2003 North American International Auto Show bannerEnlarge Photo
While there are scores of new cars, trucks, crossovers and concept vehicles on display at Cobo Center this week, it’s hard for any automaker to dominate the North American International Auto Show. But Ford did win one claim, when Chairman Bill Ford promised “to set a world record for the most products revealed in the shortest amount of time.” Indeed, it was almost impossible to keep count. But here are a few of the ones unveiled.
2003 Ford 427 concept 2003 Ford Freestyle FX 2003 Ford Model U Concept
Is the 427 a muscle car or a “living room on wheels”? It’s a bit of both, according to Ford’s design chief, J Mays. It has the room and interior comfort of such Fords of the past as the old Galaxie. But under the hood, the slab-sided sedan features a 590-horsepower V-10. The 427’s hot rod-style roof is about three inches lower than that of a conventional sedan of its size, but company officials insist that it would be quite buildable. In fact, they appear to be giving it serious consideration, perhaps as an alternative to another recent Ford concept, the Forty-Nine. Even if the new concept vehicle doesn’t make it to market, “We’ll be seeing powertrains like this in the near future,” said Mays. —TCC Team
Think of the Freestyle FX as “sort of an automotive Swiss Army knife,” said Mays. It began life as the CrossTrainer concept unveiled in Chicago last February, and will emerge as a production vehicle in 2004. The seven-seat, three-row crossover blends car-like ride and handling with popular SUV features, such as all-wheel-drive and “command seating.” It also boasts stability control, and traction control. The back two rows will fold flat and if you need extra room for cargo, a special roof panel slides forward with just the touch of a button, turning the Freestyle into the functional equivalent of a pickup. —TCC Team
The Model U could be the 21st-century equivalent of the Model T, Ford officials declared. This eco-minded vehicle boasts a number of unusual and creative features, starting with the slot design that makes the Model U the functional equivalent of a plug-and-play automobile. Simply slip the seats, radio and other hardware in and out. The powertrain is an internal combustion engine running on clean-burning hydrogen gas. “Practically everything inside and out is environmentally friendly,” noted Mays. Much of the Model U, he explained, is produced from agricultural products, such as the tailgate, which is made from soybeans. Even the vehicle’s oil comes from sunflowers. The seat fabric is “recyclable infinitely,” noted Bill McDonough, an expert on sustainable manufacturing, and an adviser to Bill Ford. While a vehicle like the Model U isn’t likely to reach production in the short-term, McDonough hinted that “it’s design signals the intentions” of Ford to move towards more environmentally friendly materials and designs. —TCC Team
2003 Ford 427 conceptEnlarge Photo
2003 Ford Freestyle FXEnlarge Photo
2003 Ford Model U ConceptEnlarge Photo
In a whirlwind, Ford pulled the wraps off a wide range of additional production vehicles and prototypes, ranging from the new Mazda RX-8 to the Mercury Messenger concept. In all, the automaker is expected to reveal more than a dozen new designs during the three-day run of the auto show’s media preview. That’s significantly more than normal. But “when you’re 100 years old,” said Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele, referring to Ford’s upcoming centennial, “we have to make sure we blow the competition out of the water.” —TCC Team
2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept
Elegant, flamboyant and unexpected, Cadillac’s “ultra-luxury” concept vehicle, the Sixteen, could make critics think twice about General Motors’ once-grand flagship division. Featuring a softer interpretation of Caddy’s trademark “Art & Science” design theme, the 19-foot-long show car made a dramatic entrance during an evening reception at the Detroit Opera House.
2003 Cadillac Sixteen conceptEnlarge Photo
2003 Cadillac SixteenEnlarge Photo
2003 Cadillac SixteenEnlarge Photo