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Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

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On: Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 9:52AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

There are fast cars out there—sure a WRX is quick or even a BMW 335is, perhaps. Then there are really fast cars—a Corvette Grand Sport or Shelby GT 500 both fit that bill. But even beyond those cars lie another realm of speed that is reserved for the truly remarkable examples of machinery made to move.

Steve Saleen had always been a man who took fast cars and turned them into really fast cars. A simple Mustang became an S281 or an even more potent S351, and Saleen quickly became legendary in the tuner community. But, there were always questions as to whether or not Steve Saleen could build a car of his own. So Saleen attempted to put those questions to rest and put all of his amassed tuning know-how into building a supercar from the ground up, catapulting his namesake into the highest echelon of road-going automobiles on the planet.

When the S7 appeared on the scene in 2002, it was a beast of a machine sporting a naturally aspirated seven-liter mid-engine V8 that produced an even 500 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. But then in 2005, Steve decided to up the ante and essentially did what every teenager (and gearhead) only dreamed about. He added twin turbochargers onto that hulking 427 cubic inch monster (adding another 250 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque) and created the single fastest and most powerful American-made car in history.

The Saleen S7 Twin Turbo's list of parts reads like a performance parts catalog wish list. A carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and aluminum honeycomb body over a steel space frame, powered by an all-aluminum dry sump V8 sporting solid lifters (for higher revving), stainless steel valves, beryllium exhaust valve seats, titanium retainers, stainless steel exhaust, an aluminum throttle body, and oh, yeah, those two Garrett GT35R ball-bearing turbochargers fed by dual electric fuel pumps and 52 lb/hr fuel injectors producing a very mild 5.5 psi of boost.

Dual-stage springs put in perspective just what the S7 TT was built for. The first set were for normal around town driving, while the second stiffer set came into play only after 100 mph, and were necessary because of the incredible amount of downforce the S7 created at speed. Six-piston Brembo brakes clamped down on massive 15-inch front and 14-inch rear rotors, and hauled the 2,968 pound rocket down from 60 mph in 119 feet.

Once you hear an S7 TT fire up, it's hard to ever forget. The mammoth 427 explodes to life with NASCAR-like ferocity and then reluctantly settles down into something resembling an idle. Try to drop the eight-inch twin-plate organic/metallic clutch at much more than idle, and the S7 instantly lights up its massive 335/30R20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires while the 275/35R19 front tires try desperately to get the car to go where the driver had originally intended.

Once those steam roller tires finally hook up with the asphalt, the S7 will rocket away from just about any car on Earth—and even keep pace with the mighty Bugatti Veyron. 0-60 mph comes up in a relatively pedestrian 3.2 seconds (considering the $600,000 price tag), but once traction is finally a non-issue, the S7 really makes up for lost time. 100 mph comes up in a frightening 6.0 seconds flat, on its way to a quarter mile time of 10.6 @ 139.8 mph and a top speed of 250 mph.

Although the S7 doesn't have the pedigree of say Ferrari or Porsche, what it does have is absolutely stunning good looks and power beyond recognition. Steve Saleen proved he is more than just a tuner; he proved he is a master craftsman capable of creating something of his own that can compete in the most rarified air of exotic supercars. Although Saleen will always be known for making fast cars, after the S7 there are no more questions as to whether or not Steve can make a truly fast car on his own. He can. He definitely can.


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