The Saleen S7

The Saleen S7 is the melding of American muscle car and European supercar. Like all American muscle, it is rear wheel drive and powered by a high-displacement V8. Like all high-dollar supercars, it had a mid-mounted engine and is capable of high speed with excellent handling. It has parts from Italy, extensive design from the UK, and gull-wing doors. It has a quick-release steering wheel, just like in NASCAR. What's more American than NASCAR?

The S7 is hand-built in California, starting with a tube frame and aluminum honeycomb crumple zones. The body panels around it are 100% carbon fiber, formed in an autoclave. The S7's body produces enough downforce to drive upside-down at any speed over 160 miles per hour. This is not uncommon among supercars, but it's still pretty cool. The various scoops and vents that adorn the car's body are all entirely functional. They cool the brakes, feed the engine, and channel air over the dual radiators and dual oil coolers, all while causing as little drag as possible. For European or Middle Eastern buyers, the car is built in a sister facility in England.

If any part of the car shows its American heritage, it is the engine. It isn't a 3-liter V6, or a 6-liter V12, it's a monstrous 7.0-liter V8. Based loosely on a Ford design, its block bears the immortal number 427. The sixteen valve, cam-in-block beast's only concessions to conventional supercar design are its exotic components: aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber. The engine forces its exhaust through four EPA-mandated catalytic converters into a quadruple exhaust and still makes 550 horsepower and 525 pound-feet or torque. Despite its displacement, the engine is capable of 7,000 rpm. Wear ear protection.

From the engine, power is sent through a four-plate metallic clutch into a six-speed manual transmission. The transmission is longitudinally mounted, with a limited slip differential and strengthened half-shafts. The suspension system both front and rear is an unequal-length double-wishbone setup with coilover springs. Bringing the car to a stop are 15 inch (front) and 14 inch (rear) slotted discs with Brembo six-piston calipers. Saleen forged wheels are 19x9.5 inches in front and 20x13 inches in the rear, with Ferrari-style center locking wheel nuts and Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires.

The interior is entirely leather and suede, with only minimal aluminum accents. Seating is asymmetrical, with the driver sitting further toward the center than the passenger. The driver's seat is non-adjustable, and is molded specifically for the buyer upon purchase of the vehicle. The S7 features air conditioning, power locks, power windows, and an AM/FM audio system with six-disc CD changer. With both front and rear trunks, it has less than six cubic feet of cargo space. To make up for cargo space's dead-last position on the list of design priorities, all Saleen S7s come with luggage specially designed to fit snugly in its fore and aft trunks.

The Saleen S7 travels from zero to sixty miles per hour in under four seconds with a top speed of over 200 mph. It is suprisingly heavy at 2,750 pounds, but is only 41 inches high, giving it a very low center of gravity. The MSRP of an S7 is $395,000. It is available only from select Saleen Certified dealers. To quote Carroll Shelby via Bill Cosby: "Whutchu doin', drivin' them ferreign cars?"

The Saleen S7-R

The S7-R is a racing variant of the S7 designed specifically for endurance racing. Ride height is dropped by 35 millimeters to 65 mm, with the rest of the suspension essentially unchanged from the road car. Brake discs are one inch larger all around, with leightweight six-piston calipers from OE manufacturer Brembo. The wheels are forged OZ Racing five-spokes eighteen inches in diameter, 12 inches wide in front and 13 in the rear. They are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero slicks.

The engine is mildly prepared, producing 600 horsepower at 6400 rpm (up 50 hp from the road car). A roof scoop feeds the induction system, which is upgraded with more carbon fiber components. The exhaust is now a full stainless steel system with dual outlets instead of the stock four. Between the exhaust tips is a mesh vent to aid engine cooling. A 100-liter fuel cell is fitted to quench the V8's thirst on long races.

The front splitter is improved for added downforce at race speeds. It is matched to an adjustable rear wing spanning the width of the car's rear. The cabin is stripped, containing only a Saleen race seat and Motec instrumentation and switch panel.

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