Bullitt, other sports cars to be introduced at L.A. Auto Show

Forty years after the legendary on-screen car chase, there's a new Mustang Bullitt ripping up the roadways.

Ford Motor f will debut the latest variant of the growling, retro-styled Mustang at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public Nov. 16 after two days of media previews. The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt, an update of the iconic 1968 pony car driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt, goes on sale in January.

Automakers typically promote their greenest vehicles in Los Angeles, but the show has no shortage of horsepower.

In addition to the Bullitt, Chrysler will introduce a street-legal version of its Dodge Viper SRT10 race car, while Hyundai Motor will take aim at the Mustang with the Genesis Coupe, a rear-wheel-drive concept. Lamborghini's Reventon — a $1.4 million super car whose 20 copies already are sold out — also will make its North American debut.

The Bullitt is the latest in a line of specialty Mustangs that Ford has brought out to keep the sports car fresh since the latest redesign hit the market in 2004.

Ford could use the boost.

Mustang sales were down 18% in the first 10 months of this year, according to Autodata. It's also facing looming competition on the retro front from the Dukes of Hazard -inspired Dodge Challenger, which hits showrooms this spring, and the redesigned Chevrolet Camaro, which comes out in 2009.

Ford will produce just 7,700 Bullitts, many of which likely will be snapped up by the car's legions of fans. The starting price is $31,075.

Ford designers reviewed the movie frame-by-frame as they built the new Bullitt, which comes in the dark green of the film as well as in black. There's a bright accent ring around the grille and no exterior badges or spoilers, just like the original. New to the Bullitt is a 4.6-liter V-8 engine with 315 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

"We think it's going to be a modern classic," said the Bullitt's chief designer, Doug Gaffka. "It's not exactly like the original, but it's the way you remember it."

At a media preview of the Bullitt near Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Ford's president of the Americas, Mark Fields, said he decided he wanted to be part of the auto industry after watching the seven-minute chase scene in Bullitt when he was 10. Fields said Ford considers the variations of the Mustang to be collectors' items whose price makes them within reach of fans. Most recently, Ford produced the Shelby GT Mustang in collaboration with racing legend Carroll Shelby.

"This is a grown-up version of Matchbox cars," Fields said.

With its 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower V-10 engine, the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR — for auto club racers — isn't for the faint of heart. Chrysler said the car is made for enthusiasts who want to drive it to the race track, give it a spin and drive home.

Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said the company hasn't determined how many of the $100,000 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACRs it will make, but it has sold 25,000 Vipers since they went on the market in 1992. The 2008 Viper will go on sale in the second quarter of next year.

Hyundai's entry into the sports coupe market still is in concept form, but a prototype will be on display in Los Angeles. The coupe is a variation of Concept Genesis, a rear-wheel-drive premium sports sedan unveiled in New York earlier this year. The sedan is expected to hit the market in 2008.

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