We haven’t heard from Steve Saleen in a while. What has he been up to in that concrete bunker next to the 91 freeway in Corona, California? Turns out, plenty. With a pile of money from an entity called Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technologies Group in China, he is back in the supercar business. Or semi-supercar — maybe super-sports car, since this one is powered by a four-cylinder engine and is slated to cost (only!) $100,000.
Looks cool even to birds
As with seemingly everything Saleen, it’s complicated, and we probably don’t have all the information. Near as we can tell, JSAT came onto the Saleen scene and they all agreed to purchase bankrupt German sports car maker Artega. Artega had a car called the Artega GT, designed by Henrik Fisker and powered by a mid-engine Volkswagen 3.6-liter V6. But the Artega couldn’t be converted to U.S. specs, so Saleen scrapped the Artega GT and started over.
No, it does not look like an Artega GT, so stop thinking that!
Of course, if you look at an Artega GT and a Saleen 1 from the rear three-quarter they sure look the same — to our eyeballs, anyway. But it’s officially a Saleen and not an Artega GT, Lotus Evora or the long-lost Saleen S5S Raptor from the 2008 New York auto show.
Regardless, all those cars look really cool and nobody except some design students at Art Center or CCS are going to bicker about design lineage. Are they?
Then, last Thursday in the Atrium of the LA Auto Show’s South Hall, Saleen pulled the sheets off this carbon-fiber-bodied car, the Saleen 1, or S1 for short. It does look nice. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that Saleen claims was also designed, engineered and built by Saleen. The four-banger will make a claimed 450 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque; the transmission will be a six-speed manual with an optional paddle-shifted automatic coming later.
Saleen says to expect a 3.5-second 0-60 time, 11.3-second quarter mile and a top speed of 180 mph. Saleen also claims that with Continental 255/30ZR-20s front and 335/25ZR-20s rear the car will hold 1.2 g on the skid pad.
The carbon-fiber bodies will be built “exclusively” in China. All cars for the U.S. and Europe will be built in the U.S., with headquarters in Corona, Calif., and build facilities in Virginia and Mississippi. All cars for the Asian market will be built in China.
They are building a dealer network now and will have it in place by rollout. Production is slated for the June-July 2018 timeframe. And there will be a lot of production. First-year build total is aiming at around 1,500 –- similar to the number of 2004-06 Ford GTs that Saleen produced in Michigan. Sticker prices will start at $100,000.
We really hope this all comes together, that they establish, in less than a year, three manufacturing facilities — two in the U.S. and one in China — and an entire dealer network, and launch the car with no hiccups and a smooth rollout. In seven months. Eight max. Because holding the press conference isn’t the hard part.