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, and 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.
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
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.
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 convertible, 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
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
BMW’s Mini group looks 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 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.
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
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
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email email@example.com
Roller for half a million
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!
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
forever, 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!”