As you might be aware, Thursday was the first day of media previews for the 2022 Chicago Auto Show. Both editor Tim and yours truly are in attendance – Tim’s a local, and I really needed a few days away from the day job. I can’t, however, shake the feeling that the entire show is on something resembling life support. Beyond that, I wonder if my impressions of the show are a metaphor for the auto industry in total.
The North American International Auto Show is reportedly back on schedule, with NAIAS organizers announcing that the Detroit-based event will be returning on September 14th, 2022.
But we’ve been burned before. A central theme of the last two years has been the announcement of trade events before their subsequent cancellation or transition into a virtual approximation of the real thing where out-of-touch CEOs read things in front of poorly rendered backdrops.
What if organizers put on a top-shelf car event, exhibiting some of the most significant race cars ever, had two days of sparse crowds and the final day getting effectively rained out, and came away with a feeling of great success? Well, that’s exactly what happened at the inaugural American Speed Festival at the M1 Concourse facility in Pontiac, Michigan just north of Detroit, just held Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, 2021. The ASF is an attempt by M1 Concourse, a garage condo and performance track “country club for car enthusiasts”, to craft an American flavored take on England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. The festival is scheduled to be an annual event, and for the first iteration of the show organizers brought in scores of some of the most historically significant race cars in American racing history to do demonstration runs on the track at speed, if not in anger.
Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions, Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, and the City of Scottsdale announced revised dates for two events at WestWorld of Scottsdale this year. Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction will be held March 20-27, while Goodguys Spring Nationals is scheduled for April 16-18.
If you were hoping to browse the mouth-watering classics at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, don’t break out the collared shirts just yet. The event has been cancelled for the same reason everything else you wanted to do is now impossible. Pebble Beach officials have decided to nix the show, originally scheduled for August 16th, rather than risk the health of entrants, judges, and volunteers.
“My heart goes out to all of the people who are involved in the Pebble Beach Concours and who are impacted by this decision,” said Concours Chairman Sandra Button for the announcement. “Many of our entrants have been working on a special car for years, and this was to be their moment. Some of our overseas entrants were nearing the point of putting their cars on boats and planes, and their own travel arrangements have long been made. The same is true for many of our international cadre of judges.”
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Las Vegas time, when the pretense of politeness wore off.
Feeling punch drunk, and perhaps ready to throw an actual punch, after five hours of walking all over the Las Vegas Convention Center while attending the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, I whipped out my phone for a pic of a stanced Nissan or Porsche or whatever (I don’t remember) and bumped into another person doing the same. The look we exchanged is the kind of look two strangers share in a movie scene – the look that precedes a bar fight or street rumble.
Hours earlier, we’d have both smiled and said “sorry”, but the day was clearly wearing on all involved. We grumbled and grunted some sort of acknowledgment that may or may not have been apologetic, and moved on.
With the official start of summer just around the bend, your corner car meet is about to get a lot more crowded. Sure, you folks who are #blessed to live in warm climes have Cars & Coffee year-round but the rest of us plebes can only enjoy our precious metal once the calendar flips into the hottest months.
Import shows, classic muscle, modern performance — what’s your favorite type of car to see at a show?
Last week, San Jose became subject to borderline draconian street-racing laws after city council (unanimously) voted to pass legislation effectively making it illegal to even watch impromptu automotive exhibitions. However, “spectating” is loosely defined in the new law, as parties don’t have to know a race is going on to get into trouble.
Even milling around a car show before shenanigans break out is enough to earn someone a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
The new laws give police plenty of power to break up late-night car events, plus the ability to arrest whomever they want — creating a pretty good incentive to just stay home, rather than risk getting into trouble. It also feels like overkill, and it sets an ugly precedent for punishing Californians who aren’t actively contributing to a crime.
For those of you who haven’t been to the press days of one of the major American auto shows (Detroit, New York, Chicago, LA), I’ll briefly describe what they are like: many, many parties, a lot of free alcohol, and very little to do with cars. I mean, yeah, there are some cars present, but nobody really looks at them or talks about them. All the press materials are sent in advance so that websites (like this one) can publish their stories en masse as soon as whatever artificial embargo is in place expires. The cars don’t really even need to be there. I enjoy going to the New York International Auto Show for one reason — it’s in New York. If you put it in Peoria, Bark ain’t going.
Local auto shows, however, serve a completely different purpose. The idea of the local auto show in your town is that it allows you to see all of the cars you might be considering for purchase in one place. Or, if you’re a car geek, you can just go look at all of the stuff that you normally would have to have a lot more money to be allowed to look at in person. When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I eagerly anticipated the auto show every year. I remember my dad begrudgingly taking me to the show, just so I could walk around Veterans Memorial Auditorium and see things like the Chevrolet Citation Coupe Concept and maybe even sit in a Trans Am for a few seconds before the Pontiac booth guy kicked me out.
So it was with that same sense of excitement that I went to the Miami International Auto Show last week. It was the first time in over a decade that I had the chance to go to a car show as a member of the general public — no name badge around my neck, no glad-handing PR reps, no hordes of automotive “journalists” obstructing my view of the cars with their ridiculous camera rigs. It was going to be an opportunity to see cars, man.
An hour later, I left the massive Miami Beach Convention Center feeling more sad than anything else. The local car show, as I knew it, appears to be dead.
A Dodge Charger burst into flames after an impromptu drift exhibition for a crowd of people in a California parking lot on Monday morning. The local news, of course, framed the situation as an escalating threat to the community backed by hoards of street racers who just love illegal shenanigans — a half truth.
According to KTLA, the incident occurred shortly after midnight near the Walmart located in the Anaheim Plaza. Jaime Guzman, who works security for the area, said he was making his rounds when he saw a crowd gathered in the parking lot to watch vehicles perform a ludicrous amount of donuts. This claim was backed up by video footage
Since 2011, National Drive Electric Week has taken place in venues across the United States, some Canadian locations, and at select international venues. This year, it runs from Saturday, September 9th through Sunday, September 17th.
There are 262 event locations for 2017, so there’s probably an event not far away, assuming you’re electrically inclined.
While there are dealerships that will happily service your vintage automobile, there are reasons a lot of classic cars are wrenched at home or taken to speciality shops. It’s not typically in a service center’s best interest to hunt down rare discontinued parts and train employees on the reassembly of carburetors. But it still happens, especially among premium brands.
Porsche is rather obsessive about its heritage and has extended that to maintenance and repairs at a large number of stores. It isn’t alone, either. Mark Rogers, a 20 Group consultant with the National Automobile Dealers Association, estimates as many as 1,800 U.S. franchised dealerships are willing to service vintage cars. Some are even selling them — putting desirable classics on the showroom floor in the hopes they might garner positive attention.
Automotive television is, at best, a mixed bag. At worst, it’s a cultural wasteland of gimmicky programing that persists only because of our deep love for cars, bolstered by a handful of engaging personalities. Suggesting that I am generally dubious of any new car-related entry into the entertainment landscape would be a gross understatement. So, when the rebooted Top Gear America aired over the weekend, my expectations were already incredibly low.
I suppose the nicest way to phrase this is by saying it did not exceed those expectations.
While it attempts to capture the magic of vintage Top Gear in much the same way the current British version strives to, the first episode fell far short of the mark. Whether that’s down to the hosts not having adequate time to develop legitimate chemistry or a systematic flaw in the show’s design remains to be seen. But something is definitely wrong here.
Episode One felt extremely awkward, although not entirely hopeless. And I’ve reminded myself that I didn’t much care for Richard Hammond the first time I saw him on the screen, either. Fast forward 15 years and I enter into a panic every time he’s in a scrape, terrified that God might take that adorable little man away from me.
Automotive television has developed some extremely bad habits, the worst of which is creating false reality show-style drama among characters with no appreciable personalities. Build shows are the absolute worst for this, yet the agreed-upon recipe seems to be to force one-dimensional characters to argue with one another, intercut with B-roll footage of people working on a car. Rinse and repeat.
While shows like Top Gear and The Grand Tour manage to avoid this problem — by providing entertaining short films, product reviews, and humorous banter — most programs where the host touches a wrench becomes painful to watch within the first few minutes. There are, of course, mainstream exceptions. Mighty Car Mods and RoadKill are both project-oriented shows that remain enjoyable due the presenters’ enthusiasm, authenticity, and willingness to fail. However, neither of those examples exist on a major television network and persist as online-only affairs. And there isn’t really a build show on cable that anyone should consider on par with either.
However, there could be a contender when the Discovery Channel airs its first episode of Car Saviors tonight.