Former racing driver Stephen Mark Saleen founded his specialty vehicle manufacturing company in 1983. While campaigning a Ford Mustang in the Sports Car Club of America’s 1983 Trans Am series, Saleen got the idea to develop a niche market high-end custom turnkey extreme performance Mustang model for driving enthusiasts.
To accomplish this, Saleen founded Saleen Autosport.
That first Saleen Mustang production run consisted of three cars—one white hatchback, a “Copper Glow” hatchback, and a black hatchback. One of his subsequent products, the Saleen Mustang S351, became the fastest production car sold when its output was raised to 495 horsepower in 1996.
Observing the burgeoning growth of the SUV market, and recognizing the potential demand for a high performance model, Saleen released the 1998 Saleen Explorer XP8 Performance Utility Vehicle in 1998. Based on the 1997 Explorer XLT, the XP8 was lowered about two inches. Its springs, shocks, and road wheels were upgraded to more performance-oriented components, and a set of super-sticky Pirelli radial tires was fitted.
Two engine options were available, a 222 horsepower, normally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 producing 298 ft-lbs of torque and a 286-horsepower supercharged version of the same engine capable of generating 333 ft-lbs of torque. The four-speed automatic transmission was paired with either two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The Saleen S7 supercar marked Steve Saleen’s emergence as an original equipment manufacturer. The first ground-up road going Saleen automobile, the 2000 Saleen S7 was a completely original design. The body of the S7 was made of carbon fiber, while the space frame chassis was comprised of both aluminum and lightweight high strength steel. Curb weight was 2,750 pounds.
The first version of the car produced 550 horsepower and was produced until 2004. Acceleration from zero to 60 was quoted at 3.3 seconds. For 2005, the Saleen S7 returned, this time with a twin turbocharged V8 engine capable of 750 horsepower, 700 ft-lbs of torque, and propelling the car to a top speed of some 248 miles per hour. Zero to 60 for the S7 Twin Turbo was quoted at 2.8 seconds. For 2006, because you know, uh, enough never really is enough; the S7 Competition model was released with 1000 horsepower.
Because Saleen production was so prolific (as specialty models go), used Saleen cars can be found rather readily. Expect to pay a premium when you find a Saleen for sale though.