There will be plenty of cute little crossover vehicles and politically correct sedans at the Detroit auto show, but the smart money says modern-day pony cars will kick up the most interest.
The success of Ford's retro-look Mustang has prompted crosstown rivals General Motors and Chrysler to consider building their own high-horsepower coupes, just as the original Mustang did 40 years ago.
Concept versions of a new Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro will be unveiled during press days next week.
But the Mustang won't be standing still. Ford, which created the category and wants to keep the lead, will display production versions of the 2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 coupe and convertible.
If everything goes as well the oddsmakers predict, Chrysler will build the new Dodge Challenger in a couple of years while General Motors builds the new Chevy Camaro. That could rev up sales competition among the Big 3. It might even generate some serious street competition among tuners if speed shops and aftermarket suppliers of performance parts take the cue.
But it won't be exactly like the 1960s and early 1970s when pony-car owners used to race each other whenever and wherever they could, from drag strips to boulevards to two-lane blacktop roads. Thanks to technology, today's cars are safer, more powerful and better built.
Sadly, not all of the old makes will be back for a rematch.
American Motors now is part of the DaimlerChrysler empire, so the old AMC Javelin and AMX nameplates are getting rusty on some shelf in Auburn Hills or Stuttgart. The Plymouth brand is dead, too, so the fabled Barracuda name is probably on the same shelf.
At Pontiac, the Firebird name hung around into the 1990s, so it could bounce back some time -- if the Pontiac brand survives.
The saddest story may be the Mercury Cougar. The name died but was resurrected and hung on a bland little coupe. As a result, it will take at least two decades of inactivity to rehabilitate it.
Even without all the old names, a new pony-car race sure would be fun.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]