Classic cars. Hot rods. Souped-up street racers. Exotic rides of the rich and famous.
When car enthusiasts enter the doors of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the 40th year of the Canadian International AutoShow, the selection of special exhibits will draw them in five different directions.
There’s a lot to see and do in the 600,000 sq. ft. show crammed with over 1,000 cars and hundreds of manufacturers, exhibits and vendors.
And this year, said show exhibit sales co-ordinator Jon Rosenthall, they’re taking it up a notch with the first-ever Canadian Hot Rod Builders showcase.
It didn’t start out an exclusively Canadian event, Rosenthall said. During a trip to the United States for a number of hot rod shows, Rosenthall said the light bulb went on.
“We wanted to show the history of hot rods and the talent of builders designing these cars,” Rosenthall said. “We saw the Canadians’ cars and we decided to do that.”
Self-proclaimed car nut and show general manager Tom Tonks said blowing away show attendees is the ultimate goal: Bringing ticket holders something that will really knock their socks off and showcase the complete hot rod package.
“Chrome, paint jobs, fine quality coach work and interiors, all that sort of stuff, that’s a huge wow factor,” Tonks said. “We thought this would be for our clientele. It’s something they wouldn’t normally be exposed to and unique for them to see.”
With 29 customized hot rods on display, Tonks said it’s an opportunity to showcase Canadian talent.
The hot rod showcase will be a good pairing for the tenth installment of the Cruise Nationals. Considered a salute to the weekly or daily cruises that happen in cities and towns across the province and the country, ten cars will face off for the coveted winner-take-all title for the best classic car.
The top 10 vehicles built in 1975 or earlier — two hot rods, two restored vehicles, two muscle cars, two fifties vehicles and two trucks — are chosen from 60 vehicles selected at 10 regional qualifying car shows where attendees cast ballots for the top six cars. The top 10 cars were selected at Autofest Oshawa in this past August.
An online vote on the auto show website started on Dec. 10 where people could cast a virtual ballot for their favourite classic ride. The voting closed at the end of January.
“To augment that, because those are online votes, we have three celeb judges who evaluate each car,” Tonks said of the three judges from the Toronto Star’s Wheels section who will tally scores for each vehicle. “They’ll evaluate each car in their own right and once we get the results from their values we weight them with the online votes and we come to the decision who is the top three winners.”
From customs to classics, the trifecta is completed with a trip to Autoexotica, a showcase of some of the fanciest vehicles on the road today — within the dreams of many, but maybe not price range.
Bentley, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini are on display to showcase the lavish, premiere driving experience the carmakers provide for its upper class clientele.
“It’s a huge draw. Everyone aspires to it,” Tonks said. “Not everyone is in a place to operate in that type of stratospheric territory, but there isn’t a person who isn’t an automotive aficionado who doesn’t want to see and experience these types of cars.”
And what was known in years past as Sports Compact Revolution has evolved. The showcase, which highlighted cars, fitted with after market gear like the rides in the Fast and the Furious movie series, has now become Sports Compact Evolution.
The number of exhibits available indicates a wide-range of opportunities for attendees to soak up the automotive world, said Rosenthall.
“We have to be as diverse as the auto show attendee with what we do,” he said.