Product Placement: Saban Sprinter

By Jesse Chambers

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has certainly built a strong brand, winning five national titles—four with the Crimson Tide—and being named one of the world’s top 50 leaders by Forbes magazine.

McSweeney Designs, a family-owned specialty vehicle manufacturer based in Trussville, has also built a strong brand as a maker of high-end luxury vans and transport vehicles for car lovers, entertainers, business tycoons, and heads of state on three continents.

These two brands recently combined forces to create a special luxury vehicle that takes the football ritual of tailgating to a new level.

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Saban and his dealership, Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham, worked with McSweeney Designs to design and produce the Nick Saban Signature Series Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, a luxury vehicle designed for tailgating, corporate entertaining, and family travel.

The limited-edition Sprinter—only 15 were made in 2015—features comforts such as rich leather upholstery, audiophile-worthy surround sound, and a multimedia entertainment system with three ultra-high-definition TVs and a satellite feed.

The McSweeneys were thrilled to work with the legendary Alabama coach, according to Michael McSweeney. “Nick Saban being the celebrity he is in the state, I don’t think we could have had a greater honor than to work not just with him but his entire family,” he says.

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Saban’s son, Nicholas, is a product manager at the dealership and worked “hand in hand” with McSweeney executive Jeffrey Hunter to complete the project, McSweeney says.

“They are truly great people,” Hunter says of the Sabans. “They have a high standard of excellence.”

McSweeney says he and his family had another reason to enjoy working with Coach Saban. “We’ve been raised to be big Alabama fans,” he says, laughing. “It was a fun project to work on.”

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McSweeney Design, a division of McSweeney Holdings, has modified interiors on platforms such as Chevrolet Suburbans and Cadillac Escalades, as well as the Sprinter. SCA Performance, McSweeney Design’s sister company, creates high-end off-road trucks for several makers, including GMC.

As a specialty or second-stage manufacturer, the company works in “special niche categories” and does things to vehicles that the original manufacturers “don’t want to do or there’s not enough volume to do,” McSweeney says.

Hunter is happy that the Saban van, which attracted a national buzz, drew attention to the skilled workers at McSweeney.

“We have world-class designers, engineers, and craftsmen who pour their heart and soul into everything that comes off the line,” he says. “What was meaningful for me was to see them to get the credit they deserve.”

“We can do things our competitors can’t do,” McSweeney says of the vertically integrated company founded by his dad in 1979. “We can take a project all the way from the idea phase to manufacturing in house. We have industrial designers and automotive engineers.”

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