2006 International Auto Show

Rachel Meyer

The 2006 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) took place this month in the automotive capital of the United States: Detroit, MI. While there was a lot to see, a few cars definitely stood out from the mass. Here are the highlights:

For American automakers, it seems that retro’s reign is not going anywhere. Both the near and distant futures will reveal a plethora of muscle cars, two-toned interiors and vintage instrument clusters, if anything can be gleaned from their predominating appearance in most of the US companies’ featured designs. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge designs draw heavily from the 60s and 70s, and names such as Shelby, Camaro and Challenger are resurfacing after a considerable absence.

Ford displayed its 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500 at this year’s NAIAS, a sure sign that the company is looking to compete with other high-performance American sports cars like the Corvette Z06. The GT500 will boast a supercharged 32-valve, 5.4 liter V-8 with an impressive 475 horsepower. Although far more modern than its 1960s predecessor, next year’s Shelby Cobra GT500 is anchored to its ancestor by aesthetic features. The blueprint remains the same from 1967 to 2007, but the model featured at this year’s NAIAS offered lines that are markedly softer and sleeker than those of the 1960s models.

Like Ford, Chevrolet is looking to revive a classic. The Camaro concept, speculated about in nearly every automotive magazine and Internet blog, was finally revealed. Experts anticipate that the car will go into production by 2009.

The Camaro concept comes on the heels of a growing popularity of American muscle cars and the great success experienced by Ford with its revamped Mustang. Under the hood of the Camaro shown in Detroit was a 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 tuned to produce about 400 horsepower.

While the car’s design director, Tom Peters, claims that the 1969 Camaro served as his inspiration, he makes sure to mention that he was not interested in creating a retro design. Nevertheless, the Camaro concept features a vintage aesthetic on both the outside and inside. Interior styling promises to be beyond cool: sleek and amplified luxury fused with classic looking instruments and gauges will make this vehicle a wonderful amalgamation of old and new. The Camaro concept earned rave reviews from experts, enthusiasts and average-Joes alike.

Dodge also appears to be capitalizing on the demand for retro muscle cars. The American auto manufacturer displayed its Challenger concept in Detroit. The Challenger, coming out of the recent 300C and Magnum traditions, received a great deal of critical acclaim at this year’s NAIAS. The Challenger’s framework is similar to the 300C and Magnum platforms, but takes its aesthetic inspiration directly from its 1970 predecessor.

The Challenger concept, with its 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 set to generate 425 horsepower coupled with a head-turning design scheme – featuring an old-school rear-end with a long horizontal tail-light and cool hood vents – quickly became one of the highlights of the 2006 NAIAS. If the company opts to produce it, the Challenger would probably appear sometime before 2009.

While muscle-cars were all the rage at Detroit’s NAIAS this year, they certainly were not the only varieties being shown. Also buzz-worthy was the Geely (pronounced “gee-lee”), hailing from China. Geely is China’s attempt to break into the US automotive market and their first effort will likely be the 7151CK sedan (shown as a concept car at the NAIAS). The Geely 7151CK would cost at most $10,000, making it an interesting addition to the under $10K price-bracket.

Also noteworthy was the four-door Aston Martin Rapide concept. The Rapide’s beautiful build offers a look that is both expensive and athletic. The Rapide will compete with the also stunning Maserati Quattroporte and the in-the-works Porsche Panamera. The Rapide’s aesthetics and power are equally gorgeous: the front-end of the vehicle features sexy hood vents and a scorching grill, while under the hood resides a 6.0-liter V-12 480 horsepower engine. The Rapide will definitely be something to look for (well, actually stopping and staring may be warranted).

The first American auto show of the new year was an exciting event for car enthusiasts. It will be interesting to see which concepts are brought to life and when, if at all, they will begin to be produced. Detroit’s NAIAS paved the way for an exciting year in the automotive world.