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Retro Rides, Part 3

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Toyota FJ Cruiser, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Bel Air, Chrysler Atlantic, Lamborghini Miura, Chevrolet Chevelle
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Retro Rides, Part 3

Bill Crittenden
14 February 2006

More Retro on the Way

Retro is a styling movement that is certainly not going away.  As mentioned in Part 1, there is so much history to draw from, and there are certainly buyers supporting the styles.

Most of these are as seen in my trips to the Chicago Auto Show, but a few are just from pictures and articles in magazines and the internet.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

The Toyota FJ Cruiser is an SUV that successfully reminds those who see it (and remember the original) of the 1951 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Toyota will now has the distinction of bringing out the first Japanese retro vehicle to hit American streets, joining the likes of Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, and foreign automakers Mini and Volkswagen.  It's also based on a truck that we in the States have seen before, not a Japan-only model.  This, added to their incresed production presence and their move into NASCAR Nextel Cup competition show how serious Toyota is about succeeding in the U.S.

The FJ's doors are like those on extended-cab pickup trucks or four-door sports cars.  The front seat doors open, then a smaller door without an external handle swings towards the rear.  Most of the time I've seen the handles for the doors along or close to the edge of the door.  On the FJ, you have to reach around the door quite a ways to reach the large handle to open the back doors.  The problem is that it may be very difficult to reach the driver side handle with the right hand or the passenger side handle with the left hand.

Other than issues with the door handles, and some cheap plastic on the corners of the front bumpers, the truck is priced well (mid-$20,000 range) for younger drivers with a little extra money.

Chevrolet Camaro

Despite my first impressions from the photos circulating on the internet and from the Chevrolet website, the Camaro concept looks much better in person.

The car isn't completely retro, but rather a modern style car with retro design elements.  The grille is reminiscent of the 1969 Camaro, and the tail lights from the mid 70's.  However, the design is unique.  For better or worse, depending on your perspective, there is no mistaking this Camaro for any other.

The interior really shines with gauges packed into two large circles on the dashboard.  The dashboard, brushed metal and technology aside, looks more retro than the exterior.

It was mentioned at the auto show of a revival of the Mustang-Camaro rivalry that ran from the 60's through 2000, ending with the Mustang winning by virtue of surviving.  If that is to be, the Camaro either has to come in a base version on par with the Mustang's sub-$20,000 base price or have the V8 Camaro priced on par with the performance Mustang versions.  A convertible would also help, as would a presence on the sports car racing circuits.

Dodge Challenger

The new Dodge Challenger concept car is based on the original 1970-1974 Challenger on the exterior. It was, from my experience there, the star of the show at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show.  Based on audience interest, Dodge would be foolish not to make this car a production reality.

The interior is all brushed metal and modern, which is a good style these days but not truly fitting with the exterior the way the new Ford Mustang's interior matches the exterior.

The neon tail lights and the inner LED headlights will probably not translate onto the production version.  The taillights would be nice, but perhaps costly, while the LEDs in the headlights tend to throw off the whole look of the retro grille.

Speaking of the grille, my opinion and those of people around me are that the carbon fiber should be painted flat black.  Given that cost is no obstacle in a concept car, but is in a production car, I doubt that the hood and grille will be carbon fiber on the production model anyway.  Not that weight is an issue for the car, especially with Hemi power under the hood.

The car was orange, just as some of the originals.  Hopefully, as Dodge resurrected Top Banana for it's Charger, the Challenger will come in retro colors to match the retro body style.

This car, based on the size, is probably based on the platform shared by the Charger, Magnum and Chrysler 300C.  If so, look for prices to be in line with those cars, probably between the Charger and 300C.

Chevrolet Bel Air

A few years back Chevy came out with a dark red convertible based on the TrailBlazer frame and powered by a turbocharged inline engine.

This mix of retro styling and modern performance is essentially what retro cars should be about: beautiful old stlying with modern conveniences (and a warranty).

The car was never produced.

Chrysler Atlantic

Back when retro cars were first coming on the market Chrysler came out with a wild Bugatti-inspired concept car.

The Atlantic and the Bugatti that inspired it were, like all classic Bugattis, works of art.  I can see why Chrylser wouldn't produce the car.  It just wouldn't fit with enough modern buyers' tastes, and may not have sold enough to be profitable.

Lamborghini Miura

Walter de'Silva has designed one of the most amazing retro concepts I've seen.  So far American buyers can choose from muscle car remakes, 30's and 50's styled cars, Volkswagen Beetles, Minis and old Japanese SUVs.

Now, a yellow Miura makes it's appearance, and retro takes a whole new turn.  Italian designers known more for looking towards the future than back at the past in their styling come out with one of the best-looking retro concepts made.

The yellow Miura concept has modern aerodynamics, and straight on from the front looks like a modern sports car.  It's when you see it from the side or from the rear that you see the unmistakable Miura style.  It's hard to picture this next to a Murcielago or Gallardo with the Miura's mostly smooth, flowing lines and fastback rear.

Chevrolet Chevelle

For the last year there have been persistent rumors that Chevrolet will get a version of the GTO, and name it the Chevelle.  So far, those rumors are unsubstantiated as no concept car has been seen at auto shows yet.  If produced, Chevrolet could make it a retro style car to compete with the new Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger.  The common complaint about the Pontiac GTO is that it doesn't look like an old GTO, and Chevrolet learn from this before the concept hits the shows.

©2006 Bill Crittenden



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