Your Chicago Auto Show
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
You hear enough about the Chicago Auto Show, now it's your turn to tell us a story. A lot of people have already shared great Chicago Auto Show memories with us, and we want to hear more of them. So dig out the box of 35mm slides and Betamax tapes and get ready for a drive down memory lane.
Ask your parents if they've got any good stories. Heck, ask your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the rest of your family while you're at it, because if we use your story in our display at the Chicago Auto Show, we'll send you a pair of free tickets to the show.
Yes, you read correctly. If we like your story enough to make it part of our history display at the Chicago Auto Show in February, we'll send you two free tickets, good for admission any day of the show.
Think up your favorite Chicago Auto Show memories, write them down, and send them to email@example.com . If you have slides, pictures, or other physical media, we'll be happy to copy them and return the originals, just send an email and we'll work out the details.
Here are a few examples to get you going.
Probably the Chicago Auto Show that was most memorable was 1964. I had been attending since the 1961 show, but it was the first one I would cover for the newspaper I worked for, the Milwaukee Sentinel. At the time I had no knowledge of press previews and plans were made to attend the show on the opening Saturday. My girlfriend at the time, who had absolutely no interest in automobiles, agreed to go along if I would do penance by following her through seemingly every floor of every department store on State Street. That completed, I drove to the first McCormick Place in my new 1964 Rambler American 440 hardtop I was so proud of. Once in the show, we toured the various displays, which I devoured while she stared at the ceiling, or somewhere where there were no new cars to look at.
Then we came to the American Motors display. On a turntable was the Rambler Tarpon show car, based on the 1964 American. I thought it was neat, considering my new ride.She, on the other hand, gushed that it was the neatest car she ever saw. When I was ready to move on, she was not. She had to look at the Tarpon from every angle and wouldn’t stop talking about it…this from someone up to this time that felt cars were invisible. During the tour of the remaining displays, she insisted we return to see the Tarpon again. After finishing my tour, we had to look one more time. On the ride home I tried to impress her that my American was the same basic car as the Tarpon. It didn’t register. I wrote my review and of course had to mention the Tarpon.
The 1964 show was months ahead of the introduction of the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda, the latter a fastback mounted on the Valiant compact, not unlike the Tarpon. With favorable reviews, the brain trust at American Motors decided to mount the Tarpon styling on the larger Classic body and call it the Marlin, a mid-year 1965 model. Neither my girlfriend nor the buying public was impressed and the Marlin was not a success.
Since 1976, I have traveled every year to Chicago from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, to view and photograph the new cars at the Chicago Auto Show. In 1981, I and friend Ric Lieberman drove to the show in Ric’s brand-new Renault 18i. During the show, we stopped at the Renault exhibit to listen to the spokeswoman give her presentation on a silver-and-black 18i. Ric and I talked with her about Renaults for about 15 minutes, and found her to be very knowledgeable. Her name was Lane. She had two children and ran a motel with her husband. Next year, Ric and I were touring the show and spotted Lane demonstrating the new Renault Fuego. She announced to the crowd that she recognized two gentlemen from the year before. This made us feel about nine feet tall. Our mutual friendship went on for six years. Lane always recognized and welcomed us to the show. The last time we saw Lane was in 1987, demonstrating Toyota trucks. One year, I took a photo of Lane next to a Renualt Alliance. A year later, I brought the photo to the show to be autographed. On the border, Lane wrote, “Dear Tom ‘Friendly’ kind people spread warmth and relate to even strangers as human beings. You have a wonderful personality. May you always enjoy people as they enjoy you! Good Luck, Lane”