With Chevrolet confirming its newest Corvette won't feature a manual transmission, the three-pedal loyalist contingent of the automotive world is in an unnecessary tizzy. Yes, the art of the manual sports car is dying, but you know who stands by the traditional transmission in its new cars?
Yes, we're talking about that Saleen, the one known for tuning Ford Mustangs, F-150s, and even building its own supercar, the S7. Early next year, it plans to commence production of its first in-house sports car, one which it calls the Saleen 1.
Saleen says the 1's aluminum chassis and carbon fiber body—designed with the expertise gained from the S7 program—qualifies it as a "sports car with supercar credentials," and while that doesn't mean much in English, its performance specs make sense in any language. Standstill-to-60 will take an estimated 3.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 11.3 seconds is expected. With an airstrip at your disposal, Saleen thinks the 1 can crack 180 miles per hour.
Those numbers probably won't wow you when compared directly to those of the C8 Corvette, as the Chevy'll do oh-to-sixty in three flat, but you should expect some performance compromise if you're adamant about a manual gearbox. You'll have to do without that V8, too, because the Saleen 1 will be powered by a smaller, 2.2-liter four-pot. Massive turbocharging means this itty-bitty engine somehow makes 450 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, all of which heads to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual as standard. Pay extra, and you can have a paddle-shifted auto, even if it kinda defeats the point of buying the anti-'Vette.
General Motors argued that it could only get the Corvette under $60,000 by foregoing the manual entirely, so expect to pay a premium if you need your American-made, mid-engined sports car in row-your-own spec. When production starts early next year, expect to lay down $100,000 for a Saleen 1. That may sound like a lot, and that's because it is, especially for a company with such a small service network.
But all that'll supposedly change in the next several years because Saleen plans a tremendous expansion of its retail and service network across the United States. Not only will it open at least 25 new "Saleen Experience" locations, but "Saleen Original" dealers are also on the way, with service centers equipped to maintain everything from Saleen-modified models such as the Mustang S302 and F-150 Sportruck to future Saleen-made models.
You heard that right—the Saleen 1 is planned to be only the first in a series of new, entirely proprietary Saleen models, many of which will be manufactured in China as part of a local joint venture. Around the time the Saleen 1 enters production, Saleen'll also commence production of a China-only crossover, though don't expect the two to share a factory floor. Like all the best Saleens, the Saleen 1 will be built right here in the U.S.