Tag Archives: Saleen

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.

SALEEN INTRODUCES HIGH-TECH “MAXGRIP” FOR MUSTANG PEFORMANCE ENTHUSIASTS

IRVINE, Calif., (August 20) – Mustang performance enthusiasts rejoice! Saleen Inc., the acknowledged leader in aftermarket parts for America’s favorite ponycar, has announced the immediate availability of their advanced “MaxGrip” rear end differential for all late model Ford Mustangs. The brand new unit incorporates the latest in mechanical traction control technology, and drastically improves the handling characteristics of the entire car.

The Saleen “MaxGrip” kit features a viscous fluid-type limited slip unit that acts as an open differential until it detects a change in rear wheel speed due to slippery conditions or application of high torque – easily done in a high-performance Mustang. When this occurs, a special pump forces fluid against an internal multiplate clutch to compensate for the speed difference in the differential. The greater the speed difference, the greater the pump output. The beauty of the Saleen “MaxGrip” system is that it uses this hydraulic control to “tune” the performance of the unit including aggressiveness of clutch engagement and maximum torque bias in putting power to the rear wheels.

What does all this mean for the Mustang enthusiast? The MaxGrip unit not only enhances the straight-line and launch characteristics of the vehicle, but it also greatly increases cornering performance at entry, apex and exit. According to Steve Saleen, “the new MaxGrip is one of most cost effective additions a Mustang owner can make to their car.”

A complete overview of the Saleen Performance Parts line-up is also available on our website at www.Saleen.com. Catalogs and additional technical information can be obtained by calling the Saleen Performance Parts specialists at (800) 888-8945.

MaxGrip Differential Technology

Fluidic device with progressive torque biasing performance which is tunable to the requirements of the vehicle.

How MaxGrip Works:

The MaxGrip differential includes a gerotor pump that is connected across the differential. The inside of the pump is connected to one side of the differential and the outside is connected to the other side. When there is a speed difference across the differential, which can occur when one wheel looses traction due to slippery conditions or application of high torque, the pump PUMPS! The greater the speed difference, the greater the pump output. The pressure and flow from the pump is used to actuate a wet, multi-plate clutch. The friction from the clutch is used to return the speed difference to near zero at which point the pump stops pumping and the biasing effect goes away.

The MaxGrip Provides:

  • Robust: Low duty cycle results in very long life
  • Fail Safe: If MaxGrip fails for any reason, the axle functions similar to an open differential
  • Value: Outperforms other devices at a competitive cost

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.

‘SUPERCAR’ CLOSER TO REALITY

By: N.A. on July 26, 2002
Original Article: WAIKATO TIMES

Ford has moved the GT40 project on another stage by naming the four key “supplier partners” who will get this limited-production car on the road.

The new GT40 will debut late next year and go on sale in 2004.

The supercar will be built in limited numbers, a symbol for the American car maker’s upcoming centennial celebrations.

The companies involved as supplier partners are Lear for interior systems; Mayflower with responsibilities for the aluminium spaceframe design, body structure, skin panels and interior trim; Roush Industries, which will develop the powertrain; and Saleen, which already has experience of low-volume niche manufacturing with its own GT cars.

All four supplier partners operate within a 440km radius of Ford’s HQ at Dearborn, and although there won’t be all that many GT40s produced, the whole project, design and build, is being run to a just-in-time schedule.

Ford has its own inhouse team, hand-picked by vice-president for North American product development Chris Theodore.

He’s been thinking about this kind of thing since he joined Ford in 1999, and describes the whole GT40 project as being likely to “teach us valuable lessons about the power of small, nimble product teams and supplier partnerships”.

Other members of the Ford group include people with present or past experience in the company’s Special Vehicle Team, in F1, CART, NASCAR and GT racing. It includes Neil Ressler, at one time involved with Jaguar Racing and recently retired as Ford’s vice-president in charge of advanced engineering and motorsports development, and Carroll Shelby who was hired by Ford to oversee the racing programme of the original GT40, back in 1964.

Design work on the GT40 started in March 2001, the project went into the serious development stage that summer, and the concept car made its debut at the North American Auto Show in January of this year.

It went down a storm, despite some unexpectedly dismissive comments from sections of the media which felt this was just an exhibition job likely to go no further.

There’s no confirmation yet about the final specification, the likely performance figures, the price, how many will be built, or even what the car will eventually be called. But it’s a very serious project.

So, of course, was the original GT40. Henry Ford II’s intention to build a Le Mans winner was announced in 1963, the car was launched to the press in June 1964, and by 1969 it had four successive Le Mans wins to its credit, including a one-two-three in 1966.

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.

S7th HEAVEN

By: MARK VAUGHN on July 2002
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 52, ISSUE 27

But can heaven wait any longer for a Saleen S7 street car?

Yes, it’s a great supercar, how could you expect anything else from the very same chassis, heck, almost the very same car that won the 2001 ALMS GTS championship and a host of other real race titles? No, it’s not as smooth, supple and ergonomically cozy as Ferraris, Lamborghinis or other supercars, far from it. But on tight, winding roads and around racetracks with lots of turns it works better than almost anything you can put a license plate on. It is a race car for the street, and despite all the other carmakers that have come before claiming to have a race car for the street, this one really is.

Or it will be real soon. Before we get to how much fun this is to drive, and it is fun, we have to ask that supercar question that has always plagued supercars: Will the things ever get here? The street versions, that is.

Since the S7’s unveiling at the Monterey Historics on Aug. 19, 2000 (reminder, that year the Historics featured Maserati, as opposed to Bentley last year and Corvette next month), we’ve been given several delivery dates. We’ve been promised and promised like an abused boyfriend in a dysfunctional relationship that S7s would be in customer hands, and-at this writing-still there is none. Well, there is one, the keys of which were handed over to Jerry and Kathy Ritzow of Milwaukee during an elaborate ceremony at Saleen headquarters June 6. But that car and all the other theoretical S7 street cars still hadn’t passed all the certification hurdles necessary to hang a license plate on the back and drive to Taco Bell. When this story went to press the S7 was scheduled to complete its final certification, a cold-start emissions test, on June 22. For your review, here are the promised S7 delivery dates with their accompanying (paraphrased) reasons given us that the cars weren’t done:

  • First date: “The second quarter of 2001.” Reason we got no S7s then: “I meant race cars.”
  • Second date: “Fall 2001.” Reason we got no S7s then: “We were real busy with lots of other stuff.”
  • Third date: “March 2002.” Reason we got no S7s then: “Did I say March?”
  • Fourth date: “July 2002.”

This time for sure! Full production of the street cars will be up and running by the end of July, Steve Saleen promises. He even showed us a flat, empty cement area in Saleen world headquarters that will serve as the assembly line. And if a flat, empty cement area isn’t proof enough for you skeptics out there, well, we can’t help you.

But we know street cars will be coming. How? Because the street S7s are necessary if Saleen wants to keep racing his S7Rs. And he will do darn near anything to keep racing. Saleens are currently banned from FIA GT Cup competition because Saleen hasn’t delivered any street-legal vehicles. The cars carry a weight and restrictor penalty in ALMS competition for the same reason, though the penalty has been lessened recently because Saleen keeps convincing organizers that he really, truly intends to start making street cars. ALMS competitors gripe that while Corvette makes 30,000-plus street cars and Viper over 1000 a year, Saleen has made no S7s other than S7Rs. Saleen says that the Corvettes and Vipers on the racetrack bear precious little resemblance to any Corvette or Viper he has ever seen. The argument continues.

All technicalities when you’re behind the wheel of the “street” S7, which is a major blast to drive.

Oh man.

With unequal-length aluminum A-arms and unheard-of-for-a-street-car tires (Pirelli P Zero 275/30ZR-19s in front and 345/25ZR-20s rear), the car grips like a Hoover vacuum cleaner on a fur ball. The torque band is so flat and wide that the six-speed transmission doesn’t seem to care what gear it’s in. The disc brakes are 15 inches in front and 14 inches in the rear (yikes!), made by Brembo to Saleen specifications. The thing feels like a Group C car or, more precisely, the ALMS GTS car it is.

Here are the facts: The basic layout and almost all the details of the street car are just about exactly the same as the race car. Start with the monster 7.0-liter aluminum-block V8 that is the heart of the whole beast. That engine traces its roots back to big desert racing trucks of SCORE. It has torque, it has horsepower, it has unstoppable growl. In its current form it sits longitudinally just behind the cockpit, putting out 550 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque, both at 6400 rpm. The race engine makes 600 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque at the same engine speeds.

The torque comes on low in this two-valves-per-cylinder mill. Each stainless-steel valve is controlled by a hydraulic roller lifter and a roller rocker. The race car gets solid rockers and titanium valves. Both race and street engines are topped with eight vertical air intake trumpets stacked directly on top of the plenum like an old Can-Am powerplant. The heads are CNC-machined aluminum. Pistons are forged aluminum and the rods and crank are forged steel.

The transmission is a six-speed manual mated to a 3.22:1 final drive ratio with a limited-slip differential. The race car uses a viscous differential.

The powertrain is nestled in a 4130 alloy steel space-frame chassis with honeycomb composite panels. The body panels are carbon fiber baked in an autoclave. The whole thing weighs 2750 pounds in street trim, 2530 pounds in race. That gives it an unbelievable power-to-weight ratio of 1:5 in the street car and 1:4.22 in race trim. A Lamborghini freakin’ Murcielago (AW, June 17) is 1:6.93.

Great jumpin’ catfish.

We drove both an S7R on a racetrack and, later, what was described as a pre-production prototype S7 street car in the hills north of Santa Barbara, California. There was little significant difference between the two. The race car had a ride height that put it two and a half inches off the ground while the street car rode four inches above the pavement. The race car had electronics bolted inside the cabin, a racing seat and a racing radio in place of the S7’s finished interior and six-disc CD player, but otherwise there was little difference.

Our turn in the race car was limited to five laps around the Streets of Willow, a tight, curvy track near Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California desert. We were limited to five laps at Willow both because of time constraints and to reduce the likelihood of smacking the thing up. The race car belonged to Park Place Ltd., which fields a winning team in the ALMS, and they needed it.

It was mighty tight inside for a six-foot-tall driver, but a race car doesn’t need to be spacious; any space in a race car immediately gets the preface “wasted.” The seat and pedals have to be fitted for each driver, and a change-over fitting later in the day for some gangly six-foot-four-inch colleagues took 45 minutes of pedal adjustment.

The engine sounded full-throat blasty at ignition, but with the clutch controlled by non-racer feet, it stuttered out from a stop before opening up nicely on Willow’s short straight. The race car’s 600 horsepower gets lost in its 550 lb-ft of torque. Since it doesn’t come on gradually or hit a sudden peak as it would in a turbocharged or nitrous-fed engine, there’s nothing immediately obvious to compare it to. All that power and torque are just there all the time. It’s a mountain of force. Saleen claims a 0-to-60 time of less than four seconds and a top speed of “200-plus” mph. Murcielago numbers, using a little less power and a lot less mass.

The shifter in the S7R is a quick, race-type box that also takes a few turns to get used to, but shifting seems almost unnecessary with power and torque curves this wide.

In some race cars, sports prototypes for example, the most impressive thing is the brakes, especially if they’re carbon fiber. These brakes are very good, vented aluminum discs 15 inches in front and 14 in the rear, no doubt designed to last 24 hours at Le Mans. But the most impressive thing about driving the S7R was its cornering ability. Pushed hard into a wide, fast turn at Willow, the car just held on like it was entering another dimension. Your body’s not used to that much side force and has to readjust. The Saleen press kit says with ground effects in full use at 160 mph the S7R “could be driven upside down and still maintain contact with the road.” They mean driven like on the roof of a tunnel, not sliding along on its roof, though that would work, too.

The street car was very much the same as the race car. The finished interior was a little nicer, might be more comfortable on a date for instance, but was similar in performance. Our street-car drive being in a prototype meant some quirks were to be expected. The speedometer didn’t work, for one (Saleen says the gauges are made in China and are being sent “by slow boat”), interior trim pieces weren’t connected all the way and the steering wasn’t hooked up. Yes, the steering wasn’t hooked up, at least not properly. That was a bit disconcerting.

When we pointed out what felt like loose steering to a Saleen engineer, he spoke about the very close relationship between racing and the street, about making compromises and finding the right balance of performance and comfort, about many things, none of which had to do with part of the steering not being hooked up. At more than 100 mph, with the car wandering around on the road, we figured maybe the caster was just set for lower resistance or something. At the end of our first day’s drive in the street car another engineer tried it out and said something like, “My God, there’s something wrong with the steering!” We got back in the car a few days later and it cornered almost like we remembered the race car. (Note to self: Don’t say “loose” or “not hooked up” when talking to chassis engineers. Say “broken.”)

On our second drive, Steve Saleen himself was riding shotgun. With the car assembled properly it was a brilliant, if somewhat rattly ride. Though the chassis is rigid thanks to its steel space frame, NVH is not a strong point. It’s not anywhere near as bad as a Consulier, but the Consulier did come to mind. Other beefs: The shifter was recalcitrant about going into first gear at stoplights; the pedals are so close together we drove the street car with bare feet and wished we’d driven the race car that way; and the rear glass, positioned vertically right behind our heads, reflected the oncoming traffic in the rearview mirror, which was terrifying for a little while until we got used to it.

But we could spin the tires off the line and slot through corners all day long. Everything else in front or behind simply dove out of the way. The street car was as much fun as the race car, and that was a lot of fun.

“It’s addictive, isn’t it?” said Saleen.

It is. But at $395,000, it is an expensive addiction. The price, the car’s performance and the wild dimensions of the S7 (it’s 41 inches high, for instance) put it in a very elite class. Cross-shoppers will be looking at Murcielagos, Ferrari FXs and Porsche Carrera GTs. Those guys can afford to cross-shop. And if they’re willing to wait for an FX or Carrera GT, well, why not wait while Saleen gets a factory up and running?

We’d like to be those guys. Except for that part about waiting.

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.