I remember the first time I went to what was then still called the Detroit Auto Show. Which is, of course, what most people still call it anyway. This was in the early 1970s.
My main reaction to it was . . . depression. At the time, I was a student, and drove a blue 1968 Chevy with a case of oil in the trunk. That was because I knew that if I didn’t put another quart of oil in every fifty miles, the engine would blow up.
I didn’t think I would ever be able to afford any of the auto show cars, most of which had beautiful women wearing spangles draped across them. I knew none of them would ever look at me either. I remember only two of the actual cars.
One was a Lincoln which cost . . . $10,000. My mentality then was that anything costing that much should come with a basement.
The other car I remember was an American Motors Pacer, which, if you haven’t seen one, looked exactly like a pregnant guppy.
It was hard to believe that somebody would build a car like that, and harder to believe that someone would buy one. When American Motors went out of business some years later, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. What has always surprised me is why Detroit holds this show when it does -- at the worst time of year.
Global warming, or an accident of nature, seems to have played havoc with our climate this year, but January in Detroit is normally nasty. As in dark, cold, windy, icy, and, well, nasty.
Nor is the Cobo Center an especially easy place to drive up to; you have to park and walk a fair way.
When you consider that there already thousands of suburbanites who wouldn’t come into the city on a June afternoon to pick up free dollar bills, holding the auto show in the dead of winter seems somewhat self-defeating.
Now I have to say for the record that I am not a normal son of Detroit. I now drive a car that looks like a toaster. That doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at fine cars. I absolutely love the display of beautifully restored classic vehicles called the Concours d’Elegance that takes place at Meadow Brook estate every August.
The folks who run the North American International Auto Show don’t think they need my advice. But here it is: Move the show to October, Michigan’s prettiest month. And move it to the Pontiac Silverdome, where the Lions used to lose their football games.
Pontiac could use the revenue at least as much as Detroit. There is a vast amount of space and vast amounts of parking. You would draw more people. The auto industry might even gain leverage with our politicians, who are usually running for office then.
Think about it. Oh, and this time … leave the Pacer in the museum.