Many Americans thought nothing would ever interfere with their enjoyment of the automobile. They were mistaken. By 1974, considerable change already had occurred, and more was imminent. As the 66th Chicago Auto Show was beginning, the OPEC oil embargo remained in force. Gasoline lines were the rule. Rationing had not occurred, but tempers grew short when gas stations limited sales to a few gallons. Fuel shortages notwithstanding, Chicagoans still attended their beloved auto show en masse. Keeping in tune with consumer necessity and demand, Ford displayed a smaller, lighter Mustang II for 1974. No more V8 engines were available, but the Mustang II could at least get a V6 instead of the standard four-cylinder. And long before airbags went into American cars, GM experiemented with the idea, installing primitive airbags (known as the Air Cushion Restraint System) in their mid-1970s models. The Oldsmobile Toronado was the first to be fitted with the device.
A handful of cars are in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, outside of McCormick Place East, which contained the 1974 auto show at the time. People who parked their vehicles on the west side of the outer drive would walk under the roadway via a tunnel to reach the exposition center. On the left, soaring over the city, is Willis Tower (formally known as Sears Tower). Standing at 1,450 feet and 110 stories high, it is the tallest building in the western hemisphere.
Deep shot of the main floor display area shows the brightly lit and colorful American Motors Corporation exhibit. In the foreground is an Ambassador Brougham four-door station wagon. On the far left is a two-tone Javelin hardtop. In the middle, on a raised platform, are three Matador two-door sedans.
In the foreground of the brightly lit American Motors Corporation exhibit, is a front view of a Gremlin X two-door sedan. On the raised platform, mid-photo, is an example of the Gremlin X "Levi's" interior edition, with upholstery based on the familiar blue jeans. On the right, toward the rear, is a 3/4 rear view of a red and white Jeep Cherokee ‘S’ two-door station wagon.
In the foreground of the brightly-lit Cadillac exhibit is a partial rear view of a red Calais coupe. A side view of a Fleetwood four-door stretched limousine is positioned mid-photo, with a free-standing display of Cadillac bench seating directly behind it.
Inside the Oldsmobile exhibit is a Cutlass GMO (Gallant Men Of Olds) two-door sedan on a raised platform, and a green Cutlass station wagon on the right side.
Dominating the foreground of the Pontiac exhibit is a side view of a Grand Am two-door coupe. Directly above is a similarly-sized (but less expensive) blue LeMans two-door coupe. The blue car on the raised platform in the background is a Grand Prix, and another white Grand Am is on the far right.
In the foreground of the '72 Pontiac exhibit is a side view of a light green LeMans Safari four-door station wagon with simulated wood grain trim. Directly above on the left side, is a 3/4 rear view of a Grand Am two-door coupe. A Grand Prix coupe is on the raised circular platform under the Pontiac sign.
Long before airbags were standard equipment in American vehicles, General Motors experimented with an idea it called "Air Cushion Restraint System." A special display at the '74 Chicago show demonstrated the concept to an indifferent or skeptical audience. Several thousand mid-1970s Oldsmobile models were manufactured with the primitive airbags.
A large sign is in the foreground of the Ford exhibit during the 1974 Chicago Auto Show. Under that, is a sign indicating that you’re at Ford's "Small Car Headquarters." On the right is a Ford four-cylinder engine sitting on a free-standing display. A silver Mustang II is positioned directly behind the engine, and on the far left is a partial front view of a red Mustang II. Several Mavericks can be glimpsed in the background.
Three Thunderbird two-door hardtops fill a section of the Ford exhibitor space on the main level inside McCormick Place East.. A Lincoln 460 cubic inch V-8 engine that produced 220 horsepower, became standard in '74 Thunderbirds. Either a glass moon roof or a steel sunroof could be orered.
In the foreground at the brightly lit, colorful Lincoln-Mercury exhibit area is a side view of a Cougar XR-7 twoi-door hardtop. On the raised platform, which rotated, is another Cougar XR-7. Only the XR-7 edition of the Cougar was available for 1974.
In the foreground of the colorful Plymouth exhibit is a view of the opened sunroof on a Duster 2-door coupe. On the raised platform, which rotated, is a 3/4 front view of another Duster 2-door coupe. Plymouth's television image girl at the time was "Mean Mary Jean."
Seen in close-up, a single Avanti II is displayed within a roped-off area. These limited-production cars were manufactured at the old Studebaker factory in South Bend, Indiana. Avantis in the 1970s used GM powertrains.
Several imported Mitsubishi-built Colt models can be seen inside the colorful Dodge exhibit. Dodge imported the Colt from Japan. In the left corner is a Colt 4-door station wagon. On the right is a rear view of a Colt 2-door. Under the "DODGE COLT" sign, sitting on a raised platform that rotated, is a Colt 2-door hardtop. Another sign states that the area is the "Colt Corral."
Several Colts were on display in the Dodge import and truck exhibit on the lower level of McCormick Place East. Dodge imported the Mitsubishi-built Colt from Japan. In the foreground is a four-door sedan on the left and a two-door hardtop on the right. Sitting on the raised platform is a four-door wagon. Portions of Dodge trucks can be glimpsed in the background.
The large sign inside the Lincoln-Mercury imported car exhibit, located on the lower level of McCormick Place, promoted the Capri, but the prominent vehicle on the raised platform was the exotic Italian-built DeTomaso Pantera L. Pantera, Italian for Panther, featured a 248 horsepower Ford Cleveland V-8 engine. The front end of a 2.8-liter V-6 Capri can be glimpsed on the other side of the platform divider.
Close up view inside the British Leyland Motors' Austin subsidiary exhibit featured a white Marina GT two-door coupe in the foreground. Another Marina GT is on the raised circular platform. Portions of two Marina four-door sedans can be glimpsed toward the rear.
In the foreground inside the Triumph section of the British Leyland Motors exhibit is a close-up view of the interior of a TR6 roadster. Next, is a 3/4 rear view of a Triumph Spitfire roadster. Another TR6, with a removable hardtop in place, is mid-photo at right. The race car on the raised platform at far right is a Spitfire roadster. Several Jaguars can be glimpsed, including an XJ12C on a raised platform, and a white XJ6 sedan at left.
Three vehicles are prominent inside the Porsche Audi exhibit, featuring a yellow Porsche 914 with removable hardtop roof in the foreground. Directly above the 914 is a portion of a red Audi 100 two-door sedan. On the left is a Porsche 911 Targa, with its hardtop panel section in place.
Two SM coupes were featured in the small Citroen exhibit, with one positioned on a rotating platform. Though slow in sales, the Citroen SM was indisputably among the most distinctive automobiles to be found on any road. This was the final full-production year for the SM, though 135 additional examples were built for Citroen in 1974-75 by the Ligier organization.
Within the roped-off Ferrari exhibit, four models were on display. In the foreground is a side view of a Dino 246 GTS. The car on the right is a 365 GTS 4 with its convertible top down. Another Dino 246 GTS is in the upper right corner of the display. On the left is a front view of a yellow 365 GTB 4.
Photograph taken outside the Fiat exhibit captured a small water fountain in the foreground, and a profile of the Fiat X1/9 mid-engine sports car. Angled signs promoted the 2-passenger X1/9, with its 1290-cc engine, as "A thoroughbred Fiat."
Italian-built supercars were big hits at the auto show through the 1970s, like Ferrari, Lamborghini, De Tomaso and Maserati. In 1974, Maserati brought four examples of its new Merak sports coupe to Chicago and exhibited them with a large, carpeted representation of its trident emblem. Exotic styling by renowned designer Giorgetto Giugiaro featured two buttresses running from the roofline to the rear of the car. Port of entry price of $21,700 dollars included a 190 horsepower, mid-mounted 3.0 liter V-6 engine, teamed with a five-speed ZF manual gearbox.
Inside of the Toyota exhibit. A Corolla two-door sedan dominates the foreground of this scene, with F101 concept car above, posed on a raised platform. A second prototype vehicle is on the left.
In the colorful Volkswagen exhibit, various models were arranged in a square shape. In the lower left corner is a 3/4 front view of a Super Beetle convertible. To the right of the Beetle is a 3/4 rear view of a Karman Ghia convertible. Portions of a Beetle coupe and a white Thing convertible complete the arrangement. Mid-photo, are side views of two Dasher 2-door sedans, which were new for 1974 and had water-cooled front engines.
A variety of basic transportation was displayed at the 1974 Chicago Auto Show by GB Enterprises. On the stand is the Vanguard Electric CitiCar. It carried two passengers and was said to cruise at 28 mph and have a range of 50 miles. Also in the confines were Vespa and Labretta motor scooters as well as a couple of mopeds.
In the foreground of the Jeep exhibit, is an roped-off, exposed Wagoneer chassis/powertrain. The sign above the chassis promoted the Jeep "Quadra-Trac" full-time four-wheel drive system. Behind the sign is a rear portion of a Wagoneer with an opened, foldable camping tent set up on its roof. On the left is a portion of a Jeep Pioneer pickup truck with a camper top over the bed section.
Close-up view Inside of the '74 Jeep exhibit, captured a V-8 powered Renegade on a raised platform. Note the vehicle's rollbar setup. Several other Jeep models can be glimpsed in the background.
In the foreground of the Chevrolet truck exhibit is the front of an El Camino car/pickup. On the right side is a specially-equipped Vega panel wagon, with custom vinyl-covered rear roof section. The overhead signage reads, "Value and economy started with Chevy Trucks a long time ago," and that "Chevrolet trucks are No. 1 in sales."
A bright red Ford F-350 (one-ton) four-door crew-cab pickup truck, and side view of an F-350 pickup truck with windowed camper top over its bed area were featured in the Ford truck exhibit on the lower level of McCormick Place East.
Occupying the foreground inside of the Ford truck exhibit space, is a F-150 two-door pickup truck. To the right is the "Freddie Ford" robot, a popular entertainment at the auto show. Mid-photo right is an Econoline window van, and on the left, an F-250 four-wheel drive pickup truck.
Seen in a 7/8 front view, is the stylish two-toned Ranchero two-door car/pickup truck, inside of Ford truck exhibit. A portion of an F-150 pickup truck can be seen on the raised platform on the right. Mid-photo, to the right of the center column, is a Bronco.
Scene outside of the GMC Motor Home exhibit area, captured a 3/4 front view of the six-wheeled V-8 powered motor home. On the left is the rear section of another example, with the name "Rainbow's End" lettered on the spare-tire cover.
Looking west from McCormick Place East, across several lanes of the southbound Lake Shore Drive, is the now-defunct McCormick Inn Hotel.
A custom version of the Vega 2-door Panel Express was part of the Chevrolet truck exhibit at the 1974 Chicago show. Based on General Motors H-body compact wagon, the one-off concept wore a black padded roof, rectangular opera window and luggage carrier.
The special Ford Mustang II Sportiva show car was center staged in the exhibit for the all-new 1974 Mustang II production models. The targa-styled Sportiva featured a removable roof panel and rear window. Body was painted white, with black accents, and the chrome wheels had bright yellow centers.
Toyota displayed the F101 concept, and promoted it as "the sedan of the future." With only 97 horsepower, the F101 used the same 2-liter engine found in the 1974 Corona. The oriental prototype featured four-wheel disc brakes and a fully independent suspension.