Detroit Brings Back the Muscle Car - How Ironic!

Carmakers betray their insolence with return of the muscle car.

Published: 15-Mar-2002

[Editor's Note: Detroit says they can't build fuel efficient vehicles, but apparently they have no problem building ever-inefficient ones.]

DETROIT -- John Coletti, who engineers hot rods for Ford Motor Co., believes a new era of muscle cars is dawning in Detroit.

Not since the 1960s, Coletti said, have Detroit's automakers paid so much attention to high performance vehicles, which not only reap high profits but also can burnish a car maker's image.

Ford's Special Vehicle Team -- now in its 10th year -- recently began turning a profit, just sold its 100,000th vehicle and is now launching the new SVT Focus.

The automaker has also announced plans to build a 500-horsepower GT40 sports car based on the 1960s-era endurance racer of the same name.

And General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG are building up their own high-performance studios, called Special Vehicle Group and Performance Vehicle Operations respectively. All three Detroit automakers will have to compete with Mercedes-Benz' AMG division and BMW's popular high-performance M line.

The sporty brands promise to draw enthusiasts and deliver fat profits for automakers.

"We are in the middle of a high-performance vehicle renaissance," Coletti said. "Quite frankly, it's one that I never thought we would see again following the muscle car era of the 1960s."

Coletti, head of Ford SVT and a quintessential gearhead, said in a speech Thursday to the Automotive Press Association that Ford welcomed the new competition.

"It's about time they've decided to jump into the most exciting part of the automotive business," he said.

In January, DaimlerChrysler showed off its new Dodge Ram SRT-10, powered by the same V-10 engine in the 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 sports car. The truck is slated to go into production next year. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph.

"It's the Mt. Everest of pickup trucks," said Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard.

Performance Vehicle Operations, known as PVO, combines Chrysler's motorsports team with the specialty vehicle engineers responsible for such vehicles as the Viper and Chrysler Prowler.

Coletti, who is known to engage in a little verbal engine revving, said he took exception to Chrysler executives who claim the SRT-10 would replace Ford's F-150 Lightning as the top performance pickup.

"While you're trying to dethrone the Lightning," Coletti said. "the GT40 will reduce your Viper to a status somewhere between a garter snake and an earthworm."

Sounds like the race is on.

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