Friday, May 29, 2009
May 2009 Dream Car of the Month - Saleen S7
Steve Saleen started modifying Ford Mustangs in 1983, improving their aerodynamics, performance and handling. A seasoned race driver, Saleen knew how to make cars better and faster. It wasn't until the late 1990s that he started designing a new car of his own. A supercar - the Saleen S7.
The Saleen S7 made it's debut on August 19, 2000 at the Monterey Historics. The car was designed digitally by Saleen, Phil Frank and a host of others including Ray Mallock LTD of the UK who were responsible for the chassis and suspension design. The S7 was manufactured by hand at Saleen's facility in Irvine Ca.
The S7s produced from 2000 through 2004 featured a mid mounted 7.0L V8 producing 550HP/525TQ. The engine was designed by Billy Tally and was based somewhat on the Ford 427 V8. The design featured dry sump lubrication and 2 valves per cylinder. In 2005 a pair of turbochargers were added to the engine to bump the power to 750HP/700TQ. All models featured a 6 speed transaxle with limited slip differential.
The S7's body was constructed of lightweight carbon fiber. Extensive research and development was put into the aerodynamics of the car resulting in downforce equal to the car's weight at 160mph. Small changes resulting in even more downforce were added to the S7 twin turbo in 2005. That body sits atop a light but strong steel and aluminum honeycomb chassis. All this adds up to a curb weight of only 2750lbs.
Performance figures for the twin turbo are a 0-60 of just 2.8 seconds and a 1/4 mile of 11.7 seconds. The car's top speed was in excess of 200mph.
Saleen offered a competition package in 2006 which increased power output to 1000HP and included aero changes and suspension upgrades for those with interests in taking the S7 to compete on the track. It was also very expensive. More so than the standard twin turbo S7 which sold for $585,296US.
The S7-R was produced to race against the Dodge Viper GTS-R and the Corvette C5-R in the GT1 class of Le Mans racing. The S7-R was lighter than the production version and featured a 600HP naturally aspirated version of the 7.0L engine. Other than the use of lightweight panels and removal of the luxuries of the road car, the R was not much different from the road car. In 2001 an S7-R scored it's first class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring and then was on the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2002 the S7 won both the British GT and Spanish GT championships. Finally in 2006, after changing to Oreca to build upgraded chassis for the S7, a Saleen finished 11th at the 24 Hours of Le Mans which was their best finish ever there.
The Saleen S7 is an amazing car that will always be remembered as one of the greatest American supercars. Unfortunately, only a very fortunate few have the privilege of even seeing one in person let alone driving or owning one.