All posts by Jim Dvorak

Managing Director of SOEC since 2005. Veteran of the Southern California automotive scene. Involvement with Saleen dates back to the mid 1990s.

WILD HORSES: SALEEN S7S, MODIFIED MUSTANGS

By: GERRY MALLOY on August 31, 2002
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

Supercar, Muscle Car Combo Drives Early Racing Success

Steve Saleen stunned the automotive press at the Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca when he not only announced that he was going into the supercar business, but unveiled a sleek prototype.

That was two years ago. Much has happened since.

The high-performance, mid-engined supercar is the purest form of the modern automobile.

Exemplified by such exotica as the Ferrari F50, Lamborghini Murcielago and McLaren F1, it is a barely tamed race-car, adapted for use on the street.

Predominantly a product of Europe, the genre has been the subject of numerous North American concept cars. The few attempts that have been made to build and market such cars on this continent have ended in ignominy.

Saleen aims to break that pattern. If anyone outside the Big Three can do it, he is probably the one.

He is already well on his way. When I visited the Saleen assembly plant in Irvine, Calif., his fabricators were working on chassis number 19 in the company’s S7 lineage.

Not only does he have the facilities and expertise to achieve his production goal of 15 to 20 vehicles a year, he has the critical mass to support it; he is also building 20 Saleen Mustangs a week in the same plant.

Total production of those highly modified Mustangs has approached 10,000 units over the 19 years since he began the business.

Saleen himself is a racer at heart. He competed in everything from autocross and Formula Atlantic to Trans-Am and Indy cars.

He is a businessman, with a degree from USC and a flair for promotion. He is the most successful private North American auto manufacturer in modern history.

Because most of his creations are Mustang-based, many regard Saleen as little more than a tuner. But the changes he makes to the Mustangs are such that the cars must be individually certified for both emissions and crash-test performance.

So Saleen’s operations are afforded full-fledged manufacturer status.

Everything about his 14,000-square-metre plant, located in the heart of California’s aerospace and automotive community, supports that designation.

The Mustangs are disassembled as they arrive from Ford, then they go on dollies through a 13-station assembly line, each with its own team and tasks, for reconstruction.

Saleen supplies three body styles: coupe, roadster and speedster for each of three models, designated S281, S281 Supercharged and S281-E.

The number 281 derives from the displacement, in cubic inches, of the Ford 4.6-litre SOHC V8 that serves as a base for modification.

In S281 trim, the Saleen engine is rated at 285 hp. Adding a supercharger bumps that figure to 365, and the E-model raises it again, to 425 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque – which is delivered through a six-speed, quick-ratio manual gearbox.

Suspension, drivetrain, brakes, interior, wiring, front and rear fascias, hoods, and, in some cases, even external body panels, are replaced by Saleen-designed and, in many cases, Saleen-produced components.

Many of the cars are fitted with full roll cages.

A separate finishes-and-composites division, soon to be integrated into the main plant, is responsible for manufacturing many of those parts, and for finishing them and the cars themselves in a range of exclusive and evocatively-named Saleen colours, including Lizstick red, named for his wife.

The combined operations employ more than 150 people, including a support team for Saleen-owners’ many racing efforts.

The success of Saleen’s Mustangs on the track have pushed him and his cars into the limelight, and supported the success of the manufacturing business..

The real excitement these days lies on the other side of the shop in the eight race-car bays where the exotic S7s and S7Rs (the racing versions) are assembled.

Developed with Ray Mallock, a British race- and specialty-car builder of considerable repute, the original protype supercar was as stunning as its Laguna Seca announcement.

Long and low, with the engine amidships and air vents everywhere (every one with a purpose, Saleen says), its silhouette showed the influence of cars such as the Jaguar XK 220 and Lamborghinis and Bugattis.

But it had its own distinctive form.

It remains powered by a 7.0-litre, OHV V8, which had its genesis as a Ford service-parts aluminum racing block, but is now all-Saleen.

The engine is rated at 550 hp at 6400 rpm, and 525 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm – more in racing trim, and more than enough to make it a supercar.

Just as impressive are the rest of its credentials, which resonate pure race car: lightweight tubular-steel space frame with aluminum honeycomb structural panels; carbon-fibre body panels; double-wishbone front-and-rear suspensions; six-speed transaxle; and gigantic Brembo brakes.

Some members of the automotive press, who had seen such hopes raised and dashed before, dismissed the idea as a publicity stunt or a dream.

Saleen made believers by fielding a racing version of the prototype – which showed considerable promise – before the end of the year.

In 2001, an S7R won the 12-hours of Sebring, beating GM’s Corvette C5-Rs, qualified on the GTS class pole and finished on the GTS podium at Le Mans, and propelled lead driver Terry Borcheller to the ALMS GTS driver’s championship, beating out Ron Fellows (who’s dominating this season).

Saleen S7Rs won four separate championships in Europe and North America in their first full year.

Some people, Saleen says, have suggested that he is in the production car business just to support his racing habit – a motivation Enzo Ferrari openly admitted. But he claims it is the other way around; he races to support his production car business.

The production cars reflect this. They have high quality materials throughout, impeccable workmanship and a host of premium features, including a custom-fitted driving seat, an integrated DVD/GPS/TV/NAV-system, and custom-fitted luggage by Mulholland Brothers.

Would you expect less for US$395,000? Automobiles Bugatti of Montreal has been appointed Canadian distributor for the S7, which, Saleen says, will comply with all Canadian regulations, but price and delivery details have yet to be determined.

FELLOWS HEADS TO TOP OF HIS CLASS

By: RICK MATSUMOTO on August 19, 2002
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

Mississauga Native Overcomes Qualifying Setback At Mosport

Ron Fellows put the previous day’s qualifying disappointment behind him before climbing into his car for the Grand Prix of Mosport yesterday at Mosport International Raceway.

When he slipped out through the window of his Corvette C5-R nearly three hours later, the 42-year-old from Mississauga was all smiles.

Fellows and co-driver Johnny O’Connell sailed to their fifth GTS class victory in seven outings this season. Fellows had roared past Saleen driver Terry Borcheller, who had taken the class pole Saturday, by the time the field made its way through the second corner of the 2.5-mile circuit.

Fellows’ frustration came after he failed to nail down what would have been a series record 14th pole.

“That sort of pole record would be kinda nice to have and we’ll eventually get it,” he said. “But that’s just one lap. What counts is winning the race. This is great here at home.”

Borcheller’s team was never a serious threat in the American Le Mans Series race.

“He was gaining a little bit on me, and maybe thinking of somewhere to pass,” Fellows said. “But he’d catch traffic and we were able to pull out a little bit of a gap again. He never got close enough to make a pass.

“We got a real good start and that was the key. He wasn’t as quick early as I thought he would be.”

Fellows handed off to American O’Connell during the first pit stop an hour into the race. An hour later they switched places again and Fellows brought the car across the finish line first in the class and seventh overall.

“Johnny got in the car for us and Franz Konrad (Borcheller’s partner) got in the car for them and Johnny was faster than Franz,” Fellows said. “That was the difference. He was able to put him a lap down.

“We also gained 30 seconds in our (first) pit stop. That was incredible.”

Borcheller and Konrad finished third in the class.

O’Connell said he was determined to make up for their loss two weeks earlier at Trois-Rivières, Que. to the second Corvette team of Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins, which finished second yesterday.

“We had a good stop so we gained some time there, but I was pushing real hard,” O’Connell said. “I still felt bad about not winning at Three Rivers. So I wanted to make a statement.”

Fellows also applauded his team’s decision to use a hard tire compound.

“The guys made a great call,” he said. “It was the way to go. It was the highest track temperature we had seen in the three days. We were slipping and sliding, but you could run hard the whole time.”

It was a day that the Audi Prototype 900 team of Frank Biela and Emmanuele Pirro would just as soon forget.

Just seven minutes into the race, Biela, who had gained the overall pole for the team on Saturday, gave up the lead to the second Audi factory team car driven by Rinaldo Capello.

Their day, and any chance of catching Capello and co-driver Tom Kristensen, ended when Pirro crashed at Turn 8 47 minutes from the end of the race. Pirro, who was running second to Kristensen at the time, lost consciousness. He was awake when transported to hospital, where he was kept for observation.

The third Audi team of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johanssen finished second overall, followed by the Cadillac Northstar LMP of JJ Lehto of Finland and Max Angelelli of Italy.

Hillsburgh, Ont. native Melanie Paterson and veteran Vancouver driver Ross Bentley finished second in the Prototype 675 class and 16th overall.

Kevin Buckler and Brian Cunningham, both Americans, took the GT class and were 13th overall.

SALEEN S7Rs PODIUM ON TWO CONTINENTS:

FIRST IN ENGLAND & THIRD IN CANADA

IRVINE, Calif., August 18, 2002 — Saleen S7s were sighted around the world this past weekend, including a Lizstick Red road version at Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise and a Speedlab Yellow supercar at Concourse Italiano and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Four other Saleen S7Rs were busy with their assault on several sports car championships on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

In spite of a terrific downpour at Oulton Park, Graham Nash Motorsports’ team of Brazilian Tommy Erdos and Brit Ian McKellar continued to dominate the British GT Championship with a victory yesterday. The duo has been on the podium eight out of nine races this year winning an amazing seven of them. McKellar was the 2001 European Le Mans GTS Drivers’ Champion and one of the teammates is certain to win the British GT Championship this season.

Not quite as lucky has been the Konrad Motorsports’ team of Terry Borcheller and team owner Franz Konrad in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). In spite of Borcheller being the “fastest gun in the West” by claiming most of the GTS poles last year and finishing is the 2001 ALMS GTS Drivers’ Champion, the car has been hampered by an ACO imposed restriction that has reduced performance by approximately 100 horsepower.

So it was a huge surprise to everyone, especially Corvette driver Ron Fellows who was going for his seventh-straight pole, when Borcheller pulled off a record breaking time of 1: 15.xxx in Saturday’s qualifying session. “That one belongs to the Pirelli guys who raced back to their transporter during the session and re-balanced the wheels for me and let me set that flyer just as the checker fell,” commented Borcheller. “We’ve been struggling all year with that restriction and the pole and our third-place podium finish felt real good.”

The next race for Konrad Motorsports will be at Laguna Seca on Sept. 22 live on NBC-TV. There is some hope that the ACO will lift the restrictions by then and Borcheller and Konrad will be allowed to race the Corvettes and repeat their victory of last season at the beautiful Monterey Coast circuit.

SALEEN S7 TO APPEAR AT WOODWARD DREAM CRUISE

A Celebration of Cars, Music and Cruising Oldies

Birmingham, Mich., August 16, 2002 — The first road going Saleen S7 mid engine supercar will make an appearance at The Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, August 17, 2002.

The mid-summer Woodward Dream Cruise is a celebration of the cars, the music and the memories of cruising in the Fifties and Sixties on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, the city that put America on wheels.

The Lizstick Red S7 will be on display along with five specially painted Saleen Mustangs for the cruise and a collection of legendary Saleen Mustangs from the Saleen Owners and Enthusiasts Club at the Saleen/Jerome-Duncan Ford hospitality area located at Papa Joe’s Market, 34244 Woodward Ave., Birmingham, Mich. 48009 (east side of Woodward just South of Maple). Cars will be on display from 7am to 11pm.

The Saleen S7, America’s first true supercar, competes with the fastest, quickest, best handling and most exotic sports cars in the world. It is designed, engineered, manufactured andmarketed by Saleen, Inc., a high-performance vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

The S7 is powered by Saleen-designed all-aluminum 7Iiter V8 generating 550 horsepower at 6400 rpm and delivering 520 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. And in true supercar fashion, the S7 is capable of speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour, with a zero-to-60 time of less than four seconds.

The Lizstick Red Saleen S7 at the Woodward Dream Cruise is owned by Jerry and Kathy Ritzow of Milwaukee, Wisc. , who will be special guests of Saleen for the weekend.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Monday, August 12, 2002

The weekend of the 1-4 of August Saleen customers raced in Trois Rivieres, Canada.

Konrad Motorsports drivers Franz Konrad and Terry Borcheller qualified third and finished sixth after losing an engine in their S7R. John Young Jr. and Apex Racing qualified seventh and finished fourth in a close race in which John missed the fast lap of the race by less than 2 tenths of a second. John was driving his Saleen SR in the Speed World Challenge.

The following weekend Konrad competed under the Park Place entry with Chris Bingham and the Bully Hill 250 at Watkins Glen. Chris qualified on the pole, set fast lap and the Konrad Saleen S7R finished first in class and eighth overall. The next day (Saturday) the Zippo/ TF Racing Saleen SR finished third in the Grand Am cup race at Mid Ohio race course. This race was a support event for the CART Mid Ohio round.

Contributed by Doug Nagy, Saleen Motorsports

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Some mixed results from around the world this weekend.

In Speed World Challenge John Young Jr. qualified 9th and finished 5th in the Washington DC round in his Saleen SR.

In Washington DC round of the ALMS series Terry Borcheller and Franz Konrad qualified 3rd and finished 4th after making two stops to the penalty box during the race in the Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7R.

In the British GT championship Thomas Erdos and Ian McKellar qualified on the pole, won the race and set fast lap in the Graham Nash Motorsports Saleen S7R. The team of Tom Herridge and Nathan Kinch finished a close second in Graham Nash Motorsports second Saleen S7R. This race took place at the Rockingham Speedway in England.

Konrad Motorsports Saleen S7R Looking for Score at RFK Stadium

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 19, 2002 — After two heart-breaking race weekends at Mid-Ohio and Road America, Konrad Motorsports is still looking for its first victory of the 2002 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season at this weekend’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C.

After breaking a half Shaft while racing nose-to-tail with the two factory Corvettes at Mid-Ohio, Terry Borcheller, the 2001 ALMS GTS Drivers’ Champion, was leading both Chevrolets at Road America in the #26 Konrad Motorsports Saleen S7R when his engine expired. He did manage to salvage fastest lap at Mid-Ohio. But he and team owner, Franz Konrad, are looking for a little of Lady Luck Sunday in the 2-hour, 45-minute race on a 1.9-mile, 10 turn temporary racing circuit constructed in the parking lot of RFK Stadium. The race will be televised live nationally on NBC beginning at 1 p.m. (EDT)

Besides Lady Luck, Saleen would also like the ACO restrictions of 10% air reduction and 50 kilos of weight decreased but that likely won’t happen until late August when the 12th Saleen S7 road car is due for completion. Then, hopefully, the Saleen S7Rs will return the their 2001 form when they were recognized as the fastest guns in the west. The first Saleen S7 road car was delivered on June 6th to Jerry and Kathy Ritzow of Milwaukee, Wisc., who had the opportunity to witness Borcheller’s short-lived lead at Road America.

Elsewhere in the unrestricted race world, Saleen S7Rs are piling up victories in a mode similar to last year’s inaugural season when four S7Rs set 27 poles and fastest laps, won 19 out of 32 races and four GTS Drivers Championships in four different series. Racing again in four different series, Graham Nash Motorsports currently leads the British GT and Spanish GT Championships with three Saleen S7Rs, while Park Place Racing is out in front in the Grand-Am Rolex Cup for the second straight year.

In addition, Ford Motor Company announced earlier this week that Saleen would manufacture the production version of the Ford GT40 concept car — the supercar that dominated Ferrari and Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966 through 1969.

IRVINE, CALIF., SPECIALTY CARMAKER TO HELP REVIVE FORD’S GT

By: HOLLY WRAY on July 18, 2002
Original Article: ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, THE (SANTA ANA, CA)

Jul. 18–Specialty auto manufacturer Saleen Inc. is announcing today that it will work with Ford Motor Co. and three other auto suppliers to produce a new version of the Ford GT in a revival of a late-1960s muscle car.

Company owner Steve Saleen said he signed on to the project in February, when the first feasibility studies were conducted. Irvine-based Saleen will serve as the operator of the assembly plant, though Steve Saleen said it has not been decided where the work force will come from to build the car.

Other details yet to be announced include price, name of the car, production capacity and vehicle specifications. The development team is working out of Dearborn, Mich., but the site of production has not been decided.

A “dream team” of car enthusiasts and experts — including engineer Neil Hannemann, who took a sabbatical from Saleen to join the project — will spearhead development.

“In order to meet our needs, we had to quickly cut through a lot of the red tape that typical programs have to deal with,” said John Coletti, director of the development team. “The leadership knows what it takes to do a car like this, and we know the right people, who, in turn, know their stuff. We went out and signed them up.”

Saleen has been customizing its own version of the Ford Mustang — stock Mustangs with Saleen parts and accessories — and selling them through Ford dealers for almost 20 years.

A few weeks ago, Saleen delivered its first S7, a Saleen-designed and -manufactured race-type car for street driving, to owners in Wisconsin. Saleen also manufactures racing versions of the Mustang and S7, which compete in the United States and overseas.

Like Saleen’s S7, the production version of the Ford GT is a racer in street clothes. However, Saleen said, the features and price tag of the new model will not be as “extreme” as the $395,000 S7.

STEVE SALEEN
Title: Owner of Saleen Inc.
Age: 53
Residence: Orange County, near Saleen headquarters in Irvine
Education: Business degree from University of Southern California, 1971
Experience: Racing in the early 1970s led to building the first Saleen Mustang and establishing Saleen Autosport in 1984. Saleen’s company has built almost 10,000 Mustangs since and unveiled the S7 in August 2000.
Family: Wife, Liz, and three children, Molly, Clint and Sean.

A LEGEND RETURNS:

Saleen Will Assist with the Ford GT Production

IRVINE, Calif., July 17, 2002 — Saleen, Inc. is immensely pleased and proud to have been selected by Ford as one of the key suppliers to the re-creation of one of the great cars of all time, the production version of the GT40 concept vehicle.

“To have been chosen by Ford as one of four core suppliers to the GT project is a reflection of Ford’s confidence in our niche manufacturing capabilities,” says Saleen, Inc. president, Steve Saleen.

During the past 19 years, Saleen has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to design, engineer, manufacture and market high-performance specialty vehicles working closely with Tier 1 suppliers around the world.

“Our expertise has been primarily focused on high performance,” Saleen continued, “but it’s been diverse as far as the types of vehicles we have produced— everything from Mustang to Explorers to our new S7 supercar.”

Chris Theodore, Ford’s vice president of product development, handpicked the members of the GT Dream Team, including Saleen’s chief engineer Neil Hannermann. “When the Ford GT arrives on the scene, it will set a new standard for supercars,” says Theodore. “And it will teach us valuable lessons about the power of small, nimble product teams.”

The Ford GT project is built for speed—on the road and in the system. The project serves as a lightning rod for consumer excitement and a catalyst for change within the Ford system.

To build the low-volume super, Theodore assembled a team of performance engineering experts, such as Saleen, with the skills to deliver and the knowledge to get things done within Ford while operating outside the established system.

Many of the assembly processes already employed by Saleen to manufacture its Mustangs and S7s will be used for the paint and vehicle assembly responsibilities Saleen will assume for the new Ford GT. The assembly area is where all the various component parts are brought together by certified technicians to create the finished cars.

Saleen brings to the GT project nearly two decades as a high-performance vehicle manufacturer. Based in the creative epicenter and performance capital of the automotive world—Southern California—Saleen has developed a reputation for building enthusiast vehicles and parts that surpass the performance of some of the most expensive and exclusive vehicles in the world. Since its inception in 1984, Saleen has led specialty vehicle manufactures in innovation and quality. Saleen vehicles and parts are built under the same strict governmental guidelines and certification as those of large automotive companies—ensuring safety and emissions compliance as well as quality. As certified with the U.S. Government. Saleen vehicles meet or exceed all applicable EPA/CARB and NHTSA-FMVSS requirements.

Saleen Mustangs are sold only through Saleen-certified Ford dealers and they come with a bumper-to-bumper Saleen warranty. Saleen also has factory pricing and financing.

Steve Saleen began his company with a vision of the perfect performance vehicle that would be appreciated by anyone. Since its inception, Saleen has produced nearly 9,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer.

Today Saleen is housed in a 150,000 square foot building in Irvine, Calif. just down the road from Ford’s headquarters for the Premier Auto Group (PAG). The new office space houses the design, engineering and assembly operations, as well as the corporate offices, customer service center and the parts distribution facility. A seven-time Manufactures’ Champion in GT sports car racing, Saleen’s line of products and services includes Saleen/Allen Speedlab, Saleen Performance Parts, Saleen Composites and Coatings and Saleen Engineering and Certification Service.

From the very beginning, racing has been an important component of the Saleen DNA. “The knowledge we gain from motorsports feeds right back into our performance road cars.” says founder Steve Saleen. “Our customers love performance. Our powerful specialty vehicles are a direct translation of superior racing technology adapted to street use.”

For some manufacturers the terms niche manufacturing and mass customization—creating customized products in an efficient mass-production manner—are new. But they aren’t new to Saleen. The company has been employing these concepts from the very beginning. Unlike so-called “tuners.” Saleen’s team follows the same procedures as mega-manufacturers to certify vehicles in compliance with Federal and State regulations.

Saleen’s latest achievement in crafting niche market vehicles involves the use of best practices components along with specifically-engineered ultra-high performance parts to create the S7. Using its expertise in mass-customization, along with outsourced parts and services as needed, Saleen created the S7 for the exotic vehicle market in less than 18 months. And it is expertise such as this that will allow Ford to achieve its goal of debuting the new GT.

The supercar joins Thunderbird, Mustang and the Forty-Nine concept as part of Ford’s “Living Legends” lineup.

Production capacity, manufacturing location, vehicle specifications, performance numbers, pricing and the name of the production vehicle will be revealed at a later date.

STREET SALEENS ON TRACK

By: N.A. on April 1, 2002
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 52, ISSUE 14

Saleen says it will have no trouble producing 12 road-going (as opposed to racetrack-going) S7s required by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest for homologation in time to race without weight and intake penalties May 19 at Sears Point.

Saleen says it has 16 S7s in existence now, all of which could be converted to “road cars” to meet ACO rules requiring manufacturers to produce at least 12 road cars to qualify for Le Mans. Because ALMS uses the same rules as ACO, S7Rs in the Sebring ALMS race ran with 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of ballast and 15 percent smaller engine air restrictors.

Saleen claims the first S7s will be in customer hands before the press launch of the road cars May 10. The company says all U.S. government certifications are currently complete on the car except EPA emissions, which will be done in April.