Editor Note: this is a flashback to the 2008 Washington Auto Show media day with an article originally published in January 2008.
Is there such a thing as auto heaven? The 2008 Washington Auto Show may just fool most into thinking there is. With about 8 acres of new cars, trucks, SUVs, and other automotive exhibits under the same roof – it’s close to a car heaven for any automobile fan. Going to this show is like a kid with a sweet tooth being set loose in the world’s largest chocolate factory.
The Washington (D.C.) Auto Show has always aimed to please. Exhibits are plentiful and always garner plenty of attention. A few years back the show was centered on performance – with most automakers having performance oriented exhibits. This year was different. Though some newly released performance cars could be seen showcased such as the Shelby Mustang GT500 KR, the Pontiac G8, Nissan GT-R, etc. – most automaker displays were showcasing the best energy saving and environmentally friendly technology they had to offer. When one of the main centerpieces of the Cadillac display is a hybrid Escalade, no proof is needed that the main emphasis of this show is fuel efficiency. Of course this is no surprise given the recent passage of the Federal Energy Bill that will be raising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (C.A.F.E.) standards to higher levels by 2020. Even though that is 12 years away, it’s sooner than you think considering that it can take up to 7 years to develop a new automobile, truck, or SUV. So essentially what you see at this show is a foreshadowing of some of the technologies the automakers will build upon to meet C.A.F.E.
At the show GM is showcasing it’s hybrid technology, E85 vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell technology, and it’s electric car – the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is a rechargeable electric car that can run on electricity, gasoline, E85, or biodiesel fuel. The New Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids are the cornerstone of Ford’s earth friendly displays. At the show, Toyota is also playing up its hybrid cars, and even giving plenty of spotlight to its other smaller non-hybrid fuel efficient cars like the Yaris, Corolla, and Matrix.
Camp Jeep has also made its return again this year. It’s a grueling indoor off-road course which showcases the true capability of the Jeep lineup. All show goers have an opportunity to be driven through the course by a Jeep representative and encounter the hills, water, and other rough terrain obstacles. After a spin around the course, it becomes quite apparent the "trail rated" badges on some Jeep models do actually stand for something.
One of the most interesting and well-traveled displays at the show is the Washington Post contest display called "Guess the Mess". The contest consists of a complete crushed and compacted car, only a few slight clues to its true identity can be deciphered. Believe me it’s harder than you think. The best analogy I can give is it’s like a 20,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There were many theories and guesses when I viewed the display. Heather Toth and Julie Daigle who ran the display for the Washington Post, mentioned to me the wide array of guesses they heard from the many spectators on the first day. This writer has his guess, but I’ll leave it up to you make your own guess. The prize is a year’s worth of free gasoline. Nice prize, if I must say, especially considering current gas prices.
And for those looking for something a little different. There is a nice display of racecars, new/old exotic cars, and even performance/muscle cars. Tony’s Corvettes display is an example of something a little different. There is a complete restored frame with engine, transmission, exhaust system, brake lines, etc. of a 1963 Corvette split window coupe on display. Keith from Tony’s Corvette showed this writer a spectacular supercharged Z06 C6 Corvette with around 700 (flywheel) horsepower (this is 50 horsepower more than the soon to be released monster 2009 ZR1 Corvette). Tony’s Corvettes provides these types of performance modifications along with classic Corvette restorations.
The hit of the show is the much-anticipated Nissan GT-R. It’s not just a sports car but a reasonably priced world-class sports car that can go toe-to-toe with the big exotic super cars (with much higher price tags).
Since you can sit in and view most new cars at the autoshow, this provides another great aspect to the show. If you’re looking to buying soon there is no better place to sit in all the cars, trucks, or SUVs that you are consideering buying. And this can be done without having to interact with a salesperson. And all the dealership new car brochures are there for the taking.
So what are you waiting for? Bring the whole family down and make a day of it. You’ll need it. In fact there are some who make more than a day of the show.
Written and photographic contents in this article – © 2008 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved