I went to the 2017 Detroit auto show — and saw more than just cool cars

Yes, first and foremost, auto shows are about cars.

At the 2017 Detroit auto show – officially known as the North American International Auto Show – I saw plenty of those. Concept cars. New cars. Old cars. Plus SUVs and pickups.

But that wasn’t all I saw.

Have a closer look – the Detroit auto show runs through Jan. 22 at Cobo Hall in downtown Motown:


The mighty Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit, the show’s home.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

This is where you go for Motown’s finest shoe shine.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

There’s a huge statue of legendary Detroit Joe Louis, the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Shinola is Detroit’s now quite famous local watch company.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Everyone in town wears these timepieces and wears them proudly.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

You can see Canada from the Detroit auto show. Also, lots of ice floating in the Detroit River. It was COLD!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Windsor, Ontario — it’s where the casinos are.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

On the Detroit side, a riverboat.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Elio Motors brought its three-wheeled vehicle, which I checked out in New York last year.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Read all about it here.


You couldn’t swing an old catalytic converter in Cobo without hitting a coffee bar.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Here’s another one.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

And another. Man, does the auto industry love its caffeine.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Coffee — and cookies!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

This chap made me a lovely …

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

… cappuccino. Mmmm …

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

In truth, however, I mostly drank the delicious coffee provided for the media. The best at any auto show.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Speaking of bests, here’s the all-new Chevy Bolt EV …

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

… Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2017.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

The show is full of silly stuff, such as this meditating elf on the dash of VW’s I.D. Concept bus.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Nothing silly about this — it’s a Ford transmission.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

This Kia Niro set an MPG record.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Here’s a treat: the production version of Ford’s $400,000-plus GT supercar.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

I finally got to sit inside after waiting for two years.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

It’s MUCH more snug than almost any supercar I’ve ever been in, and that’s because …

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

… the GT is the road version of a race car. In fact, here’s the Number 68 GT that Ford won with at the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June 2016, repeating history after an epic victory in 1966.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Ford left the winning GT completely covered in dirt and crud, but it wears its racing scars defiantly.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

The 24 h Hours of Le Mans trophy!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

A bit more modest than the Borg Warner trophy from the Indy 500, which was also in the house.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

I saw surprisingly few cars waiting to have the silk sheets pulled off. This was a Volvo, by the way.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

The VLF Force 1 V10 supercar returned from 2016. This is the designer Henrik Fisker’s bid to jump back into the supercar game with a gloriously over-the-top effort.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Another VLF car, the Destino.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Crash test dummy!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

This guy’s no dummy. That’s me and Dr. Z — Dieter Zetsche, the amply mustached Chairman of Mercedes.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

It’s Bibendum, the Michelin Man. He was everywhere.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

In some cases, he was huge.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

In others, he was small.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

OMG! He’s actually here in the flesh!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

But he wasn’t the only exotic creature.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Lexus brought this insane concept car.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Lincoln brought its ocean-liner-evoking booth.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brought its Portal minivan concept. FCA is genuinely getting excited again about minivans, a type of vehicle that the company invented decades ago.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Here’s a tiny Chrysler Pacifica, proving that minivans aren’t just for the middle aged.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

A pink, electric Smart car.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

But it wasn’t the only pink car — here’s a pink VW Beetle.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Nissan brought its Vmotion 2.0 concept car.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

I was sort of unimpressed by the new BMW 5-Series.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

And I didn’t know what to make of Toyota’s FGV Plus fuel-cell concept. It looks like an iMac from early 2000s.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Clay models are the final exam for aspiring car designers who want to graduate to the auto industry’s big leagues.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Ford brought a rolling office, set up inside a Transit van.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Ferrari wasn’t in attendance, but the new GT4 Lusso was at the Brembo booth.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Tail fins on a classic Chevy Bel Air.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

A vintage Mustang.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

The guys from CNET’s Roadshow were broadcasting from the show floor.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

That’s a Chevy pickup with a big ole snowplow. A snowstorm blew in on the second media day, so this rig could have come in handy.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

I attended a Ford dinner at Joe Louis Arena, next door to Cobo. It’s the home of the Detroit Red Wings, but it’s slated to be torn down. This is the view from the stage — what Led Zeppelin would have seen if they hadn’t canceled their 1980 show.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

I don’t think these drums were for a Zep cover band.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

The Dodge Viper is hard rock expressed as an automobile.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

This is what the skeleton of a Honda Ridgeline looks like.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

And this is he drivetrain of a Volvo. Carmakers love to do these kinds of displays at auto shows.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

There was even a veteran police car — this was still belongs to the Michigan State Police.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Alfa Romeo’s booth was pretty impressive, with lots of new vehicles headed for the USA as the brand strives to take on BMW and Mercedes. You can get ready by purchasing an Alfa Romeo Montblanc pen.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Night falls. That’s GM world HQ — the Renaissance Center, overlooking the Detroit River.

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

Well, another Detroit auto show in the books. See ya next year, Motown!

Foto: source Matthew DeBord/BI

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