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Camaro Convertible Steals Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT (Dow Jones) - There are gazillions of new cars spread over the vast acres of the North American International Auto Show, but one car drew TV camera crews like Britney Spears.

The Camaro concept car rocked Cobo Hall last year, and this time around they sawed the roof off. And it is one heck of a true blue American pony car.

"The Camaro convertible concept instantly evokes an emotional response," said Ed Welburn, vice president of global design at General Motors Corp. "It's a vehicle that you want to make room for in your garage."

Now this is an auto show full of hype. Car makers are spending millions of dollars to wow us folks in the media and making all kinds of claims for their new vehicles. Yet, Wellburn's comments ring true.

And we will take it one step further. If you are a Chevy dealer, you are salivating over the idea of having the Camaro in your showroom, since there are few other cars in the lineup that will draw customers to your business like this one.

By the way, Chevy can do all the "concept car" talk it wants, savvy heads say the Camaro convertible will be in showrooms as a 2009 model. Chevy promises a V-8, and in the "Hugger Orange" color of the display car, you would be the center of attention. Good if you're trying to attract the opposite sex, bad if you attract the local constable.

"The instrument panel - including the four auxiliary gauges mounted in front of the shifter - pays homage to first-generation Camaros, while achieving a modern appearance," said Micah Jones, the interior designer.

For those of you into stats, the concept car is 186.2 inches long or 1.4 inches shorter than the Mustang. But the Camaro will ride on a longer 110.5 inch wheelbase. Chevy promises four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front, and a multilink rear. The concept car has 21-inch wheels in front and 22 to the rear.

Another striking car was Acura's Advanced Sports Concept which could really be a preview of the brands' next NSX.

Acura says this long-hooded, small cockpit car will be powered by a V-10.

Toyota introduced its new full-size Tundra CrewMax pickup truck. This one is truly full sized by U.S. standards and has a particularly striking interior that is much like the smaller Tacoma. After the formal introduction, we approached the model on the floor from the passenger side, since someone was in the driver's seat. When he turned toward us, we found out from his name tag that it was someone from FORD!

Just as other makers are turning away from the breed, Chrysler rolled out a new version of its minivan. It featured Swivel 'n Go seats. The second-row seats swivel 180 degrees to face the third row, with a removable table for picnics that can never be rained out. Chrysler will also feature separate DVD players for each row of seats to end arguments among siblings over what to watch.

Eric Ridenour, Chrysler's chief operating officer, said the company is sticking with minivans because they are still hot sellers. He believes that not everyone is ready to sell their van for a crossover vehicle, but Chrysler has those cars, too.

Ford showed off a new Focus, which is long overdue. It's a nicely updated version of the compact, that one day will also have sync, without the kitchen. It is the result of Ford's partnership with Microsoft and will offer various options for hands-free cell phone calling. One nifty feature is the ability of the system to read back to the driver any text messages. It will all be controlled by the driver at the steering wheel with the prime goal of being as minimal a distraction as possible. The Sync system will cost about $1,000 extra according to Ford and it will also integrate with your music devices. It will play personal ring tones, and be fluent in three languages.

The Detroit show opens to the public on next Saturday, and we highly recommend it to car buffs.

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