The History of the Chicago Auto Show

The annual Chicago Auto Show takes place this month, marking the 110th time the show has been held in the Windy City.

Since 1901, people have gathered in Chicago to celebrate all things automotive, bringing together the top minds and most creative models in the industry.

The auto show is the largest in the country, taking up more than one million square feet in the colossal McCormick Place on Lake Shore Drive.

2018 Chicago Auto Show

The exhibits this year will include introductions of multiple new models from both North American and global manufacturers. There also will be a wide selection of domestic and imported cars, trucks, SUVS and experimental vehicles – more than 1,000 in all.

As always, the show will exhibit antique and collectors’ cars. Also, celebrities such as off-road racer Ivan Stewart and various Chicago-based sports stars will make an appearance. The show has become a “must-see” for those with an interest in buying cars and seeing the latest innovations auto manufacturers have to offer.

Humble Origins

Clearly, the show today is massive. That was the intention, even more than a century ago.

Back in 1901, Henry Ford was still years away from introducing the Model T, which opened the door to middle-class Americans buying cars. But Motor Age magazine in Chicago decided to hold an auto show after New York had one.

In Chicago, they went big. The event, which started on March 23, 1901, was held at the biggest venue the city then offered – the Chicago Coliseum. It was called the National Automobile Exhibit. It attracted more than 5,000 people, according to Chicago History Today.

The show was held on an indoor track within the Coliseum, as can be seen in this photo from Auto Week.

Growth Through The Years

At that first show back in 1901, exhibitors sought to show people cars were safe and a great alternative to horse-drawn transportation. Those who came to the show were mostly wealthy people who could afford cars.

Over the years, the show has grown both in size and scope. The Chicago Automobile Trade Association began running the show in 1935. The association is the largest and oldest metropolitan dealership association.

World War II kept the show from being held through much of the 1940s. However, by the 1960s the show had grown even bigger, eventually moving to McCormick Place permanently in the 1970s.

That move opened the door to the show becoming the biggest in the country. Some manufacturers have even used their exhibit space to install small test tracks.

From its humble but ambitious beginnings, the Chicago Auto Show now offers car lovers from around the world a place to get together and see the best that the automotive world has to offer!

By | 2018-02-07T07:26:13+00:00 February 12th, 2018|Categories: Autos|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments