American car makers are turning back the clock to cash in on baby boomers' nostalgia for the "muscle" cars of their youth.
Chrysler is to resume production of its celebrated Dodge Challenger after more than three decades and has updated its Dodge Charger to meet the demand in a flourishing market for new and vintage muscle cars. General Motors is expected to bring back its Chevrolet Camaro, inspired by the 1969 version of the legendary car, and Ford has already redesigned its iconic Mustang.
Muscle cars, typically two-door models with high-powered, eight-cylinder engines, bring back memories of cheap petrol, drive-in theatres and cruising main street in the Sixties and Seventies.
Although times have changed and, with petrol now selling at nearly $3 a gallon, many drivers are looking for less thirsty, compact cars, makers believe there is also a big market for the monster cars.
Fuelled by films such as The Fast and the Furious and The Dukes of Hazzard, which featured a 1969 Dodge Charger called General Lee, wealthy baby boomers are now recapturing the days of their youth, when high- school car parks were packed with Camaros, Mustangs and Barracudas.
There is even a new television show, Fast Inc. in which car hunters source vintage and muscle cars for celebrities, models and eccentric millionaires.
Very few original muscle cars have survived intact because most suffered modifications at the hands of exuberant young owners. Those that are still on the road sell for huge sums. A 1970 Plymouth Barracuda was sold at auction in January for £1.6m and a 1970 Chevelle fetched £800,000.
Chrysler has already unveiled its Challenger. It is a two-door coupé with a long bonnet, a wide wheel base and mirrors the look from the original model of 1970 to 1974. It has a 425-horsepower Hemi engine, a six-speed manual transmission and a top speed of 174 mph.
"It's a modern take on one of the most iconic muscle cars," said Tom LaSorda, Chrysler's president. "We haven't seen this kind of spontaneous, passionate response to a car since we unveiled the Dodge Viper concept in 1989."
Production will begin in 2008. He did not announce the price or say how many of the cars will be built.The Camaro and the Ford Mustang are expected to cost between £15,000 and £20,000.Reuse content