Sunday, February 10, 2019

Hot Cars in the Coldest Month




     The Sun-Times has been producing an occasional magazine to enhance our Sunday paper. In December, they asked me to write about manufacturing in Illinois, and today's edition includes an attractive publication about Chicago and cars, to mark the start of the Chicago Auto Show.
     I was happy to write this piece about 126 years of automobiles being shown off in Chicago, and another about our love for cars, which I'll post here Tuesday. But if you can, try to pick up Sunday's physical paper, because the special section has a lot more than just me in it: Richard Roeper on the Tucker Torpedo which, betcha didn't know, was manufactured in Chicago during its brief, memorable existence, as well as issue editor Ryan Smith on auto racing, driverless cars, local car collections, tons of photographs, and much more.


     In a jab at the “White City,” the faux Roman splendor of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition that disgusted modernists at Adler & Sullivan, the architects painted their Transportation Building orange, with a yellow arched entrance dubbed "The Golden Door."
     Through that door were 17 acres of 19th century America in motion: huge locomotives and street cars, handcars and sail cars, wagons and harnesses. Studebaker of Chicago showed off their latest buggies. Models of ocean steamers and famous bridges were on display, as well as historic modes of transportation from sleighs to sedan chairs.  

     And tucked in a corner, almost entirely ignored, a delicate Daimler quadricycle: the first four-wheeled, gasoline-powered automobile on public display in the United States. Along with it, a second car, an electric.
     The opening note in a century-and-a-quarter symphony that would, in the 20th century become as distinctly Chicago as deep dish pizza, the Blues or skyscrapers: the Chicago Auto Show.
     A constantly-changing car circus that almost defies description, a burst of summery sparkle and hot horsepower in the middle of dreary, frozen winter, the Chicago Auto Show draws millions downtown to ogle thousands of cars — from economy boxes like the first 2-cylinder Honda to a Packard with a V-16 engine. From steam-driven cars to a concept car to be powered by an nuclear reactor.


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