Curse Ye Motorheads
~ Scrappy protest delivers on the car-alarm symphony, but not...alas, the auto show shutdown ~
As large flakes of snow began to descend from the sky just after noon and thousands of car-lookers made their way into the McCormick Place auto showroom, a few dozen bike-borne protestors huddled outside in the plaza in front of the convention center’s Cermak Street entrance. Loosely aligned as a Critical Mass offshoot, they’d gathered at downtown’s Daley Plaza an hour before and ridden over en masse with one simple mission: to shut down the auto show.
Though car-show attendee traffic remained light at the second protest site, some contact was made. Steve Lane, a biking advocate wearing a black suit adorned with a line of checkered yellow road paint and stuffed representations of a road-killed cat and a road-killed dog, yelled out a warning about global warming to a man leaving in a black Ford F-150.
"Do you want to trade that bike for my truck?" the man responded.
"Not a chance," Lane called back.
Inside, the dissent didn’t seem to have made much of a dent in the enthusiasm of the car show. Throngs of people, cars on turntables, eager auto showmen, and live radio broadcasts combined to create an undeniably exciting buzz on the floor.
Though some carmakers’ displays did include nods to the environmentally concerned, the biggest crowds collected elsewhere. Only four people, for instance, stood under a 100-foot-long inflatable ear of corn to hear a presentation on Chevrolet’s E85 Avalanche, a puggish automobile halfway between an SUV and a pickup that will use corn-derived ethanol as its primary fuel. Even within the relatively narrow category of corn-oil-related attractions, E85 was not the most popular: nearby, six people stood in line at one of the car show’s least popular food stalls, waiting to order deep-fried churros.
In fact, the largest crowd was in the Dodge section of the floor, where a raised turntable displayed an electric orange Challenger, a concept car still only in speculative production that will replace the Dodge Charger as the American manufacturer’s most intimidating retro-styled muscle car. With a fierce looking grille, a neon red tracer light surrounding the model name, and lines reminiscent of the Gen. E. Lee from "Dukes of Hazzard," the whole thing resembled the automotive equivalent of a clenched fist. At a break in the velvet rope surrounding the platform, members of the crowd lined up to have their picture taken with the Challenger by a Dodge employee.
"Do you know what the top-speed’s projected to be?" one observer asked the Challenger’s presenter, a long-legged, middle-aged blonde in a black pantsuit adorned with rhinestones.
She smiled and answered immediately: "174 miles an hour."
"How about the gas mileage?" he followed up, but received only a blank stare in return.
"No," the woman said. "I have no idea."
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Source: Chicago Journal
02/15/06 - 10pm
By Max Brooks - Contributing Writer