The final 80s edition of the Chicago Auto Show offered consumers a glimpse into the trend for the 90s: quality. Many of the new-for-1989 models featured improved handling and increased horsepower over 1988 cars, and quality started to become the new buzz word in the industry. Enthusiasm for performance cars was making a comeback. It was possible to purchase an emissions-legal 385 BHP Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 from your local dealer in 1989, and even with all the required safety and emissions devices, the car was the fastest and best-handling production Corvette made to that time.
Veteran radio broadcaster Paul Harvey (left) poses for the photographer while shaking hands with Frank Mauthe, CATA director of public relations and advertising. A bulletin board behind the men holds clippings related to the Chicago Auto Show. Mauthe is holding an auto show program.
Following a news conference to introduce the new Mitsubishi Eclipse, Illinois governor James R. Thompson is speaking to an unidentified journalist. A joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler Corp., the new Diamond-Star plant at Bloomington-Normal began to turn out Eclipses, Eagle Talons, and Plymouth Lasers, introduced as early 1990 models. A picture of the Eclipse is above the governor's head.
Chicago's acting Mayor, Eugene Sawyer (second from right) poses at the City of Chicago exhibit with four men.
Illinois Secretary of State Jim Edgar (right) poses with Joseph Hennessy, a CATA director.
Big white numerals in the red carpeting on the upper level make it clear that this is the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. All of the foreground of this scene is vacant, but farther to the rear, Ford's exhibit space is at left and Chevrolet's at right. Note the large sign promoting the fact that the Ford Thunderbird SC has been named Motor Trend Car of the Year. Cars in the foreground are a Ford Thunderbird (left) and Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 (right), the latter equipped with a transparent hood.
A 1990 Corvette ZR-1, seen in the foreground of the Chevrolet exhibit, is featured during the ’89 Chicago Auto Show. For display purposes, the high-performance model wore a transparent hood to highlight the brand new 5.7-liter (350 cubic inch) V-8 engine that developed 385 horsepower.
The 1990 Corvette ZR-1, a super-performance model introduced by Chevrolet that year, was on display during the ’89 Chicago Auto Show, with its four-cam, 32-valve 5.7-liter (350 cubic inch) V-8 engine displayed beneath a transparent hood. Across the aisle, a sign promotes the Ford Thunderbird.
Three Chevrolet-powered racing vehicles were on display in the Chevy exhibit at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. Beneath two of the displays was a sign that read, “Beware The Red Bowtie." In the foreground is a white Corvette coupe wearing the #98 and the name of Tom Bell. In the center of the scene is a yellow Indy 500 open-wheeled race car; and to the right, a NASCAR Mr. Goodwrench #3 Lumina coupe.
Pictured on the left side of a large Chevrolet neon sign is a Chevrolet Cavalier convertible. Further back in the Chevy exhibit is a Corsica four-door sedan. The scene was photographed on the main floor of McCormick Place East during the 1989 Chicago Auto Show.
Billed as "America's Largest Luxury Car," a Fleetwood Brougham is in the foreground of this scene at Cadillac's upper-level exhibit. A special display at right promotes the ElectriClear heated windshield. Broughams used a 140-horsepower, 5.0-liter (307-cid) V-8 engine, versus 4.5-liter (273-cid) for other Cadillac models, which may be seen toward the rear.
Mazda typically uses the Chicago Auto Show to introduce new models to the public for the first time. During the ’89 show, the two-seater MX-5 "Miata" convertible had its world's unveiling, which demonstrated how the Japanese would create a British roadster.
A silver-colored concept coupe on a raised platform is near the center of this crowd scene on the upper level, which focuses on Oldsmobile's display space. Several production Oldsmobile models may be seen among the people. Chevrolet's exhibit space is toward the rear, featuring the new Lumina APV minivan.
A small group has gathered at Pontiac's upper-level display space to look over a red Grand Prix on a raised platform. A female presenter, wearing a dress and high heels in shades not far removed from the car, is facing away from the camera, speaking into a microphone.
A sign on a display unit promotes Chrysler's Millennium Safety Car, but that vehicle is hidden in this shot. The only car that's fully visible is a red Conquest coupe, which was produced in Japan by Mitsubishi. Glimpses of other models may be seen toward the rear.
Details of the New Yorker Landau sedan that's sitting on a large raised display unit at Chrysler's exhibit space are not so easy to see, as the car is facing directly away from the camera. Several other cars can be seen farther to the rear, either wholly or partially, including a red LeBaron convertible at far left.
A white Thunderbird coupe is in the left foreground of this scene at a corner of Ford's upper-level display space. Additional Thunderbirds may be seen toward the right, along the aisle. Note the overhead sign at rear, which proclaims that the Thunderbird SC (supercharged) has been named Motor Trend Car of the Year.
An elegant display, with broad steps that look like marble, is used to enhance the Continental sedan seen at the Lincoln exhibit area. Ahead of the Continental is a Mark VII coupe. Continentals came with V-6 engines, while the Mark II held a V-8.
Nissan redesigned its 300ZX for 1990 and gave those attending the ’89 Chicago Auto Show an early look at its performance sports car.
Making its North American debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the aerodynamic, seven-passenger Ghia Saguaro concept is seen in the foreground of the Ford exhibit. Built by Ghia of Turin, it featured a steeply raked windshield, fastback roof, flush door glass and door handles, wraparound taillights and a liftgate that draped over onto the roof. A red Mustang is sitting to the right of the Saguaro.
Acura used the 1989 Chicago Auto Show to measure reaction to the prototype NS-X exotic sports car. The public loved it and it went on sale in the fall of 1990 as a ‘91 model called NSX, minus the hyphen.
Several Jaguars are featured at the British automaker's lower-level exhibit stand, but the XJ-S coupe in the foreground is partially blocked by a floral display stand. Most of an XJ6 Vanden Plas, the most posh sedan model, can be see at right, and a white XJ6 is at far left. A red Jaguar, difficult to discern behind a decorative post, is on a raised platform toward the rear. XJ6 sedans used six-cylinder engines, while the XJS coupe and convertible had V-12 power.
A black Countach coupe is one of three vehicles on display at the enclosed lower-level stand for Italian-built Lamborghini models. A red Countach sits on a raised platform toward the rear. At left is Lamborghini's unique sport-utility vehicle, the LM002. Its body loaded with air inlets and doodads, pyramids and geometric patterns, the Countach was facing its final season on the market, having emerged in Europe in 1974 and reaching the U.S. in '76.
Three automobiles are positioned along the aisle at the Mercedes-Benz space on the upper level, sitting ahead of a pillared display stand. At far left is a black 560SEC coupe (with a 5.6-liter V-8). Occupying the center of the photo is a red 560SL coupe/roadster, next to one of Mercedes-Benz's long sedans.
A silver-colored 911 cabriolet sits behind ropes at the Porsche lower-level display stand, below a pillared overhead sign that gives the company name. Actually, the car appears to be a 911 Speedster, a new model this year with two-passenger capacity (lacking the usual minimal back seat) and a cut down windshield. Portions of other Porsche models may be seen farther toward the rear.
Sitting behind a low fence, a red Cornice convertible sits in a corner of the Rolls-Royce display stand on the lower level. Sticker price for the Corniche was $205,500. A dark Bentley Mulsanne sedan can be seen at far left.
A large sign bearing the corporate logo dominates the foreground of this scene at the lower-level exhibit space for Sterling automobiles, but several examples can be seen. Produced in Britain, Sterlings adopted a new 2.7-liter V-6 engine this year, borrowed from the Acura Legend. A four-door hatchback body style joined the original notchback sedan. A red hatchback 827SLI sits on a raised platform toward the rear of this scene.
A white racing car, only partially visible in this scene, sits atop a special technology exhibit at the Toyota display stand. A staircase leads up to the racing Toyota, and a sign advises that the upper level can hold only 18 people. A sign at far left, on the main floor, refers to the Atlantic Series race car, only a tiny corner of which is visible.
Still based on the old Rabbit design, a red Cabriolet with white fabric top dominates this scene at the Volkswagen display stand. To its rear is the Volkswagen Theater, with a continuous-running promotional show.
A Volvo sedan demonstrates the effect of having been crashed into a barrier in this scene at the Volvo Safety Gallery at the auto show. Volvo, as always, promoted safety first in all of its vehicles. Though the front end has been crumpled, damage hasn’t reached the occupant cabin to injury the test dummies.
Rather than vehicles, this shot at the Dodge Truck exhibit stand on the lower level focuses on a special display: a rock-like representation of Mount Rushmore, featuring portraits of the four great American presidents.
At the Dodge Truck exhibit stand on the lower level of McCormick Place East, two showgoers are looking over a special display of a Ram engine: specifically, a Cummins Turbo Diesel. At the rear, Dodge's special Mount Rushmore exhibit can be seen.
A silver-blue Roadster dominates this scene at the exhibit space for neo-classic Excalibur automobiles, built in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Either a 305- or 350-cid V-8 engine could be installed. Note the sidemounted spare tire, exposed exhaust pipes, separate bumpers, and external headlights and horns. Two Excalibur Town Sedans may be seen toward the rear.
Two conversion vans are in the foreground of this scene, parked at corners of the exhibit space. The van at left is a Gerwin conversion; the Ford at left is identified as a Lorain Motor Coach product. Another conversion van may be seen farther to the rear.
A Cadillac coupe has been fitted with several custom add-ons, displayed at the booth for Chick's Auto Center, Inc., which provides upholstery, tires, and theft repair. The Cadillac has a "continental" rear-mounted spare tire and a convertible-like roof, with matching blue trim.
The concept Dodge Viper proved to be an immediate success and had performance enthusiasts sending the automaker blank deposit checks. Auto shows are used to judge consumer reaction to potential production models, and Viper got a huge thumbs up. It would come out in 1992.
Finished in monochromatic black, the Lincoln Ghia Continental was a unique display vehicle prepared by Ford Motor Company's Ghia studio in Turin, Italy. The car had a custom front air dam that incorporated round driving lights, lower body side skirts and an electrically adjustable rear spoiler. Ghia also lowered the suspension of the Ghia Continental and designed new 17-inch wheels.
Ford and Mazda combined talents and developed the fiberglass Mercury One compact car concept. Outstanding aerodynamics was achieved by flush glass all around and smooth integrated body panels. The Mercury One indicated the design philosophy of future Mercury Tracer and Ford Escort.
Oldsmobile’s Aerotech II stood only 48 inches high, and featured a glass-covered rear deck. The rear panel was split and opened from either side for access. Power was supplied by the 2.3 liter Quad 4 engine. Interior held a color navigation monitor that was programmed with compact discs.
Plymouth designers crossed a high-performance motorcycle and 2-place roadster and created the Speedster concept vehicle. The Speedster was powered by a Mitsubishi-built 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, had no roof, but featured a roll bar and cut-down wrap-around windshield. Painted black, the body was accented by fluorescent green wheels and yellow bucket seats.
Pontiac's concept vehicle for 1989 was aimed directly at the youth market and called "Stinger". As an all-season multipurpose prototype, the Stinger rode on a short wheelbase chassis, and the two-tone, green and gray carbon-fiber body could be modified from a closed coupe to an open air fun-in-the-sun driving. The windshield and glass panel doors could be removed, and a 170 horsepower, 3.0-liter 4-cylinder engine propelled the all-wheel drive system. Mated to the Super-Duty-based engine was a Hydra-Matic gearbox. When needed, the pneumatic suspension would raise the car 4-inches.