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2019 L.A. Auto Show

A Boy Racers cheat sheet to navigating one of the most prestigious motor shows in the U.S.

Bob Hernandez
Dec 5, 2019
Photographer: Leslie Clemens

There was a time when we were part of the circus that goes on before any of the major auto shows—we're talking LA, Detroit, Tokyo, Geneva, etc.—the media frenzy, where it's all about churning out as many stories as you can, as quickly as you can. It can be a grind, and no way to enjoy an auto show ("Hey, that's a badass new car!" Too bad-get your pics, write your copy, turn it in and on to the next.) Media days aren't the typical enthusiast experience at these types of large-scale, OEM-involved expos, and while being the "first" to learn of a new vehicle or technology can be cool and all (with dozens of other journos), our speed is more lackadaisical meandering—a slow but purposeful march, to carefully surveille and make sure we don't miss anything (like our pace for local shows!)

While we love hitting up our fall classic in DTLA (again running through the Thanksgiving holiday, super convenient for visiting fam), admittedly it's been a couple years since we've gone—but that can actually be a good cadence. You almost don't wanna go every year, because many exhibits are largely the same year over year (automakers try to set them apart but sometimes there's only so much you can do with a static car inside a convention center). If you do go, however, it is ok to go multiple times within the event's yearly run—with friends, family, because you're bored, etc. For its 10 days, the LAAS provides one of the better options for killing a few hours looking at stuff you love.

2019 LA Auto Show Subaru booth Photo 101/101   |   2019 L.A. Auto Show

Spread across two giant auditoriums and a bunch of ancillary halls, the LAAS allows everyone to see in the flesh vehicles they've seen only on social media and the news, like the Mazda3 TCR, Mini JCW GP, Hyundai RM19 mid-engine Veloster, and others. Don't be fooled, though; par for the auto show course is a lot more mundane fare, but it's hard to miss the performance cars—they're the ones people are climbing all over. Both Toyota with its new A90 Supra and Honda with the now couple-years-old FK8 Civic Type R had folks pawing at demo models all day. Subaru gets the award for best booth, though—complete with immersive outdoor setting that had a canopy, fake digital stream, and an Outback atop a mountain (sheesh, we get it; you like to camp).

2019 LA Auto Show 99X Electric Photo 101/101   |   2019 L.A. Auto Show

Adventures in carbon-fiber spotting-down in the show's Garage area under the South Hall, we stumbled across a CT03, a Formula 1 car used by the Caterham team in 2013-ish. If you know anything about racing and aero, you know F1 cars are on the leading edge of the technology, and just poring over this machine was dumbfounding-that is, until we saw the Alfa Romeo C38 machine elsewhere in the show, a car that's only a few years newer but boasts all sorts of space age fins and channels. We imagine downforce becomes even more critical when you're piloting something as small (17 ft. long, 3.4 ft. tall) and lightweight (less than 2,000 lbs.) as the 99X Electric, Porsche's entry into the Formula E racing series.

2019 LA Auto Show Mini trucks Photo 101/101   |   2019 L.A. Auto Show

Also downstairs: Mini-trucks! Many of you may not remember (or even know of) this phenomenon from a generation ago but it appears to be back, at least to a small degree. The trend was modifying lightweight pickups (from Toyota, Nissan, and Chevy), with the highest profile players ponying up for the candy paint and the hydraulic dancing bed, and at the LAAS entries from clubs Envyuz Minis, Nu Minis, and others made up the flashback display.

In a darkened Concourse Hall, Galpin Motors set up their Hall of Customs, which at times felt a little more like what we're used from a show-modified cars and heavy beats. To say the collection was eclectic is underselling it by a mile; nowhere else at the LAAS could you find anything like a dumped Aston Martin not far from the Mooneyes Moonliner, Gulf-liveried Ford GT and GT40, a Pantera GTS, and so many other seemingly random cars (the only thread being Galpin, we're guessing). A widebody Pandem MX-5 in Renown orange and green argyle (yes, like Mazda's iconic 787B Le Mans winner) customized by Galpin Auto Sports sat next to Mazda North America's actual 767B race car museum piece, and gets our vote for most eye-searing display at the show (also reminding us that at one time pro drifter Tony Angelo used to have the same livery on his RX-8). Zoom-zoom-zoom!

2019 LA Auto Show Nissan GT R 50th Anniversary Edition Photo 101/101   |   2019 L.A. Auto Show
By Bob Hernandez
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