Cover Story

2018 North American International Auto Show Review

2018 North American International Auto Show Review - Hitch Your Wagon To A Star (car!)

Photo: The original 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback from the 1968 Steve McQueen movie Bullitt paired with the latest 2019 Mustang Bullitt (right). Photo by Rod Denis.

2018 North American International Auto Show Review – Hitch Your Wagon To A Star (car!)

For many in the Windsor/Detroit area, the New Year means more than just being another year older or making some lofty resolutions. It also means the arrival of the “North American International Auto Show” (NAIAS; January 20 to 28, 2018 at Cobo Center in Detroit)!

The Biz X team arrived at the press preview days (January 15 & 16) safe and sound (thanks again to FCA and their media shuttle!), and had a blast checking out — not just the new cars from familiar manufacturers — but lots of the fun and interactive displays from the many auto parts and technology companies in attendance.

There were lots of interesting things to enjoy as well, like car pool karaoke, driving games and building your own LEGO toy. Obviously the total ticketed audience of 809,161 proved the show was the place to be!

However, this year was a bit different than previous years. This year things felt a bit more, shall we say . . . super?

Superhero themed cars were on hand. A classic movie superstar car made its return. There were exotic super cars. A world record setting super-fast car. And of course . . . plenty of supersized trucks!

Read on as we take you through a supercharged tour of this year’s “North American International Auto Show.”

Movie Superstars

Superhero movies and cool cars have been as universally intertwined as peanut butter and jelly. Every superhero needs a superhero vehicle.

A couple of years back, it was the Acura NSX and before that, an Audi R8 that a certain “Tony Stark” (aka “Iron Man”) chose as his ride. This year, “The Black Panther” showed off his vehicle of choice, or at least one inspired by him.

Based on the Lexus LC 500, this concept car (see photos on front cover of this issue also) features plenty of touches inspired by the movie, due out February 16, 2018, by Marvel Studios. Allegedly loaded with “vibranium” (the fictional metal that makes up “Captain America’s” shield) and a high tech “Brain-Computer” interface, this car could help “The Black Panther” fight the bad guys. While those features are purely fictional, it’s clear Lexus had fun with it.

The car also featured an image of “The Black Panther’s” mask and some blue underbody lighting. It wasn’t quite the “Batmobile,” but it was an exciting movie-inspired concept car nevertheless.

For classic movie buffs, there was a truly historic treat this year.

Ford revealed a piece of cinematic history to end the 40 year mystery on a certain car’s whereabouts . . . the original Steve McQueen driven Mustang from the classic movie “Bullitt!”

It was in no way buffed and cleaned up. It looked pretty much exactly the way it came out of the garage it was hiding in.

While not a supercar in its own right, it was part of one of the greatest car chases in cinema history. Long thought lost, it was sold to Robert Kiernan in 1977, through, of all things, a Road & Track magazine classified listing!

Steve McQueen himself appealed several times to Kiernan to buy his famous car back, but to no avail. For the next 40 years, it was kept quietly out of sight from the public, driven by Kiernan’s wife for a few years till the clutch died in 1980.

It was rolled into a garage, and there it sat until just recently. It was only when Kiernan passed away in 2014, and his son Sean brought it out of hiding, did we discover its existence. Sean contacted Ford, and it was fully vetted and confirmed as the real deal, with all of the movie modifications and serial numbers matching the original.

It should be mentioned that the only other movie-used Mustang “Bullitt” was discovered in Mexico last year. But, that one was far from the original, as it had been restored to look more like it did in 1968.

Kieran’s Mustang “Bullitt,” however, isn’t for sale. But, if it were, it’s estimated to be worth over $4 million!

To commemorate the discovery of these cars, Ford displayed a modern interpretation of this classic car based on the 2019 Mustang. The first example sold in January for $300,000 during a Barrett Jackson auction. The proceeds of which go to Boys Republic, a school McQueen himself graduated from.

North American Truck, Utility, and Car of the Year Awards

Of course, an Auto Show wouldn’t be complete without a winners’ list of new or significantly updated models. This year, there were three big winners for the “North American Truck, Utility, and Car of the Year” Awards.

While North American makes dominated the “North American Truck of the Year” category, it was an imports only showing in the other two.

Lincoln bagged this year’s “North American Truck of the Year” with its sharp and supersized new Navigator. Also in the running for the prize was the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Ford Expedition.

This is a first time win for the “Gator,” as it’s sometimes called, beating its corporate cousin, the Expedition. It is a refreshing departure from the older truck-based bones of past models.

For years, Lincoln simply updated the skin and interior while keeping the bones pretty much the same. While still a Body-on-Frame design, the body is now all aluminum. It also gets a 450HP Turbocharged V6 as the main powerplant, updating the “Gator” to match what Ford has done throughout its truck lineup. Finally modern and beautiful, it’s clear to see why it was chosen for the first time, this year.

Volvo’s versatile and attractive XC60 snagged the “North American Utility of the Year” trophy. This category is a pretty broad one, as it covers everything from Crossovers, small SUVs, and Minivans. Beating out the gorgeous Alfa Romeo Stelvio and the ever practical Honda Odyssey, the XC60 has always done a great job blending real utility with super style and super safety.

What’s truly impressive is the optional “T8 Engine” in its top range, plug-in hybrid model. Delivering 400hp, while impressive in its own right, it is able to do so while delivering a superb 56 mpg. Oddly, this year, folks looking to see this car wouldn’t find it in the show, but in a display just outside one of the entrances, but more on that later.

Honda’s new Accord, a frequent award winner, was tagged as “North American Car of the Year.” The Kia Stinger and Toyota Camry nipped at its heels, but in the end, the Accord just keeps getting better and better, especially in a segment that is getting smaller in terms of sales as people continue to choose small SUVs and Crossovers over full and mid-sized cars.

Bigger, more efficient, and sharply styled, the Accord shows that Honda still takes cars very seriously.

2018 North American International Auto Show Review continues HERE.