As they step through the doors at McCormick Place, what do Chicago Auto Show visitors notice before anything else? Perhaps it’s the sheer size of the event, a sprawling one million square feet that makes it the nation’s largest auto show. Or, perhaps, it’s the show’s stars: hundreds of vehicles sparkling beneath the more than five miles of truss lighting that snakes along the ceiling.
In 1901, a similar scene unfolded during the first iteration of the Chicago Auto Show, albeit on a far smaller scale. There, a wooden indoor track looped around the exhibition hall, demonstrating for onlookers just how safe the new machines were to operate and pet adoringly. Today, though, at the show’s 106th installment, attendees can do a whole lot more than stand on the sidelines. They climb into simulators, cruise around indoor and outdoor tracks, and even bump along an indoor off-roading course, infusing the show’s once static displays with constant movement and an endless buzz.
Amidst all the pedal pressing, button pushing, and, of course, shopping, this year’s show takes attendees into the future with special exhibits, highlighted by a showcase of the newest Ford Mustang in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Guests can also explore how today’s rides connect with technology and personal devices, such as tablets and phones. Throughout the show, appearances from celebrities and star athletes keep cameras flashing at a steady pace, and prizes and giveaways provide show-goers and smart phone users with chances to go home with more than just autographs from their favorite cars.