BY CODY FACTEAU
This past week we celebrated the 2012 North American International Auto Show hosted at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Mich. It is known more affectionately as the Detroit Auto Show and with over 500 cars and trucks on display this is the American consumer's first glimpse at what next year will look like for the automotive industry. Forty new models were unveiled, ranging from concept cars to hybrids. It was a lot of fun checking out these concept vehicles and exploring the Cobo Center online, seeing how everything was laid out on display and watching live feeds from the show.
One of the most interesting and hottest rumors on the floor was that Chrysler/Fiat was working on a replacement for the Dodge Challenger. It will be called the Barracuda (though probably not Plymouth) and as the story goes it could be ready in time to launch for the original's 50th anniversary. As you recall from my past story on the original Barracuda, it was unveiled a couple of months before the original Ford Mustang. That would put the impending arrival of the new Barracuda prior to April 2014.
As history tells, the 1970-74 Challenger shared its platform with the 1970-74 Barracuda, with a stretched wheelbase. There is no real way to follow up the current '08 model Challenger without fully redesigning it, so two unimpeachable though not inside sources say, why not make a radical departure? Here's what they are saying about the new 2014 Barracuda. It would be shorter, lighter and smaller overall and would probably be on a short rear-wheel-drive platform. What makes this idea economically possible is that this same platform would serve Alfa Romeo as well, for a sports car or coupe. The biggest question for me would be whether or not you'd be able to get a V-8 for the Barracuda on the same platform that could probably hold a turbo four for the Alfa.
Another thing that makes this rumor a real possibility is that the Dodge Challenger was launched in 2008, which means a five year cycle would end with 2013. A new Barracuda would launch in the 2014 model year. Ford, as you well know, plans to unveil an all-new Mustang in the Spring of 2014 as a 2015 model. The original Mustang made its debut in April of 1964 at the New York Auto Show as a '65 model.
What does bringing back old muscle car like the Challenger and Barracuda say about us as consumers? What does it say about the auto makers? With the future uncertainty of emissions regulations, could this be the last chance for auto makers to make and produce a muscle car? Could this be the end of an era for the legendary V-8? Does our future hold a sickening muscle Carmageddon, leaving us with nameless, shapeless automobiles that are super-efficient, Earth-friendly, Green-to-the-max machines that all look alike and literally have no soul? For the sake of all of us gear heads who love vehicles for more than their utilitarian function of getting us around; who consider their car their best friend, someone who is always there and ready to go; and who at times talk to their machines and hear its reply in a throaty V-8 growl, let's hope that somehow the true muscle car finds a way to survive.
Cody Facteau is a 16-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV shows are Gearz with Stacey David & Top Gear (BBC), hobbies are Legos and PlayStation. Career goals? What else, cars!