I love car shows. A lot of people do. Over 800,000 people attended the Detroit Auto Show this year, meaning that collectively they could each chip in a dollar and buy a Ferrari Speciale. There are dozens of local car shows around the Pacific Northwest, ranging from a few hooligans gathered around a Dick’s Drive-In to the Seattle Auto Show held at Century Link Field. I try to catch as many of the bigger shows held each year as I can, but my favorite is the biggest. While I enjoy seeing what other enthusiasts have determined to be necessary modifications to their “rides,” I love looking at and playing with the brand new releases from the auto industry. Picking apart a car designed and built by a company with nearly infinite resources just feels better than critiquing hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spent by a man called Jeff and his custom Forrester.
This year I spent three days walking around touching things and discussing cars with strangers. I sat through a painful attempt at a “Cash Cab” like trivia game put on by Hyundai, ate slightly colder than room temperature hot dogs(the only food option) and interacted with over 500 different vehicles. It was brilliant! No greater joy can be had than watching a group of grown men with flashlights gather around a modern engine bay and discuss the various bits of plastic that none of them recognize. This is a behavior that for the life of me I cannot understand; the engine details are listed just about everywhere and usually on the car itself! Why do you need to pop the hood to see it for yourself? To make sure it’s there? To prove to your buddy Jeff that, you too know many things? Here’s a pro-tip; You look like an idiot peering into the engine bay pretending like you understand what’s happening under the sea of plastic and monotony. The only interesting engine being made was laid out bit by bit on a table at the Ford booth, but that was only being used as bait for the ladies in tight blue pants to snare guests and milk them for their email. No one pointed a flashlight at that table all weekend. Nice try Ford, try covering the table with shapeless black plastic next time.
Lincoln surprised me with the new Continental’s door handles. I know it’s a strange thing to get excited about, but they really were quite marvelous. The fixed handles make for really clean lines, and the door is opened via a button hidden inside the handle. They did away with the now completely antiquated handle latch on the inside as well replacing it with a much better button tucked into the armrest. Of course, all of these buttons might turn out to be a terrible feature that kills its occupants, but it left me feeling like an idiot when I got back to my car and had to tug in the side of the car to get in. The traditional door handle has become the most dimwitted thing in the world. This is what has been missing from car design in the last few decades. Door buttons are not ground breaking things in and of themselves, Rolls-Royce has allowed you to close your door via a button for years. You still have to open the door like some dirty peasant but still… It’s the creativity of the idea, however, has been sorely missed. Cars have been boring, especially in the luxury category where your options have been; BMW if you like your pants a size too small, Mercedes if you want to impress your mother, Jaguar if you’re a British spy that also does taxes or Audi if you design buildings. But now we have Lincoln, Volvo, Cadillac and Tesla threatening to make an easy decision a little more difficult.