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Chicago 2005: Another landmark auto show

November 22, 2010
Landmarks can be defined a number of ways. They can be an object that marks boundaries or a locality. They can be a structure that's used as a point of orientation in relation to other structures. They can be an event or development that marks a turning point or a stage. And they can also be a structure of unusual historic and aesthetic interest. The 2005 Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 11-20 at McCormick Place , meets all those criteria. Since its inception in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show has continually stepped up to the plate to bring new vehicles, new displays and new attractions to its audience. The 97th edition of this great tradition appears to have all the right ingredients in place. "We've never had such a pre-show buzz as we have this year," said 2005 Chicago Auto Show Chairman Casey Wickstrom. "There's a great deal of anticipation about the new cars, trucks, SUVs, project cars and the show-stopper concepts that will fill more of McCormick Place than the public has ever seen. "This year's expansion to a whopping 1.2 million square feet-42 percent larger than last year-at Chicago's spacious lakeside exhibit center will give to people a show they won't soon forget." One notable addition to the expanded displays will be found in the the Chrysler Group's display, which recalled the first Chicago Auto Show in 1901, when an indoor test track was built to familiarize the public with what then was a new mode of transportation. Culling the 'everything old is new again' axiom, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep will construct a half-mile, indoor test track on which showgoers will be able to actually experience the products in action. Jeep will have a challenging off-road course, while the ride and handling of Chrysler cars and Dodge trucks will use other areas of the track. The public will have two halls to explore this year: McCormick Place North and South. "Families may want to plan to stay a bit longer at the show this year," said Wickstrom. "We have always been the largest auto show in North America, but the expansion to the second hall makes the Chicago Auto Show the world's third largest auto show, behind only Frankfurt and Paris." First Look for Charity First Look for Charity, held the evening before the Chicago Auto Show opens to the public, is the auto show's benevolent black-tie event. It is among Chicago 's biggest single-day charity fund raisers. 'First Look' is an anticipated event among socialites and car buffs alike. The black-tie affair allows participants to stroll the show floor amid opulence not present during the public portion of the Chicago Auto Show. Abundant hors d'oeuvres, champagne, wine and soft drinks await those getting the first look at the more than 1,000 new vehicles-some on display for the first time anywhere-at the Chicago Auto Show. As has become customary, one patron could win big, too. A loaded 2005 Chevrolet Corvette convertible valued at more than $57,000 is the event's door prize. Tickets are $200 each and can be purchased at www.chicagoautoshow. com or 630-424-1636. The Age of Personalization: SEMA In a time when people like to individualize everything in their lives, the ability to personalize their vehicles is a phenomenon that is growing dramatically. In some circles the process of customizing vehicles with special wheels, tires, bodywork, audio and other accessories is called "tuning." The people who know more about vehicle specialization best are the members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association. The SEMA show, each November in Las Vegas, draws huge numbers of wholesalers and retailers looking for what the "next big thing" is in the field, but the show is closed to the public. Recognizing that the mild-to-wild equipment that is available for the public to "tune" their cars and trucks has grown to a $29 billion annual business, the Chicago Auto Show teamed up with SEMA to bring special "project vehicles" and displays to the Windy City 's show. "We looked at shows across America and came to the conclusion that Chicago offered us the best opportunity to spread the word about our business," said Carl Sheffer, vicepresident of manufacturer relations for the California-based association. "I think our display there will open a lot of eyes as to how widespread this has become." New Displays and Manufacturers  In addition to the SEMA project cars, Chicago show patrons will see some brands they might not have seen anywhere before. The economical Smart brand of cars, built by Mercedes-Benz, will make its first appearance in Chicago this year. In a time when horsepower seems to be all the rage, the other end of the spectrum is being addressed by this line of vehicles that have gained huge popularity in Europe. Chicago 's International truck will grab a sizeable chunk of McCormick Place floor to show its products, including a world introduction of a new consumer-friendly vehicle that will be a sibling to the CXT Concept the company introduced three months ago. It'll be a surprise you won't want to miss. Dub Magazine will roll out its incredible stable of Chrysler Tuner Vehicles for Chicago, as well. The Dub cars have proven to be crowd-pleasers with their edgy-urban styling and avant garde' presence. Chicago is a Landmark Show The size, the magnitude and the newest attractions in the automotive world will again make Chicago the nation's most influential consumer auto show. "Our show is where people come to see a truly spectacular event," said show Chairman Wickstrom. "Over the past century, the Chicago Auto Show has proven to be a terrific day of family fun. "We constantly hear our show patrons tell stories of how, when they were kids, they came to the show with their parents. Those are lasting memories for many-and now they want to continue that tradition with their children. Whether you're a car junkie or just love the spectacle of magnificent displays, McCormick Place is where you're going to want to be Feb. 11-20. "We're a landmark, from our building to the displays inside it and to the tradition we share with millions of people. It's a continuing challenge for us to make this show great for Chicagoans, and I think this year we won't let them down." The Chicago Auto Show is open to the public Feb. 11-20 at McCormick Place, 23rd Street at Lake Shore Drive . Hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Feb. 20, when the doors will close at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or online at