Retro Fever

Drawing on the elegance and quirkiness of the auto design past — and the commercial success of recent rebirths like the Chevy Camaro — nostalgia styling is one of the most noticeable trends for 2013.

Carmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are reaching back into the past to style the future, preparing a variety of vehicles for release over the next two years that will feature distinctive nostalgia styling updated with 21st-century materials and technologies.

Fiat 500

Fiat jumped into the retro waters with the North American release of the reborn 500 last year, a cute little four-seater hatchback that’s almost identical to the original Cinquecento produced between 1957 and 1975 — one of the first cars specifically designed for city driving (and parking) conditions. Created by Italian auto design guru Dante Giacosa, the original sold nearly four million units.

“The new Fiat 500 respects the original Cinquecento’s innovative shape and function and evokes all of the emotions and memories that make any icon eternal and rise beyond traditional categories or paradigms,” Fiat rep Ariel Gavilan said.

Not everything on the Fiat is retro. Gone are the anemic engine, crank windows and vinyl seats, replaced by a 1.4-liter multi-air engine that churns out 101 horsepower, hands-free communication technology and a stylish, comfortable interior. “Personally, I like to think of the Fiat 500 as the automotive equivalent of the iPod — sleek, simple, functional, user-friendly and inspired,” said Roberto Giolito, head of Fiat Style.

Mustang Boss 302

Even with the new turbo, don’t expect the Cinquecento to win any races against another blast from the past: the 2013 Mustang Boss 302. Based on the 1970 pony car of the same name, the latest version of this iconic Mustang boasts a 444-horsepower V-8 engine that can push the car to a top speed of 200 miles per hour.

“Everything we did for 2013 is consistent with and links directly back to our 1970 heritage,” Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak said. “The reflective stripes and hockey stick graphic in particular mean something to Mustang enthusiasts. Last year, we proved the car had what it takes to perform, and this year we focused on enhancing its eye-catching looks and celebrating its history.”

Chevrolet Camaro

Another reborn muscle car — the Chevy Camaro — is also retooling for 2013. The top-of-the-line Camaro ZL1 convertible is a dead ringer for the iconic 1967 RS/SS ragtop that paced the Indianapolis 500 that year. This droptop version of the popular Camaro ZL1 is Chevy’s most powerful convertible ever, with supercharged performance (a mind-blowing 580 horsepower, 556 pound-feet of torque) similar to the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Aston Martin DB9 and other exotic sports cars.

Volkswagen Microbus

According to the automotive news grapevine, Volkswagen will resurrect the Microbus in the near future, a version that will look similar to the original family and camping van (first produced in 1950) but stuffed full of modern electronics and comforts and a 21st-century powertrain. Originally unveiled at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the born-again version was reintroduced at the 2011 Geneva Auto show.

Dubbed the Bulli (a German nickname for the original Microbus), the new version is expected to be slightly shorter but equally practical for road trips.

Back to the Future

More retro vehicles are on the way. In the wake of the 500, Fiat is getting ready to revive Alfa Romeo in the U.S. market. And Texas-based DeLorean Motor Co. has announced that it will soon resurrect the
DMC-12 as an electric-powered vehicle in collaboration with auto design firm Epic EV.

—Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer




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