When the Saleen S7 burst onto the stage in 2000, it was a sensation. Its 7.0 forced-induction V8 and accompanying 550 horsepower (later bumped to 750) was a revelation for American motorsport, and the fact that it came from a small tuning firm known for making Mustangs more muscular only added to its intrigue. Off the show circuit and outside of enthusiast circles, its timeless design found some mainstream attention in Bruce Almighty as Jim Carrey’s ride of choice.
Though the story of its birth is murky and up for debate, it’s hard to argue that the S7 was perhaps one of the greatest feats of American automotive engineering to date. Flat-out, the twin-turbo S7 — which debuted in 2005 — was capable of 248 miles per hour, and it reached 60 in 2.8 seconds on the way there.
The rest of the 2000s and 2010s were and have been a struggle for Saleen’s firm. It’s had some highly-publicized financial woes: Customers haven’t been getting their orders, its been selling off assets to balance its checkbook, and dealerships have sued the company over alleged fraud and breaches of contract. And so, Saleen is doing what many other small firms might do in its position: Take your finest merchandise, give it some fresh paint, more power, limit its production, and hope the proceeds can help offset its outstanding debts.
Naturally, Saleen didn’t come out and explain it that way; the company says the limited run of seven new S7s (the S7 LM, now) is being built to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Saleen’s period of racing dominance between 1996 and 2002.
“True to our form, we are bringing back America’s only true supercar,” said Steve Saleen, President and CEO of Saleen Automotive in a press blast, “We are celebrating our winning heritage and advancing the performance DNA that Saleen was built around.”
The new Saleen S7 LM will see power — sourced from the same 7.0 liter Ford-derived V8 — increase from 750 horsepower to an even 1,000. The LM will also benefit from unique livery, wheels, interior, and functional performance enhancements, the firm says.
Saleen is lucky in that the S7 provides such a timeless and solid base — even by today’s standards, with the new Ford GT, the McLaren 675 LT, and the outbound Dodge Viper ACR, the Saleen still looks current and competitive.
However, the magic 1,000-horsepower figure puts it in the same rarefied air as today’s crop of high-performance and equally high-priced vehicles. That kind of power puts you in leagues with Koenigsegg, the Ferrari La Ferrari, the McLaren P1, Lamborghini’s high-end special editions, and various forms of vaporware from around the world.
But here’s the question of the Saleen’s aged mechanicals: While the Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche 918, and Koenigsegg use space-age and Formula 1-derived hybrid technology and materials, the S7 LM — unless Saleen is withholding something — will be using the same structural components and engine tech that it used 16 years ago. That was enough to make the S7 world-beating then, but 16 years is an era in modern automotive times. Today, you can buy a 204 mile per hour family sedan with 700-plus horsepower for under $70,000.
Of course many, if not all of those hypercars have a barrier to entry of $1 million, and the Saleen will reportedly be no exception. The S7 sold for $375,000 (about $514,000 today) back in 2001, but thanks to the car’s now-legendary status, and limited production, we doubt it will have much trouble moving the cars – 16-year-old architecture or otherwise.
At that price, Saleen would net an even $7 million in sales, enough to at least dent — but not balance — its outstanding debt (which stood at roughly $5 million as of November 2014).
One thing is for certain: The 2017 Saleen S7 (yes, 2017 officially, though that might be gratuitous) likely won’t be the savior Saleen needs it to be. But it will be warmly welcomed by the motoring community like an old friend.
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