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What do Frankfurt, Tokyo and Detroit all have in common? If you said long lines and poor air quality, well you’re right, but these cities also host some of the world’s largest auto shows.
Automakers don’t typically get the chance to interact directly with the car-buying public, except for Tesla with its unorthodox direct-sales strategy. Car shows provide exactly this opportunity, offering a showcase for the latest and greatest where all automakers can come to show off what’s in store for the future.
Of course, shows aren’t just about promoting what’s new. There are a number of owner-driven shows out there devoted to celebrating vintage cars. There’s even a show dedicated to the elaborate world of the aftermarket. In fact, Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, has one of the largest events in the automotive community every year.
You might not be able to hit every one of these, but if you’ve never experienced a car show firsthand, why not put one on the agenda for 2017? To help get you started, here are a few of the biggest and longest-running shows out there.
Best Car Shows in 2017
The North American International Auto Show
When it comes to American cars, Detroit is Mecca. It makes sense, then, that the North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS, takes place here. It’s one of the world’s largest car shows, with the American big three of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler taking center stage.
In 2017, expect to see Ford’s barn-burning new GT on display next to vintage classics. It’s not just about American muscle, though. Marques from around the world will congregate to display their latest and greatest. Topping it all off is a rich interactive experience, including test-drives of new models — no, not the GT — driving simulators and unique mini-shows within the show are all available to keep you interested. Expect a lot of technology and driverless capabilities on display.
If you’d like to attend, public show tickets are a very approachable $13. Just make sure you’ve got a solid means of transport to the Motor City, as the show is right around the corner on January 22. Access to special features might require you to spend a little extra coin.
The Tokyo Motor Show
Japanese cars are popular around the world, and the Tokyo Motor Show gives automakers such as Toyota, Mazda and Honda their moment in the public eye. The Tokyo Motor Show is held every other year, which makes it even more exciting that it will be held in 2017. This year’s theme is “beyond the motor.”
In addition to the usual slew of new models and feature showcases, the Tokyo Motor Show is one of the premier venues for new concepts and halo cars. If manufacturers are going to get crazy and offer us a glimpse into the future, this is where they’ll do it. The show runs from October 27-November 5, so if you’re looking for a petrolhead vacation spot at the end of 2017, this could be your pick.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
No, this isn’t a gathering of recreational drug users, unless you consider racing fuel a recreational drug. The Goodwood Estate in West Sussex has been hosting this car party since 1993, and it never fails to entertain. How could you go wrong sending zounds of vintage and modern racecars on a timed lap of your driveway?
In addition to the venue’s famous hill climb, Goodwood includes a traditional concourse and is known for pulling together some of the most revered names in racing history, some of whom even compete in the sister event Goodwood revival races. This year’s festival runs June 29-July 2, with tickets starting at £154 for the weekend, or roughly $189.
Pebble Beach Car Week
Similar to Goodwood but held in California, Pebble Beach is one of the biggest names in the car show universe. You won’t find much presence from corporate types here, as the show is focused on vintage marques. Each year there’s a new theme, and the astounding number of collector-quality vehicles gathered here are neatly organized into classes as part of the world-class Pebble Beach Concourse.
There are no time trials at Pebble Beach, but there are historic races if you’d like to catch some of the machines in action. The event runs from August 14-20, with auctions, showcases and races leading up to the main event on Sunday. Save your money if you want to attend. Tickets are upwards of $325, but it’s lodging that’s the real doozy with this one. It might be the best car show of 2017 if you’re rich and looking to spend big money.
The Woodward Dream Cruise
Now for something a little more blue-collar. The Woodward Dream Cruise is to cars what Sturgis is to motorcycles. It’s a gathering of American muscle from all corners of the red, white and blue, where attendees are encouraged not only to show their cars off standing still but also on the road.
Chevrolet backs the event, but with 30,000-plus cars arriving for display, American and imported marques are both well represented. This one does not last a week. It’s a one-day-only event, and for 2017 that day is the third Saturday in August. Entry is free. All you’ve got to do is find your way to Berkley, Michigan, and be ready to cruise. That’s our kind of party.
Frankfurt, Geneva and Beyond
We’ve touched on some of the world’s biggest and best car shows of 2017 here, but there are other big shows out there. The largest show in the world is held in Frankfurt, Germany, and Geneva Switzerland is home to another prominent international gathering, both of which are worth attending if you’re into what’s new. The tuner crowd should be sure to check out SEMA, where new parts and customizations are introduced each year in Las Vegas.
Local Events in Carlisle and Harrisburg
But car shows aren’t always about huge crowds and sponsored events. Sometimes the best car show is the one nearest you. Carlisle, PA, hosts a slew of auto shows year-round, including the popular Ford Nationals, where you can check out nearly 3,000 cars. Auto Show Harrisburg, held in January, is another option for Central PA car fans who want to stay close to home and see a wide selection for a reasonable price.
What makes these shows great is the community as much as the cars. It’s the people who love them. If you’ve never had the experience of attending one, make a commitment to get out to a show this year, whether it’s one of our top five or just the one that’s accessible for you — we know you’ll be glad you made it out.