Chevrolet Camaro concept
Chevrolet Camaro concept. Click image to enlarge

By Justin Pritchard

Photo Galleries: Chevrolet Camaro concept, Gallery one and Gallery two; Dodge Challenger concept

Over the past few years, the automotive industry has seen a resurgence of retro muscle from American carmakers. Look at the Ford Mustang for instance: old-school styling applied to a modern-day coupe to create a muscular blast from the past. There’s the Charger too – and although it’s not true to its roots from the number-of-doors standpoint (the originals were coupes, and the new one is a sedan), it comes from the automaker responsible for such other retro rides as the Prowler and PT Cruiser.

The current Charger and Mustang are great big fun, especially if you opt for the factory tuned performance models. The Charger, for instance, is available in an SRT-8 designated version – with a 6.1-litre HEMI V8 that makes slightly more horsepower than the average tidal wave. The Shelby GT-500 Mustang is much of the same madness – it’s got a slick six-speed gearbox and a supercharger, sucking in plenty of air and spitting out some 500 horsepower. That’s more than Focus, Civic, and Corolla combined.

The `Stang and Charger have their stuff in order, and there’s one to suit just about any need. It’s a good thing too, because they’re about to have some company.

Chevrolet Camaro concept
Chevrolet Camaro concept. Click image to enlarge

GM has decided to revive the Chevrolet Camaro for 2009. It’s a coupe, so the Dodge Charger isn’t directly in its sights. But the Mustang is, and the old archrivals from Detroit aren’t going to be happy to see each other again.

Compounding the Mustang’s problem is that after owning its market for a number of years, Dodge has also announced the production of the new Challenger coupe based off their rear-drive platform but housing a sleek two-door body. It’s the first non-four-door to ride the award winning platform, and it looks stunning.

Dodge Challeger concept
Dodge Challeger concept. Click image to enlarge

The return of the muscle cars will be a full-out battle, that’s for certain. But there’s one key difference: unlike the Sixties, gasoline is no longer inexpensive stuff to be gratuitously burned.

Still, engine technology has advanced since those days too, and a litre of gas goes farther than ever before – even in a V8. For instance, the LS2 powerplant in the Camaro concept achieves 30 MPG in other applications. The 5.7-litre HEMI V8 engines can turn off half their cylinders seamlessly in certain conditions to help save on fuel – not the 6.1-litre mill scheduled for the Challenger, though.

2008 Dodge Challenger
Expected Launch: Early to Mid 2008
What’s Under the Hood: Concept model powered by HEMI 6.1-litre V8, 425 horsepower

The latest re-incarnation of a classic American muscle-car will be built right here in Canada, according to a news release from Chrysler. Their Brampton assembly plant, which already produces the award-winning rear-drive line-up consisting of the 300, Charger and Magnum, is gearing up for the new Challenger to be produced there next year. Production will start in the spring of 2008.

Dodge Challenger concept
Dodge Challenger concept
Dodge Challenger concept. Click image to enlarge

The Ontario government helped the carmaker finalize its decision to produce the Challenger in Brampton. For instance, strong support was demonstrated by means of a contribution to an important training session required to add the plants third shift, essential to the launch of earlier products.

Who says politicians are boring and dry? They love fire-breathing muscle cars just like everyone else!

The concept car has a 6.1-litre HEMI with 425 horsepower and nearly as much torque under its hood. These power and torque numbers should be good for 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and 13-second quarter mile passes. Good thing the Viper was recently bumped up to 600 horsepower, or the Challenger would have come close in terms of pure speed.

Speaking of speed, the new Challenger will be a testament to the benefits of lean and efficient manufacturing, as the quick time-to-market of the new model will be crucial to its success.

Want one? Go make nice with your friends at the local Dodge dealership as soon as possible.

2009 Chevrolet Camaro
Expected launch: spring 2009
What’s Under the Hood: LS2 6.0-litre V8, 400 horsepower

Early production of the new Camaro will begin in late 2008 in Oshawa, Ontario, with the first models being sold in early 2009. Ed Welburn, GM’s head of Global Design says the new model will be almost identical to the concept version – namely a front engine, rear drive coupe with an independent rear suspension as well as V6 or V8 engines.

The concept is powered by a 6.0-litre LS2 V8 with 400 horses. There is little else known of the machine at this point – although a convertible concept has also been created to compete with the Mustang which gives buyers the choice of a drop-top on any model.

Chevrolet Camaro concept
Chevrolet Camaro concept. Click image to enlarge

The architecture used in the new Camaro’s rear-drive platform is also the basis for a few new and upcoming vehicles – like a hot new muscle-sedan called the G8 from Pontiac which will replace the Grand Prix.

A common question is whether the new Camaro will be “too little too late” – by 2009, the Challenger will have already been on sale for a year, in addition to the current Mustang which, by then will be about due for a refresh.

If the initial reaction to the Camaro is any indicator, it’s going to be a smash. GM has reported receiving thousands of letters, e-mails and even deposit checks from excited fans just after the concept was unveiled.

So grease up your mullet and squeeze on your favorite pair of tight jeans- because 2008 is going to be a heck of a ride!

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