Quick Visit To The NAIAS (North American International Auto Show – Detroit)

By Kiyoshi


While I’ve been know to complain about too much business travel, there are times it has its perks. This time business called me to Detroit for a day for an early morning meeting (who ever called for an 8am meeting, which my west coast body screaming 5am should be…..). But, the good news is the meeting ended by noon and I had a late afternoon flight. My options were see if I could get on an earlier flight or go see the car show. Hmmm…. Not much a decision for a car nut.


I’ll cut to the chase… Lotus elected not to show. Given their strong presence in LA (see elsewhere in this CR) I wasn’t surprised. Occasionally in the past they have done both shows and personnel had to hop from LAX to DTW without being able to stop at home to do laundry. But, there was plenty to see. Here’s some highlights…


Got have cars that you can actually buy…


By far number one was the new Mini Cooper, but in “S” form, which meant it has a supercharger. Everything said by the pubs about this car is true. It may be retro, but it tops my list of gotta haves. The reality is that for the first couple of years the dealers (BMW) will be marking up the hell outta of them. So, that $19K price tag for the Mini Cooper S will likely be closer to $25K or more.


Figure 1 - The new Mini Cooper S


Next up would have to be either the new Nissan Z or Mazdas RX8. Fourth is the new SVT Focus, a hot hatch that is pure Q-ship.

Figure 2 - Mazda RX-8 with 4 doors!


The new Lambo was being shown too… As was the new Maserati.


Figure 3 - Maserati Coupe version


Got have cars that you can’t buy…


This one is easy. Of ALL the many show cars that were shown – some really ugly if you ask me… The hands down winner was, drum roll please… The Ford GT40. The thought of Ford even thinking about building this car will get every car lover’s blood boiling. 500 supercharged ponies, 43 inches tall, mid-engine, 6 speed, no room for golf clubs, aluminum chassis, rocker armed suspension, looks like a Mk1 on the street just boggles the mind. If Ford has the balls to build this thing it will clearly knock off Vipers, NSXs and a lot of Corvette Z06s.


Figure 4 - Ford GT40 Display, always a BIG crowd


Figure 5 - Ford GT40 Nose


Figure 6 - GT40, lots of aluminum & 500HP 5.4L V8


More retro, but looks like a hot rodder’s dream car is the Ford 49. Sleek, totally understated but well balanced and elegant.


Figure 7 - Ford 49, VERY retro w/ a Hot Rod flare!


Caddy showed the Cien. V12, mid-engine supercar. GM is trying to make Caddy into their techno showcase marque. I’m not convinced they can actually make that happen. Guess I still don’t forgive GM for producing the Caddy Cimmeron!


Figure 8 - Caddy Cien, old looking "new" edge...


And the truck fans were not left out with showings from Ford, Chrysler and Chevy SSR.


Figure 9 - Chevy SSR, too much retro???


Lots o’ Race Cars…


Another easy one… I was surprised to find at the BACK of the Toyota booth their new F1 car!!! Looks very competitive, but the race will be the real acid test.


Figure 10 - Toyota F1, not yet raced.... Why was it in the back?


Other F1 cars included the Williams BMW, Jaguar & Ferrari.


Figure 11 - Williams, will they be able to beat Ferrari in '02???


Audi had their prototype car there, and Bentley the LeMans car.


New Technology


A lot of new technology was being showcased, more hybrid cars like Honda’s new hybrid Civic and e-cars (electric) from DC, VW and others and GM showed off a hydrogen burning car. Clean burn, just gives off water vapor, but I can’t imagine how much energy is required to produce, transport and store the highly flammable gas. Most likely 10 times more pollutants would be created in the hydrogen process than burning a gallon of petrol. Oh well…