Continued happy motoring

There they sat, side-by-side, resting on a raised platform and protected by a foot or so of plexiglas.

They are marvels of engineering, one representing all of the excitement and innovation that came out of Detroit in 1968, and the other a showcase of how far cars have come in the last 50 years.

But both are able to capture the magic that can be generated by a great automobile. And while one speaks of nostalgia — memories of one of acting’s all-time tough guys and, arguably, the greatest car chase scene in the history of movies — the other offers everything needed to bring to life today’s dreams of powerful and fast cars.

Ford brought the two Highland Green Mustangs together as a tribute to the 1968 version that the late Steve McQueen drove in the film “Bullitt” and to introduce the 2019 Bullitt edition Mustang GT that will be available later this year. They appeared together at this year’s North American International Auto Show held last month in Detroit.

The car McQueen drove is one of two that Warner Bros. bought for the movie. It came from the factory with a 390 cubic-inch V8 and was heavily modified for its movie role. And, while it has survived all of these years, some of which were spent as a daily driver in New Jersey, its sibling, which was used in the scenes in the film which required jumps and other stunts, was not so lucky — and has seen much of its sheet metal destroyed by the moist, saltwater atmosphere in Baja, Mexico.

Today’s Bullitt edition is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces a total of 475 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Like the original, it is devoid of most of its badging. The original, in its stock configuration, delivered 320 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of torque.

While the bloodlines of the vehicles are obvious — from the slope of the backs to the classic Mustang rear ends with the distinctive taillight configuration — they clearly show how much technology has changed during the last 50 years. But that’s always been one of the purposes of an auto show — to offer a look at the past, the present and the future.

The annual tour through Cobo Hall — beginning with the Ford display — confirmed just that.

We were reminded that the engine in the 1968 version had a four-barrel carburetor, while the new engine features fuel injection and a powertrain control module that electronically has a hand in the way that power is transferred to the wheels.

And, while each of the manufacturers offers a pretty impressive lineup of gasoline engines, they also are looking at a point in the future when those powerplants will be replaced. Toyota, for instance, heavily promoted its hydrogen system as a viable way of reducing emissions. Other manufacturers, meanwhile, showed off their electric cars, some that offer performance not too different from their gasoline-powered counterparts.

We’re also moving closer to the day when we will no longer drive our own cars. Cadillac reminded us of that by touting its Super Cruise option. Billed as a driver’s assistance feature, it’s a hands-free driving system for limited-access highways, and the next step in joining technologies we have become used to in the last several years.

If you connect some of the amazing things that have been added to vehicles and allow them to work together — the ability to self-parallel park, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, a connection to a GPS system, for example — you have a pretty efficient system for highway cruising.

Humans are still needed, though. Sensors monitor the driver to make sure that she or he is paying attention to the road and prepared to take over control of the vehicle if the situation warrants.

And, as we are reminded time and again, the future of totally self-driving cars is not quite here yet: “Safety or driver assistance features are no substitute for the driver’s responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. The driver should remain attentive to traffic, surroundings and road conditions at all times,” Cadillac says.

You can get a good look at what the makers of vehicles have to offer at the Pittsburgh International Auto Show, which is open until 6 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Like all auto shows, it offers a chance to look to the future, while respecting the past.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)