Double celebration in time for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show, included the 46th annual show and the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA). The CATA started in 1904, was actively involved in the show for years, and assumed show sponsorship in 1935. Celebration ran throughout the 1954 auto show event, with celebrities such as future US President Ronald Reagan and entertainer Cab Calloway making appearances. New at the 1954 show was a "winner's circle," which displayed competition cars. Visitors also saw the panoramic windshields new to Buicks and Cadillacs, the new "Y-block" engines which replaced Ford's flathead V-8s, and the sharp, Loewy-styled Studebaker. Later that year, Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson would merge to form American Motors Corporation, and Studebaker and Packard would join to become Studebaker-Packard Corporation. On the right is a view of the enormous 10-tier cake that was served during the the anniversary dinner, held on March 15, 1954.
Nash Metropolitan convertible is being undraped at the Nash exhibit on the auto-show floor. Show manager Edward L. Cleary (left) is joined by unidentified man and female model.
A "community queen" leans against a chauffeur-driven 1954 Packard Caribbean convertible, during the "Wheels of Progress" stage revue. Only 400 Caribbean convertibles were produced, plus 863 regular convertibles in the upper Packard series. Enlarged to 359 cubic inches, Packard's straight-eight engine produced 212 horsepower.
A community queen leans against a chauffeur-driven 1954 Plymouth Belvedere convertible, during the "Wheels of Progress" stage revue at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show. Facelifted for 1954, Plymouth still came only with a six-cylinder engine. This well-equipped example wears wire wheels and a continental spare tire (not quite visible in photo).
A "community queen" stands in front of a chauffeur-driven 1954 Kaiser-Darrin convertible, during the "Wheels of Progress" stage revue at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show. A boulevard sports car, the Kaiser-Darrin featured sliding doors and a tiny grille, with a fiberglass body. Beneath the hood was a 161-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine (smaller than the engine in Kaiser sedans). Only 435 were produced, all 1954 models priced at a hefty $3,668 ($998 more than a Kaiser Manhattan sedan).
Four elaborately costumed female performers posed onstage during the "Wheels of Progress" stage revue at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show.
A big hit at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show was the prototype 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Entertainer Cab Calloway posed behind the wheel of the stylish two-seater while at the show. The display car wore the removable hardtop and came with a 292 CID V-8, mated to Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission.
Ronald Reagan, future California governor and 40th President of the United States, served as the Grand Marshall at the 1954 show. The sign on the antique curve-dash Olds states that the 1904 car was built the same year the Chicago Auto Trade Association was chartered.
U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) is at the podium during the South Side Day luncheon held by the Southtown Economist Newspaper, on Thursday, March 18, 1954. Thursday was traditionally South Side Day at the auto show.
Close-up view of 1954 Studebaker Commander Starliner two-door hardtop on a raised platform with rotating floor. A sign states that this is "The Only Dream Car You Can Buy Today!" Other Studebaker models are in the background. The station wagon at right rear, is a Commander Regal. Note the horse-drawn stagecoach artwork on the wall hanging in background.
Scene in front of the Hudson exhibit features several 1954 models. On the raised platform is an Italian-built, aluminum-bodied Hudson Italia, of which only 26 were produced. A Hornet Hollywood two-door hardtop coupe is in the foreground. Note the split windshield, at a time when nearly all makes had gone to single-piece curved front glass. In the background, a Hornet was turned on its side to expose the undercarriage.
Three cars are visible in a corner of the Cadillac exhibit during the 1954 auto show. On the raised platform is the two-passenger La Espada concept car. Note the padded roof on the Cadillac Coupe de Ville on the lower left foreground.
Five car models are positioned around a center exhibit of three V-8 engines at the Buick display area on the show floor. At left front is a Special four-door sedan; at right front, a Century two-door hardtop with rare vinyl roof and wire wheel options. Note the Skylark sign and a partial (obscured) view of that car far to the rear in this photo.
Scene shot from outside the Packard exhibit area shows seven different models on display. Cars in front are (left to right): a Patrician four-door sedan; Caribbean convertible; and Clipper two-door hardtop. Behind the Caribbean is the Panther-Daytona concept convertible (one of four prototypes built).
Inside the Hudson exhibit on the show floor, Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly poses with female model and the aluminum-bodied Hudson Italia coupe. Designed by Carrozzeria Touring, in Milan, Italy, the Italia was powered by a 114 horsepower Hudson Jet engine, and built on a 105 inch wheelbase. Doors were recessed 14 inches into the roof line, and interior featured leather upholstery. Only 26 Italias were produced.
Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly hands out U.S. Savings Bonds to six high school students who won the annual Traffic Safety Slogan Contest.
Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly (third from left) is shaking hands with an unidentified man inside the Earl Dunne General Tire booth, in the aftermarket area on the show floor. To the mayor's left are show manager Edward L. Cleary (left) and show chairman James F. Goodwin. The man at far left also is unidentified.
Large crowd at the Ford display area is gathered around a Thunderbird with its top down, blocking most of the view of the car. Following its appearance at the Chicago Auto Show, the two-passenger Thunderbird went into production as a 1955 model.
In the Ford display area, a line of people waits to get into the draped-off area that serves as the "Ford Theatre." A Cinemascope movie featuring "Behind the Scenes Planning" of the '54 Ford will playing. The clock near the movie entrance states that the next showing is at 4:40 p.m. Note the masks of "Comedy and Tragedy," plus, the two large Ford car and truck emblems above the movie entrance. Boys in foreground are wearing jackets from Lane Technical High School.
A family of six poses with an F-Series pickup truck at the Ford truck exhibit. The pickup has a special paint job and hand-painted gold "Firestone" lettering on the wide whitewall tires. Neat and tidy in their "sunday" best clothing, was how people dressed to attend the auto show in the 1950s.
At the International truck exhibit area on the show floor, the new "One Hundred" series pickup truck is on the raised platform at the rear. Several large announcement signs are visible. Trucks at front are (left to right): Travella (partial view); two-tone One Hundred pickup (direct front view); and Metro delivery truck (partially blocked). In the lower right foreground is an exposed International six-cylinder engine.
At the Kaiser Willys exhibit area on the show floor, a smiling female model sits behind the wheel of a basic civilian Jeep, which is fitted with a plow on the front and a large tiller apparatus attached to the rear.
A 1951 Pontiac stock car is featured at the exhibit area for the Chicago Auto Racing Association, on the show floor. A sign on the hood states that this car held the world's record for one lap (for its class) on a quarter-mile paved track. More than two dozen trophies are partially blocking the view of the car. Signs on the car's roof advertise stock-car racing at Soldier Field.
The "Chicagoan," a fiberglass-bodied sports car on a 100-inch wheelbase, is seen in the right-hand portion of the exhibit space for Triplex Industries, a company that designed and fabricated custom-built models. At the left is a front view of the frame of the Chicagoan, which was advertised as a safety frame. At far left is a small display with information on "Polyester--The Miracle Plastic," used for the body of the Chicagoan.
At the Rahr "Color Clinic" booth on the show floor, a slanted counter contains recessed samples of 120 different exterior paint colors for automobiles. A woman behind the counter is handing round chips to a female attendee. A sign explains that people may vote with a red chip for the color they prefer, and with a blue chip for the color they now have. A woman sits at a table on the far left, with pencil, paper, and a mechanical counter to tally the choices.
A man wearing a suit and bowtie stands behind the counter at the booth for the Auto-Clip Company, with samples of various-colored Auto-Clips. Priced at 39 cents, the specially-designed Auto-Clip incorporated three different-size loops and could attach to any sunvisor, holding objects ranging from sunglasses to maps, at the same time. Many signs explaining the product and its potential applications are posted around the booth.
The battery-powered, three-wheeler Autoette, a golf-cart size vehicle, was featured in the Rapid Sales Company exhibit during the 1954 Chicago Auto Show. Also on display was an electric car from 1904.
Safety experts today would probably be aghast at the sight of the booth for "Sto-A-Way " seats, at the 1954 auto show. This product was a tiny multi-purpose device that attached under the car's dashboard and pulled out via a metal scissors-opening device, then sat on metal legs on the front seat. It could serve as a baby seat, tabletop, or writing table. When finished, it folded away again under the dash. In the booth is an actual car seat and dashboard, along with a baby doll that's buckled onto a Sto-A-Way seat.
Five of the 21 winning "community beauty queens" chosen for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show posed together, each wearing her community's name on a shoulder sash.
All of the 21 winning "community beauty queens" that were selected for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show posed together in a Chicago hotel. Each queen is wearing a shoulder sash with the printed name of the community she represented.
One of General Motors most radical looking dream cars of the 1950s was the Buick Wildcat II. First shown in 1954, the Wildcat II featured portholes atop the hood, freestanding headlights, chromed and louvered front fender liners, plus twin spotlights that flanked the Panoramic windshield. Rear fenderlines and taillights were similar to those used on the 1954 Skylark production model. Smallest Buick built, only 48-inches tall, and rolled on a 100-inch wheelbase. Under the sculpted hood sat a 220 horsepower, 322 cubic inch V-8 with four carburetors, which enabled the Wildcat II to hit over 100 miles per hour.
Behind the wheel of the experimental Cadillac La Espada two-seat convertible is actor Ronald Regan. Before he was the 33rd governor of California and 40th President of the United States, Regan served as Grand Marshal during 1954 Chicago Auto Show. The La Espada was a completely functional dream car built of fiberglass and gave promises of things to come. It predicted future Cadillac design cues like quad headlights, wraparound windshield, dual taillights and jet fins similar to the 1958 model. Under the V-shaped hood was a modified Cadillac high compression V-8 engine.
Unidentified woman waves while posing behind the wheel of the Cadillac La Espada concept convertible, at the Cadillac exhibit area on the show floor. Car door is open, giving a partial view of the custom interior, including nacelle headrests for each occupant. The fiberglass-bodied, two-passenger La Espada featured tall tailfins that suggested the shape of fins to come on future cars. It also helped pave the way for the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.
La Comtesse, Chrysler’s show car was based on a New Yorker Deluxe Newport two-door hardtop, featuring a full-length plexiglass roof panel, continental rear tire mount, Kelsey-Hayes wire spoke wheels, and custom trim. Created for the feminine customer, the exterior was a two-tone dusty rose with a pigeon gray top. The six-passenger interior of the La Comtesse was finished in cream and dusty rose leather with seat back inserts of platinum brocatelle. Under the hood, sat a 235 horsepower Firepower V-8, teamed with a PowerFlite automatic transmission.
In 1954, Chicagoans witnessed the debut of the dashing Dodge Firearrow convertible dream car, surrounded by twirling ballerina mannequins. Power train consisted of a 150 horsepower, 241-cubic-inch V-8, connected to the PowerFlite automatic transmission. Up front, the dual headlights hint of a coming trend in automotive design, and twin chrome exhaust tailpipes were located at the bottom of the rear fenders. A glimpse of the bold harlequin-patterned black and white leather cockpit is seen in front of the boot cover. The sign above the Dodge exhibit proclaimed, “ Elegance In Action.”
Dream cars from the early 1950s borrowed heavily from jet aircraft styling, like the futuristic Ford FX-Atmos. Appearing at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show, the FX-Atmos featured a glass dome roof, tail fins, rocket exhaust taillights and needle-like radio antennae protruding from front fender pods. The radical cockpit had a center-mounted driver’s seat and two-passenger rear seats. Dual handgrips replaced the normal steering wheel and the dash-mounted "Roadarscope" radar screen provided highway information.
Initially introduced as a dream car called Super Jet, Hudson renamed the prototype Italia, because the body was designed and produced in Italy. Unique styling cues included a triangle-centered front bumper, scoops above the headlights, taillights mounted in three exhaust pipe-like tubes, and real wire wheels. Both the concept and production models used the 114 horsepower engine and three-speed transmission out of the Hudson Jet compact car. The streamlined silhouette was nearly 10 inches lower than standard Hudson models. A small run of 25 Italia units was manufactured in 1954.
In 1954, Lincoln featured specially trimmed production models for auto show duties, just as it did the previous year. The Mardi Gras was based on a Capri two-door hardtop that had a special ice blue, gold and red interior. There was also a convertible called the Huntsman and a four-door sedan tabbed the First Nighter. Both featured special interiors and trim.
Making a distinctive debut in Chicago was the forward-looking Lincoln Capri with a transparent top treatment
(ala Mercury Sun Valley/Ford Skyliner). Rear quarter panels and acutely angled taillights appear on the 1955 production Lincoln. Front grille and bumper were also similar to the 1955 Lincoln. Bench seats were upholstered in gray, accented by an overlaid of black and light gray chalk stripes. Ceiling was white gabardine. The Premiere name would appear on Lincolns, starting with the 1956 models. This example had a black body and white roof.
One of three Mercury “Visions of Styling” show cars displayed at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show was the Carnival two-door hardtop. Based on a Monterey, the eye-catching two-tone exterior featured a red roof over yellow body. Inside the cabin was a treatment of yellow confetti and siren red vinyl. The two other Mercury "visions"- the Resorter convertible and Fantasy four-door sedan - were also based on Montereys. Unfortunately, no images of those cars at the show have been located – yet!
Mercury’s fabulous XM-800 dream car was a true glimpse into future automotive designs. It was lower, wider and longer than any previous Mercury. Though the XM-800 did not see production, its profile, forward-slanted hooded headlights, covered front wheels and slender, canted taillight rear bumper/exhaust combo were reinterpreted onto the 1956 Lincoln. The XM-800’s styling also featured a concave front grille, wide wrap around windshield, and flush type door handles. Both exterior and interior were finished in pearlescent white and copper tones. For passenger comfort, the individual-contoured seats had stationary armrests, and contained controls for various functions.
Sharing the 102-inch wheelbase and fiberglass body of the Corvette, the gold-tone Oldsmobile F-88 dream machine was introduced in 1954. Styling cues like bullet-shaped taillights and open mouth grille/bumper combination mimicked those featured on the full-size production Olds. Unique components on the F-88 included vertical exhaust outlets and plastic bubbles over the headlights. Unlike the 1954 Corvette that came with a six-cylinder engine, the Olds F-88 had a 250 horsepower, 324 cubic inch Rocket V-8 shoehorned into the engine compartment. Highlighting the two-passenger cockpit was a gearshift between seats, vertical instrument panel with chronometer and tachometer.
Plymouth's sleek Belmont concept car rode on a Dodge chassis and was powered by a Dodge V-8. It was the first Plymouth experimental car with a light plastic body; had an overall length of nearly 192-inches and was only 32 inch high at the top of the door. The 150 horsepower engine came mated to Plymouth's Hy-Drive three-speed semi-automatic transmission. Finished in a light green metallic paint, the Belmont’s exterior went well with the white leather two-seater interior and had a full set of racing instruments, and radio controls built-into the center armrest.