As a car crazy kid in the Seventies and an even more obsessed teenager in the Eighties, I looked forward to the Toronto Auto Show each Winter. Even though I spent my Summers at Mosport when I was young, the chance to see shiny new cars, racing cars, Hot Rods and classics all in the same place was a constant draw for me. Then, at some point in the late Eighties, somebody decided that the public didn’t want to see all of that other stuff and that the show should only include new cars. I was deflated that year, when I arrived to find nothing but new tin, not a single race car at the show. Not a single custom car. I think I may have stayed away for a couple of years afterwards.
In recent years, show organizers have tried to spice things up a bit with the inclusion of some special displays, most notably the tribute to Carroll Shelby in 2010, which was an incredible assembly of some of the rarest machines created by the Texan racing legend. The rest of that year’s show however was rather dull.
A few years ago, long time General Manager of the Canadian International Autoshow Tom Tonks began winding down his career and Jason Campbell was brought in to gradually take over the reins. With his background as the head of marketing for Renault’s Formula 1 team for nearly a decade, Campbell brought with him a plethora of cutting edge ideas as to how to improve the show. The 2015 show was Campbell’s first full year running the show on his own and it was a definite improvement over previous years. This year, with his own team in place and a firm grasp of what the show needs to become one of the World’s best auto shows, Campbell has created what might just be the best automotive show this country has ever seen.
Naturally, the new cars are still the stars of the show, being the only place that consumers can compare competing vehicles side-by-side without being hounded by a sales person. For those who aren’t in the market for a new car however, it is the other stuff at the show that makes it truly great. It seems as if every corner of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has something interesting waiting for visitors.
The first time I became aware of Canadian adventurer Garry Sowerby was in 1985, when this awesome road worn GMC, nicknamed Lucy Panzer was on display at the show. Sowerby and Lucy Panzer are back in Toronto on the 800 level of the MTCC South. Be sure to grab a copy of Garry’s book, Driven Mind.
There is a section devoted to automotive design and engineering, where visitors can meet students and teachers and learn all about the educational opportunities here in Ontario.
Art and the Automobile
You don’t need to be a lover of old cars to enjoy this room on the 700 Level of the MTCC South. Presented by the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, this room showcases some of the most beautiful shapes ever crafted by man, with the story of the art of their time. A definite highlight of the show.Click to view slideshow.
Hot Rods & Choppers Featuring Kreater
Walking from Art and the Automobile to the other end of the 700 Level, show goers can check out the Cars & Stars section, which includes a Lamborghini and a McLaren owned by famous Toronto DJ deadmau5 and then cruise through the street tuner section on their way to the Hot Rods & Choppers room. A laid back and cool space, This exhibit features a wicked collection of traditional style hot rods and a bunch of bikes and other neat stuff by Toronto area custom fabricators Kreater.
To answer the question I am most often asked after a show, my favourite car of the show is the ’55 Chevy Belair Gasser, that was a Gasser class drag racer back in the Sixties and has been lovingly brought back to life. This thing drips with cool.
Indy 500: The Greatest Spectacle in Racing
Canada has a rich history at the Indy 500, dating back to the very first 500, held in 1911, when Toronto racer W.H. (Jack) Turner started the race in 12th spot and held on to finish in 8th. It only seems fitting then that this year’s Toronto show should include an inspiring collection of cars from the Indy 500 Museum. To make it even more special, the public portion of the show kicked off yesterday with an appearance by Canadian Indycar star James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly, who sat for a casual Q & A with fans, followed by an autograph session. Typical of anything Hinch is involved with, there was a lot of laughter.
Toronto Star Wheels Editor Norris McDonald led the chat with James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly.
The Canadian International Autoshow runs until February 21. Tickets can be bought on site or through autoshow.ca