With the conclusion of S7 production for American markets (it is still available overseas) and the new management that entered in July 2007, Saleen Inc. has begun work on a supercar to lead the company into the next decade.
The Raptor was first seen at the New York Auto Show in March 2008, but when produced will not reach customers until 2010. Built from scratch in only eight months, the not fully functional concept allows a preview of what the production car might look like.
The Raptor concept was built entirely by Saleen and its sister company, American Specialty Cars (ASC). The chassis, designed from the ground up, combines experience from the S7 with other recent Saleen projects.
“It's kind of an amalgamation of the thought processes in the S7 and those that we learned from Ford when we were helping with the Ford GT,” said Marcus McCammon, Saleen Automotive General Manager. "In particular on the GT, Ford did some pretty interesting things in their approach to cast-node technology and they had a pretty novel aluminum monocoque. The S7 has a very race-traditional chromoly spaceframe. What we tried to do was kind of move a little bit away from the S7 architecture and more towards the aluminum monocoque style, so I would say that it's kind of a hybrid of the two.”
The Raptor will use Saleen’s tried and tested Ford-sourced 5.0-L V8, massaged to 650 hp (485 kW) at 6300 rpm and 630 lb·ft (854 N·m) at 4400 rpm, giving the car an estimated 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) time of 3.2 s and a top speed of over 200 mph (322 km/h). While the engine is the same aluminum block that Saleen has used for years, engineers made a move toward a different fuel source: E-85 ethanol. The 10.6:1 compression ratio and large twin-screw supercharger are the source of the additional power, up by 30 hp (22 kW) over the most powerful engine in any of Saleen’s other vehicles.
“We actually have a lesser version of (the engine) in production in our extreme version of the Mustang, so we know what the gasoline version of the motor does in spades. We know that our power and torque estimations are conservative, and we are confident in the engine's durability and in the torque and driver response,” said McCammon.
Saleen’s choice of ethanol power for the Raptor stays consistent with its interest in racing, as the Indy Racing League now uses 100% ethanol and the American LeMans Series uses E-10. While not certain of the racing fate of the car, “what would be necessary to campaign a car like (the Raptor) is a strong consideration as we do our development,” said McCammon. The ethanol power could appear in Saleen’s tweaked Mustangs. “I can’t say definitively yes or no,” said McCammon. “There is still a sense of responsibility that we will not abandon, so as we look at it and continue to go forward, we are going to explore all the possibilities.”
The dramatic body lines of the Raptor were penned by ASC, which claims to have the largest non-OEM design team in the country. The carbon-fiber body is more in line with other performance cars in the same price range and features a wing that rises from the rear spoiler at 90 mph (145 km/h). The gull-wing doors on the concept could fall back to the butterfly style of the S7, depending on what works best for the vehicle’s weight and structure, said McCammon.
The Raptor has an estimated price of $185,000, which could rise to a $225,000 to $250,000 transaction price when the car reaches the market. Saleen hopes to produce and sell around 500 per year.
The Raptor project is small-scale; three designers worked on the basic chassis layout, mostly done through a combination of computer modeling and hands-on trials. CATIA V5, Unigraphics, and road course models make up the computer side of the engineering, but a lot of the development is done on the track.
“Since endurance racing is a strong part of our heritage, we do quite a bit of our testing modeled after Le Mans-style endurance races; we will take the cars to various test tracks and run them for 8, 10, to 12 hours at a time, fully instrumented, so that we can understand what happens to the car under extreme conditions,” said McCammon. “That is kind of the way that we like to approach it—kind of a real-world seat of the pants (approach) to augment the mathematical modeling. And then we take the data and dump it back into our math systems.”
While the Raptor is being prepared for production, some aspects are still undecided; the rear canopy could be a lift-off version that works well for racing, but Saleen is not sure how user-friendly that would be. Overall, though, the basic concept will remain as Saleen works to balance all the vehicle’s attributes.