With the advent of the automobile at the beginning of the 20th century, a place for the local dealers and automobile manufacturers to show off their wares was needed. One of the first automotive hubs was Detroit, followed by New York and in 1907, Los Angeles joined the group. The first Los Angeles Auto Show was at Morley’s Skating Rink in Downtown L.A. and featured 99 cars from 46 different manufacturers, which included such companies as Ford, Cadillac, Peerless and White. Over 3,000 people were in attendance, each paying a whopping 50 cents to check out the future of the automobile. Some of the show’s attendees included Henry Ford, Barney Oldfield (race car driver) and L.L. Whitman, who had just set a record for driving from San Francisco to New York in just over 15 days.
“There are towns in the East that boast an automobile to every one hundred of the population…Los Angeles, with a quarter million people, has an automobile for every eighty persons. It is without exception the banner automobile city of the world.” – From the Los Angles Times – January 21, 1907
From the beginning, California was already the car-owning capital and that influence still holds strong today. California’s love affair with the automobile is a long-running one, and the proof is in these numbers…
Motor Car Registrations in California
- 1910 – 28,000 motor cars
- 1911 – 42,500 motor cars
- 1912 – 60,500 motor cars
- 1913 – 93,240 motor cars
- 1914 – 122,567 motor cars
The Golden State’s passion for the automobile grew exponentially and with it would come local innovations and all forms of racing to help fuel that growth.
L.A. Auto Show became a mega hit as the years went on, with many new car debuts and things only L.A. could do, like hosting an appearance by Ed Sullivan who’s show at the time was sponsored by Lincoln-Mercury. But one of the craziest events in the show’s history happened in 1929 when an electrical fire broke out in one of the tents that housed the show. It would burn four tents, and the cars they contained, to the ground, causing over $1 million in damage. The city rallied together with auto manufacturers and dealers, and 24 hours later, the show was back up and located at the Shrine Auditorium, where it would be housed for many years to come.
The show took a hiatus from 1940 to 1952 as the world focused on World War II. When the show returned, it featured a few changes, thanks to the influences of Americans traveling to Europe. For the first time, cars from England, France and Italy would be on display at the show. The show continued to grow over the years to include quite an eclectic and varied group, as manufacturers from other countries would join the show’s ranks.
The L.A. Auto Show begins tomorrow, with all its usual pomp and circumstance. Go check out the new car debuts and aftermarket companies that are displaying along with our friends from Where They Raced – who are bringing out a couple of vintage race cars to delight show goers.