NEW YORK – McLaren Performance Technologies, carrying through on a strategy it announced a year ago, wants to kickstart the stodgy reputation of Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln luxury brand by selling a high-powered aftermarket version of the LS sport sedan.

The special-edition Lincoln LSE will carry the “Powered by McLaren Engines” moniker when it becomes available this summer. President and CEO Steve Rossi introduces the muscular LSE to the media this week at the New York auto show and says McLaren has the cure for what’s ailing Lincoln’s staid image.

“There is no serious American sport sedan, and we’re here to make it happen,” Rossi says. He reminds that it was Lincoln – of all auto makers – that won the first NASCAR race some 50 years ago. He says McLaren can help move Lincoln “into the left lane.”

While the LSE is first, Rossi hopes it won’t be last, as he says McLaren can outfit high-performance versions of the portly Navigator SUV and the more amenable Aviator SUV, which Lincoln delivers soon for the 2003 model year. “We want to be Hot Rod Lincoln guys,” Rossi says in reference to the classic Commander Cody tune.

At New York, Rossi says the Lincoln LSE has generated plenty of interest, even before the auto show opens to the public. “Yes, we have orders. It’s been a good day,” Rossi beams. He expects to sell 500 units in the first year.

Rossi sees the McLaren-Lincoln relationship as mutually beneficial. “They want to be global and dynamic, and so do we,” he says. And he sees nothing stopping McLaren from delivering the same type of enhancements for other auto makers, including those competing with Lincoln.

“Robert Bosch and Michelin work for multiple customers. Why can’t we?” he asks. “It’s not a problem.” Rossi confirms he’s in discussions with other auto makers but declines to say whether another deal is imminent.

But the Livonia, MI-based powertrain engineering specialist has plenty of work ahead before Rossi can fulfill his Lincoln vision. First, McLaren must identify and partner with 100 of Lincoln’s 1,200 dealers across North America. Rossi says those partners are likely to be in metropolitan markets, and only the “right” dealers will do.

“These need to be guys who get it,” he says, meaning dealers who will see value in taking a finished product and rebuilding it for high performance – a strategy that could bring an entirely new customer to the showroom.

The roll-out of the McLaren version of the LS is slated to begin this summer. For an extra $5,000, a factory LS can be resuited with performance wheels and tires, and the factory-installed 3.9L V-8 (a fair engine in its own right) gets intake enhancements and low restriction dual exhaust.

In the fall, additional tweaks will be available, including twin intercoolers, Eaton supercharger and brake and chassis upgrades. Extensive body dressings also will be offered. Brakes get beefed up to a StopTech four-piston caliper package front and rear, with larger discs as well.

The price, which includes the intake, exhaust and wheel upgrades, is an extra $12,000, for a total transaction price of $49,750. Sounds high, but it will be priced competitively against high-powered offerings from BMW AG and Mercedes-Benz.

Also in the fall of this year, a 6-speed Tremec manual gearbox will be offered, for an extra $6,000. On the factory LS, a manual transmission is available only with the V-6, not the V-8.

So how do the numbers look for the juiced up LS? Enticing. The $12,000 package harnesses another 98 ponies to the LS – for 350 hp (261 kW). Likewise, torque climbs from 261 lb.-ft. to 350. In the dash to 60 mph, LSE makes it in 6.2 seconds – a full second faster than the factory V-8.

Rossi acknowledged McLaren’s other supplier partners contributing to the “Powered by McLaren Engines” Lincoln LSE.

ASC Inc. designs and builds body and interior appointments, including a perforated grille, Xenon-gas discharge headlamps, custom tail lights and titanium trim package. McLaren’s “Speedy Kiwi” mascot appears on the head restraints and floor mats.

The Lincoln LSE also gets high-performance 18-in. Michelin Pilot Sport tires mounted to an innovative alloy wheel with a patented metal lip from supplier O-Z Racing. The owner can simply remove and replace the outer trim ring – as opposed to the entire wheel – in the event of curb damage.

Trilogy International of Dearborn, MI, contributed the computer-aided design and engineering services for the powertrain development.

McLaren has a 20-year heritage of niche vehicle engineering, producing the original McLaren Mustang in the early 1980s and later the high-powered Buick GNX and Pontiac GTP Turbo.