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2018 Chicago Auto Show: The Favorites

Robby DeGraff February 12, 2018 Chicago Auto Show, Featured 23 Comments

We’ve looked at a couple new production vehicles and a batch of exciting cars that do all sorts of “race” things, but I can’t forget the other show stoppers seen on the floor at Chicago this year. From multi-million dollar classics to a Hyundai with massive exhaust pipes, here are a couple of my other favorites.


Being a fan of die-cast cars (that’s a given when you’re also the Assistant Editor at Scale Auto Magazine), Chevrolet showed us a traffic cone orange Camaro, dressed to celebrate Hot Wheels’ 50th anniversary. Nearby, the new 2019 Corvette ZR1, with all its supercharged 755 horsepower, was too in the windy city in drop-top form. I also saw GM’s Raptor-fighting experiment, the new Silverado Trail Boss, which while looking confidently ready to humiliate any terrain off-pavement, desperately needs an interior refresh.


Strolling over to Hyundai and Kia, two modified Stinger GTs, the car I shamelessly nominated for Hooniverse’s “Car of the Year” because it’s that good, caught my eye instantly. A blue Stinger GT got the full-treatment from West Coast Customs, with blue-tinted carbon fiber ground effects, deep-dish wheels and wide-body fenders front and aft. It’s great to see the tuner market begin to go crazy with Kia’s new sport sedan. Keep it coming, please.


Hot hatches rule, and I finally saw new Veloster N that I’ve been anticipating, up-close. The outgoing Veloster was a funky and aging car, but I always had a soft spot for the Turbo model, which was fun to drive. At Detroit this year, Hyundai gave us a peak at their refreshed Veloster and it seems fantastic. Cleaner, not as awkward looking, and the mentioned N model gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 275 horsepower by way of a tight, six-speed manual, active sport exhaust, upgraded brakes and tuned suspension. It all reads so good, seat time will tell. You can’t help but drool over the almost Gulf-inspired iconic paint scheme, which makes its way into the interior. Guess what? Like one would see on a pricey Porsche, the Veloster N gives you body-colored seat belts and buttons on the steering wheel for its adjustable driving modes (!). Volkswagen’s GTI is a tremendous, proven, giggle-inducing joyful car to wring around, but this super sporty hatch from the Korean underdog might make the German a tad nervous. Two-thumbs up from me, Hyundai.


Infiniti had an undeniably sexy concept car on display called the Q Inspiration, and it was jaw-dropping. Powered by their new VC-Turbo engine found in the current production QX50, a mix of variable compression witchcraft and high tech bits combine to provide hybrid-esque fuel economy numbers, minus the actual need for batteries. I dream of this this one day, definitely being Infiniti’s future flagship car. I hope that fantasy transforms into a reality.


Gearheads from the Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage and Classic Car Club of America brought out four prized models form their collections. In its raw original form, there’s a grand 1932 Stutz DV32, one of 200 made. At $5,390 new with a body built by LeBaron, a 156-horsepower straight-eight powered this 4,538lb four-door convertible. The best detail? The metal, caged fan bolted onto the steering column for “air conditioning.” Be careful making that three-point turn, sir or madame.

Next to it was a pristine 1930 Cadillac Series 353, another convertible sedan, with an aluminum body crafted by Parisian coach builder Georges Kellner et Fils. Owned by famous banker Baron Rothschild (what a name, eh?) in France, this car was eventually exported to the United States in 1969 for restoration. When its three-position top folds back, the doors’ window frames actually collapse downwards, flush with the inside door panels to create a clean, true drop-top shape. With a 154-inch wheelbase and curb weight of 6,000 pounds, its 95-horsepower V8 surprisingly made 224 lbs-feet of torque at just 1,000 rpm. Engineers even lined the car’s air intake with felt, to reduce noise.

Notice the right-hand-drive? This stunning 1938 Buick 44 Special Drop-Head, was shipped off to London for use by the Singer family (as in the sewing machine). After a re-bodying by the Lancefield Company, the Buick was boated back to the family’s ranch in sunny Texas, where it sat for 25 years behind closed doors in storage before seeing light again. This is a prime example of how an automobile can also be an intricate work of art.

Perfectly coordinated with the snowstorm that started to bury Chicago after the first media day, Nissan had three models decked out for blizzard duty. A new Titan XD wearing a Boss snowplow and salter hanging off the bed area, the full-size Armada lifted with LED light bars up above, a front winch, knobby tires and a winter paint scheme all around with “Snow Patrol,” decals on either front door. See what they did there? My favorite was the 370Z convertible eagerly trying to be a snowmobile, with its front skis and rear cat tracks. Please sell this, Nissan, I feel as it would do very well in my home state of Wisconsin.


The most adorable car at the auto show this year? In celebration of their 50th year of selling vehicles in the United States, Subaru brought a 1968 360, the brand’s first production vehicle and first vehicle sold here in America. The cute Subie sits on a 70.9-inch wheelbase, is 53-in tall and its two-stroke, two-cylinder engine screeched out a 69mph top speed. For 2018, there’s an available 50th Anniversary trimming for every product in Subaru’s lineup (minus the new three-row Ascent SUV). The optional package paints each model in a unique Heritage Blue hue and dices-up the interior with commemorative logos and other glams. I’d expect the higher-end WRX STIs and BRZs carrying this special tributary package, to command sky high value at collector auctions in another fifty years.

Toyota won the nostalgia game with an ultra-rad trophy truck driven by legend Baja blaster Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. I remember playing on my old Gameboy “Super Off Road,” and always choosing the Toyota because well, when you’re a youth, it looked the fastest. Good news! At this years’s auto show, Toyota brought the actual “Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road” arcade game you can play for free with two other competitors.

The 2018 Chicago Auto Show is now open to the public until this Sunday, February 19. Go enjoy it and let us know what catches your eye.

[All images copyright Robby DeGraff/Hooniverse 2018]

  • Sjalabais

    Pretty wild selection you got there, with the lead image probably being the squarest one. V90’s are relatively common here, but today I saw a new local taxi for the first time. It is yellow, which is, of course, attention grabbing, but I also considered it oddly attractive:
    https://scontent-sea1-1.cdninstagram.com/vp/63a3dc97954aaa948a3bd6eb8c03e7d4/5B0E64E2/t51.2885-15/e35/18161953_1348776631868058_1540651244916310016_n.jpg
    This is a hefty reminder of the uniform standard colours OEMs offer on their websites.

    • neight428

      I like the V90’s more every time I see them. Good looking vehicle.

      • Zentropy

        I fell in love with the V90 the first time I saw it– it’s gorgeous inside and out. With wagons like this available, I don’t understand the popularity of SUVs. I’ve tried talking my wife into replacing her aging XC90 with the V90, but she’s having none of it.

        • needthatcar

          I wish they’d bring the “street” version of the V90 to the states. It’s twice as attractive as the XC.

          • neight428

            I thought I read somewhere that you could get one, but that you would have to order it. That seems like an odd arrangement, so I might have imagined the whole thing.

            • needthatcar

              That is actually true. The problem is, I’m never going to buy a new one, but in 5-7 years, I could see myself affording a used one. And there will be almost none of the normal V90s on the used market because there just aren’t that many people special ordering them.

    • robbydegraff

      Gosh our taxis suck here in the states…

      • Sjalabais

        What’s the standard choice, if there is any? Camry hybrid?

        • neight428

          That’s as common as any particular type now that the Crown Vics are finally giving out. Kind of a mixed bag depending on the city. I actually rode in a clapped out Mitsubishi that was a licensed taxi in Minneapolis.

  • neight428

    Ford busting out the ’73 Mustang has me worried. Those things were so oddly proportioned. You could fit a transverse FWD drivetrain in front of the radiator.

    • ptschett

      I think the ’73 Mustang’s proportions are charming, but my first few years of driving were in a car that was only a few option check boxes off from being identical to this ’73 Cougar:
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d2fe01280573f0d71d1798f0cde38cfb8514d2a1818a39c9c1b1bae3477094f1.jpg

      • Alff

        My first “car” was a Courier. I sometimes wonder how life would have been different if Dad hadn’t vetoed what it would have been – a ’73 Mustang Grande in yellow with white top and interior. Looked like an old lady’s car but someone had swapped in a 460. That was the dealkiller and the only reason I wanted it.

    • Zentropy

      That was par for the course in the 70s, though. Perhaps the Ringbrothers phenomenal Javelin restomod prompted Ford to feature their own long-nose, but at least the Rings had the sense to move the front wheel forward to balance out the Javelin’s proportions. Honestly I think these Mustangs, with the right stance and wheels, can look cool, but the convertibles in particular look like boats (especially with white tops).
      https://www.tuningblog.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Restomod-Ford-Mustang-Mach-1-Tuning-1971-7.jpg

      • neight428

        The chin spoiler helps the front end, and that one looks to have had the tail bobbed off. I do think that the fastback is the most forgiving, but it is still the “good light/bad light” girl from Seinfeld.

        http://cdn.barrett-jackson.com/staging/carlist/items/Fullsize/Cars/181127/181127_Side_Profile_Web.JPG

        • Zentropy

          Yes, it’s a modified example, but the tail isn’t bobbed— it just has an integrated rear spoiler. And I think the front chin spoiler is the worst element of the design. I only referenced it because I liked the stance. No, this generation wasn’t the best of the Mustangs, but they could be cool with a little work.

          • neight428

            Angling the nose down does help, and I guess the integrated ducktail does too. I like the factory chin spoiler, not so much whatever they did on Eleanor’s younger sister.

  • outback_ute

    Thanks Robby. I wonder what Hyundai were trying to achieve with the purple Veloster, part of the Hot Wheels 50th anniversary?

    The Armada – it’Snow Patrol? Well it is actually.

    The Silverado Trail Boss begs the question of whether Ford has let the name go. Their drag racing Mustangs are called the Boss aren’t they? Not to mention I can’t imagine trying to off-road that thing without lots of cameras – how many metres in front of the hood can you actually see the ground?

    • Maymar

      http://www.thedrive.com/watch-this/18080/watch-new-hyundai-veloster-hit-the-streets-in-ant-man-and-the-wasp-movie-trailer

      The Veloster is in the next Ant Man – I assume there’s some in-universe reasoning for the street rod look.

    • Zentropy

      That Hyundai “hot rod” is just stupid (the side pipes and flames are tacky as hell). While the 2019 Veloster is not quite as ugly as its predecessor, it’s still no looker. No FWD needs that much rubber at the rear wheels– only enough to balance the front for lateral grip when cornering. And if you’re going to push the wheels out, the fenders deserve some modification to cover them. I like it when tires are flush with the fenders, but hate it when they extend beyond.

      I realize this was just an attention-grabber built for a comic-book movie for promotional reasons, but damn, it’s a mess.

  • Rover 1

    It’s good to see that Mercedes Benz is taking the American desire for light pickup trucks seriously.
    This must be the correct response to people who accuse dualcab light trucks like the F150 or Silverado of not having enough bed space to be practical.

    And of course, with the bonus of coming from a true luxury brand
    https://i2.wp.com/hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/IMG_3456.jpg?resize=720%2C435

  • Victor

    Is it wrong that I like that tiny Subaru as much as anything else ?

    • robbydegraff

      no not at all sir, it was the best.

  • KentMB1