Ford 49er Concept
Ford 49er ConceptEnlarge Photo
THAR’S GOLD IN THEM, THAR HILLS. Ford’s 49er concept car is prospecting for a different sort of gold. The prototype, says chief of design J Mays, blends elements from a variety of late ‘40s and early ‘50s Fords. Its goal, he suggested, is to find those “enduring values” that helped make Ford Motor Co. so successful in the post-War years. Originally dubbed the Hypersmooth, the 49er has an ultra-aerodynamic body mounted on the same basic platform as the reborn Thunderbird. It also shares the T-bird’s 3.9-liter, DOHC V-8. Mays hints he’d like to see the 49er built, though it would likely depend on the reception the concept vehicle receives on this year’s auto show circuit. For his part, Ford engineering director Richard Parry-Jones cautions that it may not make sense to have a pair of two-door coupes in the line-up. But there’s room to add small rear doors, he quickly notes, and that “would change the equation.”
Juergen SchremppEnlarge Photo
WHAT I REALLY MEANT TO SAY… Juergen Schrempp clearly wishes he’d not been so candid in remarks made to the Financial Times last August. At the time, he boasted that he’d always intended a takeover of Chrysler Corp., rather than the “merger of equals” originally used to describe the deal that formed DaimlerChrysler. But in an appearance at the North American International Auto Show, Schrempp insisted “it was clearly a merger of equals,” an argument few seem willing to accept anymore. The normally ebullient Schrempp seemed surprisingly subdued at a Sunday night reception, acknowledging “the ups and downs” that have befallen him—and DaimlerChrysler—in recent months. A turnaround plan for Chrysler will be released on February 26th, he noted, countering rumors by declaring “it would not make sense at all” to spin off Chrysler. “A strong, revitalized Chrysler Group is an essential part of our strategy,” Schrempp said.
2002 Jeep Liberty
2002 Jeep LibertyEnlarge Photo
LIBERTY FOR ALL? DaimlerChrysler broke tradition by giving us a glimpse of a future production model, the Jeep Liberty, rather than revealing its concepts on the eve of the auto show’s press days. Liberty will replace the venerable Cherokee later this year, and with it Jeep aims to attract “a new generation of SUV buyers.” Power will be supplied by an all-new 3.7-liter PowerTech V-6 (derived directly from the Grand Cherokee’s 4.7-liter V-8) rated at 210 hp, or from a standard 2.4-liter inline four. With a new suspension design taken from the Grand Cherokee, and a new emphasis throughout on road manners and refinement, the Liberty promises a gargantuan leap in comfort and driveability. But DaimlerChrysler officials say that the Liberty is not to be confused with the “cute-ute” crowd. Is Liberty tough enough to keep Jeep’s reputation for off-road toughness? We can’t say yet, but we’re already eagerly waiting for our first drive. Oh, and stay tuned to TCC for the real DC concepts.
Ken Kesey Jeep LibertyEnlarge Photo
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. No, that’s not the pundit’s tag for Schrempp’s visits to Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., but the title of the best-selling book—and award-winning movie—by author Ken Kesey. The author, former hippie and “Merry Prankster” was easily the most unusual pitchman to show up at this year’s North American International Auto Show. In a tribute to the open road, Kesey read from his own works, as well as those of beatnik traveler, Jack Kerouac, and poet Robert Frost, before putting in a plug for the new Jeep Liberty. In the old days, Kesey traveled the blue highways of America in a beat-up old bus named “Further.” These days, Ken moves a little more stylishly - after his 15-minute gig, he took a jet back to his home outside Eugene, Ore.