The 2001 T-Bird, which Ford expects to launch next year for between $30,000 and $40,000, is the leader of a pack of retromobiles. The current obsession with throwbacks traces to the early 1990s with Dodge trucks, but the movement got a power boost from Viper and Prowler roadsters. Then came the wildly popular "new" Volkswagen Beetle. Last week the floodgates opened, as automakers unveiled models like a revived Chevy Impala, a new Dodge Charger and even a Nissan Z concept, modeled after the sporty Datsun 240Z of the 1970s.
Re-creating the T-Bird required some auto archaeology for the designers, several of whom weren't even concepts when the original was born. They collected vintage models on which to base the new version. The result is a silky interpretation of the original, built on ultramodern innards.
Detroit's wheels see the past as prologue. "We went through this period where you couldn't tell products apart," says Tom Gale, DaimlerChrysler's design chief, whose latest offering is the snazzy Chrysler PT Cruiser, a cross between a minivan and a 1930s roadster. "Now we're finally starting to see a little more identity." Isn't it nice?