Auto dreams in reach for show attendees

2012-02-10T18:30:00Z 2013-01-24T09:45:34Z Auto dreams in reach for show attendeesBy Bowdeya Tweh, (219) 933-3316

CHICAGO | Bill Artus' auto show visits span nearly five decades, but he said the glitzy annual displays of fresh vehicles don't take away from his experience.

Especially this year, since he's in the market for a new vehicle. This time around, Artus said it's a convenient shopping experience without having to visit multiple dealerships.

"You get to see it all," Artus, of Highland, said while walking near a Kia exhibit with two friends. "It's beautiful. I'm an old man; I like choice."

The 104th Chicago Auto Show opened Friday morning at McCormick Place, and a crowd of future car buyers, dreamers and car buffs streamed into the venue despite the ominous weather reports. Tim Skalba and Andrew Brown navigated the show floor Friday for a class project, but also for entertainment.

The pair of sophomores from Hammond's Morton High School said their teacher brought about 20 students to study different designs and potentially incorporate them into a software program to help build a train.

Maurice Jones, of Chicago, said the new displays and grand presentations from the automakers captured their attention and that of two of their friends. He said the Nissan Altima intrigued him.

"They stepped it up a little bit in the layout and how they have it set up," said Jones, adding he hadn't been to the auto show in a few years.

Crowds lined up near the large Jeep and Chevrolet demonstrations, and many attendees buzzed about having the opportunity to take vehicles on outdoor test tracks.

For Billie McShane, "heaven on earth" describes the auto show and the chance to take a Lexus LFA and its V10 engine on a test track. With friends Takiyah King and Caeana Sanders and her son, Alessandro Martinelli, McShane said her affection for cars came from her father bringing her to the show since she was a baby.

Now, the tradition continues with her visits to the auto show and the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual classic car event in the Detroit area.

"I come every day, every year," McShane said. "I'm an addict."

While walking around various displays, Artus and his friend Jon Downs, of Lansing, recalled a Ford Mustang concept car shown in the 1960s and the positive reception that vehicle had. But now, at age 62, Artus said small cars made by Fiat and Ford caught his eye. He wants to make sure he lands in a fuel-efficient vehicle that doesn't take too much money from his wallet.

"This is the working man's show," Artus said.

The Chicago Auto Show runs through Feb. 19.

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