America’s SEMA show opens its doors later today. The Speciality Equipment Manufacturer’s Association’s annual exhibition of tuned up, slammed down metal is growing both in appeal within the US car market, and in reputation amongst the world’s various car-makers. And this year it’s set to have a bigger impact than ever.Autocar news editor Dan Stevens will be reporting from the show later this week. For the time being though, we thought we’d give you a rundown of the most interesting new cars that will be on show in Las Vegas’ Convention Centre.Among the unseen cars due to make appearances are hot versions of the Dodge Avenger, Hummer H3, Volvo XC70 and Suzuki SX4 – all models well known to us Brits – but more important than all of those could be the unveiling of an all-new modern version of a classic American muscle car. It's only an outside chance but, following in the mould of the recent re-imaginings of the Ford Mustang, Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, Chrysler could unveil a new version of the 1964 Plymouth Barracuda, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it.
A 21st century ‘Cuda’?
Pictures of this unknown muscle coupe surfaced late yesterday on various US-based internet forums. As you can see in our gallery, they show a hitherto unseen two-door muscle car coupe with a carbon fibre-style bonnet.The car bears more than a passing resemblance to the Dodge Challenger concept shown at the 2006 Detroit show, but it has its own bonnet, bumper, grille and tail styling, all of which is reminiscent of the original ’64 Barracuda.You’ll also notice that the car is missing any distinguishing badges. Some US industry commentators have speculated that it is the first sign that Chrysler’s new owners plan to produce a Chrysler-badged version of the Dodge Challenger, which itself enters production next year; others have suggested that it's simply a one-off special built to order for a particular customer.If it's real, the new Barracuda could use the same 425bhp 6.1-litre Hemi V8 as the Challenger, an engine which is also found in the Chrysler 300C SRT-8. Expect more pictures of the car, and further information on its origin, later this week.
Other SEMA show stars
There should be plenty of surprise and intrigue on General Motors’ show stands. Fans of fast saloons will be interested in the Cadillac CTS Sport concept, the first hot-looking take on Caddy’s new middlesized executive four-door, and surely a faithful guide for the look of the blistering 7.0-litre, 500bhp, 2008 Caddy CTS-V. There will also be a 550bhp version of the Cadillac Escalade SUV on show called the Escalade Sport concept.Remember the 2002 Pontiac Solstice concept? Well, it looks like GM has put it on a diet. The result is the Solstice SD290, a doorless, lightweight, high-power vision of the American two-seat roadster that uses a more fiercely blown version of its 2.0-litre turbo motor generating 290bhp, and designed to reference the spirit of the Ferrari 290 Mille Miglia.On the Chevrolet stand, SEMA visitors will find a 1930s’ style hot rod running a four-cylinder, 500bhp, E85-burning petrol engine, a 600bhp version of the Corvette Z06 owned by Jay Leno that also runs on biofuel, a new version of the Holden Commodore-based Pontiac G8, and not one but two new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado pick-up, one taking Major League Baseball as its theme, the other Country Music. Chevy certainly knows the market for trucks, it seems.Beside the Barracuda, Chrysler LLC will have a hot version of the Dodge Avenger on show that takes its styling inspiration from the Imperial Stormtroopers in Star Wars. Otherwise, they’ve gone mad for big-engined SUVs, with a 7.0-litre 500bhp Hummer H3R, a 6.2-litre 400bhp H2 Safari, and a 6.3-litre Jeep Wrangler Ultimate.
… and the unlikely lads
What about the cars you wouldn’t expect to find at a tuning show? Well, there’s plenty of those too. Chief among them is the Suzuki SXForce, a 250bhp turbocharged version of the four-door crossover SUV (don’t hold your breath on a UK version), and a Baywatch-inspired version of Volvo V70-based soft-roader called the XC70 Surf Rescue concept.