Twin Cities 2019: Four On the Floor Plus Overdrive

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All Photos by Randy Stern

Since 2005, the Twin Cities Auto Show has become a part of my annual routine. Each year provided a larger personal role than before.

For example, I was presented with an opportunity to expand my automotive media horizons in 2011. A meeting with the regional public relations representative from Toyota offering to send a vehicle for me to do a story on. That moment sparked this career onto new heights.

Every year since, I was welcomed by the auto show’s management and public relations teams to see more of the show than ever before. This trajectory continues, as I continue my role as one of the few automotive journalists working in the Twin Cities.

This year’s show offered up an interesting twist. Usually, the car community – some of which happen to be friends of mine – were simply content on attending our Tier 3 auto show. Now, they are participating in it. In various ways.

Talk about having some thing hitting closer to home…

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Before I address that aspect of the show, the Twin Cities Auto Show wanted me to convey their “Four on The Floor” of the show. One is the “car of the show.” The new 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived in the USA as a sedan, instead of the hatchback seen the world over. It appears to be a scaled-down C-Class aimed at the Audi A3

The second star – or, rather, stars – of the Auto Show are a trio of Ford GTs. What is remarkable about the trio sitting in the Luxury Ballroom is that each GT represents each generation of Ford’s supercar. They are all in the colors of the Gulf Oil livery that won at Le Mans in 1968 and 1969. The 1968 GT40, along with the 2006 and 2018 GTs are owned by a Ford enthusiast and drag race team owner Darroll Myers from North Dakota. They sit right by the stage overlooking all of the other luxury and performance automobiles on display in the ballroom.

Nissan also brought their Altima-TRAX as the show’s third star. First off, the new 2019 Altima is available with all-wheel-drive. So, it made sense that they would put a set of snow tracks on this vehicle as a reminder that winter can be defeated in Minnesota rather easily in this Nissan. Come to think of it, some of my colleagues may have enjoyed this vehicle on their winter driving trip to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec this past week.

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The fourth is more of a collection of vehicles and technologies than just a single vehicle. Midwest Evolve has been driving the Electric Room, where they showcase an electric/plug-in vehicle future with current and upcoming products. Local EV owners will be on hand to talk about their first-hand experiences to attendees who may have an inkling towards owning an EV or plug-in vehicle. They also created a row of charging stations out front of the Minneapolis Convention Center as VIP parking for EV/Plug-In owners.

A couple of related items to the Electric Room to add. One, show goers may win a two-year lease on a 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The other is that Xcel Energy has set-up a Ride & Drive experience with the Outlander PHEV and a Nissan Leaf.

There are other attractions on the show floor that was not included on the Auto Show’s “Four on The Floor” list. Chevrolet had the LEGO Silverado 1500 in full view. Meanwhile, Honda has a smaller scale LEGO version of a Civic Type-R at their booth. Ram Trucks had the Raminator from the Monster Jam tour available for people to climb into the cockpit. Let’s not forget about Camp Jeep – still the most popular exhibit at the Twin Cities Auto Show.

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More importantly, the Twin Cities Auto Show has seen the return of BMW to the show floor. It was a long time coming, but they are here. Their absence in Chicago was completely reversed by their presence in Minneapolis. Mitsubishi also had a huge presence that also made up for their absence in Detroit and Chicago. Only MINI and Porsche were missing on the show floor this year.

There are other stars of the show. Some I know very well. These may surprise you a bit.

The newest thing at the Twin Cities Auto Show was a Project Car contest. They selected three winners and an honorable mention. One of those winners happen to be a friend and a car I know quite well. Ryan Munson’s 2004 Nissan 350Z has been a labor of love for him for several years now. When he undertook an engine swap to a General Motors LS Small Block V8, he had to do so by trial and error. Then, success! All I can say that this selection in the contest is well deserved. Believe me, I have seen the progress of Munson’s Z from time to time. His determination to do it has influenced others to follow his lead.

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A quick glance deep onto the main floor of the show brings a different kind of display. The Minnesota Car Enthusiast Club took some real estate usually reserved for several Ride and Drive experiences to show off their best rides. In roll-in day, I only saw John Wayne Pha’s chromed green wrapped Acura NSX by Platinum. Pha runs Budget Auto Repair in New Brighton and is also a key figure in the Minnesota NSX club. It seems fitting that his NSX would be on display, given the car’s 30th anniversary of its unveiling at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989.

Joining Pha’s NSX is another group of cars I know quite well. First, there’s TJ Beadle’s Holden Ute in a lime-ish green. There’s Brett Lidfors’ gray racing Volkswagen Passat, along with Alex Kirpach’s Ford Mustang, a hopped up Jeep Wrangler, a Lamborghini Huracan, a modded Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, a Lotus Elise, and another Acura NSX.

I have to admit that this group of cars at the Auto Show certainly hit home. These people read this site and my other work. I have been alongside them for years. It is as we are reminded that car season is indeed coming, and you should check them out on the way to Camp Jeep.

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While MNCEC has taken space on the show floor, it gave me a chance to revisit or catch up on some vehicles I have seen in my journeys of late. It was also cringe-inducing when I saw people actually touching those vehicles – especially A.J. Mehta’s Corvette and the Huarcan. Why can’t people – not just children – understand that certain vehicles cannot be touched when there are signs saying to not do so?

That’s the risk you take for bringing these special vehicles onto the show floor without a “velvet rope” or some form of protection around the vehicle.

Because of some mini-meetings and trying to get as many items done for all of my “hats I wear,” I did not get to everything. Nor did I had the chance to do any Ride & Drives. It is not because I have driven everything they are presenting from the show floor. Rather, I had agendas that did not include the so-called “usual.” A storm was brewing later that day. Plus, I was getting tired.

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The roll-in Friday and the Media Preview Saturday may not be the last time I’ll be at the Twin Cities Auto Show. I could do one more day – mainly to help out with MNCEC.

And, I can say that this will not be my last auto show of the season. It will be in another region of the country. No, it will not be New York. Just watch this space or our social media to find out.

In its 46th year, the Twin Cities Auto Show continues to be a beacon for both consumers and enthusiasts. However, this is the year of the enthusiast -thanks to the Project Car contest, MNCEC’s presence on the show floor, the trio of Ford GTs in the Luxury Ballroom, and the engagement the show has always had with its fans.

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That’s the thing about this local auto show of ours. Not just our presence – Josh Dvorak, included. But, that we can rally our local auto show to present more for a wider swath of fans. That is why I/we still support the Twin Cities Auto Show.

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