Friday, February 17, 2006

Chicago Auto Show in review

Last weekend I took in the Chicago Auto Show with my 11-year-old son. The show is always a spectacle, where the common folk can come within a few feet of unattainable luxury automobiles and wow over the concept vehicles. I suppose a few people are actually there to shop for a new car, but mostly it’s a day in fantasyland for a bunch of car nuts. Any growing public interest in hybrid vehicles and energy efficiency is not in evidence here; this show is all about Detroit muscle and conspicuous consumption. Here are some highlights:

The buzz in the concept car category was the Nissan Urge, a nifty little sportster with the ability to transform into an Xbox 360 life size controller. With the push of a button the steering wheel and pedals become controllers, and a drop down screen provides the graphics. Presumably, you have to park the car to play. The Urge was one of the only concept cars that you could really get close to; the others were on roped off elevated pedestals. As you might guess, this was my son’s favorite. I thought it was humorous that the Urge had no slinky babe touting its features like the other concept cars. Instead, they ran a video with an engineer describing the design (the Urge must be targeted to the techno-geek).


The Urge interior. Not sure about the name..... This was not the only concept car with a steering wheel reminiscent of a airplane.









Dodge had the biggest presence of the major automakers at the show, highlighted by the concept Challenger, a throwback (almost a mimic) of the early 70’s styling the way Ford did with the Mustang last year. Shown in Competition Orange, this was a favorite. There’s also a bright yellow Charger with the vintage ‘Super Bee” graphics. With the demand for 1970’s muscle cars off the charts, it is no surprise Detroit is going retro. A local auto museum displayed a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Convertible, valued at $2.2 million. One of six known to exist, they turned down an offer of $4.6M. Chevy had a nice Camaro concept on display too.

The Challenger interior. I liked the two tone cockpit with the high tech blue colors emanating from the dash.









Too bad Pontiac blew it on the recently redesigned GTO last year. However, Pontiac has the best new production car in my opinion. Check out this bright red Solstice sportster, due for 2007.






The Hyundai Miev concept car reminded me of a life size Hot Wheel. I think that's a good thing.








The Ford Super Chief is an enormous "chopped" pick-up with tank like styling and small, sinister windows. The Super Chief and a concept van included adjustable seats that transform the rear into family room type seating (the van had a sectional sofa) with the obligatory drop down flat screen. To Ford's credit, this behemoth did feature a hybrid fuel system.

The crowd at the Ferrari/Maserati booth was impenetrable. People will still trample each other for a glimpse of Italian engineering. Interestingly, no Ferraris in red; only gunmetal and blue metallic. There was a two-tone model that had the purists muttering under their breath.

All in all a fun time. Where else can you see the cutting edge automotive engineering, a $2 million muscle car and the Ghostbusters 1959 Cadillac ambulance? For my money though, I’ll still take a 1967 Pontiac GTO over just about anything.

For a virtual tour: Chicago Auto Show

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4 Comments:

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