CHICAGO - The Dodge Challenger is set to return in 2008 followed by the Chevy Camaro in 2009, both ready to duke it out with the Ford Mustang, which doesn't have to return because it never left when everyone else gave up on muscle cars.
Soon Chevy, Ford and Dodge will be at it again, trying to eke out more power and lower zero-to-60 times than the others to attract customers to their showrooms.
Muscle cars — small coupes packing large engines — were popularized in the late '60s and '70s and put out of business by the '80s when the oil embargo gave burning gas a leg up on burning rubber.
But, even with gas running $2 to $3 a gallon lately, the high-performance Camaro, Challenger and Mustang will soon be roaming the roadways again.
To celebrate, the Specialty Equipment Market Association used its annual convention in Las Vegas last week to pay tribute to the American muscle car.
The show featured the Big Three, with the domestics teaming up to display examples of old and new muscle, from legendary 1970 Hemi 'Cudas and rare '69-'70 Boss Mustangs, to supercharged 2007 Mustangs and Corvettes.
And to top it off, Dodge revealed it would sell a crate — so named because it comes in a crate ready to install in your car — version of its 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 through its dealerships rated at 540 horsepower. No price was given.
You can slip that crate into your car now or wait until 2008 to substitute it for the 6.1-liter, 425-horsepower Hemi that will be offered in the factory version of Challenger.
Although American muscle is returning, it's a different era. One eye is kept on the tachometer with the other on the fuel gauge.
Camaro, for example, will be powered by a 6-liter, 400-hp V-8 that promises to smoke the radials yet offer fuel management to shut down four cylinders when not needed to give it a 30 miles per gallon highway mileage rating.
In response, Ford is dusting off old Mustang monikers. It will offer at least one limited-edition Mustang each year starting in 2008, with the return of the Bullitt, named for the 1968 movie that featured a stunning car chase between a Mustang and Charger through San Francisco.
Ford also announced it is reviving the legendary 5-liter, 302-cubic-inch V-8 for the aftermarket with a new line of Boss 302 crate engines rated at 340 to 500 hp that will go on sale in early 2007.
Despite the new Boss crate engine and a variety of customized Boss Mustangs created by aftermarket shops on display at SEMA, Ford won't confirm it will bring back the famous Boss as one of Mustang's factory-built derivatives.
But Ford division general marketing manager John Felice said the automaker is going to fall back on its rich Mustang heritage for its limited editions — and refused to rule out Boss.
The Super Stock Challenger is powered by a "crate" 392 Hemi. 525-540 hp. The only problem is, you won't be able to wear a conventional wrist watch. Under full throttle is will counter-rotate the earth causing your watch to spin backwards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Too bad about whats happening to ford, I don't like seeing any american company go in the toilet. Hopefully they can pull it together. Mopar is foreign to me now. Yes the challenger is cool, I will not deny but I don't ever seeing myself drive one, nor a mustang for that matter.
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