a long-lens look at what we'll be driving in 1994 and beyond
While Americans Shop for 1993 automobiles, manufacturers are finishing work on 1994 and 1995 models. It takes three to five years for a new car design to move from conception to execution, and most of the development is shrouded in secrecy. Some photojournalists, however, make it their business to find out in advance what tomorrow's machines look like. Using hidden cameras, telephoto lenses, secret locations near proving grounds and great patience and persistence, these specialists take "preview photographs" of cars to come. Like a fox hunt, this game has its own rules. Here's how it's played: At some point in every new car's creation, engineers must take the vehicle out on the road for real-world testing. They try to disguise experimental models any way they can, which makes it tough for the lensmen but far from impossible. Two of the world's best preview photographers are Detroit's Jim Dunne and Germany's Hans G. Lehmann. GM, in fact, went so far as to plant a row of trees, irreverently known now as Dunne's Grove, to block its namesake's long lenses. And Lehmann, who has fallen out of a tree, been detained and even arrested in pursuit of his prey, has hired a crew of lesser-known accomplices to track car testers everywhere from northern Finland to southern Africa. They get the shots, he gets the credit. Not every spy, though, is a pro. For example, Ford's 1995 Mustang won't officially arrive for about a year and a half, but Brenda Priddy, a part-time bookkeeper and mother of two from Phoenix, got an early look. "I was dropping off my baby-sitter," she said, "when I spotted some disguised cars stopping every three hundred feet for air-conditioning checks." Priddy dashed home, grabbed her camera and was back in time to catch the Mustang testers stopped at her local Safeway. She got her shots and sold them to Automobile Magazine. One of them appeared on its November 1992 cover. Glenn Paulina of Highland, Michigan photographed the 1989 Thunderbird five years ago, a success that inspired him and his brother to make spy shooting an adjunct to their regular jobs. The two Paulinas took a photo of a four-door Porsche being tested in Detroit. They caught the attention of Lehmann, who retained them in the summer of 1991 to search Death Valley for manufacturers' prototypes. After several weeks in the desert, the Paulinas bagged a new Nissan Altima, some Mustangs and two pairs of Alfa Romeo 75s. What kind of money do preview photographers get for their work? Magazines pay between $1000 and $5000 depending on the car--which may not be top dollar. Before Automobile published her shot, Priddy received a call from a Ford employee who wanted to know how much she was paid. Priddy asked why she cared. The Ford woman answered, "We would have paid you more." One obvious reason why car companies want to keep their new models under cover is to avoid giving the competition any ideas. They re also concerned that consumers may delay purchasing existing cars in favor of what's coming down the road. But thanks to the snooping of spy photographers, it's possible to get an early peek and advanced details. Here's the scoop on some of the cars they've captured.
After a lackluster 1993 lineup, GM plans to bounce back with ambitious (text continued on page 120) 1994-1995 development programs. Beleaguered Oldsmobile has already shown its bold $34,000 four-cam V8-powered 1995 Aurora sport sedan. Buick has been much more secretive, intending to launch a dramatic 1994 Riviera coupe that reportedly resembles the high-styled Bill Mitchell "Rivs" of the early Sixties. The 1994 Riviera will share the current Park Avenue's long wheelbase, as will an all-new four-door Oldsmobile Toronado. In 1994 Cadillac will launch a redesign of its Sedan De Ville.Chevy will present its new S-10 Blazer and hopes to get back in the volume business with its new Lumina, recently delayed to 1995. Also for 1995, the ancient Olds Ciera and Buick Century will finally be updated, Pontiac plans to present a new Sunbird, Chevy will revive its hallowed Monte Carlo nameplate and unveil a new Cavalier, and Saturn's sedans and hatchbacks are slated for major redesigns.
At Ford, the 1994 Mustang will arrive just as Chevrolet's sexy new Camaro finishes its first sales year. In addition to a sleek new skin, the long-lived ponycar will have a 205-hp midline V8 engine and also may get a Cobra-inspired version of Lincoln's 280-hp four-cam V8. Ford will also offer two new 1994 convertibles, a svelte Mark VIII Lincoln and an Escort with a much cheaper ragtop. It will introduce its new Tempo and Topaz in 1995. Dramatically restyled Tauruses and Sables are also on the way, but whether they'll be labeled 1995s or 1996s has yet to be determined.
Chrysler will continue a parade of hits with its Saturn fighter, the affordable 1994 Neon subcompact sedan (a.k.a. the Sundance-Shadow replacement). After that comes an exotic-looking fastback coupe that dramatically updates both the Dodge Daytona and the Chrysler LeBaron. But the big news from Chrysler is its long-wheel-base sedans: both the sporty LHS and the New Yorker look like sedans Jaguar should be introducing. And rounding out the 1994 lineup is Dodge's brawny V10 Ram pickup. In 1995 Chrysler will introduce the JA, a cab-forward design set to replace the current Spirit-Acclaim. There will also be an all-new T-115 minivan.
Mercedes-Benz will get back to basics in 1994 with a long-awaited replacement for its small 190-class sedans, called the C series. It's one and a half inches wider, one inch longer and 220 pounds heavier than the current 190. A 300-class replacement will follow at the end of 1995. Both redesigns will lift styling cues from the S class. Reportedly, Mercedes is also working on a new, smaller version of its classy 300/500 SL roadster. The car will come on an abbreviated sub-190 platform to combat the proposed 1996 BMW sub-3-se-ries two-seaters and hatchbacks, which are expected to be built in a new factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In the meantime, BMW's 1994 top-line 7-series sedan won't be as large as the Benz behemoths, but it will have a radically sloped nose and tail, a slightly stretched wheelbase, the 850Ci's sophisticated multilink rear suspension, several V8 options and a 375-hp VI2 engine. Later this summer, BMW will roll out its new-generation 3-series convertible, with rakish wedge styling to match the current coupes and an optional lightweight hardtop.
Audi has an aluminum-bodied update of its V8 Quattro on the drawing board. Innovations include semiactive suspension, four-wheel ride-height adjustment (to better use the car's four-wheel-drive system) and a possible 40-valve 320-hp 4.2-liter V8 engine. There's also a spin-off of Audi's next-generation European 80 in the works, which is expected to be a half-hatchback semicoupe that's shorter and wider than its current sedans. Good news: The price may be well below $20,000. Bad news: It may not be exported to the States.
For 1994 Porsche will introduce a re-skinned 911 called the 993. Features include four-wheel steering and a 280-hp six-cylinder engine. A smaller, more affordable convertible--based on the Boxter showcar--is expected to follow in 1995-1996, and a completely new 911 will bow a year or so later.
Volkswagen will dramatically restyle its Corrado for 1995, offering both coupe and convertible versions. The car's lusty, narrow-angle VR6 engine will probably receive a 24-valve head. It's likely to get the all-wheel-drive system from Europe's Golf Syncro, electronically controlled shocks and four-wheel steering as well. The next-generation, Mexico-builtPolo also will hit the States in 1995. And in addition to its tiny coupes and sedans, Volkswagen will offer an affordable 2013-pound spider (203 pounds lighter than Mazda's Miata but with a longer wheelbase) packing a 115-hp four-cylinder engine.
With help from Ford, Jaguar will soon have an all-new lineup. In late 1994 it'll update the current XJ6 sedan with the X300. The X100, a new sports coupe-cabriolet, is set to replace the long-in-the-tooth XJS in 1996. Jaguar's BMW 5-series fighter, the X200, is being referred to as a modern version of (concluded on page 158)Car Spy(continued from page 120) the Sixties' 3.8 Mark II compact sedan. Contrary to rumors that the badly needed affordable four-door wi ll share a Topaz-Tempo platform, we're certain it will be rear-drive, all-Jaguar and not available here until 1998. By 1996 Jaguar will have its own modular engine family, which will include everything from 2.5-liter V6s to 6-liter VI 2s.
Saab's 1994 900 successor will be seen later this year in Frankfurt. Top-of-the-line versions join a 2.5-liter GM V6 engine with components from the Opel Vectra (GM Europe owns Opel and 50 percent of Saab). Rumors persist that all-wheel-drive and a six-speed gearbox are part of the update.
It's still unclear whether we will see combination models from recent partners Volvo and Renault. But imagine an extremely safe car with French flair. Formidable!
In addition to unveiling a Lexus coupe-inspired Celica complete with dual air bags, an improved engine and more, Toyota will introduce a Camry coupe in 1994 that has been designed to challenge the Honda Accord. United States vendors have leaked Toyota's plans for a full-sized, six-passenger, America-only sedan, which may be built at its Camry plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. Despite a lackluster initial reception for its V6 T100 pickup, Toyota denies it is considering a V8 version, reportedly with a GM-supplied engine, but it'll eventually have to have a V8 to be competitive here. Unfortunately, rumors persist that production of the nimble but slow-selling MR2 may be discontinued at the end of the 1993 model year. We hope not.
Toyota's Lexus division has been extremely secretive about its plans for the upcoming model years; however, it's been rumored that it will be offering convertible versions of the sexy SC 300 and SC 400 coupes. Sorry, V12 engines aren't in the picture.
Honda's hot-selling Accord sedan will be all-new for 1994. Expect conservative styling changes and an optional V6 engine at last. Honda's long-awaited mini-van is a distinct possibility for 1995.
Acura will introduce a much sportier, wedge-shaped Integra by this summer, reportedly with a 175-hp full-time all-wheel-drive in top versions. Look for an even hotter 2-liter Integra variant, code-named ZR-X, to appear later. And for 1995, the slow-selling Acura Vigor will get a major overhaul.
Nissan will update both its 240 SX and Maxima for 1994, but with limited mechanical changes. And its Infiniti division plans variants of its Jaguaresque J30 sedan, but not until 1995.
Mitsubishi will present a totally redesigned Galant in June 1993 and a completely changed Eclipse will bow the following spring. Its 3000 GT flagship will be redesigned in 1996.
Coming off a major new-product program, Mazda will have few all-new models for 1994 and 1995. The long-rumored "stealth" MX-5 Miata may be a no-show, but we can expect a mild freshening of the Explorer-based Navajo sports utility, followed by an all-new MPV.
Subaru's first new subcompact in eight years, the Impreza sedan and sports wagon, will hit the streets shortly.
Finally, Isuzu has pulled its cars out of the U.S. market to focus solely on trucks and sports utilities. It is even building a version of their Rodeo sports utility for Honda. This will stall the redesign of the Impulse-based Geo Storm until 1995.
"It's rumored that Lexus will be offering convertible versions of the sexy SC 300 and SC 400 coups."