Scanning and posting my photos from the 1969 New York Auto Show resulted in my flipping through other photographs of mine from the ‘60s and ‘70s. To my surprise, I rediscovered photos that I had frankly forgotten about: pictures from the 1977 New York Auto Show (or so I thought). One reason that these pictures hadn’t resonated with me was their poor quality. Taken with a Kodak 110 Instamatic camera, the flash was barely powerful enough to illuminate the subjects. Thankfully, digital photo-editing software goes a long way toward making them halfway presentable. These photos also verify what was seen in my 1969 event pictures: the claustrophobic nature of the Coliseum’s exhibit halls.
As I did some Googling about the show, I came across a 2nd surprise: these pictures were in fact NOT taken at the “official” NY show, but at an event held a few months later called “Auto Expo”. Still held in the Coliseum, Auto Expo was all imported cars. I’m not sure if that’s because the funny furrin’ ones didn’t get enough exposure at the main event, or if promoters/dealers wanted to give the imports a chance to shine on their own.
One website I stumbled across lists the details of every NY Auto Show from 1900 to 2020, by date, sponsor, official title, and location. Presuming that this data is accurate, I note that I was incorrect in my earlier post when I stated that the NY Show has been held “continuously” since 1900; the show was on hiatus during the war years 1941-1947. The new Coliseum first hosted in 1956, and that show carried the title of New York’s “1st International Automobile Show”. The next year was the “2nd” and so on. This title structure remained until the GNYADA (Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association) assumed sponsorship in 1972.
In 1977, the GNYADA show ran from January 29 through February 6. But two men, Robert Topaz and Raymond Geddes, sponsored the first all-import Auto Expo, held that year from April 3 to April 10. I’m certain that’s the show I attended, as I was in college in ’77, way out in eastern Long Island, and would not have traveled into Manhattan in January. But I would have been home on Staten Island for Easter break, when Auto Expo was held, and it would have been a breeze to take public transport up to the Coliseum.
Auto Expo lasted all of three years; perhaps Gotham City couldn’t generate enough traffic to viably support two new car shows spaced just a few months apart. After 1979, the only NY auto show was hosted by the GNYADA, and that continues to this day.
This NY Times article points out some attractions my camera missed, and also helpfully advises that “free parking (is) nonexistent within three blocks before 6 P.M on weekdays”. I only took five photographs, and they are arranged below in alphabetical order by manufacturer. I’ve compiled some basic engine and price data sourced from The Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-1990, published by Krause Publications. Some of these prices shock me, even today. For comparison, five months after attending this show, I bought my first new car, a 1977 VW Rabbit, for $3,599. And to think I could have had a Le Car.
1977 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce
Alfa Romeo introduced a new 2-seat convertible, the Duetto, to the world in 1966. Although the little roadster got semi-frequent styling and engine upgrades, the same basic shell was still on offer 11 years later as the 2000 Spider Veloce. Let’s break that down: 2000 as in engine size (2.0L); Spider as in Italian for “convertible”; and Veloce as in “fast” (a relative term). The 1977 version of the fabled Alfa twin-cam four-cylinder put out 110 HP; entry into the topless Alfa club started at $8,795 in ’77.
1977 Aston Martin V-8
An Aston Martin showroom in 1977 presented two choices: the 4-door Lagonda, and the 2-door V-8. The car pictured, the V-8, was also available in Vantage (high-performance) and Volante (drop-top) versions. The base non-Vantage V-8, with 4 dual-choke Webers, pushed out 350 horsepower and started at $33,950. Can you put a price on exclusivity? The company built a total of 262 V-8 models in 1977.
1977 BMW 630CSi
BMW introduced its new 6-series coupes to the world halfway through the 1976 model year, but didn’t bring this 630CSi stateside until 1977. BMW didn’t have a large presence in the U.S. yet: showrooms held this car, the 2-door 320i, and the 4-door 530i, and that was it. (But the front plate already proclaims “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.) The 630CSi’s 3L inline-six churned out 176 HP, and its starting price of $23,600 was $9,000 higher than the 1976 3.0Si coupe it replaced!
1977 Porsche Turbo Carrera Coupe
For a photo that only captures one hind quarter, the details are telling: the wide flared rear fenders and whale-tail spoiler are dead giveaways that this is the Porsche 911 Turbo, officially known as the Turbo Carrera Coupe. Introduced to the U.S. market the year before, Porsche brought it back in ’77 with almost no changes for its sophomore year. The 3-liter engine produced 234 HP in Federal trim, with a list price of $28,000. (By comparison, a 1977 Porsche 911S Coupe started at $13,845, a 50% discount.)
1977 Renault Le Car
Like the Porsche Turbo Carrera, Renault’s two-door microcar was in its 2nd model year in the states. That’s about where the similarities end. Starting price was $3,345 for the 58-horsepower 2-door. A fact of which I was unaware: when introduced here in 1976, the vehicle was called the “R-5”; the name change to “Le Car” happened in in ’77. The Le Car hung around in the U.S. market through the 1983 model year, by which time its base price had risen to $4,795 (that’s a lot of French bread).
All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.
One thought on “The 1977 NY “Auto Expo” at the Coliseum”
Because of (or in spite of) have attended and worked at more auto shows than I can count, I’ve enjoyed both of your auto show pieces! Both brought back memories of my earliest auto show experience. My father took me to the 1958 Boston Auto Show and in retrospect, it may have imprinted on me at least one car in my future. I remember almost nothing about it except that I walked away with a flyer I kept for years of a tiny British coupe called the Jomar. This was one of the early efforts of TreVoR Wilkinson as the TVR brand was trying to establish itself, which it did, as evidenced by the TVR mentioned in the NY Times write up of the ’77 NY Auto Expo. Fast forward a dozen years and there I am as a young so-called adult acquiring and racing a TVR. I remain convinced that seeing that Jomar was a seminal moment leading to that acquisition.
Oddly, that was not the last time the Jomar appeared in my life. Fast forward another dozen years and I’m a “real” adult with a service rep job at Volvo calling on the northern New England dealer network. The dealer in Manchester NH was Merrimack St. Garage situated in a big old downtown brick building with the parking below street level under the showroom. After a couple visits there, I noticed, back in a dark alcove, a couple low car-like shapes under dust covered tarps. So I asked the service manager what was going on there and he replied that those are a couple old race cars belonging to the dealer principal Ray Saidel. What kind of race cars? “They’re Jomars.” he replied. It’s a long story but it turns out that in the ’50s and ’60s Ray had acquired all different kinds of imported franchises and while doing that bought some chassis’ from TVR to make his own race cars and eventually road cars named after his two oldest children JOanna and MARk. There’s more but this website which I think was put together by his younger son Alex (who a few years after I first saw them got involved with bringing them back to life) tells it in great detail.
There was also an excellent article on the history of Jomar in a 1996 issue of Automobile Quarterly which I could copy for you if you’re interested.
Too bad you didn’t go for the R5/LeCar, they had way more character than the VWabbit!