LOOK AT THE THRESHOLD
Saying goodbye to the century, it is very appropriate to take another look at its highest peaks. Automobile companies, not collusive, chose this tactic for the Detroit auto show.
Arkady ALEKSEEV, Mikhail TEPLOV
Overseas everything has long been regulated. No, you don’t think that someone made a charter of the North American International Auto Show and now imposed it on the colossi of the auto industry. In no case. Just now, when this - certainly one of the most respected in the world - car dealership was held for the 83rd time, not one of its participants doubted for a second the need for a set of unwritten rules that has developed over the years.
What did it take for those who paid the rent of their site on nearly 56, 000 m2 of the Kobo Center cyclopean pavilion? Beautiful cars, lighting and sound effects, charming stand-up artists? Yes, all this, but not only. The very first is the first! - that the Americans call "show stoppers." These are not just exhibits that none of the spoiled visitors (tomorrow's buyers) can pass by. This is the quintessence of the technical and aesthetic views of the creators. Something more intelligible than the advertising slogan, and more convincing than the dealer’s promises.
And the ball was held according to the rules. Moreover, it is interesting that most of the most fascinating guests ended up in retro suits. No wonder - the managers decided that the visitors of the salon would also like to look back at the memorable golden times, which would soon be cut off from us by the border of millennia. We will also plunge into the waves of nostalgia. That strange pragmatic nostalgia, which, apparently, is only possible in America. Where behind the sounds of the optimistic blues “Not everything has changed”, nevertheless, you hear the chime of keys that open the door to tomorrow.
THEY ARE RETURNING
As if from the depths of time, half-forgotten names pop up, protruding sloping wings, tense, swollen sides, energetic muscular contours … In recent years, Chrysler has come to be known as the greatest lover of “memories of the future”. And now, having joined Daimler-Benz, he has not lost this commitment. We will name only two cars. Firstly, of course, the Chrysler RT Kruiser. The continuation of the theme of last year's “Pronto-Kruizer”, which has already come so close to the conveyor, that the plant and the start date for production are even determined - Mexico, spring 2000.
And here is a typical “muscular car” of the mid-sixties. In a past life - a gluttonous and wasteful symbol of excessive power and success. Now there are other times: we had to moderate our appetites and make friends with the environment. But the demonstrative power was preserved, which is reflected in the title "Dodge Charger R / T", in a free translation - "Charger for roads and tracks."
Mercedes, Chrysler’s older brother, also did not escape the temptation to revive a legend. A suitable model was determined quite quickly, and admirers of the brand admired the reincarnation of 300SL, the very one that got the name “Gull Wing” - “Seagull Wing” for its unusual doors. The doors, however, have now become guillotine, the list of equipment has expanded - a host of unprecedented electronic systems is designed to protect the driver of the Mercedes-Vision SLR from errors in control. He was not even trusted with the brakes: the pedal in the cab is connected only with an angle and velocity sensor. Don’t worry, the machine will do the rest itself, as accurately as you’ll hardly succeed even after many years of training.
Like Mercedes, it didn’t take a long time to look for a suitable model of the past and Ford. Since the Mustang is still relatively fresh, it is worth returning from the darkness of the times of the Thunderbird. No, not the suitcase this car turned into over time, but the very first, uncompromisingly double, relatively compact, literally all saturated with the devilish charm of a sporty style.
The third in our narrative, but the first in importance American concern General Motors, as it turned out, was far less infected than its counterparts with a craving for retro. Perhaps one “Pontiac-GTO” that flaunts on our cover, to some extent suitable for this type. And even that: only a name from the mid-sixties, the appearance of the car is rather futuristic, and only three characteristic moldings on the front and wings remind us that we have a model with a history. However, what kind of “model” is there - rather, it’s just a beautiful shell, in which the units have not seriously settled down yet.
Everyone knows how strong the positions of Japanese firms are in the American market; all the more surprising that they escaped the temptation to play nostalgic strings. Except that Nissan distinguished itself in a timely manner, recalling the very successful twenty-two-year-old coupe 240Z, known in the United States under the brand name Fairledi. The car will return under the completely transparent designation “Z”, and the secrecy of Nissan and the interest of the press clearly speak in favor of an early development of the new product.
If you look around endlessly, it’s no wonder and look at some newly emerging market sectors. However, participants in the Detroit Auto Show - experienced players - of course, did not make such a mistake. Another pole of the “show-stoppers” were never before encountered combinations.
Inspired by the success of the Lincoln Navigator, the Cadillac launched the first ever Escelide off-road vehicle. Caught up with a competitor? Not at all: the Lincoln has already shown (the first in history, etc.) the Blackwood pickup! Is Cadillac discouraged? Not at all - he took a roundabout maneuver and demonstrated the compact Ewok roadster (again, for the first time in the history of the Cadillac).
This is not to say that the managers of these prestigious brands came up with a game of expanding borders. Now this is the law of nature itself (in the sense of the market). With almost an all-terrain vehicle, the Aztec debuted the Pontiac, which had never before been seen in the creeps off the asphalt. And they even hitched a cart with a jet ski to the Aztec, clearly hinting: this car is intended for supporters of an active lifestyle, so popular in America. “Oldsmobile” scared visitors with an all-terrain vehicle: although its “Rekon” resembling an armadillo is still just a concept, it still opens a new page in the history of the company. And of course, it makes you feel the general direction of her design research. The bet is on a traditional “nose” without air intakes, a silhouette in the style of “brute force” and … swinging side doors are a characteristic feature of many promising developments of the American market.
To put an end to GM products, we’ll mention two more concept cars. One of them - Chevrolet-Nomad - demonstrates the current approach to designing a multi-purpose vehicle. At first glance, the car resembles a station wagon, but both rear doors are sliding, which makes the Nomad similar to minivans. However, he has a direct relation to pickups: it is enough to remove the back of the roof, and in front of us is a typical pickup. The concept, of course, could not do without a 5.7-liter engine from the Chevrolet Corvette and an electronically controlled gearbox. By the way, a similar “pickupuniversal” model was shown by the “Ford” branch of the “Mercury”, only the side doors there are hinged.
Finally, Buick-Cielo is a car with a button that sends a hard top into the trunk. Unlike a considerable number of other models, where a complex linkage serves for this purpose, the roof leaves here … on rails, along the way, divided into parts-panels. And when it is removed, the driver will be able to observe the beauty of nature, without being distracted by all sorts of levers and buttons. Most of the equipment - air conditioning, navigation system and telephone are controlled by voice. By the way, “eaten” in Spanish means “sky”.
If we recall non-American manufacturers, the most outstanding concept car is, of course, the Mitsubishi-SSU-VR4. The press release, however, also included another name for the novelty - “Mad Max” or, in our opinion, “Mad Max”. It’s a good name for a car almost the size of a Hammer, capable of racing along the road at the speed of a decent sports coupe.
"RETRO" FOR OUTDOOR APPLICATION
The visitor stopped in front of the stand, peering into familiar features. He saw similar cars once in his childhood, he wants to get to know such a closer look, to find out how it works … One thing is certain with certainty: it’s not at all like a distant ancestor. In the end, this is not an auto museum, but a Detroit auto show! Here, under the masks of “oldies” and “newcomers from the future”, very unusual technical solutions are often hidden. Here, let's say, the mentioned "Dodge Charger R / T". Under his hood, at first glance, a regular V8 with a drive compressor. What's so surprising? And if you add - working on compressed gas, "packed" in a cylinder according to the latest technology; 600 km power reserve - impressive? Yes, these are flowers.
The Jeep Commander is equipped with two electric motors that receive energy from fuel cells that "process" ordinary gasoline (or alcohol, which is more affordable) into electricity.
The unusual appearance of the Chrysler Citadel is a step even further: the gasoline engine of the car (V6, 3.5 liters, 253 hp) drives the rear wheels, and if necessary, the 70-horsepower electric motor drives the front wheels. Honda VV also belongs to the family of hybrids: here, too, the main engine is gasoline, and with sharp acceleration the electric one helps; however, the Honda drive has only one axis.
However, this is only one of the ways to design "show stoppers." There is another: to cover some famous chassis with an unusual body - in case of buyers' interest, it is easy to arrange production in the shortest possible time. Examples? The Chrysler RT Kruiser is based on the famous Neon, the Dodge Power Wagon rests on the Dodge Ram frame, and the Ford Thunderbird uses the Lincoln-LS platform. All these are examples of a prudent, pragmatic approach, which is no less, and sometimes more important for automotive progress in general.
We will not dwell on all the innovations of Detroit-99, restricting ourselves to photographs, since among these machines there were quite ordinary ones (of course, among the rest). Say, the new Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler Neon and Buy-Le Sabr, the first “own” SUV from Hyundai - Santa Fe, a large restyled Subaru Outback and the Honda S2000 roadster, on a tachometer which the red zone starts at 9000 rpm (!). They will soon appear on the market and, of course, will find a place on our pages.
So, the Detroit Salon is completed, and most of its visitors have already made a choice - which brand they will be guided in the near future, which cars they will buy. Indeed, the main purpose of the salon is precisely this - to captivate, maintain interest, make you think about the upcoming purchase. For this, the “show-stoppers” compete in the brightness and eccentricity - you look, the brand will be remembered, it will sink into the soul. Most of us are hardly destined to buy new American cars in the near future, but we are sure that the game of unique technical ideas and design solutions will not leave anyone indifferent.
Chrysler RT Kruiser.
Mercedes-Benz Vision SLR.
"Dodge Charger R / T."
Nissan Ksterra (X-Land).
"Ford Explorer Sport Track".
Lincoln Blackwood (Dark Forest).
Honda VV Hybrid.
Toyota Echo, a change in the Tersel model.
Hyundai Santa Fe.
"Mazda MPV Concept."
"Mazda Protégé" (in Europe - "323").
“(May) Mercury” (“pickupuniversal”).