This week was the 64th Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, or Frankfurt International Autoshow. The autoblogosphere is rank with autowriters showing you all the same pictures and paraphrasing the same press releases. If you’re lucky, your favorite automotive media outlet had boots on the ground there this week, taking original pictures and telling you why the stories matter, how they will impact you, and what makes their coverage newsworthy.
In case they didn’t, or you just had a taste for something a little different, I thought I’d share something very special to me with you today. You see, 20 years ago, when I was in 8th grade, my Dad was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, in the US Army. Even back then, I was so obsessed with all things automotive, I convinced my parents to drive me to Frankfurt to attend the IAA. Yes.
Whereas the autoblogosphere turned my second international autoshow experience (Los Angeles, 2010) into little more than a trip to the mall (which I hate, by the way), I will always look back at the day I spent with my parents walking around the 54th IAA back in 1991 and feel that sense of excitement. It’s so important to me, in fact, I’ve still got all the goodies I collected as a 14 year old that day.
And that’s what this post is all about – sharing what I remember of my biggest car day in Frankfurt some 20 years ago and thinking about how much has changed – for the industry, and for me as a gearhead. Last night, I pulled the carefully preserved canvas Honda bag of Frankfurt ’91 goodies from it’s safe-keeping. As I unwrapped the old Heidelberg High School sweaters from around it within it’s own, always kept indoors plastic tote, I could feel the excitement building. It was like I was waiting my turn to sit in the cut-in-half Porsche 968 Cabrio all over again.
Hope you don’t mind the crappy Blackberry pictures. I don’t have a scanner and was eager to share this stuff with you this week. I’m leaving all the images as clickable if you’d like to zoom in (if it helps any).
The day started with Mom, Dad, and I making the hour drive from Heidelberg to Frankfurt. We parked in a garage and hopped on my first train for the ride across town to the show. I remember standing up and bracing myself when the train pulled out of the station in near silence. Short of the occasional ride on the Straßenbahn around downtown Heidelberg, this is the only train ride I’ve ever taken.
First Things First
We picked up our IAA 91 brochure, which gave us our bearings and shopping list for the day. In 2011 the motto is Zukunft serienmäßig (The future comes stanard). In 1991, it was Das Auto – Mobilität und verantwortung (The Car – Mobility and responsibility).
The 54th IAA in two parts. An autoshow so big, they split it between two cities. Is this still the case?
With the full color brochure neatly tucked away, I stuck to a black and white version and starting my shopping list of booths to visit.
Since every display is likely to have some kind of printed material to pass out, many outfits have special bags they make available. As you walk the halls, you can’t help but notice these bags are everywhere. I wonder if there could be some kind of study done to determine how the take-rate for these free bags at autoshows compares to sales volume or something.
One of My All-Time Favorite Marques
I don’t know if these next two shots came from something at the 1991 Frankfurt Autoshow, but they’ve been with the collection as long as I remember. Just a couple of classy Alfa Romeo magazine ads. Check out that cutting edge technology!
Clearly, this was back before everyone needed GPS to help them navigate their own hometowns…
I still love this car today.
And how much did these cars cost back then? Leave us consult the Alfa Romeo pricelist from the Frankfurt Autoshow… (Note the sweet decals, I only wish I still had the poster I got at this event.)
Since Germany adopted the Euro in 2002, the European Central Bank fixed the exchange rate to 1DM = €1.95583, should anyone still have some and wish to convert them to Euros. As I write this, €1.95583 = US$2.74, so let’s do a little math. If a 1991 Alfa Spider retailed for DM41,400,–, that comes out to €80,971, or US$111,343, a figure I’m sure most Alfa owners only wish we true (and those of us who wish we owned an Alfa are glad is just some random, meaningless conversion we shared).
This is the cover of the 1991 Nissan model program from the show.
And, a sample of what’s inside – Nissan Patrol GR!
On the latest
state of the art: Toyota
On the IAA ’91
A look into the future
with the thought of today
the autostudy: AXV-IV.
Roughly, Toyota does not make any decision lightly. (Mein Deutsche ist schrecklich.)
Back when I loved the Celica…
The 1991 Toyota 4-Runner
Had it’s own brochure. Wow. Remember when SUVs were more truck than car?
What did Honda have to share?
The consequence of successful automotive technology.
Two cars we probably all wish they still had the balls to make. On the left, The scale of the new sports car generation. On the right, a classic sports coupé.
Just a couple quick hits from Lancia. Individuality is to programmatically.
Chasseur Stealth 340 Biturbo?
Off the top of my head, 6L twin-turbocharged Jag. Curious to find out more about this one.
Not hardly. That’s all I’ve got in terms of literature, but the memories. Oh the memories. I remember seeing Alpina BMWs, rally cars suspended from walls, F1 cars slowly rotating under spotlights, and more. This next part is where things get a little tricky, and hopefully fun. Today, we can snap thousands of pictures with our mobile phones. 20 years ago, I had enough allowance money to cover three tickets to the show (for my parents and I) and a single roll of film.
I’ve since lost the pictures, but I still have the negatives. I will be trying to get these pictures re-developed over the weekend, but in the meantime, anyone feel like playing 20 Year Old International Autoshow Sleuth and trying their hand at identifying the vehicles which will (hopefully) show up here in full, Technicolor glory next week? I’ve numbered them. Just share your guesses in the comments below. First 20 people to guess them all will get a free GBXM decal from me in the mail.
Here we go…
So that’s it!
Looking back at these cars, it’s crazy to think how many have changed radically or left the market entirely. And yet, aside from the obviously 20 year old models, it doesn’t appear any different from the shows of today. Maybe they didn’t have an iPad on a stand every 10 feet, but the displays look strikingly similar (at least from the negatives). What’s even more ironic is, today my daily driver is a 91 Mitusbishi Galant VR4. I’d bet money they had one on display that year at Frankfurt, but I never got around to their booth. I can’t imagine looking back at these pictures and seeing that I actually owned one of them.
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