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2000 Detroit Auto Show I


Meritor sponsorship

Meritor sponsorship

With press introductions now making Sunday an official show day, the 2000 North American International Auto Show got off to a hazy start yesterday with a trio of press conferences. You see (or don’t), in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, the exhaust of concept cars and the smoke bombs set off for effect during press conferences has nowhere to escape….

But when it dissipated, it left behind a clearer picture of what the future holds for GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler. For DC, the standard quartet of compelling concepts was introduced to pseudo-Cirque du Soleil acrobatics and thunderous backing music. At Ford, the dark Cobo Arena gave ample backdrop for a round-the-clock communication-driven concept championed by design chief J Mays. And at GM, years of lackluster exhibits were overcome by the stylish and immense GM Experience, filling nearly a quarter of the hall with "brand salons" and introduced by Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer – driving a snowplow, poking fun at the city’s response to the 1999 blizzard that crippled last year’s show logistics.

The highlights from the first round of press conferences follow. Stay tuned each day this week at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for updates on the unveilings and announcements from Cobo – and don’t forget to come back next Monday for a complete 2000 Detroit show wrap-up.

2000 Chrysler 300 Hemi concept

2000 Chrysler 300 Hemi concept

CHRYSLER 300 HEMI CONVERTIBLE Anyone who lived and drove through the muscle car era knew to fear the awesome Chrysler hemi engine. After a quarter-century absence, the Hemi is back -- at least in concept form -- under the hood of the striking Chrysler 300 Hemi Convertible. Think of this ragtop as "the icon for Chrysler we’ve been searching for," says Design Director Tom Gale. The unusually roomy four-seater suggests some of the ways Chrysler is making its merger with Daimler-Benz pay off. Among other things, it borrows the pop-up rollbar found in the Mercedes-Benz SL sports cars. The 350 cubic-inch hemi engine develops 353 horsepower and 353 lb-ft of torque. While DaimlerChrysler officials wouldn’t officially respond when asked if the Hemi concept has a future in the carmaker’s line-up, insiders say it’s more than likely to see the business side of an assembly line in the next couple of years. And the Hemi powerplant could make it into production, as well. Look for a price tag "perhaps" a few thousand dollars more than that of today’s 300M sedan.

2000 Jeep Varsity concept

2000 Jeep Varsity concept

JEEP VARSITY What’s the urban crossover concept vehicle with the big vertical grille? Varsity, that’s right. Jeep’s hybrid sedan-ute idea fits the current fancy, with a cargo area in the rear and carlike seating for five in the cabin. However, Jeep insists that this vehicle is different because of its underpinnings: a true full-time four-wheel drive system coupled to a 3.5-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower. The 19-inch wheels, independent suspension, and 0-to-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds might be imaginary, but we can easily picture Varsity’s facial features showing up on the new Jeep Cherokee due in 2001.

2000 Dodge Viper GTS-R concept

2000 Dodge Viper GTS-R concept

DODGE VIPER GTS/R Has it been that long? Dodge reminded us that it’s been eleven years since Viper debuted as a concept at the NAIAS – which can only mean they’re thinking replacement thoughts. The Viper GTS-R is a resculpted rendition of the current supercar with some notable differences – namely, its 8.0-liter V-8 engine, which kicks out the same 500 hp but now also produces an equitable 500 lb-ft of torque, 50 more than in the semi-production GTS-R racer. Nifty touches abound in the interior, such as the flap-open throttle-body air vents and five-point belts. How much of the style makes it into a new Viper is anyone’s guess. We’d start looking in 2002.


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