Auto show in Raleigh turns heads with newest models, classic cars

sbarr@newsobserver.comFebruary 15, 2014 

  • If you go

    The North Carolina Auto Expo is open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh. Tickets are $6 for adults and teens, $4 for ages 6-12, $5 for ages 60 plus and free for children under 6.

— Whether they were in the market for a minivan or hoping to scope out the year’s flashiest new sports cars, visitors to the North Carolina International Auto Expo on Saturday had plenty to see.

After he snapped a photo of a dark gray Lexus that had caught his eye, Elliott Whalen summed up the appeal of the show for many of the visitors.

“There are so many shiny cars,” he said.

Elliott is only 5 years old, so he’s not looking to buy just yet. But for his father, Andy Whalen, the show was a chance to check out the latest bells and whistles, especially in the newest version of his own car, a Hyundai Genesis.

“We’re a big car fan family,” he said.

Since 1987, the Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association has hosted the auto show, where it gets to introduce cars and trucks that have just rolled off the assembly line. Although the weather forced the four-day show to close early on Thursday, attendance picked up on Friday, and the show was bustling by Saturday afternoon.

The auto show also is a fundraiser. This year, the association will donate nearly $90,000 to local charities and nonprofit groups, including the Hospice of Wake County, the Raleigh Police Memorial Fund and the WakeMed Foundation.

Anna Vermeulen of Raleigh said she came to get a sense of what’s available, everything from styles to gas mileage. As she stood by a blue Toyota Prius, Vermeulen said the car had piqued her interest.

“It would be something to look at in the future,” she said.

For some though, the auto expo is a chance to delve into the past. The show features a classic auto display with cars and trucks from the 1930s to 1970s. This year, 41 cars and truck are on display, fewer than usual because owners were reluctant to bring their cars through the bad weather.

Marshall Wheeler of the Piedmont Classic Chevy Club coordinates the display, which tends to draw in multiple generations as visitors reminisce about the cars they once drove or owners share the stories of how they inherited the car from their relatives.

“The car hobby is a family hobby,” he said.

Ronald Spann of Raleigh came to the show with his son and grandson. As he strolled through the showroom, a 1957 model took him back to the year he was 16, while a 1935 coupe reminded him of an old family photo with relatives lined up in front of the same model.

“This brings back a lot of memories for us older folks,” he said.

Barr: 919-836-4952

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