They say to never meet your heroes, but that doesn’t seem to be perfect advice. Sometimes, your heroes truly live up to the image you’ve made in your head. Other times, a hero earns that title long after you’ve met them. But when given the opportunity to meet all of your heroes, in the same place, wouldn’t you take it?
For enthusiasts, those opportunities are auto shows. You can sit in the most luxurious supercars or stumble across your next daily driver, or do both just a few feet apart — shows are an experience hard to replicate with just dealer test drives. We asked for your favorite auto show memories yesterday, and now that New York’s media days are over, let’s see what you said.
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The Unassailable Cuteness Of Children
The Unassailable Cuteness Of Children
SF auto show, day before Thanksgiving 2007. Walking around the show, my spawn was not yet walking and in a stroller. I say this both as a proud parent, but also as an objective statement, my kid was ridiculously cute. Make my way to the Suzuki display because they’re actually giving away these really cool picnic backpacks. The woman I’m talking to looks down at my kid and goes ‘Oh, I can’t handle this, I think my ovaries just exploded’. Proceeded to call over all the other women at the booth and they spend 10 minutes ogling and cooing at the spawn. I am/was a middle aged fat white guy, so exactly zero attention was paid to me, but I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t careful someone would have stolen my kid that day.
BTW, still have the backpack, it’s kinda awesome.
It’s rare to hear a heartwarming story that contains the line “if I wasn’t careful someone would have stolen my kid that day,” but IstillmissmyXJ managed to live one. Auto show staff may be an international menagerie of executives, engineers, and sales people, but one thing gathers them all and on the show floor binds them: Cute kids.
My favorite memory is finding one of our Ram 3500 Cummins trucks was missing the entire gas pedal assembly when we had to tear down the display at the end of the show.
Of course, we usually had some idiot attendees try to sabotage a few vehicles during the show by pulling starter relays, etc.
This however, was near genius level sabotage as its impossible to source a gas pedal assembly at 9:00 PM on Sunday night.
Our logistics guys in charge of moving the vehicles were baffled as to what to do .
Being the uber smart factory guy that I am, I determined a 3500 with a big old Cummins might not really NEED a gas pedal to drive out of the convention center and travel 8 blocks of downtown streets to the loading area.
I was right. Torque at idle is pretty damn stout in a 1,000 ft. lb. Cummins.
Stealing a GR Corolla is one thing, but stealing a truck’s gas pedal is definitely stranger. Did they bring tools to the show floor just for that stunt? How could the thieves have completed a job so quickly without losing their 10mm socket? The mind reels.
My dad started taking me out of school to go to the Toronto Auto Show when I was in grade 4, and I’ve only missed 3 years since (not counting COVID cancelling it for another 2 years).
-When I first started going, I would race around gathering every brochure and poster that was available. They eventually all got thrown in the recycling bin, but it was fun to look at the pictures. I can still remember the smell of those glossy pages.
-We used to stop my the Mazda booth to talk to my uncle. He worked at Mazda Canada head quarters and would volunteer to work a couple days at the show. It was really cool to get to see him and here stories about setting up the show or what he had seen during the pre-show media days.
-Walking around the show you had to be careful of getting shocked in the luxury vehicle exhibits. Jaguar had some especially thick carpet in their booth and when you walked on it and then touched a car you’d get zapped.
-One year, when the New Beetle had just come out, VW brought an actual plastic injection molding machine into the show and was pumping out little Beetle shaped pencil holders. Supposedly the plastic that was being used was actually ground up defective lenses from rear Beetles. The next year they had the same machine but they were all translucent blue Beetles.
-Another year, Dodge was an official Olympic sponsor, and they had the bed of a pick up truck full of little Olympic pins that you could help yourself too.
-GM used to have an engineer/technician tearing down and assembling a Corvette Z06 engine live during the show. He would point out key features and you could ask him questions. GM also had a Hot Wheels vending machine one year to celebrate a Camaro/Hot Wheels anniversary. I was an avid Hot Wheels collector as a kid, so I was stoked to try my luck at winning a free special edition Hot Wheel (I won a regular one, but a free Hot Wheel is still a free Hot Wheel)!
-In 2017, Mazda brought their early production FD RX-7 (my dream car), their original Cosmo/110s and a mint NA Miata. All three were displayed on a stage and it was really neat to see some of Mazda’s historic collection.
-Also in 2017, I happened to eat lunch across from some of the hosts of Driving Television (a Canadian TV car program based out of British Columbia). I didn’t bother them though because they were there working and deserved a peaceful lunch break.
-My wife and I learned not to go to the Auto Show on the weekends, because families bring their kids for something to do, or to do research. One year we saw a bunch of young kids standing on the seats of an Audi R8 convertible, jumping up and down on the leather seats in their salt-crusted winter boots.
Chevrolet lugs a cutaway of the new Z06's engine to every show, but tearing down the whole car is certainly on another level. Being able to see the suspension, the driveline, and the body in all its various states of assembly? Sign me up.
You hear about some custom cars and you wonder if they could possibly live up to the hype, and yeah, this one does. You walk up to CadZZilla and ‘Holy effing hell’ is the only thing crossing your mind. Ericson and Coddington hit this one out of the ballpark.
Well I hear it’s fine, if you’ve got the time, to check out CadZZilla at an auto show. Shows are mainly known for manufacturers, but plenty of aftermarket suppliers and custom builders make their own appearances. You never know what you’ll find.
Years ago I went to the Washington DC auto show and sat in a Mercedes SLK. It gave me the small roadster bug. After spending time in the SLK and Z4 forums I eventually ended up with a Miata.
Welcome to the Miata Life, we’re glad to have you. The car was originally meant to be an attainable, reliable version of cars like Lotus, so it makes sense to find your way there from the SLK or the Z4. Small convertibles forever.
In the before times, I went to the Toronto auto show with a friend every year. 90% of what’s there are vehicles that you’ll find on sale within dealer lots around the GTA. The number of debuts over the years really shrank, and concepts are usually limited to a half dozen amongst all the makes. It’s still nice to check things out without the pressure of sales guys (though local dealers send sales guys to help out with booth duty). Two memories jump out equally:
1) That time I sat in an R8. It had a long line of people waiting, but it was worth it. I fit. Being a tall person usually excludes you from all the best cars, but here’s one that’s pretty damn cool and I fit comfortably. All I need is $100k.
2) That time I found an actual useful product planner on a booth. My friend wanted to buy an Accord coupe, but was uncertain whether to get the current one, or wait for the new one (which is the current one we know now). We asked whether it might be worth the wait. His answer: “ you want a coupe, with a v6 and a manual? Buy one now.” They weren’t supposed to give away details of future models, but he let us know almost a year before it happened that the Accord was losing the coupe and the V6.
If you had to pick an area to place an auto show, where you could only use vehicles on local dealer lots to populate the show floor, I’d pick Toronto in a heartbeat. That city seems to have an underlying level of cool, a subtle automotive enthusiasm that underpins every purchase. They care up there.
First laying eyes on the Fiat 124 Abarth Spider at an auto show back in 2016. It was white with the optional satin black hood and trunk lid. I was never a roadster guy, but it was love at first sight. There was a pretty sizeable crowd around it so I had to wait my turn to get to sit in it. Sadly, the car was very much out of my price range at the time, but I remember telling myself, I’m going to buy one some day. I walked around it for a good 15 minutes taking it all in. Thinking about how out of all those people, I was probably the only person legitimately wanting to buy one. This was now my attainable dream car. 3 years later, I found one with extremely low mileage, in the exact spec as the one I first saw at that auto show, and in my price range. I put down my deposit, picked it up a week later, and the rest is history! I’m sure a lot of you have a similar story.
The Fiat 124 may have been the best looking car you could get for its price, back when we still got it in the States. Especially with the black hood, they had this striking charisma to them. I almost bought one myself.
In 2002, my dad had just lost his job due to an impending plant closure, and I also did, as I worked for the same company during college. It was spring break, and we both found ourselves with nothing to do since I typically worked over break.
We went to the Cleveland Auto show. My dad was a big fan of the BMW Z3, and I snapped a picture of him sitting in one at the auto show. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him. After losing his job at a company he had given 18 years of his life to and looking to an unknown future, seeing him sitting in his very attainable dream car felt like there was hope. And there was.
I would like to end the story by saying he eventually got that Z3, but it hasn’t happened yet. Despite making really good money working in VP roles, he’s not a flashy guy. He’s on his third Camry, the current of which is ten years old. He has taught me about hard work, tenacity, and humility. I hope someday I can buy him a “classic” Z3, his perfectly reasonable, attainable dream car.
After all that, your dad deserves a Z3. Even better, he deserves one that’s been well maintained, and won’t surprise him with any sneaky major maintenance items. I’m not sure if any of those are left, but I do know where they should go.
Growing up in the 80's and 90's my dad would take us to the auto show every year. My brother and I would collect every car brochure like a kid getting candy on Halloween.
My favorite thing every year was was getting the Porsche fold out poster of their lineup of cars. I also remember that they weren’t stuffy about having a kid sit in the driver seat of their fancy car. I had about a decade of these posters on my wall by the time I moved out of the house. I wish I still had some of them. I’m positive this marketing partially led to why this era of Porsches prices are through the roof right now as part of peak mid-life crisis pricing.
It turns out, kids who love your brand will pay big money to be a part of it when they’re adults. Porsche played the long game, and it’s paid off well — almost too well for those of us who will never afford one.