- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. During a visit to California late last year, there was an exceptional occasion. As the only European journalist I could see and touch one of DaimlerChrysler's four concept cars scheduled for presentation at the North American International Auto Show this week in Detroit.
Before being admitted to the special bay in the building where the concept cars are handmade, I wondered if the creativity of the Chrysler designers might be restricted under the Daimler regimen. True, the 2001 concept cars were developed under Tom Gale, DaimlerChrysler's senior vice president of design, but Mr. Gale is retiring and will be an adviser to the team of his successor, Trevor Creed.
More curious than ever, I entered the lobby of Metalcrafters, the company that conjures up a real car from the designs provided to them by not only Chrysler but also other car manufacturers. The company has a number of large bays, plus closed areas where the prototypes are built and curious eyes can't see anything they shouldn't.
It's practically impossible that news about any project leaks out. The Fountain Valley-based company can make all parts in-house, except for the drivetrains and tires, and there is even a place that can be transformed into a photo studio, so that there's no risk of a car being spotted by spy photographers when pictures of the prototype are shot.
A tour took me to where the company makes windows and laminated glass. Then, as I passed the impressive new stamping press, a door opened to the bay containing the Chrysler Crossfire. There it was, its silver color shiny with its back toward me. From that angle you are reminded of the old AMC Marlin.
The body panel with the Chrysler emblem is in fact a spoiler in Porsche style and the spine in the middle of the car runs all the way to the front, like we've seen in 1995 with the Chrysler Atlantic concept car. But then, if you walk around the car and cast a quick glance at the side you might think that this is an Audi TT.
But those thoughts are quickly gone when you look at the nose with the scallops in the hood and the grille that's too big for a sleek car like this. The Crossfire is built as a one-piece carbon-fiber body on an aluminum space frame. The car is compact, although its wheel base is some 7.5 inches longer than that of the Audi TT.
New for Chrysler are the pronounced rear fenders that house 21-inch wheels with 295/35 rubber; huge but they do look good. The designers were somewhat more modest with the size of the front wheels, which are 225/40/19.
Under the long hood of the Crossfire is a 2.7 V-6 with supercharger that produces 275 horsepower and a maximum torque of 270 pound-feet. The V-6 is coupled to a five-speed stick shift and should push the car to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 148 mph.
The moment my host starts the engine, I'd like to drive away at once. Silly thought of course, because the car still has to be introduced to the public.
The cockpit has a sporty sophisticated look with two-tone leather upholstery, a brushed aluminum center console and steering wheel spokes. The dashboard is different, however, as it is symmetrical on both the driver's and passenger's sides. The driver looks at normal gauges, but under the blue plexiglass cover on the passenger side there is an Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) that captures the vehicle performance information that's displayed on a LCD screen.
The system measures factors such as acceleration, lap time and g-forces, the results of which are displayed on the G-meter at the right side on the dash.
Power competition seats, manually adjustable pedals and special trunk space for two helmets indicate the sporty spirit of the Crossfire.
Will DaimlerChrysler decide to build a car based on the concept of the Crossfire?
There is less and less reason for speculation than ever, now that Chrysler is under fire because of losses in 2000. But you never know, when DC sees possibilities for selling a car like this across the Atlantic the answer could still be "yes".


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