Saturday, March 9, 2013

The 2013 Kansas City International Auto Show was the place to shop for a new car or check out the classics

In nearly 30 years of living in Kansas City, I don’t think I have ever missed the Greater Kansas City International Auto Show.  It’s one of the biggest events that Bartle Hall has to offer, which is all right with me.  Anytime you can get big numbers of people interested in cars, I think that’s a good thing.  At least there’s still a spark of passion left.

In the world of new car shows, however, Kansas City is still considered a minor market.  That lowly status is reflected somewhat in the selection of cars that shows up to this event.  There were virtually no concept cars—not even older ones.  There was no 2014 Corvette.  You won’t see exotic car makers like Ferrari or Rolls Royce setting up displays.  What you’re going to see at this event are mostly your garden variety, everyday new cars that you can buy at your local dealership.

To that end, many of the people that come to this auto show are there to compare vehicles for which they are actually shopping.  I suppose this is a good place to go if you’re comparing the rear-seat legroom in an Accord verses a Camry.  It’s more of a practical crowd than an enthusiasts’ crowd, but this event does serve a purpose.

There are certainly still some cool cars to look at, though.  The Chevy display, for which I am admittedly biased, had a lovely 2013 Corvette ZR1 on a turntable, and a lust-worthy Camaro ZL1 convertible on the floor.  They also had a 2014 Impala that you could climb aboard.  My wife tells me one of them will occupy her space in the garage soon.  People also had the opportunity to check out the all-new 2014 Silverado (and GMC Sierra) for the first time in this part of the country.

Ford had several varieties of Mustang to peruse, including a new 5.0-liter GT/CS (California Special).  They also had a fresh, blue F-150 SVT Raptor that no one had tried to jump or bury in a mud hole yet.  The very utilitarian Transit Van was in the house, which is appropriate, since they will be built at the Claycomo Assembly Plant in Kansas City.  They also had a new Lincoln MKZ in a stand-alone display, and it looked good under the bright lights of Bartle Hall.

Chrysler’s display was OK, but nothing to write home about.  Dodge had an SRT-8 Challenger with a 392 Hemi under the hood.  They had a selection of Ram trucks, Durangos, Chargers, and Darts.  And Fiat had a variety of flavors of their little gum drops, including the very homely 500L four-door that will be darkening the doors of their dealerships soon.

Some of the better new cars to look at were in the Aristocrat Motors display, where you could get up-close-and-personal with various Porsches, Mercedes, Jaguars, and even Maseratis.  The gull-wing SLS AMG was probably the most impressive, but with a base price of around $200,000, I guess it should have been.  Most of these “exotics” were behind their own little personal stations and ropes, so there was really no way to take pictures that would to these cars justice.

Of course, I have to admit, my favorite part of this show had nothing to do with new cars at all.  The Kansas City Automotive Museum is a not-for-profit group trying to raise funds for a classic car museum here in town.  So to draw awareness, they do things like get old car owners to display their rides at various car shows.  They actually ended up with an impressive display of nice old cars at this event.

I was especially taken with this ’66 Corvette coupe with a 427-c.i. big block under the hood.  I loved everything about it—the color, the options—everything.  But the thing that really set it apart for me is that it still had six taillights.  This was a common modification on these cars back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but most of those inner taillights have been removed and filled-in by the restoration crowd now.  I know it’s not strictly “correct,” and the Corvette purists would correct this issue immediately, but if this car were mine, the only thing I’d change is removing the backup lights and replacing them with red lenses.

They also had two beautiful Impala convertibles: a black ’58, and a red ’60 with a 348 W-block between the fenders.  It’s too bad my dad wasn’t there with us, because he actually owned both of those same cars in the exact same colors back when they were considered more typical used cars.  They were before my time, but I’ve seen pictures and heard stories.  When you look at how intricate and lavish these cars are today, it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when they would have been considered common transportation.

I also liked this ’57 Cadillac Eldorado Seville.  This looked like a nice driver-quality car with a great, used patina.  It even featured some very old accessory jeweled mud flaps.  Just look at this car—the gold grille, the fins, the turbine wheels.  Cadillac really knew how to dazzle in those days.  It’s no wonder Elvis was so partial to them.

The slideshow below has about 300 pictures from the 2013 Kansas City International Auto Show.  You can check them out here, or click this link for a better version.

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