2012 New York: Return of Sanity and the Gearhead

Seagulls are falling from the sky, baby seals are being smothered to death by greenhouse gasses and the polar bears’ habitat is shrinking every day. These are all NOT things the automotive world should feel responsible for, but has been guilt-forced into accepting responsibility for. Certainly the times of excess have cause the world all sorts of harm, but cars are just one symptom, and not a doomsday cataclysm that will bring destruction to this planet.

Green cars, electric vehicles, environmental strategies, sub-compact econoboxes and hydrogen-powered concepts - these were all things that were NOT important at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. In fact, the show floor was filled with people with V8 written on their shirts and hot rod affiliations, especially at the SRT stand. Is this the last 'hurrah' before we all plug in and forget about burning gas?

Far from it! The affinity for technologies that were supposed to revolutionize the car world, batteries and electric motors, is largely gone now. Te novelty value has worn off, and the gearhead is finally getting his way, at least in America, the mileage he wants from the car he wants.

When do you know that the age of the EVhead ends and the gearhead returns? When a major carmaker like Chrysler brings out a new Viper! When the crisis hit we took this car for dead, yet here it is, alive and basically unchanged. Turbochargers? Forget it! Cylinder deactivation and engine downsizing? What that!

Praise the Lord, Ralph Gilles drives a monster onto the stage. It’s got the same looks, the same larger-than-life personality and the same 8.4-liter engine with more power than before. As he gets his speech together in the new Snake, it turns and before the final 180 spin of the carousel platform, I see him making a little prayer sign with his hands. The gods of the piston and the crank shaft are appeased by his offering!

The all-mighty ones are pleased with the arrival of a new brutish champion, a track sleigher with a launch-control guided wrath and the European supercar world in its sights.

There are people in America who don’t care about the spawning cycle of pink salmon, they only want to drive. And this car is for them! It’s also for the guy who doesn’t have two or three hundred thousand dollars doing nothing in his bank account. Instead of proper shirt, Gills is amusingly wearing a T-shirt that says “Detroit” in Ferrari font. Chrysler takes a swing, hits and the crowd goes wild with applause when they see the shirt. Guess we all know what that means, don’t we Nurburgring lap time fans!?

The 2013 Viper makes more torque at idle than most supercars do when fully revved. It’s got steel, it’s got aluminum and even carbon fiber. The lessons of the past have been learned! To contain the mountain of grunt, launch control and improved aerodynamics.

The presses should run dry of ink, because when a major automaker builds a no-compromise car like this, it means the auto world has a soul again. We need everything written in large, ink-heavy, capital letters so people will know they can love their cars again.

Only one survivor of the green car era arrived in New York. No, we’re not talking about another Japanese EV concept, but about the Fisker Atlantic. Yes, it’s electric, but we don’t have to burn it for that. The Atlantic was designed by an ex-Aston man and is the sort of vehicle you can still park next to a yacht or California house and be proud of it. Despite being the best four-door concept there, Fisker has a slim chance of making it big in the next couple of years.

So it’s back to them’ boys at Chrysler for the last word in manly gearhead-ism: the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup. More chrome, more power and even more gears more gears. It’s as if the archangels of Detroit descended upon the pickup and gave it a glow that no man with a pulse can refuse. You don’t need it, but you want it. The glory days of the 1500 are ahead of us, not behind!

If you wake up from a deep slumber covered in cold sweat, having dreamed that only Mad Max and the rebel band will have cars and trucks, think again. The future is shines with bright chromework and LEDs. It smells of fine leather and burned rubber. Work hard and play hard! Things are as they should be (in America at least), so for a few more auto shows we can sleep soundly!


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