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.

SALEEN MUSTANG GETS MORE POWER

By: KATHY JACKSON on November 8, 2004
Original Article: AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, VOL. 79, ISSUE 6120

Dateline: LOS ANGELES —

The 2005 Saleen Mustang will have more power and be sold at more Ford dealerships than the 2004 model. Production began last week.

Saleen Mustangs, built by Saleen Inc. of Irvine, Calif., are aftermarket Mustangs with higher horsepower and sportier looks than production versions.

Saleen Mustangs will come in three models: the base S281 and the supercharged S281 and S281 E.

At the California International Auto Show two weeks ago, Saleen President Steve Saleen said he wants 150 dealerships on board by next spring, up from 75 now. He also said the company is starting a training program to teach dealers how to sell performance vehicles.

All three models will be equipped with 4.6-liter V-8 engines.

The base model, which will be launched this month, makes 325 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque, compared with 290 hp and 330 poundsfeet of torque for the 2004 model.

The supercharged S281 goes on sale in January. It makes 400 hp, up from 375 last year. Torque is 420 poundsfeet, compared with 415 last year.

The E model will arrive in the spring. It is expected to make more than 500 hp, compared with 445 for the current engine.

Prices will be about $39,000 for the base model, $45,000 for the supercharged model and $55,000 for the E.

SALEEN S7R TOPS NEW MASERATIS, FERRARIS AND LAMBORGHINIS AT IMOLA

IMOLA, Italy – Friday, September 10, 2004

American Manufacturer Spoils Italian’s Debut on Their Home Turf

The big story of round eight of the FIA GT Championship at Imola this week was supposed to be the heralded debut of the Maserati MC 12 team. And while the new kids on the block looked very promising by finishing second and third, it was the more experienced team of Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels that drove their Vitaphone Saleen S7R to victory, their third win of the season. The trio were the only cars to finish on the lead lap of the three-hour sprint race; all three were also running the same Pirelli P Zero racing slicks.

Saleen S7Rs dominated qualifying as well, placing five cars in the top ten; while the Maserati could muster only an eighth and twelfth, respectively.

Alzen and Bartels had qualified third best but drove their usual strong race to earn their third victory after having won earlier this season at Magny-Cours (France) and Brno (Czech Republic). Double stinting their tires allowed the Vitaphone Racing team to remain at the front virtually throughout the race, finishing with a 43-second advantage over the second-place Maserati.

“Thanks to the fact that we were able to double stint our tires, providing optimal grip and performance for as many as 65 laps, allowed us to stay ahead of the Maseratis, especially in the final laps,” explained Alzen. The inherent power of the 600-plus horsepower Saleen S7R was also evident, particularly in the last stint, as the Saleen pulled away from the Maseratis on fresh tires.

The Saleen S7R’s performance is really no surprise to the racing world. In the first two years after its debut at Sebring in 2001, Saleen S7Rs won 48 poles, set 50 fastest laps and topped the podium 37 times in 72 races, winning seven GT Championships! No other marque racing with independent (non-factory) teams can make that claim.

The Saleen S7, America’s supercar, debuted on August 19, 2001 at the Monterey Historic Races in Laguna Seca, California and has been recognized by numerous automotive magazines as the fastest production car in the world. The 2005 Saleen S7 will make its world premiere on November 2 at the SEMA Show 2004 in Las Vegas

SALEEN S7R TOPS NEW MASERATIS FOR 3RD WIN OF FIA SEASON

IMOLA, Italy – Sunday, September 5, 2004

Teams Dominate Imola Podium Running Pirelli Tires

The big story of round eight of the FIA GT Championship at Imola today was supposed to be the long-awaited debut of the Pirelli-shod Maserati MC 12s. And while the new kids on the block looked very promising by finishing second and third, it was the more experienced Pirelli-shod team of Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels that drove their Vitaphone Saleen S7R to victory in Italy, their third win of the season and Pirelli’s fourth. The trio were the only cars to finish on the lead lap of the three-hour sprint race.

Saleen S7Rs dominated qualifying as well, placing five cars in the top ten; while the new Maserati MC 12s of Andrea Bertolini/Mika Salo and Johnny Herbert/Fabrizio de Simone could muster only an eighth and twelfth, respectively.

Alzen and Bartels had qualified third best but drove their usual strong race to earn their third victory after having won earlier this season at Magny-Cours (France) and Brno (Czech Republic). Double stinting their tires allowed the Vitaphone Racing team to remain at the front virtually throughout the race, finishing with a 43-second advantage for the second-place Maserati.

“Thanks to the fact that we were able to double stint our tires, providing optimal grip and performance for as many as 65 laps, allowed us to stay ahead of the Maseratis, especially in the final laps,” explained Alzen.

The Pirelli-shod Ferrari 360 of Christian Pescatori and Iradj Alexander also finished first in N-GT but the car was disqualified for an airbox infraction. The GPC Giesse Squadra Corse team is appealing the decision.

ANY COLOR YOU WANT, AS LONG AS IT’S ORANGE

Automotive Design & Production
May 2004, Vol. 116 Issue 5

Although some people might think that the long-awaited Ford Escape Hybrid* in actual operation was the big news from the Blue Oval at the New York Auto Show, let’s face it: horsepower rules. So it has to be the Ford Mustang GT-R concept, a bright Valencia Orange 440-hp beast that was the real showstopper–even if Kevin Bacon didn’t have the opportunity to pilot it. About the vehicle, J Mays, Ford group vp, Design, remarked, “We think the Mustang GT-R is an appropriate tribute to the car’s 40th anniversary, and a hint at what’s to come.” (See the cover story of this issue for further clues.) Whether it’s “to come” from Ford or not is probably somewhat of a moot point in that there was care in developing this concept to use lots of existing ’05 Mustang: e.g., 85% of the body components are stock (well, will be when the car comes out this fall) and the Ford Racing “Cammer” crate engine that’s available to racers right out of a catalog (if you have $14,995 that you’d like to put under a hood). The GT-R was built at Saleen Special Vehicles (Troy, MI).

The concept differs from the forthcoming Mustang with items such as fulsome fender flares, giant side air scoops, aero effects, and an unfinished carbon fiber hood with appropriate bulge. And there’s a comparable composite rear spoiler to balance things out. What’s more, there are carbon-fiber belly pans. Inside, there is also carbon fiber, on the IP. As this is a race vehicle, there is a Formula One-style steering wheel fitted: it contains most of the gauge information, with the oil pressure and water temperature gauges being the only two in the IP. Explains Doug Gaffka, design director, Ford Performance Group, “Most racers cobble together interiors. The Formula One-style steering wheel significantly reduces dash gauges to help preserve Mustang’s powerful instrument panel, which is the next evolution of our interior design leadership.” Another thing that isn’t inside: seats other than the driver’s–although there are seat mount tracks on the passenger’s side, just in case.

* Ford executives have been talking about the Escape Hybrid for a long time. Less time, however, than the 37-hour drive around Manhattan that was used to launch the real vehicle (finally). The drive was to prove the fuel efficiency of the Escape Hybrid, which proved that it could get 38 mpg. Among those driving were the soon-to-be mentioned Kevin Bacon. Perhaps if all of the people who have six degrees of separation from him buy one…

FORD MUSTANG GT-R CONCEPT DEBUTS

NEW YORK, April 7, 2004 – The muscular Ford Mustang GT-R rekindles the legend’s road racing glory and the magic of 5.0-liter Mustangs in a stunning racing concept making its world debut today. The Mustang GT-R signals a potential future race car, while honoring four decades of performance glory just days before Mustang’s 40th anniversary.

The bright Valencia Orange car – inspired by the famous Grabber Orange 1970 Mustang Boss 302 Trans-Am race cars (the Yellow Mustangs) piloted by race legends, including Parnelli Jones – is a technological showcase that, when peeled back, reveals a number of existing or production-feasible racing parts.

Built at Saleen Special Vehicles in Troy, Mich., the car was developed by the same members of the Ford GT “Dream Team” who are building sub-assemblies and painting body panels for Ford’s first supercar.

The Mustang GT-R features Ford Racing’s 440-horsepower “Cammer” crate engine that already is affordably available to grassroots racers, and can be tuned to produce more than 500 horsepower under certain race series rules. Last year, a tuned 505-horsepower version of the “Cammer” notched world-class performance and endurance credentials by powering a Focus Daytona Prototype to victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona race.

The racecar is engineered to tackle the world’s toughest road and street courses with a stiff structure – based on the all-new 2005 Mustang scheduled for sale this fall – a collection of the most sophisticated racing parts from many racing series and a Formula One-inspired steering wheel. However, the Mustang GT-R could be easily transformed into an affordable, competitive option for grassroots teams because it uses 85 percent of the 2005 Mustang’s body components along with the same suspension setups and the already-attainable “Cammer” powerplant.

“The Mustang GT-R could be adapted to conform to different series and budgets but, in this variation, serves as a dream machine. We took the ‘Cammer’ engine from the Ford Racing catalog and built a race car around it with the best parts we’ve researched and tested through our unmatched global racing program,” Davis says.

Design
Doug Gaffka’s – design director, Ford Performance Group – design inspiration for the Mustang GT-R was simple: Flex the 2005 Mustang shell to wrap the engine and retain 85 percent of the production car’s solid structure.

The front end is a further evolution of the Mustang GT coupe and convertible concepts that stole the 2003 North American International Auto Show and foreshadowed the design of the 2005 Mustang. The Mustang GT-R features the classic pony in the grille, surrounded by modern materials like carbon fiber as well as advanced aerodynamic treatments like ground-hugging front and side splitters.

The equally large rear fenders house tires that are an inch wider. Considering how quickly 18- and 19-inch tires became standard racing ware in recent years, the 20″ tires on the GTR are a realistic forecast of the next evolution in racing rubber.

The classic Mustang rear quarter windows are blocked out to accommodate the fuel delivery “dry-brake” system on the driver’s side. The doors are fully functional as required by many of the possible racing classes.

Probably the most striking design element, the prominent composite rear spoiler meets several road racing sanctioning body rules. The rear fascia, like the front, is a further expression of the GT concept design, with a wider taillamp execution. Endurance racers will instantly recognize the differential cooler mounted with an aluminum grille screen between the taillamps.

The Mustang GT-R’s body retains 85 percent of the production car’s body components that were stiffened by 30 percent as part of the Mustang’s first full makeover ever. The only modifications include rear-mounted battery pods and a fuel cell relocated to the rear trunk.

The “Five Liter” Is Back
The foundation for the Mustang GT-R’s race-prepared 440-horsepower engine is the new 5.0-liter “Cammer” crate engine from Ford Racing Performance Parts. The engine is rooted in the MOD 4.6-liter four-valve V-8 engine family. However, the motor’s flanged cylinder liners help provide 94mm (instead of 90.2mm) cylinder bores, creating a full 5.0 liters of piston displacement.

And while the motor employs the SVT Mustang Cobra’s forged crankshaft with six-bolt mains and Manley “H-Beam” connecting rods for superior strength, the high-strength Ford Racing block features design reinforcements and a revised material for added strength and high-output durability. The block is specially reinforced in the crankcase web areas for high torque loads.

Other key differences include forged pistons, an 11.0:1 compression ratio, ported heads, higher-lift cams and beehive-shaped valve springs. The crate engine also features higher-flow fuel injectors and a magnesium, variable-geometry intake manifold.

The 5.0-liter “Cammer” engine comes with a custom oil pan and features custom-fabricated Tri-Y headers and crossover.

Helping put the power to the ground is the Ford Racing-supplied TTC T-56 six-speed transmission linked to the engine through a heavy-duty clutch and flywheel assembly. Power exits the transmission through a custom metal matrix composite aluminum driveshaft into a race-specification differential with a 4.56:1 final drive ratio.

Proven Race Chassis
The Mustang GT-R benefits from the 2005 Mustang’s race-inspired chassis, developed and tuned by engineers with Ford Racing engineering experience or a passion for weekend track time. The Mustang’s race-bred suspensions, near 50-50 weight distribution and ultra-stiff body structure, are just the beginning of Mustang GT-R’s credentials.

Soon after the 2005 Mustang’s world reveal in January, race engineers quickly began building on its solid foundation. The Mustang GT-R concept’s chassis was fully stripped down to the body shell to receive custom reinforcement and structural improvements for driver safety on the racetrack. A roll cage was added, along with a Sparco-brand racing seat with a five-point safety harness.

The production suspension geometry is retained, but key parts were replaced to reduce weight or provide additional strength for the rigors of racing. Suspension pieces, including the K-member, are made of lightweight chrome-moly tubing. The race-proven dampers are coil-over, fully adjustable units featuring remote reservoirs. A strut tower brace increases structural rigidity.

Rounding out the chassis package are huge, race-proven Brembo brakes. The front features 14.3-inch rotors with six-piston calipers; the rear has 13-inch rotors with four-piston calipers. Linking the whole package to the racetrack are 20-inch wheels and racing slicks provided by Pirelli. Tire sizes range from 275/35 in front to 305/30 in the rear.

While conceptual in spirit, the Mustang GT-R is built by racers and is a capable performer with an eye on stepping up Mustang’s road-racing presence. Several racing series – American LeMans, SCCA Trans-Am, GrandAm Cup and the FIA – could easily accommodate the Mustang GT-R. For example, the car could meet some series rules with basic modifications to the brakes, wheels, tires and body parts.

The Mustang GT-R also hints at a turnkey grassroots-racing package that could be retailed through Ford Racing’s parts’ catalog and distribution network.


Engine – Ford Racing 5.0L “Cammer” V8

Configuration
V-8, aluminum block, aluminum four-valve cylinder heads, forged aluminum pistons

Bore x Stroke
94 mm bore x 90.0 mm stroke

Displacement
5.0 liters (302 cu in/4995 cc)

Compression ratio
11.0:1

Horsepower
440 @ 7000 rpm

Torque
400 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm

Redline
7,000 rpm

Valvetrain
Double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder

Intake valves
Two per cylinder, 38 mm

Exhaust valves
Two per cylinder, 32 mm

Throttle body
Twin 57 mm


Transmission
Ford Racing/Tremec T-56 6-speed


Rear axle
Winters/Ford 9-inch design


Differential
Winter’s race-spec rear differential


Clutch
Ford Racing “Cobra R” heavy-duty clutch/flywheel assembly


Driveshaft
Metal matrix composite aluminum custom driveshaft


Exhaust
Complete stainless steel race exhaust with Tri-Y design headers, crossover and side exit tips


Chassis
Fully reinforced fabrication


Suspension
Original production geometry with lightweight chrome-moly tube (aircraft quality) construction

Front
Reverse-L independent rigid strut tower brace with lightweight chrome-moly K-member and race-spec anti-sway bar with 1.25-inch box section

Rear
Three-link, solid axle with dynamic, fully adjustable shocks with remote reservoirs and coil-over springs, race-spec 1.25-inch panhard rod, and race-spec anti-sway bar


Brakes

Front
Brembo Racing 6-piston calipers and 14.3-inch rotors, 1.25-inch thickness

Rear
Brembo Racing 4-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors, 1.25-inch thickness


Wheels & Tires

Front
Pirelli P275/35/20 racing slicks
20 x 10-inch, 5-spoke billet aluminum wheels

Rear
Pirelli P315/30/20 racing slicks
20 x 11-inch, 5-spoke billet aluminum wheels

SALEEN S7 – THE BEST GETS BETTER

More Power, More Torque for 2004

JANUARY 5, 2004 – CHICAGO, Ill. – Saleen is justifiably proud of the S7. It has been a success in the showroom and on the race track where it has compiled an enviable list of victories in just three years. But the S7 didn’t achieve pole position just by showing up, and Saleen is not an organization that believes in simply resting on its laurels. During the past two years the S7 has undergone an extensive internal design and engineering evaluation. And the team at Saleen has also listened carefully to feedback from their delightfully satisfied owners. As a result, the 2004 S7 incorporates many engineering changes, seen and unseen, that raise the international supercar bar another large notch — and the press attending the 2004 Chicago Auto Show got a first look at America’s only true supercar.

What’s new for 2004

Horsepower and torque have both been increased, 25 bhp and 45 lb-ft, respectively, up to 575 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 570 lf-ft of torque @ 4700 rpm. But these increases were not the point of the exercise strictly by themselves. Rather, they are a happy consequence of responding to their customers’ desire, not for more performance, but for improvements in around-town drivability.

In analyzing this request, Saleen engineers made three important changes. The transmission’s 1st gear ratio and the final-drive ratio are shorter (higher numerical ratios). These gear changes, in conjunction with a revised clutch, make for much smoother takeoffs from rest. Most engineers probably would have stopped right here. But not Saleen’s engineers. In the course of their analysis, engine tuning also came under scrutiny. And by playing with cam timing and airflow and the engine’s PowerFlash™ computer, they managed to broaden already broad power and torque curves for smoother and more flexible performance. And to extract even more power from the S7’s already very potent 7-liter V8. In true supercar fashion, the S7 is capable of speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour, with a zero-to-60 time under three seconds. And thanks to its extreme ground effects engineering, at 160 mph the car could be driven upside down and still maintain contact with the road. It is well known that a lack of downforce has never been an issue with the S7. But as a result of wind tunnel testing, Saleen engineers have made some tweaks at the rear of the car. A revised rear spoiler has replaced the previous design. In addition, the rear diffuser, which channels air smoothly from under the rear of the car, has been redesigned. It is slightly larger and has a winglet in the middle. Collectively, the new spoiler and revised diffuser have a noticeable effect on reducing drag (for a higher top speed) while also increasing down force at the rear of the car.

Background

The Saleen S7, America’s first true supercar, has captured the imagination of the automotive world since its introduction in August 2000 at the prestigious Monterey Historic vintage car races. Designed to compete with the fastest, quickest, best handling and most exotic sports cars, the S7 provides a distinctly American driving experience for the fortunate few who will own one. It also reflects Saleen’s 20 years of performance and engineering excellence in manufacturing fully-certified high-performance automobiles.

The exotic S7 is designed, engineered, manufactured and marketed by Saleen, Inc., a high-performance vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Irvine, California — in a region of the state where North American automotive design is a flourishing industry. Working with some of the world’s most respected and technologically advanced automotive suppliers, the Saleen S7 went from prototype to first customer deliveries in less than two years.

Dual Personality

The Saleen S7 was conceived to combine the performance of a track-only racecar with the driving pleasure of a road car. As a result, while the S7 would be at home on any race track, it is also a car that can be driven with pleasure on highways, Autobahn and back roads.

“With the improvements made in gearing, engine tuning and aero, the S7 is not only easier to drive at ‘normal’ around town speeds, but also it’s more fun,” says Saleen President, Steve Saleen. But don’t expect less of the Saleen “attitude.” The S7, like every Saleen, is a product of Saleen’s strong racing heritage. “We wouldn’t feel we’d accomplished our mission if you didn’t come away from a drive around the block thinking the S7 felt like ‘a race car for the street,'” Saleen continued. “We designed it that way.”

Racing Successes

Unlike most exotic supercars, the Saleen S7 racing version, the Saleen S7R, has already proven itself on the international motorsports stage. During the past three years, the racing version has been on pole and set fastest race lap more than 50 times, has won nearly 40 races around the world and has captured eight different professional championships. This incredible record includes winning the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring and setting a new track record at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Chassis, Suspension & Brakes

The S7 chassis and suspension incorporate decades of Saleen’s experience in racing, racecar construction and high-performance road car manufacturing. The Saleen S7 architecture begins with a space frame chassis to which honeycomb composite reinforcing is grafted. The body is autoclave carbon fiber.

Suspension is via fully independent unequal-length double wishbones with coil-over springs, lightweight aluminum dampers (shock absorbers) and stabilizer (anti-roll) bars front and rear. The uprights at each corner are CNC machined billet aluminum, flow-through designs.

Saleen-engineered Brembo-supplied lightweight aluminum six-piston mono-block calipers are fitted front and rear. The brakes are among the largest of any production car with 15-inch vented discs up front and 14-inch vented discs at the rear.

The Saleen-designed forged alloy wheels feature center locking wheel nuts with automatic safety locks. Sizes are 19 x 9.5 inches up front and 20 x 12 inches at the rear. The wheels are shod with ultra-high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires in sizes 275/30ZR19 front and 345/25R20 rear.

Engine & Drivetrain

Designed by Saleen engineers, the S7’s engine and drivetrain incorporate the latest in modern racing technology. The all-aluminum V8 engine casting was engineered by Saleen to displace seven liters, generating 575 horsepower at 5500 rpm and delivering 570 foot-pounds of torque at 4700 rpm. Redline is 6500 rpm. Space age materials and engineering are used throughout, including stainless steel valves, titanium retainers, beryllium exhaust valve seats, magnesium throttle body, Saleen-designed aluminum CNCmachined cylinder heads and a ceramic-coated stainless steel exhaust system.

An exclusive Saleen-designed Front Engine Accessory Drive (FEAD) system results in an extremely compact engine, allowing for better packaging and overall weight distribution. The V8 incorporates a unique Saleen-designed side-mounted water pump, extremely accurate belt-driven camshaft drive, and a Saleen-engineered dry sump oil delivery system.

The engine’s mid-chassis placement optimizes weight distribution and center of gravity, making room for an unusually tall engine that allows for a very efficient plenum arrangement. Air inducted by the roof air intake flows into a cold air box and then into an aluminum intake manifold with eight individual runners.

A Saleen PowerFlash™ performance computer, recalibrated for 2004, handles engine management. The ignition system is integrated coil-on-plug.

A new-generation six-speed transaxle, with a unique Saleen bell housing, transfers power to the wheels. The clutch is an organic/metallic 8.0-inch, twin-plate unit with hydraulic actuation.

Body Design

The S7’s beautiful shape was “designed” by the wind. Optimal aerodynamics and top speed performance objectives were achieved with extensive wind tunnel work. Targets included a low coefficient of drag, optimum drag-to-lift ratio, and extreme down force. The S7 has “full tray” body sculpting underneath.

Longtime Saleen design consultant Phil Frank then personalized and refined the aesthetics of the S7 to reflect modern supercar thinking. The gill-like ducting is, of course, fully functional. The autoclaved carbon fiber body panels incorporate advanced aerodynamics and include integrated split-channel airflow throughout the car, full underside air management, and advanced front tray and side skirt designs and an integrated full-body rear spoiler, replacing the wing used previously.

The mid-engine Saleen S7 has front and rear trunks and comes with Mulholland Brothers® custom-made, 3-piece, fitted luggage. In true supercar style, the doors open up and away from the body.

“When seen in person, the S7 has an amazing overall presence,” says Steve Saleen, founder and president of Saleen, Inc. “It’s quite long and wide, yet only 41.0 inches high, adding to its exotic appearance. We wanted to maintain a ‘form-follows-function’ look, but one that was esthetically beautiful as well. I really feel we’ve achieved both.”

Interior

As much care has been given to the creature comforts of the Saleen S7 as to its performance. Great attention was given to seating position. The car features asymmetrical seating, with the driver position moved slightly more to the center than the passenger. This improves the driver’s ergonomics, improves the side-to-side weight distribution, and allows the passenger side to have a narrower threshold. The S7 is unusually accommodating of tall drivers.

Seats and other interior surfaces are covered in elegant leather and suede. Air conditioning, power windows, adjustable pedals, a steering wheel that telescopes and tilts and an AM/FM/CD/DVD/TV systems are all standard (GPS is optional). The Saleen S7 also has one unique interior feature: a video “rearview mirror” – there is a small video camera inconspicuously mounted in the rear of the car.

Best-in-Practice Design

While the S7 is an American supercar, the vehicle itself reflects a “best-in-practice” philosophy, where Saleen has incorporated superior components from around the globe in order to manufacture the best vehicle possible. For example, the Saleen S7 uses Saleen-engineered/ Brembo-supplied brakes and Pirelli tires from Italy as well as numerous high technology pieces from companies located in the Midlands area of the United Kingdom, a region that is to motorsports what the Silicon Valley is to computers. Initial wind tunnel testing was conducted at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Designed and built at Saleen’s Irvine, Calif. manufacturing facility, the S7 is sold through a global network of Saleen-certified dealers specializing in exotic automobiles. The Saleen S7 went on sale at its introduction at the famed Monterey Historic Races in California on August 19, 2000, and the first production version was delivered in June 2002, and approximately 50 have been delivered to date. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $430,000.

SPEED DEMON

By: LAWRENCE S. DIETZ on July 2003
Original Article: LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE, VOL. 48, ISSUE 7

Entrepreneur And Designer Steve Saleen
Has Made Irvine America’s Capital Of High-end Sports Cars

No one will mistake modern, master-planned Irvine for the ancient town of Maranello, Italy Nor will anyone confuse Orange County’s SUV-clogged stretch of the 405 freeway for the AI autostrada, prowled by the Ferraris that are Maranello’s most famous products.

Yet unassuming entrepreneur Steve Saleen has turned equally unassuming Irvine into Maranello West, the capital of high-end American sports cars. For nearly two decades he has rebuilt Ford Mustangs into hot performance vehicles. Three years ago his company launched the S7, which Road & Track has declared the fastest production car ever made. The 550-horsepower, carbon fiber-bodied speedster can hit 220 mph and go 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds. And now Saleen Inc. is helping to manufacture a new version of Ford’s legendary GT40 race car, a vital part of the ailing giant’s recovery program.

At first glance the 53-year-old Saleen seems to be an unlikely architect of high rollers’ automotive dreams. About five feet seven, mustachioed, and balding, he looks like a middle-aged everyman, the sort of guy you’d expect to see selling insurance or riding around in a Camry.

Hardly Saleen is a USC business major turned race car driver who recognized a demand for very fast yet relatively affordable cars that were at home both on the track and on the street. Saleen’s vehicles have won titles for eight straight years and made their creator a hero among auto buffs–as well as a wealthy man. (Sales of the S7 have already hit $24 million.) Saleen Inc. also is making a splash on the big screen, its Mustangs appearing in summer releases including 2 Fast 2 Furious and Hollywood Homicide. (Saleen himself drives a Beryllium Saleen Extreme Speedster, the top of his Mustang line.)

As he sees it, the reason for his success is simple: “I have a tremendous passion for cars, for racing cars, and for driving.”

Saleen was first seduced by fast cars when his father, a manufacturing executive from Whittier, bought a Porsche while he was in college. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Saleen started racing and was good enough to turn pro. He set 13 Sports Car Club of America records and finished third for the 1980 SCCA championship.

In the 1960s, racer Carroll Shelby had parlayed his track reputation into big money by modifying stock Mustangs. In 1984, Saleen started giving them better engines, suspensions, transmissions, and brakes, transforming cars that sell in the mid $20,000s into growlers that go for $36,000 to $70,000.

Saleen’s Mustangs outperform their rivals–the Porsche Boxster, Corvette hardtop, and SVT Mustang Cobra R–in terms of speed, lateral acceleration through turns, and braking. They carry a lower retail price, and just as important, they have a history of holding their resale value.

The cars quickly became winners on the SCCA circuit, capturing awards for driver, team, manufacturer, and tire in 1987. The Saleen Mustang has won the SCCA Manufacturer’s Championship six times, most recently in 2000.

During the late 1980s, Saleen moved his company into Indy car racing, hoping that victories at an event like the Indianapolis 500 would translate into a huge spike in his Mustang sales. “Looking back, it was the right thing to do at the wrong time,” he says. “From a marketing perspective, the concept was to expand our sphere of influence to new Saleen buyers. But we didn’t have the resources to race at that level, and a bad month of May [1989] in Indy killed us. The recession hit, and we had dealers going broke and not paying us for their cars. It was a lethal combination.”

His firm might have gone under if not for Tony Johnson, whose company owns many of the country’s largest (and most profitable) makers of original equipment for auto manufacturers. Johnson, president and CEO of Hidden Creek Industries in Minnesota, saw the marketplace value of Saleen’s brand identity.

“Steve is a great creative thinker, car person, and marketer,” says Johnson. “We needed to add just an additional touch of professionalism and business savvy” He gave Saleen financial backing (no one will say how much). Johnson, who became a partner and chairman of Saleen Inc., and Saleen, who retained the title of president, focused their efforts on the Mustang. When business picked up in i995, Saleen formed the Saleen/Allen “RRR” Speedlab racing team with Home Improvement star Time Allen.

Saleen now had the resources to realize a dream he’d harbored from the day he started manufacturing: He wanted to build and sell a supercar–a two-seat exotic that could cruise at 150 mph or more and win at the highest levels. In November 1999, he was ready to try. Johnson said yes. A year later the first S7 appeared.

Saleen managed to get from concept to finished vehicle so quickly because there was no bureaucracy no massive corporate infrastructure, no focus group. The only eyes that counted were his. Computers did most of the design work, an advance now used by most automotive manufacturers to shave months, even years, off development cycles and to trim costs. In the world of supercars, where a McLaren FI goes for a million dollars, the $395,000 S7 is something of a bargain.

The first seven S7s were snapped up by racing teams and outfitted for competition. An S7 won the 12 Hours of Sebring road race, and another placed a respectable third in class during June 2001’s rain- and crash-plagued 24 Hours of Le Mans. By that September S7s had competed in 25 races and won 17 of them, a stunning achievement for a newcomer.

Deposits were coming in from private buyers, including celebrities like Allen, Sylvester Stallone, and Jay Leno. By last December it was time to prove the S7’s advertised street readiness. The car passed its government tests, including a “coast down,” in which it was shifted into neutral at a speed of 120 mph and allowed to freewheel for a mile. How fast was it going after that? One hundred mph.

In the spring, Saleen produced three cars earmarked for press trials. The auto magazines were rapturous, starting with the design. “From every angle and from any distance, the Saleen S7 looks like a supercar,” wrote Joe DeMatio in Automobile. “Every pedestrian strolling along Santa Barbara’s State Street on a spring evening notices it. The gill-streaked body is very long, very wide, and very low… When the winglike doors are open, the S7 looks like something Martians would off-load from a spaceship.”

But the true measure of a car like the S7 is the driving. An hour spent behind the wheel of one is an extraordinary experience. The S7 is fast–I accelerated on an empty toll road and then “loafed” along at what I thought was an extremely comfortable 100, perhaps 110 mph. It felt as though the car could maintain that speed all day long. Then I looked more closely at the small speedometer; the needle was hovering over 140.

The S7 also can maneuver, hugging the road far better than anything most of us will ever drive. Move the wheel a tiny amount, and the S7 goes exactly where you want, no fuss. You find yourself smiling in pure pleasure.

The S7 gives Saleen Inc. a very profitable, if narrow, specialty. (With 62 sold, it has a planned production run of 300 to 400.) Working on the Ford GT, however, could offer the little company entree into the automotive big leagues.

The GT (it was nicknamed the GT40 because it was only 40 inches high) recalls Ford’s glory days in racing, as well as Henry Ford II’s hubris. In the early 1960s, he tried to get Enzo Ferrari to join him in developing a race car. When he was rebuffed by the patrician Italian, he decided to create his own. Once the GT’s engine and other specs were set, Carroll Shelby said, “Next year, Ferrari’s ass is mine.” And it was. Shelby raced and won in the GT40, as did Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.

These days Bill Ford Jr., Ford’s chairman, knows he needs a “halo-effect” car–one few in number but great in reputation–to help propel the company out of the misery caused by the Explorer/Firestone debacle in the late ’90s and quality problems typified by multiple recalls. The revived GT, which unlike its predecessor will be street legal, is supposed to be an icon of the new Ford Motor Company, crowning a rollout of ten models and vehicles in the Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln divisions in the next two years (and a total of 65 in the next five).

Saleen’s involvement with the GT started with a college connection. He had always kidded his public relations rep, Jack Gerken, about Gerken’s rabid partisanship for his alma mater, Notre Dame. In 2001, as it turned out, being a member of the Fighting Irish became as valuable in the car business as being a Harvard grad was in other corporate circles.

As part of a Ford management shakeup, several executives with Notre Dame ties came to power. Nick Scheele, the new group vice president in North America, was an alumnus whose son was attending the school, and Jim O’Connor, head of the Ford division, sat on the board of trustees.

Along with practically everyone else who did (or wanted to do) business with Ford, Saleen sought a way to meet Scheele. At the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the annual million-dollar antique car show where industry nabobs gather, Saleen joshed Gerken about playing the Notre Dame card with Scheele. Gerken took it seriously; especially since he had known Scheele since 1990, and his son and Scheele’s son were in the same dorm.

Introductions were made. Saleen, Gerken, and Tony Johnson later flew to Detroit to remind Scheele that Saleen Inc. was a good customer and to update him on the progress of the S7. They also had one crucial question: How can we be a better part of the Ford family?

The answer–Saleen should help build the GT–became clear at a meeting between Johnson and Scheele, held as Ford rushed to ready its prototype for introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, 2002.

After the car generated the intended buzz at the show, Ford went to builders and designers around the world, including Italy’s renowned Pininfarina. Saleen’s track record with the Mustang and the S7 earned it a spot as one of Ford’s four partners on the project. It will make the rolling chassis, frame, and suspension and will paint the body panels. The vehicles will be assembled at a Ford plant near Detroit, with major production scheduled to begin next year. The deal could cover as many as 5,000 cars. (Only 133 original GTs were built.)

“This is a process of producing a handful of cars each day;” says Neil Hannemann, Ford’s chief program engineer for the GT. “Ford didn’t want to learn how to do that, and Saleen does it.”

Besides providing such expertise, Saleen hopes to prove to the mainstream auto world that he can help to produce a special vehicle at a relatively reasonable price–according to industry, speculation, the GT will sell for about $125,000.

After all, Saleen already has the ultimate testimonial when it comes to his ability to fill a niche for a supreme power car. In the recent movie Bruce Almighty, he notes, God drives an S7.

HOLLYWOOD HORSEPOWER

IRVINE, Calif., June 6, 2003 — Okay, gang, here’s your quiz for the day. What has 12 wheels, 989 cubic inches, almost 1,300 horsepower and seats up to 8 consenting adults?

If you answered, “the all-new Saleen S989 double semi-dually competitor to the Porsche Turbo Cayenne and the M-B ML 55 AMG,” please move to clue #1.

#1 This 12-wheeled wonder will be seen by more than 43 million people at over 10,000 locations during the next month and have over $100 million spent on its advertising and promotion.

Figured it out yet?

Er, no . . . it’s not the long-rumored Saleen supercharged V-10 diesel powered combo Zamboni machine/wooden floor polisher that will allow the NBA and the NHL to schedule back-to-back doubleheader championship games with only a 30 minute intermission. Sorry, that vehicle isn’t scheduled to make its long-awaited debut before 2006 at the earliest.

So try clue #2.

#2 Every one of the 43 million viewers will be screened during the course of his or her exposure to this vehicle and many of them will be placed in stadium seating.

Still can’t figure it out?

Okay. One last clue: one of the drivers could easily be known as Mr. Indy, yet he’s never raced at the Memorial Day 500 Mile Classic. Another of the drivers’ fancies himself as God, but he’s never won a race. And lots of people consider him a real joker.

Give up? We admit it. We haven’t made this easy. But what sort of satisfaction would you derive from having the answer handed to you on a silver platter . . .unless, of course, we also served it up on the silver screen.

Okay. Is the light bulb glowing brighter? We’re talking movies here, three of them. And not one car, but three Saleens: an S7 supercar, a supercharged S281 Mustang convertible and a supercharged S281 Mustang coupe. We’re calling this trio of summer releases Hollywood Horsepower, a triple knockout punch of comedy, speed and murder.

Hollywood Horsepower premiered nationally on May 23 with Bruce Almighty, a Universal Pictures starring Jim Carrey as an average Joe who gets his wish when God, played by Morgan Freeman, agrees to change places with Carrey for a week to prove to Jim that being God ain’t all it’s made out to be. Two ladies co-star, Jennifer Aniston and a silver Saleen S7. Jennifer certainly has the softer curves, but the S7 is one fast lady and a real handler. Aniston is a heart breaker; The S7, what else, is the late braker. The Pope may occasionally be driven in a Ferrari, but Bruce Almighty confirms that God drives an S7!

Premiering June 6 is another Universal Pictures release, 2 Fast 2 Furious, starring Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson. A Lizstick Red Saleen S281 supercharged coupe joins the cast of this sequel to the original Fast and the Furious. Former cop Brian O’Connor (Walker) teams up with his ex-con pal Roman Pearce (Gibson) to transport a shipment of “dirty” money for shady Miami-based import-export dealer Carter Verone, while actually working with undercover agent Monica Clemente to bring Verone down.

And finally, Hollywood Homicide, a Sony Pictures/Revolution Studios film, opens June 13 and stars Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as two LAPD homicide detectives who moonlight in other fields. Joe Gavilian (Ford), a real estate agent, and K.C. Calden (Hartnett), a yoga instructor and an aspiring actor, investigate the on-stage slaying of a rap group. The detectives drive around in none other than a silver Saleen S281 supercharged convertible. For fans of Bullitt, you’ve got to see the chase scene.

In recognition of its “starring” roles in Hollywood Horsepower, Saleen will produce special editions of its Hollywood starlets, as well as promotional material, for distribution through Saleen-certified Ford dealers throughout the nation. You can obtain a poster of Hollywood Horsepower by test driving a silver “Hollywood Homicide” convertible and/or a red “2 Fast 2 Furious” coupe at your local Saleen-certified Ford dealer.

Celebrating its 20 th anniversary this year, Saleen is widely recognized as a niche manufacturer of high-performance vehicles for the American enthusiast. Its Saleen Extremes are the most powerful (445 hp) production Mustangs in the world; while its new S7 is recognized as the only American supercar (see Road & Track’s June cover story where the S7 was the fastest production car ever tested by Road & Track). The Saleen S7 has demonstrated its speed on the track as well, winning eight GTS championships in its first two years of competition. Saleen has been commissioned to assemble Ford’s legendary GT beginning this summer.

IRVINE, CALIF., CAR COMPANY TO OFFER FORD-AUTHORIZED THUNDERBIRD

By: DANIELLE HERUBIN on November 29, 2002
Original Article: ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, THE (SANTA ANA, CA)

Nov. 29–IRVINE, Calif.–Ford Thunderbird.

The name conjures up an image of sporty cool, a powder blue two-seater with a porthole window.

Now Saleen Inc., the Irvine company best known for taking stock Mustangs and transforming them into very hot cars, is branching out to Thunderbirds. It’s producing a Ford- authorized model that will be sold in dealerships across the country.

“It’s intriguing,” said Jim Campisano, an editor for Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords, a monthly magazine. “The regular Thunderbird is a nice car but lacks any pretension of high performance. Saleen injects enough steroids to make it interesting.”

Ford first brought out the Thunderbird in 1954 to compete with Chevrolet’s Corvette. The first cars sold for $2,695; convertibles were $2,765. The 198-horsepower model came in five colors: Thunderbird Blue, Raven Black, Snowshoe White, Goldenrod Yellow and Torch Red.

Nicknamed the T-Bird, the cars were an instant success. But, over the years, Ford began changing the styling, size and concept of the car until it no longer resembled the classic two-seat roadster. In 1997, Ford pulled the plug on the Thunderbird altogether.

Recently, Ford decided to bring back updated designs from the company’s heyday in order to reignite some of the old spark. Bill Ford Jr., grandson of Ford’s founder, is touting the “Living Legends” series with remakes of the Thunderbird, GT40 racer and others.

Ford Jr. himself drives a T-Bird.

Ford asked independent design houses to take a crack at its legends series.

Competition for the Saleen version of the Thunderbird was won by Bonspeed, an Anaheim- based design and engineering group that specializes in performance wheels, precision gauges and accessories. Brad Fanshaw, president of Bonspeed, said his company competed with about 30 other firms to come up with a custom version of the T-Bird.

Bonspeed extended the car’s nose by three inches and replaced the T-Bird’s stock egg-crate grill with a sleek aluminum one. They added twin roll bars and restyled parts of the exterior.

Bonspeed’s design beat out show Thunderbirds, hot-rod Thunderbirds and even more retro-looking models. It’s the first car Bonspeed has designed that will be produced in any quantity. “We’re really excited,” Fanshaw said.

Bonspeed hooked up with Saleen after Steve Saleen, a race-car-driver-turned-carmaker, saw the drawings. The resulting Ford-Bonspeed-Saleen partnership plans to have its first cars available by spring.

Saleen started making cars in Orange County in 1984. Saleen has built or modified more than 8,000 vehicles, including the exotic Saleen S7 supercar and the Saleen Mustang.

Ford’s stock T-Birds sells for about $36,000. A Saleen Thunderbird-Bonspeed Edition may fetch $50,000 and up, although the final cost hasn’t been set yet.

The Saleen version will feature a 365-horsepower V-8 engine, beefed up from Ford’s stock 256-horsepower engine. It has lost the white-sidewall tires and fins associated with the early classics. Instead, it’s aerodynamic and low to the ground. And fast. The stock version can do at least 145 mph and go 0 to 60 in 7 seconds; the Saleen version will top that.

Saleen, which starts with stock models, then tears the them down and rebuilds them with custom parts and add- ons, will offer an optional 6-speed manual gearbox. Saleen adds a supercharger, modifies the intake and exhaust systems and installs special seats and instruments. Saleen has beefed up the braking system.

“I think for the niche they serve, their prices are right in line,” Campisano said. “While it may seem high to some people, you’re giving yourself an awful lot of performance.”

Only one Saleen Thunderbird exists — it was unveiled at a car show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The concept car was so well received that it won a top award and orders began to arrive.