Racing exploits produce thrills, but they don't necessarily lead to vehicles that people can drive on ordinary roads. That's been the case with the Saleen organization, which has many years of experience and recognition in building racing machines.
Saleen has produced the special-edition S281 Ford Mustang and the Ford Explorer XP8, a high-performance sport utility vehicle. In 2001, Saleen began to ease into the production-car arena with the mid-engine S7.
Designed and engineered by Saleen Inc. in Irvine, Calif., the S7 has a claimed top speed of more than 200 mph. Based on a Ford aluminum block, the fully re-engineered engine produced 550 horsepower. A huge, Saleen-designed muffler reduced noise and also served as part of the car's rear-impact crumple zone. Extensive wind-tunnel testing resulted in a highly aerodynamic body featuring panels made of carbon fiber.
At the 2004 Chicago Auto Show, founder Steve Saleen announced several S7 changes. The rear spoiler was revised and engine output reached 575 hp and 570 pounds-feet of torque, cutting the 0-to-60-mph acceleration time to 2.9 seconds.
At the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Saleen exhibited the latest version of the S7, which gets a 175-hp increase to a hard-to-believe 750 hp. The S7 displayed in Detroit was the 57th one built, and Saleen expects to build two dozen during 2005.
Saleen claims the S7 is the fastest production car in the world and one of the best handling sports cars. Customers can make purchases at Saleen Certified Ford dealers and at other Saleen Certified dealerships that specialize in exotic motorcars.
Though the S7 is relatively long at 188 inches, and more than 78 inches wide, it stands only 41 inches tall and has a 4-inch ground clearance. It has a 106.3-inch wheelbase, and the front track (the distance between wheels) is a sizable 68.8 inches. The space-frame chassis is made of lightweight steel with honeycomb composite panels and has "full tray" body sculpting underneath.
The doors open up and away from the body � a mode that's familiar in supercars. The S7 weighs approximately 2,750 pounds. Peeking through the back window gives onlookers a unique view of the engine. Forged-alloy wheels hold 19-inch tires in front and 20-inchers at the rear.
The two-passenger cockpit is upholstered in Connolly leather and suede, and comfort amenities include standard air conditioning, power windows and locks, adjustable pedals and a six-CD stereo. Analog gauges include a center-mounted tachometer. A small video camera provides a view to the rear with the help of an LCD display screen.
To make entry and exit easier, it's even possible to remove the steering wheel. Custom-made luggage that fits into the front and rear trunks is included.
Under the Hood
Derived from a Ford engine with an all-aluminum block, the heavily reworked 7.0-liter V-8 develops 750 hp at 6,300 rpm and 700 pounds-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. A six-speed-manual transmission drives the rear wheels.