By on December 16, 2015


If you want to see a great example of automotive journalism, go read Raphael Orlove’s account of the unclear history of the development of the Saleen S7 supercar.

Triggered by an email tip, Raph checked into the rumor of the Saleen S7 starting its life as an Aston Martin racing car before being stolen by Steve Saleen himself. Orlove spoke to the entire cast of characters involved in bringing the Saleen S7 into reality — Steve Saleen, Reeves Callaway, UK racecar builder Ray Mallock, and Phil Frank, who designed the body — to try and clarify the matter.

Since none of their stories precisely align — and in some cases contradict each other — Orlove wasn’t able to determine the true provenance of the S7, but he did a great job of debunking the Aston Martin rumor by tracking down leads. It’s also well written and highly entertaining.

The timing of what’s essentially a story about intellectual property coincidentally got published soon after a recent auction for that same intellectual property along with what appears to be enough parts and tooling to at least contemplate building a few S7s again.


On November 18, 2015, Great American auctions sold off what they described as the “Assets and Intellectual Property of the Saleen S7, S7R … [including] all remaining inventory, parts, memorabilia, molds, designs and intellectual property related to the Saleen S7, S7R and the Saleen S5S Raptor.” You can peruse the entire listing here.


Those remaining parts include six chassis for the S7/S7R and the pushmobile concept for the never produced S5 Raptor. It appears there is enough inventory, hardware and body parts that someone could at least attempt finishing those six S7s.


Since the lot includes CAD files, vendor lists, molds, tooling and fixtures for making more parts, and since the S7 chassis is made up of welded tubing and stressed metal panels, not carbon fiber or some other unobtanium, someone might even consider buying it all as a lot and putting the S7 back into production.


Actually, that’s what someone did, or at least they bought it (final sale pending, according to the auction house) all as one lot. The auction house hasn’t yet revealed who bought it or how much the purchase price was, so please excuse my speculation herewith.


The history of failed automotive ventures includes some fascinating stories about what happened to treasure troves of parts and fixtures, like Glenn Pray’s Cord inventory, or how Nate Altman, Leo Newman and Nate’s brother Arnold kept the Avanti II in production for decades with parts and tooling they had bought from Studebaker, or the way the guys in Texas who started selling NOS DeLorean parts are now selling complete cars.


I happen to think that it’s more likely that whoever bought the lot is a wealthy Saleen owner who wants to ensure a supply of spares, or a businessperson who wants to acquire a parts inventory, rather than make a Nate Altman-esque S7 II, but you never know.


As it happens, the auction was announced just before this summer’s Concours of America at St. John’s. I knew that collector Ken Lingenfelter was going to be showing some of his cars and that he had a Saleen S7 the last time I visited his collection. So, when I saw him again, I asked him if he’d be interested in acting like fellow Ferrari tifoso James Glickenhaus and start building cars, rather than just buying them for his collection or tuning them at Lingenfelter Performance. Ken demurred, saying essentially that car manufacturing was a headache he didn’t want. And, in any case, he told me that he’d sold his S7. Perhaps it was to make room for his new LaFerrari.


Vas is das? A differential?

Vas is das? A differential?

The recent change in the law allowing companies to make up to 325 turnkey replicas of historic cars without having to certify their compliance with the latest safety standards makes it slightly more possible for the S7 to go back into production (though having been in production within the last decade the S7 likely meets many, if not most of today’s standards). While precise production figures are hard to track down, it’s likely that 325 exceeds the number of S7s that Steve Saleen ever sold, so if there’s still some pent up demand for America’s first mid-engined supercar, there’s an opportunity here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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