He tracked down the car of his dreams on eBay, the Internet auction service. It was a white 1991 Ferrari 348TS with 7,000 miles.
In January 2000, Salant came to Lawrence, where the car's owner, Joel Ellena, worked and lived. Salant paid Ellena $47,500 for the car.
What's happened since, Salant said, has been a "nightmare."
The trouble started on the way back to Salant's New Jersey home, when the Ferrari broke down in Columbia, Mo. A Lamborghini dealership in Springfield, Mo., said the alternator went out. Salant returned to New Jersey and demanded his money be returned.
Now, Lawrence Police are investigating the transaction, and Salant said he plans to file a civil lawsuit.
"It looks like a million bucks on the outside," Salant said. "He just rigged the car to work."
Salant came to Lawrence on Jan. 17, 2000. He test-drove the car, then had a mechanic from a Kansas City, Mo., sports car shop look at it.
"I didn't know what I was driving," Salant admitted. "I had never been in a Ferrari before."
But, Salant said, Ellena assured him -- through the advertisement and in their conversations -- that the car was in mint condition.
"He told me he never did any mechanical work on the car, that the car was in great shape, that it had one little nick -- basically that the car was perfect," Salant said.
At first, according to e-mails provided to the Journal-World, Ellena indicated he would refund the money.
"The bank gave me the final OK on your checks clearing today," Ellena wrote Jan. 27, 2000. "They have started the paperwork on the new loan, and I am going in tomorrow to finish everything up. They will then wire the funds back to your account (I'm hoping by noon). If all goes well, you should have everything back by close of business tomorrow."
Now 16 months later, Salant still hasn't seen the money. And he hasn't heard from Ellena in more than a year.
In that time, Salant discovered that his 1991 Ferrari had a 1989 engine and interior. Wide World of Cars Inc., a Spring Valley, N.Y., Ferrari dealer, confirmed the finding. Salant said the engine number was traced back to a 1989 Ferrari also owned by Ellena.
"Our only conclusion can be that sometime in the life of this vehicle the engine was replaced with the current engine which is incorrect for a 1991 model year," wrote Stephan Attardo, service manager for Wide World of Cars.
Salant has spent more than $23,000 repairing his Ferrari, including clutch, catalytic converter, seat belt, transmission and the alternator repairs.
Lawrence Police are investigating the case as "theft by deception," Det. John Lewis said. They haven't been able to locate Ellena, who reportedly lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., for questioning. Lewis said police will continue to try contacting Ellena before forwarding the case to the district attorney.
The Journal-World also was unable to contact Ellena. Family members in Lawrence said they didn't know how to reach him, and Ellena didn't respond to an e-mail sent to him.
When he was in Lawrence, Ellena, 28, operated Carsmart Auto Center at 2300 West 29th Terrace with his father, Jim Ellena.
Joel Ellena is the grandson of Jack Ellena, who founded the Auto Plaza at 29th and Iowa streets. However, Joel Ellena wasn't affiliated with Jack Ellena Honda.
-- Staff writer Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.