbo), but pretty much every high-profile athlete buys a cool car or two or five. Finally, although Rodman bought the car when his career was on the upswing, there were no representations from the seller on BaT how long he owned it or how much he traveled in it. At 6’7”, the SSC would’ve been a tight fit, so one’s left to wonder how many of the 87,000 miles Rodman put on the car.

In the end, it’s a rare but used car that sold for rare but used car money. The history, whatever it is, with a basketball great like Dennis Rodman is just a free bonus and a good story. And if a pair of his teammate’s old shoes can sell for $2.2M, it almost starts to look like a good value. A seller’s airball can be a buyer’s swish.




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    Let’s face it; those Fox body Mustangs were very plain-looking (if you want to be charitable) for the time, and most would consider them horrendously ugly now. And then this white one with white wheels and a gray interior takes that down a dozen notches or so. Being owned by a goof like Rodman is no selling point, either.

    “horrendously ugly”….HUH?
    Maybe you were always looking at a Foxbody Mustang’s tailights.

    The only time I see a Fox body’s taillights is when the owners try to impress me while I’m parked in my ’04 7L/6spd Holden GTO. A: loud isn’t fast. B: no one cares that you put Flowmaster cans on a 175hp sh*tbox. C: Ford made bajillions of Fox body ‘Stangs, yours is neither rare nor special. My GTO is one of 3600+/-; Ford cranked out Fox body Rustangs as if the world depended upon them. It didn’t. D: My key fob has the Holden Lion, paw on the world. Yours? Generic Ford oval.
    Back to the beginning. The 7L Blueprint motor fit with nothing but computer mods, and I used a multiple plate clutch. No gigantic hood scoops, no 4″ turbo exhaust. And I don’t see Fox body taillights unless parked at the show. They’re a cheap quarter mile car and a highschool kids brag. But I don’t see their taillights. Bring yours to Fargo. You can see mine

    If this car was picked up by an influential TV show or youtube channel, and pushed in a bunch of content as “The Rodman Saleen” I think you would see a very different result.

    Say for example if Hot Rod garage (or Redline Rebuild) did the work to hop it up further [maybe even in 90s accurate execution] and then it was used in events and/or passed on to Roadkill to race, power tour, etc. The dated look (white wheels, etc.) works in its favor if you push the branding.

    Hagerty believes in Radwood after all.

    Keep the Rodman piece as an amusing anecdote that does make it unique as an identifier. But it is that in-the-community use that would push the value up. Rodman would have to become president for his association to bump up the value.

    It’s all about marketing. This is a decent car with an interesting history that is somewhat documented, and it sold for a price that most people could afford. The infamous Black Ghost 70 Hemi Challenger was talked up and made into a celebrity and sold for a huge 7-figure number. This Saleen just needed better promoters.

    I think this also shows how far Bring-A-Trailer has slipped. I am one of those from nearly the beginning, when it was just an enthusiast’s blog, a place to share interesting, obscure or absurd cars that appeared for sale on the internet. When Randy first began running his own auctions, as a seller I found it to be GREAT!! The readership was loyal, all bonafide car guys and the listings were so few that I believe many, like me looked at every single one of them. As a result, guys were looking at cars they never considered, or knew they wanted but seeing them opened both their eyes and wallets – I sold cars to guys that had never even seen one (I dealt in weird stuff) before they saw my auction and I was getting wonderful results. But then BAT became too successful, and obviously, too valuable and it was sold to a heartless corporation that only cares about profits. So now, there are way too many cars to appeal to the general enthusiast. Porsche guys look at the Porsches, BMW guys look at the BMWs and there’s no bringing in new blood. I would have loved to have watched this auction but until this article appeared I wasn’t even aware of it! Five, six or seven years ago that wouldn’t have happened – everyyone who read BAT would have seen and followed the auction and someone would have stepped up to the plate (sorry for the mixed metaphor) and entered a bid that would have knocked it right out of the park! No more grand slams though, I’m afraid – it got too damn successful to be any good anymore!

    Chinga, I think your comments are spot-on. Too many auctions on BAT cheapens all of them (100 per day?). I don’t have that kind of free time, and even if I did, I wouldn’t be spending it there. And I still consider myself a BAT aficionado even though I have not bought or sold on there before.

    Never understood why someone ” famous” makes a vehicle worth more.its the same damn vehicle! I couldn’t care less who’s turd cutter was in the seat as the miles were put on it.

    John- I’m from Indianapolis, my Mom’s family is from Chicago. In the ’60s and early ’70s many street racing cars had moments, or months, or years of fame. The cars and their drivers put money over mouth and simply won. Weekend after weekend, months on end. My Dad and uncles did this. As a lil dude in elementary school, I knew who was racing my dad, who had real threats, who talked too much. Dad and Unks didn’t always win, but I followed all of it.
    John- first and foremost, the Black Ghost Challenger WAS a celebrity in the mid ’70s street racing scene. If you are too young, or a coastal person, no way you could know. But we knew in Chicago and Indy, even if the BG never raced there.
    Rodman’s Saleen wasn’t even a “special” Saleen. He’s not a car guy, and didn’t care for or about it.
    The Black Ghost was ordered specifically as a street racer, by a police officer. It had several years as an unbeatable, through the mufflers/street tired hammer. Many tried, all defeated. And decades later it is discovered that the original owner was a motorcycle patrol cop, street racing off duty.
    The car has the ’70s “Afro” shield on the front fenders, mostly seen on pimpmobile Deuce & a Quarters and Eldorados. No racism, I grew up in the projects in Indianapolis, those shields were just fact on many large GM luxury cars. But the shield identifies the owner/driver as African-American, not something seen on many street racers. Or real racecars, either.
    Dennis Rodman is an insane tool, that was good at basketball 35+ years ago. No race nor car history. The Black Ghost was a famous, legit street racer owned and driven by a black police officer, at great risk to his career.
    There’s a reason no one wanted Rodman’s Saleen (Vanilla Ice 5.0, anyone?) and bid millions on the Black Ghost. Jeezus Wept, as Dodge retires ICE motors, they released a Last Call Black Ghost Challenger. If that’s not tribute, what? What?

    Really cool car. Just didn’t hit it big. And I think being owned by Rodman might have hurt the value a bit…

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