|Dates:||23 – 30 Mar 1901, the first-day by invitation-only|
|Venue:||Chicago Coliseum Exposition Hall|
|Theme:||Originally the National Automobile Exhibition, but soon |
became known as the Chicago Auto Show
|Exhibitors:||Space cost $1.00-1.50/sq ft|
|Visitors:||10:00 – 22:30, admission 50 cents ($12 in 2017) 5,000 attended|
The Motor Age magazine launched and funded the original event. The only promotion was the magazine owner’s editorial and two small newspaper advertisements.
It was to be held in the first Coliseum. This consisted of three large indoor arenas which stood successively from the 1860s to 1982; they provided a venue for sports events, lconventions and exhibitios.
Construction had started in 1895 to create a second Coliseum with 58,000 sq ft of exhibition space on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition site, but the structure collapsed and they had to start again.
The third Coliseum was created by relocating the structure of Libby Prison from Richmond Virginia where it had held Confederate prisoners. It was 91m (300 ft) x 213m (700 ft) building was completed by June 1896. Twice the size of Madison Square Garden it offered 28,328 sq m (7 acres).
This venue was opened by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, then hosted the Democratic Party’s national convention and later presented the largest three-ring circus of Barnum and Bailey. It burned down after just nineteen months.
On opening day two cars raced each other, but they were set on rollers with a dial that displayed their speeds. The winner achieved an average 62 mph to complete a mile in 58 seconds.
A ‘motor bicycle’ was shown, aforerunner of the motorcycle, reports said it ‘sped around the ring with lightning rapidity, gracefully winding its way around the larger vehicles’.
Vehicles were run on a tenth-of-a-mile wooden test track built for the use of visitors. Henry Ford was still two years away from founding his company and seven years from launching the Model T.
The Chicago Tribune commented that the show had attracted many wealthy visitors and would soon ‘rival the horse show as a society event’.
In 1901 the cars displayed were no more than three horsepower, in 2021 Top Gear tested a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport rated at 1,578 bhp – as the industry sought to move to electric vehicles. Rimac merged with Bugatti and its Nevara, and its sister car Pininfarina Battista, boast a top speed of 415 kph (258 mph) and 1,914 bhp, with a 340 mile battery range.
Today the derivative show is run by the CATA, Chicago Automobile Trade Association. The 2022 show, held at McCormick Place, will be its 115th edition making it the longest running auto show in the USA. It fills over one million square feet (93,000 sqm) and five indoor test tracks, attreacting over 1m visitors each year.