The Year was 1907.
“There are towns in the East that boast an automobile to every one hundred of the population… Los Angeles, with a quarter of a million people, has an automobile for every eighty persons. It is without exception the banner automobile city of the world.” – Los Angeles Times / January 23, 1907
Ninety-nine cars were on display opening night at the first Los Angeles Auto Show. Held January 21 – 27 at Morley’s Skating Rink on Grand Avenue, the show opened to more than three thousand people, excited and dressed for a party, crowding through the doors in the opening hours.
It was not only the first automobile show ever to take place on the West Coast; it was the largest event of its kind west of Chicago, a pivotal moment in the history of both Los Angeles and the automobile. The year was 1907.
Preparations for the show took place amid a media frenzy that today would be reserved for movie stars arriving at the Oscars. There was a huge parade of gaily decorated cars the night before the grand opening, featuring an appreciable percentage of automobile population of Los Angeles, estimated at 3,500.
At precisely 8:00 pm on that historic Monday evening, Los Angeles Mayor Arthur C. Harper formally opened the show by flipping a switch that sent waves of light pulsing through ten thousand globes hanging from the ceiling.
Forty-six manufacturers were represented, including such names as Maxwell, Peerless, Overland, Pope-Toledo and White, along with more familiar names that have survived
into the present era, such as Ford and Cadillac.
Two of the cars were electric, the rest gasoline-powered, with 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder engines ranging in horsepower from 12 to 60.
The two cars that attracted the most attention were both from Los Angeles- based manufacturers.
In an era with few roads, the Christman was designed to go where there were none at all. It was a large, heavy, rugged-looking machine with broad tread, large wheels and a body fitted with three seats like an old-fashioned buckboard… arguably the first SUV.
The “durable Durocar,” featured sturdy construction, but was powered by a 2-cylinder, 24 horsepower engine designed for easy cranking so a lady could drive without the
help of a man… arguably the beginning of equality of the sexes.
The only foreign car in the show, indeed the first foreign car to go on sale in Los Angeles, was the Frenchbuild Darracq, which the company advertised as the “fastest car in the world.”
Famous people were on hand as well, including a young Henry Ford, not yet a world-shaker, but already clearly a rising star. Also present, touting the virtues of his Peerless “Green Dragon,” the car in which he became the first man to drive around a racetrack at an average speed in excess of sixty miles an hour, was the premier racing driver and automotive daredevil of his time, Barney Oldfield.
By the time the show was over – attendance and interest was so high it was extended for an extra day – the relationship between Los Angeles and the automobile had been transformed.
Newspapers were already writing about the new trend of businessmen living in the country and driving into the city for their work.
Along “Gasoline Row,” a cluster of more than 50 automotive businesses within a few blocks of the corner of Broadway and Main, salesmen were still marveling at the number of new cars ordered at the show – and astonished at how many of them were ordered by women. Cars were hot and business was booming.
That long-ago LA Times writer who called LA “… the banner automobile city of the world.” not only got that part right, but he also understood the reason and used that knowledge to look into the future – “The reason is twofold.
We can use the cars all year because we have the climate and we have them because we can afford it. Los Angeles has entered the automobilist’s galaxy by having an automobile show of her own, the first ever held on the Pacific Coast. It marks an advance in the wealth and prosperity of the Southwest.
Perhaps there is nothing in the world’s progress more astonishing and more indicative of the pace at which we move than the development of the automobile. In ten years it has grown from an inventor’s dream into one of the most significant facts of complex modern life.”
This year the LA Auto Show is taking place on the 18th November to the 27th November 2011. If you are in the area make sure to visit the LA Auto Show. For more information you can also visit the 3D Car Shows site. We will post news, images and videos from the LA Auto Show.