The Modernist's Muscle Car

One of the least-hyped (perhaps due to Detroit's doldrums), but most visually exciting cars at the LA Auto Show this year was the 2009 Dodge Challenger. If there were such a thing as a Modernist Car Award, the Challenger would win hands-down.

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The Challenger belongs to the recent and long-overdue trend of reissuing classic Detroit muscle cars, rather than compulsively redesigning them for the whims of the marketplace. (The difference between a 1989 Ford Mustang and a 2009 Mustang is the difference between Michael Keaton's Batman and Christian Bale's.) Once great, long-debased autos like the Mustang, Dodge Charger, and next year, the Chevy Camaro, are now re-emerging as muscular 21st-century versions of their best mid-century selves.

Unlike its competitors, however, the new Challenger stays the truest to its visual heritage: Like a reissued George Nelson bubble lamp or Eames LCW, it's almost a mirror image of the 1970 classic it was modeled after, both inside and out. But with the benefit of modern materials and technology–and subtly beefed up dimensions–it's a drivable mid-to-late-century masterpiece for those who don't have the desire to spend their weekends hunting salvage yards for spare parts.

Odd that this same trend hasn't happened in architecture–if you had the choice, wouldn't you like to live in a reissued Case Study House, a mini-Fallingwater, or a Philip Johnson glass box (with modern HVAC, of course)?

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