Don Roy
April 1, 2007

COBO Conference/Exhibiton Center,
Detroit, MI January 13-21, 2007

Ford shakes off the effects of a hard year and shows

Fifteen years ago, the 'Detroit Auto Show' build was accomplished in four days. Today, it takes about 10 weeks, or almost an entire college semester, for the NAIAS build. Times have changed, and so has the show. The 2007 edition marks the 100th Anniversary of the most significant auto show in North America.

Fourteen semi-trailers are required to carry the 75,000-plus yards of carpet used for the exhibits and aisles at the show. This is enough carpet to cover the length of 750 football fields. Exhibits erected at the show are collectively valued in excess of $200 million, excluding the more than 700 vehicles in those exhibits.

The show actually opens almost a full week before public access is available. Three media days, two industry days and a charity preview day preceed opening of the doors to enthusiasts of all kinds. The annual Charity Preview event at NAIAS has been held since 1976. In 2006, the Charity Preview raised $6.8 million. In 1907, there were 17 exhibitors in the show. One hundred years later, that figure hit 80.

It's Show Time
Storming the gates on a brisk Sunday morning in Detroit, your MM editors were not expecting any specific Mustang-related developments, although we hoped for new information. The Giugiaro Mustang, along with all other current production Pony cars, were present in the Ford display. We had been primed by the early release of information on two concept vehicles that Ford had built just for this show, along with word of a third concept that had not been leaked.

Interestingly, the first two concept vehicles were built from extended Mustang chassis platforms. At a Ford media presentation, the Ford Interceptor Concept was introduced by J Mays, the company's Design and Chief Creative Officer. Without seeing the car in person, you might dismiss it as a Ford copy of the Chrysler 300C. Certainly, the slab-sided, high waistline and chopped top look are similar between the two. The Interceptor features a traditional rear-wheel drive proportion that includes a short front overhang, long rear overhang and extended dash-to-axle ratio, that impart far more content from the Marauder than any other model.

Power comes from under the powered clamshell "shaker" hood, and a thoroughly detailed engine compartment that houses a 5.0-liter V-8 Cammer engine. This is an upgraded variant of the 4.6-liter engine under the hood of the current production Mustang GT. The Interceptor concept's Cammer engine is mated to a manual six-speed transmission. The car, equipped with 22-inch wheels, also features a solid rear axle for a more hardcore performance feel.

Inside, the Ford Interceptor concept is sleek and thoroughly modern, completed in contrasting black leather and metalfinishes. The dash, headliner and thick steering wheel are leather-wrapped. Plus, the Interceptor concept's four low-back bucket seats are wrapped in thick black belt leather with exposed-edge seams and contrasting caramel stitching. Theseats are accented with Ford GT-inspired grommets finished with Titan Meta painted inserts.

A second Mustang chassis-based concept vehicle, the Lincoln MKR concept, was also shown. The two-door, rear wheel drive car was built to demonstrate what has been distilled as the top Lincoln exterior styling cues over the years and how these can be recombined to produce modern, striking vehicles. The MKR also demonstrated a 415 horsepower V6 flex fuel engine and independent rear suspension.

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Celebrate The Journey
The missing concept vehicle arrived in the form of a joint project between Ford and Airstream. Occupying a space somewhere between recreational vehicle and crossover utility vehicle, the Ford Airstream Concept was arguably the most free-thinking and revolutionary concept presented at the show. Most others constituted mild to medium makeovers of existing models, or same-old, same-old race car knock-offs. "The Ford Airstream Concept is a futuristic look at crossovers. It's the ultimate modern touring vehicle that delivers flexibility and capability with dynamic design that evokes the spirit of the journey," Mays told the audience.

The concept's bold, futuristic front-end explores a new look for Ford, encapsulating a single-surface grille and headlamps into a unified graphical shape. Each of the concept's bold orange-trimmed window graphics is also a unique shape and trimmed in electroluminescent material. Inside, the Ford Airstream Concept features a floating instrument panel with flush-mounted, touch-sensitive controls and a multi-function single gauge display that provides the driver with all primary information. The focal point of the rear seating area is a 360-degree screen for entertainment and games. The unique screen also creates ambient mood settings, including a modern lava lamp and virtual fire, as well as a live camera feed.

"Inside, outside and under the hood, the Ford Airstream Concept speaks to the future," Mays said of the vehicle. Indeed, ending a year during which Ford has taken several body blows in the market, the overriding feeling at this show was one of optimism. The product-led revolution at Ford is slated to deliver 70 percent new or upgraded Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products bythe end of 2008, with a full 100 percent of the product lines having been freshened or restyled by 2010.

Ford showed freshened versions of the Focus and Five Hundred for the 2008 model year. As well, they announced the rollout of a new technology. Ford 'Sync' is a new factory-installed, in-car communications and entertainment system that is designed to change the way consumers use digital media portable music players and mobile phones in their vehicles. Based on Microsoft Auto software, Sync, provides consumers the convenience and flexibility to bring into their vehicle nearly any mobile phone or digital media player and operate it using voice commands or the vehicle's steering wheel or radio controls. Sync will be available in 12 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products beginning thiscalendar year.

Notable Others
General Motors did bring along a convertible version of the Camaro concept car. Aside from the loss of the roof, no other significant changes were apparent. Daimler-Chrysler did not show their Challenger pony car competitor, although they did announce that the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 is freshened both inside and out, with 60 extra horsepower from the updated 8.4-liter engine under a restyled hood.

An odd, but refreshing, vehicle was shown by Holden - GM's Australian subsidiary. Their 'EFIJY' vehicle looked more like it should have come from the Foose design studios than the General's facilities down under. The wild, 21st century hot rod reincarnates one of Australia's most famous cars, the FJ Holden. Despite the lack of Mustang news, we can look forward to the potential of developments at either the Chicago or New York Auto Shows. SVT typically used these shows for their announcements, because the level of competition is lower. More concrete information concerning the Bullitt special edition Mustang can be expected at one of these shows,so there remains plenty of reason to keepfollowing the show circuit this year.

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