Monday, January 05, 2004

The Mustang's back -- The production version of the new Mustang is in print and it looks every bit as handsome as the concept. We'll leave the detailed styling analysis to others. Suffice it to say that it's clean, crisp, handsome, and distinctive. Ford will sell a ton.

Then they'll have to kill the brand.

The new Mustang is the ultimate Mustang, the quintessential execution of the Mustang essence. It is also likely the ultimate Mustang, as in the last in the series.

Where does Ford and it's retro-addicted styling honcho J Mays go from here? The Downshift Retro Roadblack law says that once you've committed to homage, you can't go forward again. With the 2005 Mustang, Ford is saying that the best Mustang design -- indeed the soul of the marque -- can be found in the mid-60's models. There's not a single meaningful new design element on the entire car. It's going to be awfully tough to break out an all-new Mustang to follow.

Say what you will about the new Corvette (and we will in due time), Dave McClellan and his crew have never played the nostalgia card as a one-shot boost to sales. Each generation lives or dies on its own merits, while still maintaining the family bloodlines.

Maybe Ford has a retro-cyclical plan in mind. This new version is a 60's do-over. The next generation will bring back the kamm-back, big-butt 70's look. That'll follow with the "new" Mustang II. Once around with the 90's busy look and we can return to the 60's.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Detroit links -- Two good places to get the latest from the Detroit Auto Show:
Another Ford rehash -- Somebody please stop J Mays. Seriously. Now.

Bill Ford introduced the new Mustang (more later) and the Ford GT as part of a Power Trilogy. What's the third prong of the trinity? If you guesses another modern-day execution of a Ford icon, congratulations. It's an all-new Shelby Cobra!

Unlike the unquestionably handsome Mustang and GT, this one's is a bit of a dog. But, unlike the GT, it appears to be a truly new take on the old form. And, unlike the Mustang, it's not a cycling back to old forms after intervening models.

So, the Downshift Retro Roadblack law might not apply.

Still, this retro-fetishism is not healthy. It's not a good sign when the more attractive two-seater introduced today is the kissing cousin of a minivan, not the son of arguably the coolest sports cars ever built.

Fittingly, the new Cobra is the product of a guy -- Mays -- who's best known for warming over old ideas, and a guy -- Shelby -- who's spent the last forty years milking a single -- albeit fantastic -- idea to death.
Holy Crossfire -- Chrysler unveiled a supercar prototype at the Detroit show. Enzo-like specs: quad-turbo V-12 by AMG, 850 bhp, 2.9 seconds to 60. Enzo-like price: $450,000 (less trade-in on the Town & Country, presumably). Enzo-like pedigree: Not!

Thought 1: This is forward-looking design. A clean-sheet design that incorporates brand cues. Of course, Chrysler doesn't have a LeMans winner to look back to. Still ... (more on this later).
Thought 2: Porsche's justification for building the Cayenne was that nearly all of it's sports car owners owned SUVs, so there was a natural market. Are Chrysler's mini-van families looking for a same-brand Carrera GT-fighter? Maybe, Chrysler's looking to provide a follow-on product for empty-nesters.
Thought 3: Does the passenger seat fold flat into the floor?
Thought 4: Just as auto show debuts are getting to be mere physical confirmation of press-release photos, Chrysler drops another bomb. Wait to go Wolfgang!
No cameras? -- Last month, the IRL released its report of the crash that killed Tony Renna on October 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All of its conclusions are based on telemetrics and eyewitness accounts. Remarkably, there is no video footage.

Given the millions spent racing and testing at IMS and the frequent crashes (some of which, unfortunately, are fatal), we just assumed that there would be something low tech like complete and overlapping camera coverage of the 2.5 mile circuit. In fact, there's not a single permanent camera.

If there's any outrage about this video deficit, we haven't seen it. You can't rewind a tape and bring back Tony Renna, but wouldn't video analysis of his and every other crash help prevent other crashes?

Tony George, before spring testing begins, install a full video system with enough clockwise and counter-clockwise facing cameras on the track that a car can never go out of range of at least two cameras. Make sure the record button is on every time a car takes the track.
Look, Ma, no brains -- The grossly disproportionate CAFE standards applicable to cars and trucks, while criminally stupid, is at least historically and politically explicable. What Downshift has never understood is why there are different rules about tinted glass.

Most SUVs and minivans have dark glass from the factory, while sedans and wagons don't. That's because light trucks can have tinting on all but the windshield and the two front side windows, while cars cannot. Certainly, tinting would make the Downshift family station wagon more bearable, particularly for the sensitive-eyed 2-1/2 year-old in the back. Look for a post when Mrs. Downshift approves a budget item for after-market tinting.

Recently, however, a thought occurred to us. Perhaps trucks, particularly SUVs, require tinting to camouflage how little most trucks are used for truck-like purposes. Without dark windows, you'd really see that most of the time what's being hauled in your neighbor's Escalade could fit in a Mini.