American Exotic - Saleen S7

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 13, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Patriot Missile.

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    "It's really there for sentimental reasons," says Steve Saleen, referring to the only part that his $395,000, 200-mph-plus S7 supercar shares with the Ford Mustang — a lower window channel buried deep within the featherweight carbon-fiber door. It's a nice gesture, seeing as Saleen's exclusive high-performance versions of Ford's pony car have made him a household name, and a demigod at Ford club gatherings. This year, he'll sell 800-900 Saleen Mustangs through selected Ford dealerships, in various states of chassis tune, power and appearance.

    As we circle a stoutly triangulated space frame of 4130 chrome-moly tubing gussetted with panels of honeycomb aluminum at the Saleen factory, it's obvious that this is no Mustang. Later, with Steve riding shotgun in our fully assembled S7, we tap the full 550 bhp and the car explodes like a round out of a chamber to a very un-Mustang-like speed of 165 mph. On this necessarily deserted section of road, the suspension compresses mightily and the steering tightens, as the car is generating its full 2870-lb. curb weight in downforce here...and it's chomping at the bit for more throttle. I have no reason to doubt the 200-mph claim. The sound is thoroughly intoxicating too, with 7.0 liters of dry-sump aluminum V-8 transitioning from coarse rumble to maniacal shriek with every flight to the 6500-rpm redline. This thing flat moves, and feels locked in a slot at triple digits.

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    The S7's arresting, long-tail shape was a collaborative effort between Steve Saleen and Phil Andrew Frank, son of the Phil Frank of Frank & Troise cartoons we feature and creator of Nigel Shiftright. Essentially the same as the S7R race car's, the tunnel-tested, carbon-fiber body is capable of generating tremendous downforce. Channels direct airflow from the twin front-mounted radiators and over internal wings formed by the front edges of the flat bellypan, finally exiting the "gills" below the doors. At the rear, a massive diffuser divided by vertical strakes clamps the rear Pirelli P Zero tires to the road. "The sweet spot is from 120 to 180 mph," says Saleen.

    Later, we attack a favorite tree-lined canyon road, throttling in the huge 3rd-gear thrust from turn to turn. It's remarkable how the front aero enhances turn-in, and how a car that seemed so unmanageably wide at first can be guided so obediently in its lane. We're flying along at ridiculous speeds, and the mammoth Pirelli P Zeros have hardly squawked in protest.

    Geez, in the span of several hours I think I've used my entire fun allotment (and good karma with police) for the year! Steve is grinning too — and deservedly so. He's succeeded where many others have failed, in building a no-holds-barred American supercar that's crash-tested, OBD-II certified and emissions-legal in all 50 states. It's also a true race car for the street, designed without compromise around its considerable downforce package, that makes the Lamborghini Murciélago feel positively posh by comparison. That's purely intentional, as the whole Saleen crew is proud of how close the chassis is to the S7 race car's, the track-proven alter-ego that won 19 out of 32 races in 2001, including a victory over the factory GTS Corvettes in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

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    As the factory tour continues, it starts to become obvious why the S7 costs as much as it does. Billy Tally, Saleen's enthusiastic vice president of engineering, holds up a front suspension upright that's been CNC-machined from a solid aluminum billet, its elegant latticework of openings designed to admit cooling air to the brakes. It's one of hundreds of like-machined parts that are hand-assembled, welded and jigged up on the premises. Only the immaculately done carbon-fiber bodywork is done off-site, though it's painted in Saleen's booth. Saleen admits that the English Midlands is the epicenter for this work: "The weave pattern is better-looking, it's lighter, and it's stronger."

    We move to engine final assembly, where Steve clears up the misconception that the 7.0-liter V-8 is Ford-based. The aluminum block is a Saleen-exclusive lightweight casting that has small-block external dimensions with big-block capacity. "I did borrow Ford bore centers so I didn't have to reinvent head gaskets and some other bracketry," explains Steve. Tally points with obvious pride to an S7 cylinder head and pokes a finger in the gaping ports, the exhaust valve seats done in beryllium. "It has the best heat conductivity of just about any metal on the planet," he says, adding that with ultra-precise computer machining of both ports and combustion chambers, most heads are within 0.5 percent of one another on the flow bench.

    Out of the shop and back in the S7 (chassis No. 17), we have a chance to sample the amenities, as there are power windows and door locks, fabulous-smelling Connolly leather, very effective heat and air-conditioning systems, and a silver-trimmed, white-face gauge cluster inspired by Steve's own Breitling wristwatch. There are small luggage compartments front and rear, which beautifully show off the carbon-fiber weave and are shaped to accommodate the three-piece set of fitted luggage that's included with the car.

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    The heart and soul of the Saleen, the all-aluminum pushrod 7.0-liter V-8 that generates 550 bhp and a full-throttle shriek that'll give you goosebumps.

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    Intake air enters through the roof-mounted scoop, is ducted to a triangular airbox, then forward to the plenum, with its long vertical runners helping make all that torque.

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    For all its race-car edge, the S7's interior is appealingly styled and expensively finished. Seats are fixed; pedals are manually adjusted to accommodate driver.

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    Tail-mounted camera provides a much appreciated view to the rear via LCD screen. Steve Saleen smiles for the camera, as he should.

    The luggage isn't the only thing that's fitted...the driver is too. The leather-wrapped, fixed-shell seats are non-adjustable fore-aft; rather, the AP-sourced pedal cluster can be manually bolted in one of eight positions. Leather-covered seat pads can be added or taken away according to driver girth and preference, and the small-diameter wheel is adjustable for tilt. As part of the purchase price, Saleen flies the buyer and spouse first-class from anywhere in the U.S., puts them up at the local Ritz-Carlton for two days, takes them on a tour of the Saleen shops in Irvine, California, and fits them to the car. Last, Steve takes them on what he calls an "acclimatization drive."

    This is necessary. For a number of reasons.

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    First, there's a certain technique requiring some flexibility to enter the car. The doors tilt forward on a diagonal hinge line, like a Porsche 962's, and if you attempt to put just one leg in the footwell and hoist yourself into the offset-toward-center driver's seat, you'll do the splits like Mary Lou Retton. No, it's best to thread both feet in and lower yourself with hands on the sill and seat. Once ensconced, the footbox is quite narrow, with close spacing of the heavy-effort pedals. (Remember the downforce I mentioned earlier? A good deal of it at the front comes from space-hogging channels between the footbox and road wheels; at the rear, there's a generously sized diffuser.) At 6-foot-2, I had surprisingly good head, leg and elbow room, but my size-12 Pumas would catch the edge of the brake when going for throttle. A swap to narrower Adidas shoes solved that problem, but there was no solution for the steering wheel blocking the useful part of the tach, from 1500 to 6500 rpm. Saleen says a larger steering wheel is being considered.

    The clutch, a 2-disc, small-diameter number, is a beast. The pedal effort is considerable, and the engagement window is narrow and finicky. I claim personal responsibility for frying it on the photo shoot, during multiple passes that required 3-point turns and not much time for friction-plate cool-down. It takes the better part of a day in the car to get what resembles a smooth start, without either killing the engine or leaving the line with a flurry of revs.

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    There are some unusual noises...the hiss of the power steering as it's moved off-center, and the sound of brake pads rattling inside the Brembo-sourced calipers, which becomes truly annoying only over freeway expansion joints. The steering isn't happy over rain grooves, but feels better with speed and familiarity. Gearbox? The linkage of the 6-speed, sourced from a Texas company Saleen prefers to keep confidential, is quite solid and direct, but reverse requires a Herculean tug toward your right thigh. Outside mirrors provide mostly a view of the rear fenders, but a sizable LCD screen that pops out of the sound system in the center console provides a wide-angle view to the rear via a small camera.

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    A rear suspension close-up reveals the massive 4-piston calipers, slotted rotors that float on their lightweight aluminum hats, and the single-nut mounting for the wheels...genuine race-car stuff.

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    The classy gauge package was inspired by Steve Saleen's own Breitling wristwatch, but you'll only be able to see the bottom half of the dials if you're tall. This is a convenient excuse if you're stopped: "But officer, I couldn't see how fast I was going!"

    No one said owning an exotic car would be easy. But with familiarity, the S7 is livable, enjoyable and delivers only slightly softened race-car thrills like no other. Peruse our data panel and you'll find the S7 is the quickest production car to 60 mph we've ever tested; at 3.3 seconds it beats even the almighty McLaren F1 by a tenth, though Gordon Murray's machine retains our official quarter-mile honors (11.6 sec. at 125.0 mph, versus the S7's 11.8 at 119.9). Through our high-speed slalom, it's one of two production cars on record to exceed 70 mph, remarkable considering its 78.3-in. width in a test that favors narrower cars. And on the asphalt centrifuge of the skidpad, it nearly touches a full g — 0.99 to be exact. Stopping distances of the non-assisted brakes are quite good, as expected, with enormous full-floating rotors and a total caliper piston count of 16, but lack of anti-lock prevents stops from being shorter.

    As with most exotics, this sort of performance is best enjoyed on a racetrack, and the S7 is more than qualified to be the darling of open-lapping day for the fortunate buyer who can shell out $395,000. He or she should be prepared to put up with some annoyances, answer many questions, have people point and gawk and, when appropriate, go very, very fast. After all, this is as close as one can get to charging down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans without an FIA license.

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    Saleen Factory Tour - http://forums.offtopic.com/showthread.php?threadid=659914

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  2. iCEgECKO

    iCEgECKO Ballin' at 5'2''

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    Holy shit that looks tight
     
  3. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    fucking badass :bowdown:
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  5. AF Rugby

    AF Rugby Gun in my mouth, I pray for the sunshine

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    Hasnt that shit been around for like 3 years now? i rember seeing it at the nyc autozhow years ago.. :greddy:
     
  6. M5_Elite

    M5_Elite New Member

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  7. one.nine

    one.nine OT Supporter

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    Yes, please.
     
  8. you know me

    you know me OT where the douchbags play

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  9. Klepto

    Klepto Guest

    looks ugly :dunno:
     
  10. ERock

    ERock My Face Is Kittah OT Supporter

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    I would make love to anyone on OT for that
     
  11. Cicada

    Cicada Guest

    ehhh...looks OK.


    if someone gave me one i'd take it.
     
  12. disc108

    disc108 New Member

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  13. it's the attack of the bumble bee :o
     
  14. disc108

    disc108 New Member

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    would you suck the WTFtit?
     
  15. gLok

    gLok Offshore Member OT Supporter

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    :cool: car

    :rofl: @ him frying the clutch.
     
  16. EPMD

    EPMD I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. A

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    They sold the silver #0001 at Barett Jackson when I was there.

    Very, very nice.
     
  17. i wont be convinced until i see a comparison test with teh civic :eek3:
     
  18. Lasu

    Lasu 2.0

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    TriShield, OT just wouldn't be OT without you. :hug:
     
  19. TheProwler

    TheProwler Active Member

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    One question: for $295,000, why is it that the $165,000 Lingenfelter Corvette is faster off the line? Do they not want to put turbos in the S7?

    Lingenfelter: 0-60 1.95 1/4 8.53
    Saleen: 3.3 11.8
     
  20. AF Rugby

    AF Rugby Gun in my mouth, I pray for the sunshine

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    :slap: this car isnt made for only straight line performance, like the corvette is..
     
  21. ERock

    ERock My Face Is Kittah OT Supporter

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    Sure what the fuck why not.
     
  22. Soltaker

    Soltaker 03-18-2015 #NEVERFORGET

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    I'm sorry, but if you own a car like that and you feel the need to have a mobile theatre system, you deserve to be drug out in the street and shot.
     
  23. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    It's for the rear view camera, asshat!
     
  24. TheProwler

    TheProwler Active Member

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    I know that, but why can't that add something to it that gives it straight-line performance, or are they mutually exclusive?
     
  25. Buck-O

    Buck-O Guest

    My god...id give my lef...wait...no i wouldent.

    I really want to drive an S7, pitty ive never been able to.
     

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