The Saleen S5S Raptor debuted at the 2008 New York Auto Show with hopeful enthusiasm. The gorgeous supercar would have been a more affordable follow-up to the Saleen S7, which was nearing the end of its nine-year production run.

But a half-dozen blocks or so from the Javits Center where Saleen debuted its new supercar 16 years ago, Bear Stearns—an American banking powerhouse—teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. That would foreshadow the looming financial crisis, forcing General Motors into bankruptcy, destabilizing the world's economy, and plunging the global auto industry into chaos.

For Saleen, things were already beginning to unravel in 2007. Steve Saleen left the company he'd founded that year (only to return five years later), and continued financial struggles in 2009 forced the company to sell many of its assets to MJ Acquisitions. Saleen would keep the rights to the S7 and S5S names, alongside other select intellectual properties, but the company was in no position to be producing a supercar. So needless to say, the S5S Raptor never happened. But imagine what could have been.

This is Concept We Forgot, Motor1's deep dive into the weird and wonderful concept cars you might not remember.

The S5S debuted in New York to high praise. The name—S5S—represents "Saleen," the 5.0-liter engine, and its supercharged nature. The concept had a three-valve, single-cam 5.0-liter V-8 engine making 650 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, which the company paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. Saleen claimed the car could hit 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds, complete a quarter-mile run in 10.9 seconds, and exceed 200 mph.

The exotic look was penned by David Byron at ​​​​ASC Creative Services in Detroit, who went on to design multiple concept cars for GM and even helmets used in the NHL. He wanted to create something with "muscle" and "power," but also a supercar that could compete against the Germans and Italians of the time—the Audi R8, Lamborghini Gallardo, and Ferrari F430 specifically.

2008 Saleen S5S Raptor Concept

"We could put this out on an international level and compete against the likes of Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini," he said in a 2008 interview with Kelley Blue Book. "Everybody's jumping into the market with good supercars and we really just wanted to represent America."

The S5S had a long, low hood and aggressive headlights with LED accents—cutting edge for the day. The 20-inch wheels had staggered 275/35 front and 315/35s rear tires, with a fully independent suspension. Behind those wheels were 15-inch front and 13-inch rear brakes with six- and two-piston calipers, respectively.

Unlike the brawny S7, though, the S5S was meant to be more useable. It had ABS, stability control, and even traction control. Saleen also billed the Raptor as a much cheaper car than its sibling, with a starting price of around $185,000. That would have made it $400,000 cheaper than the S7.

"We could put this out on an international level and compete against the likes of Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini."

Chris Theodore, a 40-year auto industry veteran and the self-proclaimed "Father of the Ford GT," was the Chief Technical Officer of Saleen at the time and helped greenlight the project. He said the Raptor was "just a glimpse of things to come."

"Our company is unique in that we have the experience and knowledge behind some of the most exciting performance vehicles built over the past 20 years," noted Theodore. "Beyond the S7 Supercar, our team members have been involved in the Viper, Prowler, Ford GT, and the products of Chrysler SRT and Ford's SVT performance groups. These 'lessons learned' are evident in the Raptor concept and we will continue to build upon them as the company evolves."

But just a few months after the S5S debuted in New York, MJ swooped in to purchase much of the business. Saleen presumably kept the S7, S5S Raptor, and the painting operations. However, when Steve regained control of the Saleen brand in 2012, the opportunity for the S5S Raptor had passed, and the car could not fulfill its promise of being America's Ferrari fighter.

He hinted at a new supercar based on the bones of the Raptor a year later, but that never materialized either. The closest thing we ever got was the short-lived Saleen 1 sports car in China. The S5S prototype and its intellectual property, along with the S7, would end up listed for auction in November 2015 by GA Global Partners, just a year after reports surfaced that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.


It's unclear if the car sold along with the rest of the stuff, but the sale post noted that the assets and IP in the lot were "being sold by the current owner" that was "not related to or affiliated with Saleen Automotive Inc."

The supercar does at least have a digital footprint. You can drive it in racing games like CSR Racing, Forza Motorsport 3, Forza Horizon, Forza Motorsport 4, and Forza Horizon 4. 

But the S5S Raptor never reached the road in real life. Saleen's dreams of a Ferrari fighter died before it even had a chance.

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