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Detroit show: Big three visions

Straight from the USA: Ford Tonka (top) dwarfs all for size, while the Chrysler Pacifica (bottom left) and Pontiac Solstice (bottom right with GM executive Bob Lutz driving) come from different directions.

Ford, GM and Chrysler take different approaches to the their biggest day of the year

8 Jan 2002


MOTOWN'S three traditional heavy hitters, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, presented Detroit motor show goers with three very different approaches to showcasing their future wares this year.

While GM's new product guru and second-in-charge Bob Lutz pulled the covers off three striking new, innovative lifestyle concepts - not one of them a Sports Utility Vehicle - and Chrysler revealed what it described as "the next great segment buster", Ford was busy unveiling the "mutha" of all pick-up trucks.

Undoubtedly aimed at domestic consumption, they are nevertheless a fascinating insight into the designing futures of America's big three.

Ford F350 Tonka truck
The ultimate expression of the American obsession with trucks is Ford's Mighty F-350 Tonka concept, a super-duty pickup with dual 22-inch rear wheels, suspension seating and powertool-sized switches, plus deployable running boards and air suspension with "kneeling" function to assist entry/exit.

Tonka isn't all for show, however. It heralds important next-generation diesel technology for Ford, packing a 6.0-litre turbo-diesel V8 with 32 valves. Called the Power Stroke Super-600 concept, the new engine produces around 270kW and will eventually replace Ford's current 7.3-litre turbo-diesel V8.

Chevrolet Bel Air convertible
A front-engined, rear-drive two-door convertible, the Bel Air is faithful to the iconic Chevrolets of the 1950s. Interior design cues of the original are rife within, including bench seats, twin-element instrument panel and steering column-mounted gearshift.

It's propelled by a Vortec 3500 turbocharged five-cylinder concept engine based on the inline engine family found in GM's mid-size off-roaders.

Cadillac Cien supercar
Described as glimpse at what a future halo car for Cadillac could be, the exotic, carbon-fibre-framed Cien is also a reminder of Cadillac's 2002 centennial celebration ("cien" meaning 100 in Spanish).

Cien's new all-alloy 7.5-litre DOHC V12 concept engine produces around 570kW and is visible, Ferrari-style, through the car's rear window.

Pontiac Solstice roadster
The Solstice roadster, which was also shown in coupe guise at Detroit, is a lightweight, two-seater convertible with a turbocharged 2.2-litre engine producing around 165kW.

"Many manufacturers develop roadsters to add youth to their lineup, but then they wind up coming to market with a $50,000-plus pricetag," said Mr Lutz.

"This concept delivers the classic roadster formula but it would be targeted at less than half that cost. The secret is that all of the major components currently exist in volume on the GM shelf.

"That enabled us to build a true roadster - in terms of performance and design - that young buyers can actually afford. The Pontiac roadster is a result of the capability, the can-do spirit of this company," concluded Mr Lutz.

Chrysler Pacifica
The third US manufacturer reserved all its initial Detroit hype for the Pacifica concept, a vehicle Chrysler calls a sports tourer. Due to go on sale in the US in 2003 as a 2004 model, its combination of low step-in height, first-class seating, three rows of seats and car-like handling make it unlike any other vehicle, says Chrysler.

Powered by a 3.5-litre engine with all-wheel drive, plus side curtain airbags for all three rows, the Pacifica won't be sold Down Under, according to Chrysler Australia managing director Judith Wheeler, due to a lack of demand from other right-hand drive markets, most notably the UK due to its large size.

Jeep Compass
The Chrysler Group followed up the Pacifica 24 hours later with a group of concepts aimed at the youth generation, including the Compass.

This is a two-door sport-utility vehicle based on the new Jeep Liberty platform. Inspired by rally cars and the Jeepster concept shown at Detroit in 1998, the Compass features Jeep styling cues, such as the trapezoidal wheel openings and seven-slot grille.

"The Compass is designed to extend the brand to non-Jeep buyers who are into the Jeep mystique," said Chrysler Group styling boss Trevor Creed.

Dodge Razor
Named after the Razor scooter for its minimalist design, the Dodge Razor is a sports car in the vein of European offerings of the early 1960s.

The light-weight, rear-drive Razor is powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that produces around 190kW. One thing it doesn't have is a radio, because young buyers tend to rip out the factory-installed radio to put in their own sound systems.

Dodge M 80
The M 80 is designed to be a small, affordable, four-wheel-drive pickup truck that offers "surf to sun" capability for young people.

Built on the Dodge Dakota platform, the M 80, named after the firecracker, is equipped with a 3.7-liter V6 engine and five-speed manual transmission. It is outfitted with a five-foot bed and loads of storage compartments. Its exterior is aggressive with an imposing grille.

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