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Source: http://www.detroitnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060712/OPINION03/607120365&SearchID=73250454825613

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Ann Job: Car Culture
Big 3 muscle in on custom equipment show's top honor

D
o you hear the roar already? I do.

I'm anticipating the wonderful muscle car sounds that will fill Las Vegas at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show three months from now.
The annual show, which is like a religious pilgrimage for some of the most outrageous customized cars to be put before an industry-only crowd, celebrates America's muscle cars this year.

The strong-selling Ford Mustang will be there, of course.

But so will two cars yet to return to showrooms in modern form: the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro.

You'll recall they debuted as concept cars at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. July 1, Dodge announced the Challenger will return as an '08 model.

The betting continues that Chevrolet will make a similar announcement before the Oct. 31 start of the SEMA show.

Indeed, in an unusual move, all three of the Detroit-area car companies -- Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group -- will share the limelight as SEMA's Vehicle Manufacturers of the Show.

For 15 of the last 16 years, this designation was rotated among the three large domestic automakers -- one having it one year, followed by another and then the third company.

No matter. Sometimes, it's just fun to visit the past and ignore today's realities.

For one thing, the muscle car era of the 1960s and '70s is uniquely American, and the American auto industry, facing major global competition, could use some celebrating right now.

It's also a good counterbalance to last year's Vehicle Manufacturer of the Show -- Honda, which made history as the first foreign-based car company to hold the title. Honda used the event to herald its new-generation Civic Si.

This year's SEMA show marks the 40th anniversary of the California-based SEMA, a 6,500-member organization that represents the interests of aftermarket automotive companies such as wheel manufacturers and engine tuners.

In highlighting the three domestic automakers and their storied muscle cars, SEMA is acknowledging the key roles that the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger had in the success of its initial members.

Remember, in the early days, SEMA stood for Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, with an emphasis on speed.

"The Mustang, Camaro and Challenger helped bring many of our industry's earliest businesses into being," SEMA President and CEO Christopher J. Kersting notes. "Our roots and our heritage have evolved with the muscle cars of today, so it is fitting that we're celebrating our past while working with (automakers) that are looking to the future."

Ann Job is a California-based freelance automotive writer and can be reached at [email protected].
 
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