Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A CONFLUENCE OF THINGS, especially the Internet and Covid-19, all but put paid to international auto shows. But, as shown by I.A.A. Mobility, a Munich replacement for the traditional biennial Frankfurt International Motor Show, the tire-kicking ritual may transform phoenix-like into a different sort of activity.

I.A.A. (Internationale Automobil Ausstellung; this last word, German for Exhibition), Munich 2021. Image by Felix Schmidt for The New York Times, September 10, 2021.

Jack Ewing describes this in “What Car Shows May Look Like, if Car Shows Have a Future,” The New York Times, September 10, 2021. Ewing writes, “Europe’s first major car show in two years, which opened in Munich on Tuesday, looks like this: The latest models are being exhibited in outdoor plazas rather than expensive pavilions. Serious discussions on topics like autonomous driving have replaced light shows. And bicycles are on display. (Yes, bicycles.)”

This got me thinking about auto shows I’ve enjoyed. Here are some tidbits that come to mind.

Tokyo Motor Shows. Tokyo’s biennial events were my favorites, for at least two reasons. Typically the Tokyo Motor Show was held in October, its press days occasionally only a week or so before the Japanese Grand Prix. And, as noted in ”Suzuka Shenanigans,” for several years I celebrated my birthday in Japan with my own special bottle of Scotch at a wonderful little bistro near the circuit. Another year, I received a special card and tasty confection from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

My first visits were in the 1980s, when the show was held at Harumi, an exhibition hall just southeast of Tokyo’s Ginza. Thus, it was handy to the Tsukiji Fish Market and the shops surrounding it. And Kabukiza, Tokyo’s home of kabuki theater, was nearby as well. 

Talk about a great location. 

The show outgrew Harumi, though, and in 1989 it moved to the vast all-new Makuhari Messe Event Hall, in the Chiba suburb out beyond Tokyo Disneyland. Organizers copped the word Messe from the German “trade fair.” 

After Harumi, Makuhari was a bit sterile and not particularly close to anything. Even Disneyland is listed as 32 minutes away by train. Nonetheless, Tokyo Motor Shows remained my favorites.

Faux Photography. Like any proper motor show, Toyko’s had attractive young ladies whose purpose was to display features of the cars. (Now you tell one.) Unlike the London Earl’s Court Motor Shows during its wild and crazy period (the late 60s on), these Japanese young ladies were tastefully attired. Indeed, I am reminded of Moose Malloy in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, when he remembered his ex-girlfriend as “cute as a bug’s ear.”

These Tokyo young ladies were especially cute when a camera was pointed their way. In fact, when I’d inevitably run out of rolls of film (“What’s a roll of film, Grandpa?”), I’d keep pointing and snapping, merely to elicit the smiles. 

Tokyo 2001. I had good fun at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show’s exhibition of Honda’s Unibox. 

A dance routine accompanied the Unibox intro. The little guy in the act is Asimo (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). He had all the right moves.

The Unibox was a concept city car. It had features galore, including changeable exterior panels to suit one’s mood and a multi-use interior. It was, as I noted, “a party locale waiting to be parked.” 

Yes, what attracted me was the Unibox’s innovative design.

A Motor Show Bicycle. Not to counter Ewing’s “Yes, Bicycles” reference to I.A.A. Munich 2021, but Tokyo 2003 had the Yamaha Dolsa Wind, an electric two-wheeler, part of the company’s “Clean and Silent” theme.

The Yamaha Dolsa Wind, 2003 Toyko Motor Show.

Yamaha noted the Dolsa Wind incorporated “Riding Music, riding on the wind and the enriching experience of playing a musical instrument.” 

A sound generator beneath the seat created the music and relayed it to two speakers in the seat and eight more in the handlebars. Tones changed in response to the manner in which the Dolsa Wind was ridden.

I wonder if I.A.A. Munich 2021 had anything like it. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021

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