- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

Chrysler’s run out of gas. But Chevrolet has hit the accelerator.

The newly reinvented 2010 Chevy Camaro is rolling onto the roads of America even as Chrysler goes bankrupt, the Pontiac brand fades into the sunset and the nation explores a newfound frugality.

The new car is full of gumption from another era. We’re talking serious muscle here.

The Camaro SS model is tricked out with a 400-horsepower 6.2L V8 engine. It can reach 60 mph in 4 seconds. There are racing stripes, a taut body, wide hood and aggressive design - but the thing still gets 26 miles per gallon during highway driving, and close to 30 in a V6 model. And at 3,747 pounds, the vehicle is lighter than many of its rivals.

“This all just strikes one big, happy note,” said Jack L. Martin, an Indiana-based automotive historian. “This isn’t a gas guzzler. It’s gorgeous. It looks like it’s racing forward even when it’s standing still.”

Icon status has been preserved, perhaps.

“Muscle cars like this represent the competitive spirit in Americans. We’re currently faced with so many problems, and I think the public will be uplifted to see Chevy carry on an old tradition despite the odds, despite the financial challenges out there,” he said.

The public will get spectacle, too, when the vehicle reappears on the landscape after a seven-year hiatus. The Camaro has not been in regular production since 2002.

The new incarnation already has been heralded as one of “10 cars that could save Detroit” by U.S. News & World Report, the base price of $23,000 for a V6 model praised by the automotive press.

Josh Duhamel, who starred in the 2007 sci-fi action film “Transformers,” will drive a spotless silver and red Camaro pace car in the Indianapolis 500 May 24 - a cross-fertilization between Hollywood and Detroit. An “autobot” character from the movie was based on a 1976 Camaro, and a much anticipated sequel to the film will be out in June.

Elsewhere, 50 identical red Camaros arrived Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas, tooling down Interstate 30 under police motorcycle escort, each mile punctuated by sirens and chronicled by an eager press.

Rosenthal Chevrolet in Arlington is extending its hours and throwing a party Friday for the public unveiling of its first new Camaro. Showroom windows have been covered with paper for secrecy, and vintage Chevys - including a 1969 Camaro - dot the sales lot for effect.

“All kinds of people have been beating the doors down to see it,” said general manager Don Moore.

“The ‘wow’ is really what the new Camaro is all about,” observed chairman Bob Rosenthal.

Some automotive bloggers are suggesting that the 2010 Camaro would make a dandy police cruiser.

But the death of Chrysler still looms.

“The timing for the debut of a brand new Camaro is ironic, given the Chrysler bankruptcy. But in the auto business, you have to build your future in advance. And you have to follow through with your plans. That’s one of the risks,” said Mr. Martin.

This week also saw GM ending its Pontiac brand, which is widely credited with inventing the American muscle car, as part of its restructuring. Previous incarnations of the Camaro had Pontiac “sister models” - the Firebird and Trans Am.

The Camaro originally went on sale on Sept. 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year, priced at $2,466 and meant to compete with the Ford Mustang. At the time, General Motors claimed the name was inspired by a French phrase meaning “friend,” but later amended the definition.

The Camaro was in reality “a small vicious animal that eats Mustangs,” production officials told the press according to historic accounts.

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