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A walk down auto show memory lane

With the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) set to open its doorsto the public on Friday, it's interesting to compare what you will seeat this year's edition versus what was at the first.

With the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) set to open its doors to the public on Friday, it's interesting to compare what you will see at this year's edition versus what was at the first.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the members of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association, who present the CIAS, will be well represented. Comparing and contrasting the mechanical offerings by TADA’s members both then and now is fascinating. It’s truly amazing to see how advanced the automobile industry has come in a relatively short period.

The TADA was a youthful 21 years old when the first auto show in Canada was held right here in Toronto in 1929. Fast forward 82 years and in addition to organizing the show, the TADA has its own exhibit for the very first time. You will not only get a chance to see how its dealer-members take the proceeds from the CIAS and put it back into the community and a number of worthy causes around the GTA, but you will also get a chance to win 500,000 Aeroplan points.

Imagine trying to explain Aeroplan points to a visitor of that first auto show in Toronto.

Charles Lindbergh had just made his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean only two years earlier. “Lucky Lindy” would have earned only about 5,000 Aeroplan points for that trip, one per cent of the points that will be awarded to one lucky visitor to this year’s show.

A great deal has changed since the 1929 show. The location of that first show was in a venue that had just opened a few months earlier, a venue that is still in use today and about to undergo a major renovation. If you guessed that it might be the venerable Automotive Building at the C.N.E., you’d be wrong, although that also appeared for the first time in 1929.

That first show was held in the Arcadian Court, opened in March of that year. Yes, the same Arcadian Court that is still an event venue on the eighth floor of The Bay at Queen & Yonge. Back then it was the elegant eatery and ballroom of the Simpson’s department store. A place to see and be seen in Toronto.

It’s Art Deco, 5,500 square feet was packed with the latest in automotive technology. Today, 5,500 square feet would barely contain a couple of exhibitors at this year’s CIAS.

There were many familiar names in the Arcadian Court in 1929 that are still in business today — Ford, GM and Chrysler were the lead attractions, but that era also featured a number of legendary nameplates that sadly no longer exist.

Cord, Duesenberg, Hudson and Willys were popular, as were Canada’s own home-grown McLaughlin Buicks and the ubiquitous Ford Model ‘A.’ At that time, there was barely anything from beyond the shores of North America. The variance in design and technology was also not that extensive, certainly nothing close to what you will see this year. The most common cars back then featured four-cylinder powerplants, produced 40-50 horsepower and cost around $500.

Fuel delivery systems were rather limited and they all ran exclusively on gasoline. This year, visitors to the show have never had so much choice. Advancements in design, technology and propulsion systems have been progressing in leaps and bounds. Gasoline, diesel, plug-in electrics, hybrids, and alternatively fueled vehicles will all be in attendance, and not just as concept cars but as production models available to all of us.

Beyond having four wheels and a steering wheel, the cars of 1929 and 2011 have little in common. However, one thing that has remained constant is the TADA. We were a vibrant, busy organization then, and we are even more so today. Stop by the TADA booth to see how the proceeds from your ticket help some great causes, including the new Ronald McDonald House Toronto and Trillium Gift of Life.

And be sure to register for a chance to win those 500,000 Aeroplan points. You can trace Lindy’s flight, but in the comfort of business class and in a quarter of the time.

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