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Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 12 News List

New muscle cars cast eco-friendliness to the winds

Automakers are set to unveil a range of high-performance racers in Los Angeles -- the kind of car made for enthusiasts who want to drive it to the race track, give it a spin and drive home

by Dee-ann Durbin  /  AP , DEARBORN, MICHIGAN

A Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR is shown in a photo provided by Chrysler. With its 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower V-10 engine, the Viper SRT10 ACR -- for auto club racers -- isn't for the faint of heart. The 2008 Viper will go on sale in the second quarter of next year.

PHOTO: AP

Forty years after the legendary on-screen car chase, there is a new Mustang Bullitt ripping up the roadways.

Ford Motor Co will debut the latest variant of the growling, retro-styled Mustang at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public on Friday after two days of media previews. The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt, an update of the iconic 1968 pony car driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt, goes on sale in January.

Automakers typically promote their greenest vehicles in Los Angeles, but the show has no shortage of horsepower.

In addition to the Bullitt, Chrysler LLC will introduce a street-legal version of its Dodge Viper SRT10 race car, while Hyundai Motor Co will take aim at the Mustang with the Genesis Coupe, a rear-wheel-drive concept. Lamborghini's Reventon -- a US$1.4 million super car whose 20 copies are already sold out -- will also make its North American debut.

The Bullitt is the latest in a line of specialty Mustangs that Ford has brought out to keep the sports car fresh since the latest redesign hit the market in 2004.

Ford could use the boost.

Mustang sales were down 18 percent in the first 10 months of this year, according to Autodata Corp. It's also facing competition on the retro front from the Dukes of Hazard-inspired Dodge Challenger, which hits showrooms this spring, and the redesigned Chevrolet Camaro, which comes out next year.

Ford will produce just 7,700 Bullitts, many of which likely will be snapped up by the car's legions of fans. The starting price is US$31,075.

Ford designers reviewed the movie frame-by-frame as they built the new Bullitt, which comes in the dark green of the film as well as in black.

There's a bright accent ring around the grille and no exterior badges or spoilers, just like the original. New to the Bullitt is a 4.6-liter V-8 engine with 315 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

"We think it's going to be a modern classic," said the Bullitt's chief designer, Doug Gaffka. "It's not exactly like the original, but it's the way you remember it."

At a media preview of the Bullitt near Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Ford's president of the Americas, Mark Fields, said he decided he wanted to be part of the auto industry after watching the seven-minute chase scene in Bullitt when he was 10.

Fields said Ford considers the variations of the Mustang to be collectors' items whose price makes them within reach of fans. Most recently, Ford produced the Shelby GT Mustang in collaboration with racing legend Carroll Shelby.

"This is a grown-up version of Matchbox cars," Fields said.

With its 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower V-10 engine, the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR -- for auto club racers -- is not for the faint of heart. Chrysler said the car is made for enthusiasts who want to drive it to the race track, give it a spin and drive home.

Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said the company has not determined how many of the US$100,000 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACRs it will make, but it has sold 25,000 Vipers since they went on the market in 1992. The 2008 Viper will go on sale in the second quarter of next year.

Hyundai's entry into the sports coupe market still is in concept form, but a prototype will be on display in Los Angeles. The coupe is a variation of Concept Genesis, a rear-wheel-drive premium sports sedan unveiled in New York earlier this year. The sedan is expected to hit the market next year.

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