The Chicago Auto Show is one of the world's oldest auto shows, dating back to 1901, when the automobile was just in its infancy. With curiosity high, over 4,000 curious folks came to see these new horseless carriages that year. That first auto show was held at the Coliseum, located at 15th and Wabash. Also debuting near the turn of the century (in 1904), the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) has since become the nation's oldest and largest metropolitan dealer organization. Since 1935, the CATA has produced the Chicago Auto Show.
In 1936, the Chicago Auto Show migrated from the Coliseum to the International Amphitheatre and in 1971 wound up in its present location, McCormick Place. Due chiefly to the Second World War and resultant halt of auto production in America from 1943-1945, the show went on hiatus from 1942-1949. Resuming in 1950, the Chicago Auto Show came back strong. By 1953 the Chicago Auto Show had become the largest show of its type in the world.
Highlights of the Chicago Auto Show through the years include the public's first view of the first (1953) Corvette, as well as the debut (in 1970) of the second-generation Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Using its status as the biggest auto show in North America, the Chicago Auto Show also hosts a black-tie event that raises funds for selected area charities. Typically, the "First Look for Charity," which allows patrons to attend the auto show before it opens to the general public, raises over $2 million.
Held in the enormous McCormick Place convention center on Lake Shore Drive in February, the Chicago auto show not only has room for dozens of concept and production vehicles, it has even housed an entire indoor test track.
On the concept side, the Chicago Auto Show gave us the first glimpse of the Honda Civic Si. With a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood, this Civic Si looked ready for the track as well. Another concept car that looked headed to production was the Dodge Nitro SUV. Built on the same chassis as the Jeep Liberty, the Nitro would help fill in the gap in the Dodge lineup below the Durango. Despite nearly full-production trim, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser still looked like a concept. Sharing styling cues with the original Land Cruiser, the FJ Cruiser is a modern compact SUV built on a shortened 4Runner chassis.
Other notable introductions at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show included the 2006 Kia Sedona and the 2006 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. The 2006 Mercury Milan sedan made its debut alongside the 2006 Mercury Mariner and 2006 Mercury Mountaineer SUVs. The Milan is an upscale version of the Ford Fusion that features a 3.0-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission on top-of-the-line models. GM had a few sedans of its own in the 2006 Buick Lucerne and the 2006 Cadillac DTS.
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