Racing exploits may be exciting, but they don’t necessarily lead to vehicles that people can drive on ordinary roads. That’s been the case with the Saleen organization, which has many years of experience and recognition in building racing machines. The company has gained a strong reputation among motorsports enthusiasts.
Saleen also turned out the special-edition S281 Ford Mustang and the Explorer XP8, a high-performance sport utility vehicle. In 2001, Saleen began to ease into the production-car arena with the mid-engine S7.
Designed and engineered by Saleen Inc. in Irvine, Calif., the S7 is said to have a top speed of more than 200 mph. Based on a Ford aluminum block, the fully re-engineered engine produced 550 horsepower. A huge, Saleen-designed muffler not only reduced noise, but it also served as part of the car’s rear-impact crumple zone. Extensive wind-tunnel testing resulted in a highly aerodynamic body featuring panels made of carbon fiber.
At the 2004 Chicago Auto Show, founder Steve Saleen announced several S7 changes for the current year. The rear spoiler has been revised, and engine output gets a boost to 575 hp and 570 pounds-feet of torque, which cuts the 0-to-60-mph acceleration time to less than 3 seconds. Saleen said developers also made the car easier to drive by adding a “new relaxing type of clutch.”
Purchases can be made at Saleen Certified Ford dealers and at other Saleen Certified dealerships that specialize in exotic motorcars.
Though the S7 is relatively long at 188 inches and more than 78 inches wide, it stands only 41 inches tall and has a 4-inch ground clearance. Its wheelbase is 106 inches, and the front track width (the distance between the wheels) is a sizable 68.75 inches. The space-frame chassis is made of lightweight steel with honeycomb composite panels and has “full tray” body sculpting underneath.
The doors open up and away from the body — a mode that’s familiar in supercars. The S7 weighs approximately 2,750 pounds. “The carbon-fiber body is so beautiful that we hated to paint it,” Saleen said. Peeking through the back window gives onlookers a unique view of the engine. Forged-alloy wheels hold 19-inch tires in front and 20-inchers at the rear.
The two-passenger cockpit is upholstered in Connolly leather and suede, and comfort amenities include standard air conditioning, power windows and locks, adjustable pedals and a six-CD player. Analog gauges include a center-mounted tachometer. A small video camera provides a view to the rear with the help of an LCD display screen.
To make entry and exit easier, it’s even possible to remove the steering wheel. Custom-made luggage that fits into the front and rear trunks is included.
Under the Hood
Derived from a Ford engine with an all-aluminum block, the heavily reworked 7.0-liter V-8 now develops 575 hp at 5,500 rpm and 570 pounds-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. Space-age materials are used, including stainless-steel valves, titanium retainers and magnesium intake manifolds. A six-speed-manual transmission drives the rear wheels.