Granted, I was not around in the Age of Horsepower, also referred to as the late '60s, but I have to imagine gearheads then felt something like this. Walking around the "American" parcels of the New York Auto Show, I felt as if I were shot back to that wonderful time when gas was cheap and compression was high. The Ford Mustang was first to hit the block with many variations of its "modular" motor, whatever the hell that is, and it had a Mustang race car, the Shelby GT500KR, and the new Bullitt on display. Dodge unveiled its complete line of '08 Challengers at the show, including a 300-horse V-6 base model and an R/T Hemi model.
Pontiac quietly lurked in the corners with the G8 GXP and Sport Ute making over 400 horsepower and a new Solstice coupe with a turbocharged 4-banger.
Even with all these high-horsepower monsters demanding a bit of respect, the belle of the ball was resting quietly in the General Motors pit. For what I can gather, Chevrolet was tired of only having 100 horsepower over the competition with the Z06 which, by the way, is a 505-horsepower naturally aspirated, single cam, 16-valve, push-rod engine--a concept that once symbolized all that was great about American muscle.
But times have changed and we must change with them. The Corvette ZR1 stole the show and I even saw certain Ford writers spending inordinate amounts of time admiring this marvel of modern technology. Its 6.2 supercharged and intercooled liters, aluminum frame, ceramic Brembo brakes, and a carbon fiber body parts all culminate in the pinnacle of automotive excellence pumping out 638 horsepower. The foreigners were impressed with the Z06 as it lit up Nordschleife, but just wait till they see what this baby can muster around that 14-mile speedway/toll road.
Joining the ZO6 and ZR1 was a lone base coupe. Once the star of the show, with "only" 430-horsepower and an absence of fender flares it looked fairly tame by comparison. Still, this is everyman's supercar with a top speed of nearly 190 mph and quarter-mile times in the high-11/low-12-second zone. It's hardly something to scoff at and represents one of the all-time muscle car values.
Chevrolet showed off some of the automobiles that are going to take the industry by storm. The concept Chevy Volt proves that General Motors is at the forefront of clean air technology and design. Scheduled for release in 2010, this plug-in hybrid electric concept vehicle has been tested to produce no emissions for those who expect 40 miles or less of travel per day.
The HHR SS resembles something out of the '50's panel truck era and probably would look phenomenal with wood smeared across the side. The 2.0 liter turbocharged powerplant produces 260 horsepower and is available with both five-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. Its sport-tuned suspension provides needed stability for a family of five to cruise in style and the supportive two-tone bucket seats and A-pillar mounted boost gauge make it the perfect modern hot rod.
The 2010 Camaro concept also showed up and drew crowds who are eagerly awaiting its release next January.
Despite an economic lull, the future looks bright for Chevrolet, General Motors, and the industry as a whole. With beautiful cars on the market today and even better coming in the future, there is no doubt that the street wars will once again live on.