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Chicago Sun - Times
January 16, 2006

One of the hottest, most widely publicized concept cars at this year's big auto shows is the slick Dodge Challenger, which resembles the stylish 1970-74 Challenger sporty car launched at the effective peak of the muscle car sales boom of the 1960s.

Watch for crowds to surround the Challenger concept at next month's Chicago Auto Show, if only because the original was a favorite of young car buffs from the first wave of baby boomers despite its late arrival to the high-performance muscle car era.

In fact, the Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concept car with its retro 1969 Camaro styling stole the spotlight at the media preview of last week's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Challenger concept car from DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler unit has rear-drive and a modern version of the old Hemi V-8 with the same 425-horsepower rating.

The concept car is built on DaimlerChrysler's stout LX platform, shared by the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum and Charger. The concept strongly resembles the 1970s Challenger, but looks smoother and is 6.5 inches longer, with larger wheels and tires. The interior even has a pistol-grip-style transmission shifter.

Sales of youth-oriented muscle cars took off after the introduction of the 1964 Pontiac GTO. Virtually all U.S. automakers offered fuel-thirsty muscle cars by 1970. However, sky-high insurance premiums and a drop in horsepower ratings in 1971 and 1972, partly prompted by lower compression ratios, caused the demise of the big muscle car market -- not to mention the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

All Challengers looked alike except for such things as minor grille revisions. But collectors love a 1970-71 Challenger with a powerful Hemi V-8 engine because the car is valued at $260,000 in coupe form and at well over $1 million for the rare Hemi V-8 convertible.

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