Formed in 1983, American firm Saleen has a number of impressive feats under its belt. It assembled the Ford GT, and to this day produces a range of high-performance versions of already high-performance Fords, Chevrolets and Dodges. It has also enjoyed extensive success with its S7 in GT championships on both sides of the Atlantic, including Le Mans.
In 2007, however, when the Saleen S5S Raptor was conceived, the company wasn’t exactly in the rudest of health. Steve Saleen himself had jumped ship to form his own firm (SMS Supercars) and the future looked decidedly iffy. So iffy that Mr Saleen subsequently agreed to buy the company back in a move which took until last year to finalise.
But at the outset of all that corporate hubbub, the company was sitting on a project that I think could have been a hit. The S5S was an all-American affair; designed by ASC Creative Services in Detroit and slated to make use of a Mustang-derived, supercharged five litre V8 which wouldn’t have struggled to produce a planned 650bhp. With that kind of power on tap performance figures of 0-60 in under 3.5 seconds and sub-11 second quarter miles would have been on the cards before the advent of the Ferrari 458 and the McLaren 12C …
The concept was revealed at the 2008 New York Motor Show and promised even to be ‘affordable’ in comparison with the previous Saleen S7 supercar. Underneath the composite body was an aluminium frame which suggests that Saleen was pursuing agility as well as stonking straight line performance. We think that said body was rather good looking, with a hint of Lamborghini Gallardo to the side-profile and, dare we say it, shades of Ferrari 458 in the front lights? The rear lights might have something of the yuletide decorations about them, but on the whole I still think this car could have been a hit.
But anyway it didn’t happen and the world is awaiting Steve Saleen’s latest offering which is said to be revealed next year. If the firm has progressed sensibly from the concept it produced almost eight years ago, I’d expect it to warrant a lot of attention.