Do we want more retromobiles?

The Dodge Challenger has returned from the dead, and most of them, yes, will have a Hemi. Chevrolet is due to ship actual Camaros any day now. And the Ford Mustang never quite went away. Which means that we have, if not necessarily bona fide muscle cars, certainly worthy pastiches of the obviously well-remembered breed, from the three manufacturers that mattered back then. (I don’t see a revised AMC Javelin on the horizon, but you can’t have everything.)

Certainly there’s some sort of market for new versions of the old: Volkswagen is officially perplexed at our fondness for the New Beetle, but keeps cranking them out, and niche retro models like Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Chevrolet’s HHR survive still. In fact, there’s one niche retro brand: Mini, which originated in the deep, dark days of 1959.

At some point, though, you have to wonder how far it can go. I saw this over at the Car Lust Blog:

The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is an American icon. It may be the single most recognizable American car ever produced. Why isn’t there a 2009 Bel Air in Chevy showrooms, with 1957 styling cues and the new Malibu’s suspension and drive train? GM is foolish not to be doing something like that.

I have my doubts. For one thing, anything with the name “Bel Air” ought to have a small-block V8 engine, and while GM’s Epsilon platform, which underlies the ‘Bu, can probably accommodate a V8, GM Europe, which is in charge of Epsilon development, wouldn’t dream of such a thing.

And what styling cues would work? The General actually showed a Bel Air concept in 2002, and it was restrained, even tasteful, which the ’57 really wasn’t.

Still, “iconic” has a lot to recommend it. I remember seeing several ’56 Chevys in Turkey, of all places, circa 1974, making me wonder if GM had sold the old sheetmetal tooling to the Turks, who otherwise were spinning out recycled Britmobiles with names like “Anadol,” which over here would be a brand name for ibuprofen.


  1. Flack »

    1 December 2008 · 3:02 pm

    You forgot the 2002+ Thunderbird, which comes with a 3.9L V8 — okay for a car that size, but I wouldn’t line up against any of the other cars mentioned in your post (even the ’57 Chevy).

    Dad has a rule that applies both to car restorations as well as retro-styled cars — and that is, the original should have been a classic in its own right. The ’57 Chevy at least has that going for it; the Thunderbird and Beetle, not-so-much.

  2. CGHill »

    1 December 2008 · 4:24 pm

    Ford eventually euthanized the neo-Bird, which is not the actual reason I left it off, but it will have to do for now.

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    1 December 2008 · 7:33 pm

    re: Bel Air concept in 2002, and it was restrained, even tasteful?

    I’m sorry, it looks like any other appliance mobile. Where are bleeding tailfins?

  4. CGHill »

    1 December 2008 · 7:41 pm

    Which is precisely why it didn’t evoke the Bel Airs of yore: there wasn’t much of anything restrained about the ’57. (The ’55, maybe.)

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