North American International Auto Show brings out the Pony cars

Hands up all those who remember the Pony car era of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Mustangs, the Z28 Camaros and the Dodge Challenger all at it head to head. Well it looks as if they are going to re-run those years at this month’s North American International Auto Show, with the new Camaro and new Challenger being shown.

However, this time both vehicles are concepts. But the Pony cars with their high horsepower front engines, rear drive, retro-styling are picked to be the hits of the show.

Other new or redesigned production vehicles for Detroit include the redesigned 2007 Toyota Camry and 2007 Lexus LS 460 sedans; and Honda’s new entry-level car, the 2007 Fit.

GT 500

Then there’s the Geely 7151 CK. Geely will be the first Chinese carmaker to exhibit at a North American auto show. The Chinese manufacturer intends to enter the United States in 2008 or 2009. The Chinese are coming. Be warned! Or perhaps, be alarmed!

A few of the other releases include BMW’s latest take on the Z4 roadster and Z4 M roadster will debut, along with a new family of engines. The Z4 roadster receives BMW’s new 265 hp, 3.0 liter inline six cylinder engine, while the M version gets the new 330 hp, 3.2 liter six cylinder engine.

Ford also will unveil production versions of the 2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 coupe and convertible. The special edition Mustang is engineered by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team and will go on sale in late spring. It marks the return of SVT products to the market after a two-year absence. The GT500 is powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that will produce at least 450 hp.

Jaguar XK convertible

Honda is bringing to North America what we call the Jazz, but named “Fit” in Japan. The version the Americans will get is the 1.5 liter twin cam with five speed manual or five speed auto boxes. Being engineered to fit the market in a certain price bracket has meant that the US versions are behind the local Thai versions in some respects.

Lexus will show the latest (and largest) Lexus, the LS 460 sedan in Detroit. Due for sale later in the year, this car will use Toyota’s new 4.6 liter V8 engine. Executives say a hybrid model will also be offered that could have the equivalent power of a V12 without sacrificing fuel economy. That is some claim!

Jaguar will have the 2007 XK concertible, and this looks like putting new life into Jaguar, and not before time, says FoMoCo, these days the owner of the under-performing marque. Ian Callum, the stylist, has produced a winner here for my money.

Mercedes-Benz will unveil the 2007 GL, a seven-seat, full-sized SUV with a 335 hp, 4.6 liter V8 engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.

Toyota Camry

BMW’s Mini group look as if they will go into production with the Mini Traveler. Remember the original Mini van with windows and some lumps of wood on the sides? The new one is definitely not like that, according to the Mini people. Concepts were displayed displayed at the Frankfurt and Tokyo shows.

Mitsubishi will show their hybrid concept called the Concept-CT MIEV. This is smaller than the Lancer sold here, but has four doors, all wheel drive and a 1.1 liter petrol engine. However, that is not the real power source for this car. Each wheel also has its own electric motor. This is another development of the hybrid theme, but it has to be said that the originator of this idea was Dr. Porsche in 1902 with his Lohner-Porsche. The gasoline
engine ran a generator to provide power to the wheel hub motors.

Toyota’s top-selling model in North America is the Camry. So it is no surprise that the redesigned 2007 model debuting in Detroit follows an evolutionary design approach, rather than revolutionary. The 2007 Camry sedan shares a front wheel drive platform with the Avalon. A new V6 is available, and Toyota will also be releasing a hybrid model teamed with the current four cylinder engine.

Lexus LS 460

Another concept that is almost certain to make it into production is the funky Volvo C30 hatchback which will appear in Detroit. The C30 is based on the front wheel drive S40/V50 platform, though its wheelbase is about 200 mm shorter. The engine should be turbocharged five cylinder so it should have more than enough power for a small car. Let us hope that Volvo gets the chassis dynamics right this time.

Roller for half a million baht

A couple of weeks back I mentioned some vehicles that had plummeted in value, rather than appreciating. I mentioned in particular Jaguar XJ-S types bought in 1990 for 2.4 million baht, and today worth 7,000 baht. The other car was a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur. To put it in your garage in 1994, you then spent 5.6 million baht. Today you opened the garage doors to find it is now worth a little over half a million baht. That’s right, about the price of a Honda Jazz, with no extras!

This excited one reader enough to write and ask me where he could see one of these bargain Rollers. Unfortunately, those prices were from Classic and Sports Car magazine in the UK, and were originally in Sterling, and I converted them to Thai baht. The problem from the reader’s point of view (and all our points of view) is that after purchasing the car in the UK you have to pay for shipping to get it here – and then you have to cough up whatever the Thai Customs decide you should pay in duty. That duty is worked out on their valuation of the vehicle, not on how much you paid for the vehicle. And there’s the rub. With duty being anything up to 300 percent (I believe) of their estimate of its worth, you can see the sorry tale happening. I do not know of anyone who has managed to import a classic who has not come to grief. You have to remember that they do not care whether you accept the impost or not. It can stay on the wharf for ever, or until the next auction, at which some lucky person will snap up your dream. I have a standard answer to the queries that arise regarding importing, “Don’t bother!”

Autotrivia Quiz

Quiz car

Last week I asked you to take a look at the photo. I asked which well-known car company made this vehicle. It was designed to lean into the corner like a motorcycle. It was Mercedes Benz!

So to this week. In 1968 two turbine driven cars looked like winning the Indy 500, but with nine laps to go, both cars retired. What was the cause, and why did they not run in 1969?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!