Unveiled at the 2000 Monterey Historic Races, the S7 was the first model designed and engineered by Saleen from the ground up since the company was founded by Steve Saleen in 1983.
This 2003 Saleen S7 was manufactured in November 2002 at Saleen’s Irvine, CA, facility. It was registered in Florida, Indiana and Arizona, and the seller states it spent time in Paul Walker and Roger Rodas’ AE Performance Collection in Valencia, CA, before it was purchased by the seller out of Illinois in 2016.
The carbon-fiber bodywork is finished in silver-over-black leather upholstery, and power comes from a mid-mounted 7.0-liter V8 paired with a 6-speed manual transaxle and a limited-slip differential. Equipment includes a coil-over suspension, Brembo slotted and ventilated disc brakes with Saleen-branded six-piston calipers, staggered-dimension center-lock wheels, air conditioning and a touchscreen Kenwood CD player.
This S7 is now offered in Napa, CA, with a copy of the California title in AE Mtrs name, a clean CARFAX report, and a clean Montana title in the name of the seller’s LLC. The digital odometer shows 1,800 miles, approximately 50 of which were added by the seller. A plaque affixed to the center console identifies the chassis as number 03-024. A Steve Saleen signature is present on the driver’s door.
|Vehicle:||2003 Saleen S7|
|Years Produced:||2001–04 S7, 2005–06 S7TT, 2001–07 S7R, 2017–present S7LM|
|Number Produced:||78 (estimated)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$3,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||VIN stamped on chassis plate in engine compartment.|
|Engine Number Location:||Right side of block between the cylinder heads|
|Club Info:||Saleen Owners and Enthusiasts Club|
|Alternatives:||1992–98 McLaren F1, 2002–04 Ferrari Enzo, 2004–05 Maserati MC12|
This car, Lot 110647, sold for $680,000, including buyer’s premium, on Bring a Trailer’s online auction, June 23, 2023.
Few cars are as recognizable as a Saleen S7. Spanning an impressive 21 feet, its exciting long-tail profile is an instant tell to enthusiasts. Penned at the turn of the millennium, Saleen designer Phil Frank’s lines were a sensation then and continue to demand attention today, even in the most impressive supercar company.
Still, if the S7 is an icon thanks to its radical design and a flurry of early magazine features, it’s also largely misunderstood. Saleen’s tight press access meant that after the car launched, details surrounding its gestation and character came to be misunderstood. This years-long information vacuum has invited caution from collectors. Yet as this sale suggests, the S7’s position at the pinnacle of analog performance may be gaining appreciation as we peer into a future of autonomous cars and artificial intelligence.
A full recounting of the S7 story begs more space, but the central facts suffice. This is a clean-sheet design and very much Steve Saleen’s car. He shepherded every step of its production, including serving as its primary development driver. The S7 was conceived to win races, specifically its class at Le Mans. It was thus designed around that rulebook’s details, such as fuel capacity and wheelbase. Saleen also envisioned the S7 as the world’s premier driver-oriented supercar, and both street and track versions were developed in parallel and built interchangeably in the same shop.
The S7 and S7R race car are near-clones, differing primarily in the street version’s synchromesh 6-speed, more-complete interior and improved cockpit access. In a reverse of the norm, the street car enjoys more horsepower than the restricted race cars.
Even so, the character of the original S7 is different from most supercars. With 550 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque from its mid-mounted Ford Windsor-based small block, the car is far from high strung. With pushrods and two valves per cylinder, it is not nearly as technologically advanced. Yet in contemporary testing, it could do 0–60 mph in 3.3 seconds, which was Ferrari Enzo territory.
All S7s began with a chrome-moly space frame reinforced with aerospace honeycomb designed by chassis specialist Richard Owen and prototyped in great secrecy by Saleen contractor Ray Mallock Limited in England. A handful of early S7R race cars were fabricated there and finished with Saleen-fabbed parts from the U.S., but the entire operation quickly moved to California. As S7 development was ongoing, eventually every aspect of the car was engineered or improved and built there.
Above all, the S7 comes as close as any other contender in delivering the nervy precision and explosive immediacy of a pure racing car for the street. That it is so raw, demanding and rewarding leaves many owners feeling outmatched behind the wheel, but the knowing few thrilled by its veracity.
Street vs. track
There are four variants of the S7. The S7R race cars were campaigned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Sebring, plus many IMSA, Petit Le Mans and FIA championship events. The first naturally aspirated S7 street cars were built from 2001 to ’04 and were superseded by the 2005–06 S7TT (Twin Turbo) street cars with 750 hp. Finally, there was the S7LM, a 1,300- to 1,500-hp variant announced at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Factory options were few but significant. Many street cars — especially Twin Turbos — were never registered, either for secrecy’s sake or because they were for track use. This led to the track-only 2006 S7TT Competition package with an S7R splitter and wing. Making 1,000-plus horsepower in these cars was easy, only requiring an increase in boost and an open exhaust. This could also be retrofitted to existing Twin Turbos.
Another unique option was Saleen’s incredible color palate of BASF-enhanced paints (also used on the company’s modified Mustangs). Difficult to apply, not to mention repair, such stunningly complex and showy finishes as Lizstick Red or Beryllium copper-orange offer unique collector opportunities.
Saleen has never released official S7 production statistics, so the numbers remain mildly mysterious. Insiders confirm the total to be in the upper 70s but fewer than 80 completed cars. These break down to approximately 30 of the naturally aspirated street cars, 14 S7R race cars, 30-plus Twin Turbos and possibly three S7LM models. By any measure, an S7 is rare.
Furthermore, reconfiguring S7s seems to be a hobby for some owners. Converting naturally aspirated S7s to Twin Turbo specification is not unheard of, and at least one S7TT in Europe has been so extensively modified for standing-mile or -kilometer racing as to strain its Saleen heritage. Collectors might therefore appreciate factory-stock examples.
Now past its 20th anniversary, the S7 may finally be seeing some broader recognition. With the booming market for its supercar contemporaries such as the Enzo and the Porsche Carrera GT, this only makes sense.
Devoid of ties to a large carmaker, Saleen was unable to leverage resources from a mothership, but was also completely unrestrained in realizing his supercar concept. Crafted via Herculean efforts by a skilled and dedicated squad on the cusp of the electronic revolution, the S7 is one of the last great analog supercars, one with racing bona fides to boot.
Our subject car represents a new high value for naturally aspirated S7s. It faithfully represents an early model without any extraordinary price-raising features. The classic silver paint and black interior are pricing neutrals. Silver shows the S7 lines to advantage and is far more practical than Saleen’s specialty colors, though it lacks the snap of those optional hues.
With stock condition and low mileage, this example is desirable both for its originality and potential driving pleasure. If the new owner does intend to drive it, the simple powertrain is durable, and with diligence, original S7 technicians can be ferreted out for servicing. Replacement parts after a major crash would pose trouble, however.
Until recently, this early example might have been a $500k car, with only Twin Turbos bringing this kind of money. But if this $680k sale now represents a new level for the naturally aspirated cars, one could logically expect $900k–$1m as the new Twin Turbo standard. All things considered, the pool of S7s of any stripe is truly limited and the market is thin. Years can pass between offerings, stunting purchasing opportunities and suggesting abrupt pricing adjustments, as the new going rate becomes whatever was paid for the last one. As such, this car was both well bought and well sold. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bring a Trailer.)