The Industry: Motor vehicles
The Attendees: Thousands who consider driving a biological need ranking somewhere between sex and food
• Racy Nude Model: As far as auto shows go, exhibitors deemed D.C.’s mild and Detroit’s wild. Motor City memories included last year’s attendee who climbed atop a display car, disrobed, and demonstrated an impressive degree of agility. A National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) executive attributed the woman’s exhibition to inebriation, but a GM sales representative disagreed, noting that the maverick model had brought her own photographer. In D.C., said the sales veteran, misbehavior is limited to ducking into vehicles to apply makeup.
• Primp My Ride: On view at the “Urban Restylin’ Salon”: this year’s “Flip My Whip” contest winner—a 1998 Ford F-150, plus $10,000 worth of customizing. A whip can be any vehicle, explained an Automotive Rhythms rep. Even a bicycle? “No.”
• Ride of Your Life Savings: At the show, Harley-Davidson certified technicians transformed a stock bike into a totally tricked-out machine. With 40,000 parts and accessories to choose from, could a motorcycle get too gaudy? “I haven’t seen it yet,” said Brian Griffin, whose custom jobs have run as high as $40,000.
• Kickass Class: A 1948 Anglia English Ford built and raced by Frank Privitera Sr. has a 496-cubic-inch big-block injected-alcohol Chevrolet engine, runs a quarter-mile track in eight-and-a-half seconds, and hits a quarter-mile top speed of 150 mph. The Fort Washington, Md., drag racer and his son Frank Jr.—a rocket scientist by day—also showed off their 1940 midnight-cranberry Willys coupe sporting a 565-cubic-inch injected-alcohol engine and a rear wing that provides downforce and stability when the car races down the track.
• Torque’d Tongue? Auto-company executives and government officials touted the industry’s accelerated commitment to environmental stewardship. Meanwhile, ads in the convention program extolled less socially redeeming virtues: heated 20-way powered leather seats, more powerful engines, polished 17-inch wheels, and, for the Hummer H2 Luxury SUV, the ability to cruise through 20 inches of water and climb 16-inch walls.
• Poseur Exposure: Aspiring rough-riders were chauffeured on Jeep’s compact indoor track studded with rugged terrain, a 30-degree sideways incline, a 35-degree hill, and a water trap. One rollover-fearing passenger, a demo driver said, demanded to be let out midride. The driver obliged.
• Power Shift: At the Chevy Engine Dynamometer Test Lab, the ground rumbled during demonstrations of the Active Fuel Management system, whose sophisticated controller senses when to shift between four- and eight-cylinder modes. Boosting fuel efficiency by up to 8 percent, the system is a revved-up electronic adaptation of a mechanical process that stalled in the ‘70s. Allaying fears, a lab-coated technician assured: “You’ll always have that full V-8 power whenever you want!” For example, when towing a trailer, ascending a steep grade—or, added a bystander, “when you’re running from the cops.”
• Savings Without Sacrifice: The EPA and NADA announced a partnership to help reduce energy use at auto dealerships by at least 10 percent. Energy-saving suggestions included cool roofing, low-E windows, low-flow faucets in lavatories, and replacing high-wattage lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs. Not mentioned: driving less.