Its Almost Auto Show Time

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Over 200 new cars from 38 manufacturers will highlight the third Michigan International Auto Show to be held at the Grand Center beginning next week.

At least 10 of these beauties likely won’t be cruising down Michigan Street anytime soon, so the auto show will be the car fanatic’s only chance to see all these exotic vehicles under one roof. The Austin Martin Vantage, the Bentley Arnage, the Ferrari 550 Maranello and the Rolls Royce Seraph are just a few that will be displayed in the event’s special showcase, the Million Dollar Motorway.

The MIAS is produced by Showspan Inc. and presented by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association. GRNCDA Executive Director Bill Gill told the Business Journal that this year’s show will have about 30 more cars on display than the inaugural event did.

“Of course, we are limited by the size of the hall. But Henri Boucher of Showspan has found corners. He has cars in every nook and cranny. Anything with a door wide enough to get a car through has cars in it,” said Gill.

Gill said other autos that should hold a special interest for the discriminating consumer, like trendy corporate executives, include the new Cadillac Escalade, the Buick Rendezvous and the pre-production model of the Chevy Corvette Z06. In addition, Plymouth will show its Black Tie Prowler, Honda will have its Odyssey LX, and Toyota will bring its Prius Hybrid.

But the showstopper could be coming from Ford Motors, namely the 2002 Thunderbird, which was a concept car three years ago.

“It got everybody’s attention at the Detroit show, and I suspect it will here, too,” said Gill. “It is a very limited run.”

An early estimate puts production of the new Thunderbird coupe at only 20,000.

Another eye-grabber could be the new paneled PT Cruiser from Chrysler.

“It’s a pre-production model. They’ve taken a PT Cruiser, and from the front windows back, they put panels in,” said Gill.

Although the annual show doesn’t formally open until Thursday, Feb.1, the event gets underway with a charity fundraiser the previous night. The “Miracle Tour Gala,” as it’s billed, features political satirist Mark Russell performing at Welsh Auditorium. Tickets are $100 per person and available by calling Showspan at 530-1919. All proceeds from the gala go to the Children’s Miracle Network at DeVos Children’s Hospital. Black tie is optional.

No ties are needed to meet local NASCAR driver Johnny Benson. He will sign autographs in the Pontiac Exhibit next week Friday from 4 until 6 p.m. And later that evening, master illusionist Lawrence Gregory will make Ford’s newest Mustang appear. The Auto Show will also have music from Ray Townsend, the Fred Knapp Trio and the Lakeside String Quartet, and tasty treats from the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The show will run from next Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 1-4. Doors will be open until 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3.50 for kids aged 6-12, and children 5 and under are free. Discount coupons are available from member dealers, Amoco, 7-11 and downtown merchants.

For more information on the Michigan International Auto Show, the cars and the car manufacturers, go to www.GRAutoshow.com.           

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