Tag Archives: Saleen


By: N.A. on January 8, 2001
Original Article: AMERICAN METAL MARKET, VOL. 109, ISSUE 5

Metals in Motion

Titanium, magnesium in powerful V-8
DETROIT — Titanium valve retainers and magnesium intake manifolds and throttle bodies are employed in the aluminum-block/aluminum-head 7.0-liter V-8 engine used in the high-powered Saleen S7 sports car built in Irvine, Calif., by Saleen Inc. The low-slung, 200-mile-per-hour sports car will be built in very low volumes for sale in the United States and England, initially. For the continental European and Middle East markets, the 550-horsepower cars will be assembled in the United Kingdom. The first models will show up in the U.S. market in the second quarter of 2001 priced at $375,000 apiece.

Plastic car bodies seen making gains
DETROIT — Regular production of car bodies made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics may begin in Europe by 2005. Low-volume production already is undertaken by some sports car builders, but higher output levels for family car applications should be reached in four or five years, according to a number of BMW AG engineering executives and managers. Research and development subsidiary BMW Technik, Munich, Germany, recently started operating a pilot plant for the production of composite car bodies making extensive use of carbon fiber technology.

Lotus Elise Sport 190 off to the races
DETROIT — A few dozen Lotus Elise Sport 190 cars with aluminum spaceframe chassis have been purchased by U.S. citizens at $56,000 to $57,000 apiece for use on the race track–the only way the car owners are allowed to use the extremely lightweight (1,480 pounds) two-seaters, which aren’t certified for regular street use in this country. The Sport 190 is a four-cylinder-engine-equipped, 190-horsepower track version of the Lotus sports car built in Norwich, England, by Lotus Cars Ltd.

Chrysler hopes new Jeep SUV scores
DETROIT — The Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG is hoping that its new steel-body Jeep sport utility vehicle, the Liberty, due out in the summer, will boost Jeep sales and get its overall market performance back on track. The Toledo, Ohio.-built Liberty SUVs will join the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler models in Chrysler’s Jeep lineup.


First Customer Car to Compete in Rolex 24 at Daytona

IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 18, 2000 – Steve Saleen, six-time GT Manufacturer’s Champion in sports car racing, announced today that Paul Gentilozi and his Rocketsports Racing will run a Saleen S7R in the 2001 Rolex 24 scheduled for Feb. 5-6 at Daytona International Speedway.

Gentilozzi, the “Rocket Man”, won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1992, the IMSA GTS Manufacturer’s Championship in 1993 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1994. But he is best known as a fierce competitor in the Trans-Am Series where Gentilozzi is the two-time (’98 & ’99) Trans-Am Driver’s Champion and first all-time in starts, “Fast Five’’ starts and top-five finishes. Most recently, Gentilozzi barely missed a “three-peat” finishing second in the 2000 Trans-Am Driver’s Championship.

“We have always prided ourselves a5 being innovative racers at Rocketsports,” stated Gentilozzi. “The opportunity to compete in the jewd of endurance racing in a truly innovative race car was too much to pass up. The Saleen S7R has set a new standard for its class and deserves a win. We intend to be part of that first victory.”

While Saleen will be providing customer support to Rocketsports Racing for the assault on the Rolex, Saleen/Allen Speedlab will use January to concentrate on the development and testing of the S7R to insure a more competitive product for future customers.

“We’re thrilled to have Paul and his Rocketsports Racing running our first customer car, especially at the Rolex,” commented Saleen. “Everyone who follows sports car racing knows of Paul’s competitive nature; he never backs away from challenge. We’re dedicated to a major customer car program with the Salem S7R and we’d be hard pressed to find a better team to run our first customer car.”

The Saleen S7R debuted at Laguna Seca this fall less than two months after its sibling the Saleen S7, was introduced as the first true American supercar at the famed Monterey Historic Races at this same venue. Since then, development of the 7-liter Vg-powered, 6OO-horsepower racecar has been top priority at Saleen’s Southern California-based headquarters. The ACO, ALMS, FIA and Grand-Am have all approved the racecar’s design and Saleen hopes that customer cars will be competing in each ofthe series this year.

Saleen recently announced plans to campaign two Saleen S7R5 in the entire 2001 ALMS season, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The racecars are expected to compete against the Chevrolet Corvettes and the Dodge Vipers in the GTS classification.

Already the famed racing marque, Ecune Ecosse, announced this month that they will campaign a Saleen S7R in the British GT Championship, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Ecuria Ecosse effort will be managed by RML, Saleen’s technical partner who assisted in the design and production of the Saleen S7R.

In addition, Saleen hopes to announce plans for another customer to compete a Saleen S7R in the 2001 &and-Am GT Championship, a series which Saleen/Allen Speedlab won the Driver’s, Manufacturer’s and Team Championships last year.

Saleen facilities include total research, engineering, design and assembly capability. Saleen is certified with the federal government as a specialty vehicle manufacturer. Since the company’s inception in 1934, Saleen has produced over 8JOO vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s line includes the Saleen S281, the Saleen xP8 SUV, the new Saleen 57 supercar, Saleen Engineering and Certification Service, and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter encompassing the complete line of performance and appearance products for Mustangs and Explorers. For more information about Saleen – its people and its products – visit the web site at www.saIeen.com.


By: AMY WILSON on December 11, 2000
Original Article: AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, VOL. 75, ISSUE 5907

Steve Saleen is a speed merchant.

Until now his primary business has been to supply Ford dealers with something they couldn’t get from the factory — a high-performance car that’s capable of going toe to toe with sports cars such as the Chevrolet Cor- vette. This year Saleen Inc. expects to sell more than 1,000 copies of the S281, a modified version of the Ford Mustang, at an average price of about $41,000.

Now Saleen, with the financial backing of partner Tony Johnson of Hidden Creek Industries, has set his sights on producing a limited-volume, high-performance supercar — the Saleen S7.

The step puts Saleen in company with another noted automotive industry figure, former Chrysler Corp. executive Robert Lutz and his plan to produce a powerful touring car under the auspices of Cunningham Motor Co.

Different routes
But while Saleen and Lutz have much the same dream — to build a small number of unique, high-priced vehicles — their business plans are different.

Lutz, president of battery supplier Exide Corp., envisions a virtual car company where engineering, manufacturing and assembly would be outsourced to a major supplier such as a Visteon or Delphi. The Lutz-Cunningham group aims to have a driveable prototype by mid-2001.

The fruits of his project, however, likely would not compete directly against the Saleen S7. The Cunningham car would be a 2+2 grand touring car with a 550-hp V-12 engine. Capable of speeds of more than 200 mph, that vehicle would cost more than $200,000. Saleen and his boutique firm plan to launch a performance-oriented supercar engineered, sourced and assembled almost completely under the auspices of the Saleen organization.

That greater oversight on the Saleen project is necessary to ensure high-speed performance and a car that leaves the production line ready for the racetrack, said Saleen, founder and president of Saleen Inc., a company that made its name tuning high-performance Ford Mustangs.

Pricey performance
The Saleen S7 — a 555-hp supercar with a price tag of $385,000 — is set to begin shipping to customers next June.

Already, nine people have made $100,000 deposits. Saleen still has to get the vehicle through government certification; at least two of the supercars will be crash-tested in the process.

Saleen plans to build 100 of the cars a year for the next four years, though the program’s break-even point will come with the sale of 80 to 100 vehicles, Saleen said.

The S7 project has the backing of Johnson, head of Hidden Creek Industries, a $6.5 billion enterprise with interests in major automotive suppliers, including:

  • Dura Automotive Systems Inc., a maker of controls such as gear shifts with sales to North American automakers of $1.25 billion last year, ranking it No. 35 on the Automotive News list of top 150 suppliers.
  • Tower Automotive Inc., a maker of suspension components and truck frames with sales to North American automakers of $2.04 billion last year, ranking it No. 19 on the top 150 list.

Those companies have little involvement in the S7 project, though Saleen certainly uses such suppliers for its custom vehicles.

Saleen COO Don Cuzzocrea said: “We manufacture either all of our own parts ourselves or they’re custom built for us by well-known Tier 1 suppliers. But anything we get is a proprietary design.”

The S7’s 7.0-liter V-8 engine is based on a Ford-cast all-aluminum engine block re-engineered by Saleen. British racing house Ray Mallock Ltd. assisted with the design and build of the space-frame chassis and packaging of the suspension system. Saleen also procured brakes from Italian maker Brembo and numerous high-tech pieces from companies in the Midlands area of England. Dura Automotive is supplying Saleen-specified foot pedals. Though a few commodity mechanisms — pieces such as levers and latches — are on the S7, virtually every part involved in driving the car or visible to the driver was designed and/or produced by Saleen, the company’s president said.

Saleen officials intend to position the S7 against pricier vehicles. Among them: the McLaren F1, the Porsche GT1 and the Jaguar 220, all of which retail for more than $1 million.

Saleen S7
Manufacturer: Saleen Inc., Irvine, Calif.
Engine: 555-hp, 7.0-liter V-8 based on a Ford block
Speed: 200-plus mph
Planned production: 400 cars
Price: $385,000


By: N.A. on December 4, 2000
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 50, ISSUE 51

DECEMBER 4, 2000

To misquote Shakespeare, all the world’s a rally and we’re putting you center stage. World Rally driver Richard Burns topped the competition in the Britain (apge 50) and Subaru is already dreaming about what it–and you– will do with its rally-inspired Impreza WRX (Headliner, page 9). Over at Pontiac, the REV is only a concept (Cover Story) but a powerful little all-wheel-driver that claims rally inspiration, too. The yearlong rally is over for our long-term Beetle (page 18), which ran stronger than we expected. Maserati won’t rally anything but its troops, to put a new Spider (below) at an auto show near you in the not-too-distant future.

Mysterious Maserati Spider
Maserati’s Spider will take center stage in the future model lineup and should serve Maserati well for its return to the North Ameri-can market in 2001. Insiders say the car now meets emission regulations of both the American and European markets.

Compared with the coupe version, the new Spider’s wheelbase is slightly shorter. The Spider reportedly will also get an all-new, highly tuned 4.0-liter V8 engine, a derivative of the Ferrari 360 Modena powerplant. With assistance from parent company Ferrari, during the next two years Maserati’s new V8 engine also will be adapted to the coupe and the next-generation Quattroporte sedan.

Company officials declined comment on reports the Spider will be launched at either the Detroit or Los
Angeles auto show.

First Viper GTS-R, now Saleen S7
The engineer responsible for turning the Dodge Viper concept into a production car and then into the Viper GTS-R racer is joining Saleen as chief engineering officer.

Neil Hannemann, whose 18-year career centered on ultra-high-performance street and competition vehicles first at Chrysler and then at DaimlerChrysler, will lead Saleen’s product development and certification programs, including work on the S7 supercar.

Pinto’s revenge?
Years after the federal government complained that Ford’s Pinto exploded on rear impact, the feds are proposing that cars and trucks be built to withstand a 50-mph rear-end collision with virtually no loss of fuel.

The proposed new rule comes more than five years after General Motors agreed to fund research in rear-crash testing to avoid a recall of its full-size pickups outfitted with sidesaddle fuel tanks. Critics contended the sidesaddle tanks contributed to fuel fires in crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administra-tion estimates the tougher standard could save up to 21 lives per year over the existing 30-mph rear-impact requirement. The agency says the regulation would add $5 to the cost of each vehicle. Industry lobbyists are still formulating their response to the proposal, but in the past they have advocated improved testing.
Car of the Year–Japanese-style

Honda Civic is the 21st Japanese Car of the Year, beating its direct rival Toyota Corolla, according to a poll of Japanese automotive journalists.

The Subaru Impreza WRX received the Car of the Year special award and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class received the Imported Car of the Year award. Cars built in Japan between Nov. 1, 1999, and Oct. 31, 2000, were eligible.

Bill Devin, an automobile industry pioneer once referred to as “the Enzo Ferrari of Okie Flats,” died Nov. 22. He was 85.

Starting as a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Fontana, California, Devin moved up to exotic cars and eventually specialized in racing Ferraris. His dream of becoming a car builder materialized in 1954 with the fiberglass-bodied Devin-Panhard. He ultimately became the world’s largest producer of aftermarket fiberglass bodies in the 1950s. In 1958, he introduced the Devin SS, powered by a Corvette V8, and also produced the Porsche- or Volkswagen-powered Devin D and Corvair-powered Devin C.


By: N.A. on November 13, 2000
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 50, ISSUE 47

Steve Saleen has signed Olivier Gavin to drive his GTS car in the American Le Mans Series next year. Gavin, a former Formula One test driver and British Formula 3 champion, will team with Terry Borcheller, Ron Johnson and Tom Kendall. Saleen skipped the Las Vegas race (AW, Nov. 6) to spend the weekend testing.

The United Auto Workers union and Delphi Automotive will be the primary sponsors on Rick Hendrick’s Winston Cup car next year (driven by Jerry Nadeau), replacing Michael Holigan Homes. Word is Holigan wants to start his own team.

Riley & Scott will introduce a redesigned Trans-Am chassis, the Mk VIII, for the 2001 season. The new model will hit the track mid-season. Design changes include revised suspension for quicker adjustments and a stronger structure. R&S said the chassis is designed to fit all Trans-Am-eligible bodies.

There will be no West McLaren-Mercedes “junior” team in the 2001 FIA Formula 3000 series. Established in 1998, West Competition ran Nick Heidfeld, a protege of Mercedes-Benz, to the runner-up slot the first year. The German won the title in 1999, and in 2000 moved on to the Prost F1 team. No official reason for the pullout was given, but team manager David Brown had already told his bosses he was leaving to join the Jordan Grand Prix team.

Roush Racing will move Craftsman Truck Series champion Greg Biffle to the Busch Series in 2001 and promote CTS runner-up Kurt Busch to Winston Cup. Roush also is trying to broker a business partnership with former baseball star Hank Aaron. The reason: He hopes to find a qualified minority driver for one of NASCAR’s lower divisions in 2001.

Toyota is getting serious about its NASCAR Goody’s Dash program. The Japanese auto-maker has landed two-time series champ Robert Huffman to drive a Celica in 2001.

The Speedvision World Challenge and Toyo Tires have announced the Toyo Proxes T1-S will be the spec tire beginning with the 2001 Speedvision GT and Touring Car seasons.


Saleen S7R Bypasses Las Vegas Race for Testing

BIRMINGHAM, England, Oct. 27, 2000 – Saleen/Allen Speedlab, five-time ETD Champion in sports car racing, announced today at the Birmingham Auto Show that Oliver Gavin, former Formula One test driver and British Formula 3 Champion, would be joining the team for the 2001 American Le Lemans Series (ALMS). Gavin will compete with 2000 Grand-A111 GTE) Co-Champions Terry Borcheller and Ron Johnson, as well as Tommy Kendall, the winningest sports car driver of all time, in the entire ALMS season. In addition, the Speedlab team will contest the classic endurance races at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Like most young professional racers, Oliver Gavin has driven many different cars in many different series in his career, but few have had Olly’s success!

Early in his career, Gavin received the prestigious McLaren Autosport “Young Driver of the Year” award from the late Ayrton Senna for winning 11 out of 12 races and the National Formula First Championship in 1991.

The following year, Gavin was the runner up in 1992 British Vauxhall Lotus Championship with three wins and two fastest laps for the John Village Automotive Tearn. In 1993, Gavin moved up to the British Formula 3 Championship where he was again runner up with Edenbridge Racing winning five races with two poles and five fastest laps.

After competing in the FIA Formula 3000 and Formula 3 Championships in 1994, Gavin finally broke through in 1995 with a. dominating season in the British Formula 3 Championship. Gavin was the British Formula 3 Champion with six victories, three poles and five fastest laps.

For the next several years, Gavin participated in numerous series, including the 1995 FIA International Touring Car Championship with Opel Team Joest; the Porsche Cup from 1993-1999; and Formula One testing for McLaren and Benetton from 1997 through the 2000 season. He was also the Formula 1 Grand Prix safety car driver for the FIA from 1997 through 1999 and a commentator for Radio Le Mans twice.

This past year, Gavin competed in the inaugural Grand American Road Racing Championship, driving Intersports Racing’s Lola Judd V10 in five races, including a second-place finish in the Grand-Am finale at Watkins Glen. Amazingly, he set the fastest lap in every session of the last two Grand-Am races drawing the attention of Saleen/Allen Speedlab’s principal, Steve Saleen.

“We were really impressed with Oliver’s speed at Trois-Rivieres and the Glen,” commented Saleen. “Our European sources confirmed Olly’s credentials and once we interviewed him we knew we had the perfect complement to our current Speedlab drivers.”

When not driving a new racecar, the 23-year-old Gavin enjoys personal fitness, mountain biking and most sports. He resides in Northamptonshire with his wife, Helen, and daughter, Lily.

Across the pond, the Speedlab opted to bypass the ALMS race at Las Vegas this weekend and, instead, spend the week testing. “We accomplished our goal of benchmarking the S7R last weekend at Laguna Seca,” stated Speedlab Team Director, Daryl Cozens. “Now we need more time to test the various racing components so that we’re well prepared for next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and the entire ALMS season. We’ll be at Las Vegas, but not until the SEMA Show next week (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3) where we will have both the Saleen S7 supercar (Pirelli Booth #3804) and the S7R racecar (ALMS Booth #12660) on display.”

Saleen/Allen Speedlab is sponsored by the Automotive Refinish and CE Coatings & Colorants divisions of BASF, Dura Automotive Systems, Hidden Creek Industries, Pirelli Tire North America, Tim Allen’s Signature Tools and Borla Performance Industries-


By: N.A. on October 16, 2000
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 50, ISSUE 43

Fulfilling the promise of its appearance, Steve Saleen’s new S7 street supercar (AW, Sept. 25) is also going to come as a racer. Dubbed the S7R, the competition version will debut before the season ends Dec. 31 in Australia.

The 600-hp, mid-engined, space-framed Saleen S7R will run against the GTS Corvettes and Vipers. Obviously it meets ACO rules for Le Mans and the new European Le Mans series, and Saleen says it also has been green-lighted for Grand-Am’s GTO. He anticipates approval for the FIA, British and Spanish GT championships, “and a few others worldwide.”

Following single-car shakedown races at Laguna and Las Vegas, the factory’s Saleen-Allen team plans to campaign two cars for the entire 2001 ALMS season, plus the Daytona and Le Mans 24-hour enduros. Three drivers have been named so far: two-time SCCA Trans-Am champ Tom Kendall joins Terry Borcheller and Ron Johnson, winners of this year’s GTO title for Saleen-Allen. Kendall hasn’t raced regularly since 1997.

Several private teams already have placed orders. Priced at $425,000, a mere fifty grand up on the street model, SR7s will be constructed both in England and at a new facility in Irvine, California.


A Few “Teething” Problems But Nothing major

LAGUNA SECA, Calif., Oct. 15, 2000 – After debuting its new Saleen S7R at today’s GlobalCenter Sports Car Championship Presented by Honda, the Saleen/Allen Speedlab team feel confident that they have successfully benchmarked their racecar against the top competition in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

With the Saleen S&R’s inaugural race coming less than two months after the introduction of its sibling, the Saleen S7 road car, there was some apprehension about the racecar’s performance. But in Friday’s first practice session, the Saleen S7R was competitive with the Dodge Vipers and Chevrolet Corvettes that have dominated the first ten rounds of the ALMS season. And in Saturday’s second and final qualifying session, the #55 BASF S7R qualified ahead of a Team Oreca Viper and was less than one second off the pace of the GTS pole-siting Corvette.

With the green flag flying, Tommy Kendall set off after the two Corvette s and two Vipers, passed the #92 Dodge Viper and, at one point, set the third fastest lap in GTS. But the teething problems started at Lap 22 when the transmission became stuck in fifth gear and the team lost eight laps in. the pits.

“We’re really pleased with the S7R’s performance straight out of the box,” commented Steve Saleen. “Less than two months after the birth of the S7 and with only a few days of dry testing in England, we were bound to have a few problems. But the new team of drivers and crew persevered; the ear ran the third fastest lap in class and finished the race. Mission accomplished, as far as we are concerned!”


By: DUTCH MANDEL on September 25, 2000
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 50, ISSUE 40

With his six-figure S7 supercar,
Steve Saleen aims to prove he’s not just another pretty tuner

The question resonates like a church bell at high noon: Does the world need another supercar? If Steve Saleen is tugging the rope, the answer is listen. And watch.

At Monterey in late August, we watched Saleen unveil the S7, his latest-and to date, grandest-effort in the specialty car manufacturing universe. S7 is aeroslick and represents for Saleen the culmination of more than 17 years of car building and car racing efforts. The recipe for S7, while simple, is nonetheless ambitious: It bakes in tried and true manufacturing processes with robust performance hardware. Its skin is wind-tunnel honed, its interior is a combination of utilitarian and exotic design. How well it runs is a question that must wait until the second quarter of next year when Saleen himself promises customer cars will be ready for delivery.

Sign up today and be first on your block to get yours for $375,000.

S7, Saleen touts, is going to be a supercar unlike any other. While that is an automotive mantra we’ve heard before-can you say Bricklin, DeLorean, Mosler, Weigert?-there are reasons to believe some of Saleen’s claims. What he says has a throw-weight behind it others did not. Take for example Saleen’s small-batch manufacturing experience as well as the ever-important financing courtesy of mega-busi-ness guru Tony Johnson, head of Hidden Creek Industries, a $6.5 billion company.

That Steve himself asserts that S7 will have performance superior to that of the upcoming Mercedes Vision SLR supercar is reason enough to raise hackles of skepticism. That he plans to charge half again the price of the SLR’s reported $250,000 for his car leaves us flat dumbstruck. Still, admire his chutzpah.

The S7 is so named for a combination of Saleen and the car’s 7.0-liter powerplant displacement. Though targeted at a highly rarefied market, its genesis is aimed at driving home a much larger point: That Saleen does not make “tuner” cars.

Saleen tells all who’ll listen that he’s a specialty manufacturer who undertakes far greater effort and overcomes greater obstacles than those who merely bolt on fiber wings or pop in performance chips. Aside from completely stripping each car with which he begins the Saleen transformation, his company has learned to leap through state and federal regulatory hoops, create shop and owner manuals, establish a dealer network and provide customer warranties, to name just a few steps. These efforts go well beyond what tuners can and will do for customers; they are the efforts of carmakers. By the end of this year, Saleen will have built in his history a total of 8000 cars.

“Given what we’ve done with Mustangs-our touching every element on these cars-this S7 is the next step,” says Saleen. “We were convinced [we could do this project] after we showed the Saleen SR, a Mustang derivative that debuted at the L.A. auto show, which had everything changed on it but the window glass.”

According to Saleen, that car was well-received, along with its $158,000 price tag. “That [SR] was our catalyst for the next generation of cars.”

His next-generation car, this car, starts with a simple tube-frame chassis and honeycomb construction, a basic layout with a long wheelbase and compact drivetrain that allows for a roomy interior. Saleen subcontracted chassis design and manufacture to Ray Mallock Ltd., a British firm that specializes in building race-winning touring cars.

Reasons for dishing out the chassis were many. First, RML knows racing; it has won multiple British Touring Car Championships-driver and constructor-in recent years. (No wonder S7’s chassis is something like you’d see in the sports car racing world.) Because it knows racing, it knows design, manufacturing speed and flexibility-keys to a project like this. As is the case with many race car builders, RML wants to grow outside its competition confines and into the “real” car world. Finally, RML gives Saleen a ready-made European delivery outlet for these cars; Saleen plans to have S7 sold worldwide, and as such it has been engineered with both left- and right-hand-drive models.

RML will supply Saleen with a complete chassis and suspension with uprights, parts that are broken down and air-freighted to Saleen’s Irvine, California, manufacturing center. Once in California, Saleen will drop in a Ford 7.0-liter, all-aluminum 427 engine mated to a six-speed ZF transaxle.

As for performance, well, Saleen makes super claims: The S7’s 550-horsepower engine will move it to 60 mph from a standing start in less than four seconds, with a top speed in excess of 200 mph. “The drivetrain is a derivative of both our racing and production knowledge that we’ve gained over 17 years,” Saleen says.

The S7’s interior can best be described as spartan elegant. Spread throughout is Connolly leather and suedes, brushed aluminum touch pieces and ever popular “jewel-like” gauges. According to Saleen, the effort is “to put a premium on the cockpit without compromising performance.” If you have a chance to sit in an S7, you’ll notice the cabin is slightly asymmetrical. The effect is to have the driver sit more inboard. But once in S7, you’re there.

“If you’re looking for ease of entry and exit, you may want to get a [Ford] Focus,” says Saleen with a chuckle, and adds that “once in the car, you’ll be well wrapped.” Call it a nod to its racing heritage, but S7 has a removable steering wheel that clearly aids getting in and out.

A rooftop scoop forces cooling air into the engine, which may be key for performance cars, but does little to increase rearward visibility. To that end, Saleen incorporates a rearward-mounted television camera and couples it to an in-dash monitor that gives the driver a clear view of what evil may lie behind S7.

As for its exterior design, it was a semi-collaborative effort between Saleen himself and longtime Saleen designer Phil Frank. Still, the absolute shape is the result of many hours working with a one-third-scale model in a rolling plane wind tunnel. Obviously, not an inexpensive undertaking, but one Saleen sees as paramount to making S7 both visually rakish and stable at high speeds.

Saleen sees S7’s competition measured two ways: price and performance. Naturally, less-expensive supercars are the Lamborghini Diablo, Jaguar XJ220, Lotus, Porsche and some Ferraris. Additionally, he points to the aged McLaren F1, a $1 million technological toy, as the kind of car his might run for pinks.

Saleen sees a three- to four-year production run for S7 with a total of 300 to 400 built for world-wide sale. Among his targeted buyers are newly rich e-commerce mavens, but he’ll gladly sell to anyone with the cash.

“The car is built with a big frame, and that will allow for the professional athlete and that level of demographic,” he says.

S7 will not be able to push aside its racing heritage. Eventually it will make its way to competition on the racetrack in sports car racing-the arena where Saleen feels most at home.

When Steve talks, he shifts between the first and third person. The effect is disconcerting, but what to do if your name is on the car? “The total concept is 100 percent Saleen. We wanted to do a high-performance, worldwide vehicle.

“I’ve wanted to do a mid-engined, two-seat sports car for a long time. We have been making a hard push to get people to understand Saleen is not a tuner. We want to produce vehicles as we do now-from cradle to grave-and this is a proof of concept for what Saleen has already done.”

Sorry to disappoint, Steve, but proof of the status you seek comes later, when and if the current iteration of Saleen is still in business, having made enough money to tool up and manufacture the car that comes after S7.


By: DAVID ORLOFF on September 18, 2000

After Revving Up Mustangs, Saleen is Building Its Own Speedster

It’s good to have deep pockets when you want to sell a $375,000 car.

That’s why Steve Saleen said he is happy to have industrialist S.C. “Tony” Johnson as a partner in his Saleen Inc. of Irvine.

For more than a decade, Saleen’s company has bought Mustangs from Ford Motor Co., souped them up and turned them over to dealers who sell them as big-ticket toys to wealthy speed demons.

Now Saleen is crafting from scratch a car of his own that he hopes will rival the Ferrari and Lamborghini. While Saleen’ s Mustangs go for $30,000 to $50,000 apiece, the asking price for his new S7 is nearly $400,000.

Johnson is the president and chief executive of Minneapolis-based Hidden Creek Industries, a holding company specializing in the automotive industry. Hidden Creek counts about $6 billion in annual revenue from portfolio companies such as Dura Automotive Systems Inc., Tower Automotive Inc. and J.L. French Automotive Castings Inc. Johnson’s companies make engine components, windows, doors and other auto pans.

Johnson became an investor and partner in Saleen Inc. in 1993. Saleen, the company’s founder, president and a former professional race car driver, said he needed some capital to help the company out after recession a decade ago.

“To withstand for a longer time, I needed to have better capitalization,” Saleen said.

Back then, Saleen Inc. sold off one of its parts divisions “to keep the company going,” Saleen said. “That’s when I looked for a partnership.’s’

Saleen didn’t have to look beyond his own client list. Johnson is a car enthusiast and bought a Saleen Mustang in the early ’90s.

When the time came to make a deal, Saleen chose Johnson, who now serves as Saleen Inc.’s chairman.

“We are fifty-fifty partners,” Saleen said.

The Saleen Mustang is a high-performance version of the Ford sports car. The Saleen version has more horsepower, a racing suspension, new body trim and other custom pans. Saleen Inc. is considered a specialty vehicle maker under federal government guidelines and has put more than 7,000 vehicles on the road to date.

The company is 10 months into the development of its new S7, a 550-horsepower supercar.

“It’s a very fun project to do,”

Saleen said. Saleen designed the car with Phil Frank, a longtime product designer and consultant. The company used Ray Mallich Ltd., an English automotive company, to develop the car’ s chassis and recruited the University of Glasgow in Scotland to handle the car’s aerodynamics.

Unlike the development process for most cars, Saleen skipped the clay model step and went straight from computer-aided drawing into production. A number of manufacturers are interested in how he developed the car, he said, since skipping the clay model brought down the cost.

“It saved time and money,” Saleen said.

Saleen’s bid to make his own car grow out of his 16 years of bolstering Mustangs. Saleen Inc. designs, develops and makes a specialty product line with 2,000 performance and custom automotive products ranging from engine components and body pieces to floor mats and speedometers. For the body of the S7, Saleen incorporated the carbon fiber technology used in the Formula One race cars.

The S7 was unveiled last month at a car race in Monterey, Calif.

Saleen now is testing the vehicle for proper engine function and throttle response as well as the temperature and cooling systems. It will start speed tests this month and should finish testing by the end of the year, he said. Saleen will produce about 100 cars per year and they will be on select showroom floors in the second quarter of 2001.

As for the demand for the S7, Saleen already has orders for eight cars, he said.

Demand is “a lot higher than anticipated,” Saleen said.

Saleen said he expects to produce and sell 300 to 400 of the cars in the next four years.

The S7 will also be sold in 15 exotic car dealerships around the nation, he said.

All of the manufacturing and tooling of the vehicle is being done in Irvine, but to do so, the company needs more space, Saleen said.

It is currently looking for a 125,000-square-foot facility in Irvine to consolidate its six facilities. It has two buildings in Lake Forest, two in Huntington Beach and two in Irvine, including its headquarters, assembly line and showroom. The main building also houses the design and engineering operations as well as the customer service center and parts distribution facility.

“Irvine has turned into Detroit West,” Saleen said. Orange County is now home to the headquarters for 10 automotive brands, while Los Angeles boasts a few carmakers as well.

“We like Southern California. It is a hub of automotive enthusiasts and a supplier base,” Saleen said. Plus, he added, “Orange County is a very nice place to live.”

The move will come at the end of the company’s lease in March and will give Saleen Inc. about 25,000 more square feet of space. Saleen has 115 employees, a number that won’t change much when the full-scale production of the S7 begins. Saleen said the current staff can handle most of the work.

The company’s operations produce five Saleen Mustangs per day. Saleen has made a few hundred performance Ford Explorers and a few Ford Contours. Saleen also made a performance minivan out of a Ford Windstar for comedian Tim Allen.

“We’ve done a number of items for him,” Saleen said.

Allen is a racing enthusiast. The star of “The Santa Clause” is a partner with Saleen in Saleen/Allan Speedlab, a racing team and development division of Saleen Inc.