The Saleen S7 is a mystifying car, a $375,000 American mid-engine supercar that sprung up out of nowhere in the year 2000. But what if it wasn’t exactly nowhere? Acting on a tip, I spent months trying to figure out the S7’s true origins. And I’m still not sure what to think.
The weirdest part about the Saleen S7 is not its carbon-fiber body, or its butterfly doors, or its V8 engine mounted behind the driver. It wasn’t its twin-turbo edition with a beyond-belief 1,000 horsepower, or its one blip on the pop culture radar with a starring role in that stupid Jim Carrey movie about a guy who became God and could get anything he wanted.
All that stuff makes sense, actually. The S7 was a car for someone who could get anything he wanted. And it came with a price tag to match.
What’s weird is where the S7 came from—Saleen, a small Mustang tuning company based out of Southern California that had never sold a car like it before and never managed to make a successor since.
In the years before Saleen started selling the S7 (and in the years ever since they stopped), they busied themselves modifying and racing ordinary blue collar Fords. If anything, Saleen’s cars were mostly known for their numerous vents, lowered suspensions, and their propensity for being driven by people who consider a backwards baseball hat to be a wardrobe staple for all occasions.
It was incredible that they came up with a car of their own design, let alone one so exotic.
But after several months of research I can say that depending on who you ask, Saleen didn’t come up with the car at all.
The question of where the Saleen S7 really came from began with a mysterious email tip Jalopnik received after my coworker Mike Ballaban posted about Saleen’s current financial situation being, well, less than clear and less than good.