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Chicago Auto Show: Mermaids, Mayors and Other Funky Photos

By DNAinfo Staff | February 14, 2017 6:11am | Updated on February 16, 2017 8:07am
 The history of the Chicago Auto Show.
Chicago Auto Show history
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The Chicago Auto Show is underway, a perennial event in the city since 1901 (when it had to offer free rides to people unfamiliar with cars.)

The show's history site is a car buff's delight: It has hundreds of photos through the years. Here are a few anniversary highlights.

RELATED: Auto Show Q and A: Cost, Parking, Hours (And No, You Can't Buy a Car)

100 YEARS AGO: 1917


In 1917, the star of the show was a Studebaker that featured 8,000 parts finished in gold. It was valued at $25,000 and billed as the most expensive chassis ever built. (That would be about $470,000 now.) The show that year had 400 cars on display and was held at the Coliseum at 15th Street and Wabash Avenue.

75 YEARS AGO: 1942

Because of World War II, there was no show in Chicago in 1942 — nor anywhere else in the country. Auto factories had been converted to making planes, trucks, Jeeps and small weapons. The Chicago Auto Show didn't resume until 1950.

50 YEARS AGO: 1967

Four weeks before the 1967 show was to have opened, the original McCormick Place burned down (see slideshow) so the event was was moved to the International Amphitheatre at 43rd and Halsted streets, where it would continue until 1971.

It was a year of gimmicks: Plymouth used a woman dressed as a mermaid to attract attention to its Barracuda, billed America's least expensive sports car at $2,449. The Lincoln-Mercury exhibit featured a circus ringmaster as the company introduced its new Mercury Cougar. And Chevrolet gave away a gas-powered Chevy Jr. car for kids.

25 YEARS AGO: 1992

General Motors' plastic body Saturn Sedan was sliced open to show its safety features. Meanwhile, Honda had on display its "Dream" solar car and Nissan displayed its FEV, for Future Electric Vehicle.

10 YEARS AGO: 2007

DaimlerChrysler set up a half-mile indoor track to show how its Jeep could scale hills. It was reminiscent of the first Chicago Auto Show, in 1901, where many people got the first automobile rides of their lives on a wooden "horseless carriage" track.

In 2007, Honda displayed a natural gas vehicle called the Civic NGV. A two-seater Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren was priced at $450,000, with 13 paint options and 15 different leather interiors, while Chevy featured a Kodiak MTE pickup truck with a sticker price of $94,427.

5 YEARS AGO: 2012

Dodge reintroduced Dart, a front-wheel drive compact sedan. For the more deep-pocketed driver, there was the Aston Martin Rapide with gull wing doors and a V12 engine that got it going from zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds. With a top speed of 184 miles per hour, it cost $207,895.