It's Electric: The Saleen Modified Tesla Model S

Article by Anthony Alaniz. Video courtesy of XCARFilms.

It is a world many of us are in denial of living. We knew the time was coming, but we’d hoped that some sort of salvation would have been procured by now. Instead, things have only began to appear more drastic … more dismayed. We heard the warning cries. The warnings that our paradise could not last—it was unsustainable and we were crazy for even thinking that it would continue forever uninterrupted. We turn our heads away, shaking them in disbelief.

"This is how it should be!” we cried. But no one would listen to our craziness. Our way of life is dying and if we do not adapt, we will too. There is no denying that gasoline-powered cars are going the way of the dinosaurs—pun intended. But where does that leave us, the enthusiast? The ones who tinker and toy and modify to our hearts’ content. Electric motors are simplistic with minimal moving parts. The fewer parts there are, the less we have to modify.

Thanks to the folks at Saleen, who are significantly smarter than I, the coming electrification of cars doesn’t have to be a total snooze. With Saleen being one of the premiere aftermarket tuners for muscle cars aplenty, modifying a Tesla seems like a far departure for the company. Even some within the tuner thought the project was ambitious, yet unnecessary.

However, the modified Tesla has been well received since its unveiling at Pebble Beach’s Concours d'Elegance. What makes electric cars so enthralling is their motors provide all the torque immediately from zero, making them quick, though oftentimes heavy cars.

Saleen took the approach of leaving the electric motor and management system alone, and instead focusing on weight savings and drivetrain enhancements to improve performance. While these may seem like minor modifications, this is just the first step toward better improvements and available aftermarket parts. How long until one can increase the power of an electric car with a simple over-the-air update?

"Electric vehicles are here to stay,” said Steve Saleen in the XCAR video. "The future is here and it is here to stay.” The mission behind the Saleen Tesla was to give the car a unique look, a more spirited ride and the sound enthusiasts say is lacking from the current crop of quiet electric cars. When listening to the modified Tesla, there is little doubt that this is how the future of electric cars should sound.

As mentioned in other posts, the car enthusiast lives for the sensory overload that many cars provide. The sound of a Saleen Tesla helps fill in the blanks left by other electric cars.
There is a change in automotive engineering, a pilgrimage from mechanical to electrical engineering. This should be a good change. While electrical engineers focus on powertrain, mechanical engineers can focus on suspension tuning, ride quality and handling—the very things that make a driver feel connected to the road. The Miata is a great example of how speed isn’t everything to a car’s performance quota.

Until every car becomes fully electric though, we do get to enjoy a sweet spot of electric and gasoline hybridization. Look at cars such as the LaFerrarri and Porsche 918. These are the extreme examples of what hybridization could look like. There is no reason to doubt that a future Z06 Corvette could be a hybrid, with torque instantly available at zero rpms while working in conjunction with a 650-horsepower,V-8 engine. The performance would be astonishing; unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

With strict fuel-economy standards coming down the pipe, we may very well get this future. The enthusiast will have to embrace the new technology though, pushing aftermarket companies to provide us with the performance we want out of these cars. Until we do that, live the modified lifestyle in the electric car world; electric cars will remain beige and boring and we will only have ourselves to blame.


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Anthony Alaniz (Anthony_Alaniz)

Born and raised in southeast Michigan. Chose to stay out of necessity. Staff writer at a small community newspaper covering city government, the schools and whatever else happens in town. J-school graduate from EMU, weekend mechanic, car enthusiast and open-road connoisseur. Open to all invites of hospitality and adult beverages.
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