Dodge Challenger concept
Chrysler via AP
A 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept is shown in an undated photo. Automakers will be flexing some muscle at this year's North American International Auto Show.
updated 1/8/2006 4:01:09 PM ET 2006-01-08T21:01:09

Automakers will be flexing some muscle at this year's North American International Auto Show, with a slew of performance cars that harken back to the V-8-charged glory days of the 1960s and early '70s.

On Sunday, the first day of media previews, Ford Motor Co. planned to introduce the Ford Shelby GT500, a souped-up Mustang, and Chrysler Group planned to unveil the Dodge Challenger concept, a revamp of its 1970 model. Later in the show, General Motors Corp. will take the wraps off its Chevrolet Camaro concept.

Lamborghini is joining in, bringing out the Miura concept, an update of the 40-year-old supercar that was last produced in the early 1970s. And Hyundai Motor Corp. will have its HCD-9 Talus, the latest in a string of concept sports cars designed in the South Korean automaker's California studios.

But only Detroit automakers can lay claim to the tradition of muscle cars, the All-American vehicles that first appeared in the mid-1960s and faded out when the oil embargo and stricter pollution laws hit in the early 1970s. These are the cars made famous by the Dukes of Hazzard, who wreaked havoc in a 1969 Dodge Charger, and Steve McQueen, who raced around San Francisco in a 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 in the legendary chase scene from "Bullitt."

After years of focusing on sport utility vehicles, automakers were surprised by the popularity of the revamped Ford Mustang, which went on sale in the fall of 2004. U.S. sales of the Mustang rose 24 percent in 2005, according to Autodata Corp.

Erich Merkle, an auto analyst for the consulting firm IRN Inc., said Baby Boomer nostalgia is fueling the trend. Also, GM and Ford, who have been struggling with weak sales and U.S. market share losses, are eager to capitalize on something uniquely American.

"It's a place where the Japanese can't follow them. The Japanese couldn't do a Mustang. It wouldn't be credible," Merkle said.

The 2007 Ford Shelby GT500, in coupe and convertible versions, is the only one of the muscle cars at the Detroit show that is going on sale this year. Ford says the car will appear in showrooms in the summer of 2006.

The Shelby GT500 is the latest product from Ford's partnership with Carroll Shelby, a race-car driver turned designer who first began refashioning Mustangs in the 1960s.

The designers of the Dodge Challenger concept brought a 1970 Challenger into the studio for inspiration.

"For me, that car symbolizes the most passionate era of automotive design," Micheal Castiglione, principal exterior designer of the Challenger concept, said in a statement.

Chrysler hasn't said whether the concept will reach the market.

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