The 1977 NY “Auto Expo” at the Coliseum

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.

In 1977, could Alfa have imagined that this Spider would last another 17 years?

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.

The great DB4, DB5, and DB6 behind them, this was brutish British performance

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! 

BMW’s version of long-legged luxury and performance

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.)

The Turbo looks mighty menacing, even in ’70’s brown.

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).

In case you missed the car’s name, it’s on the front AND the side.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2001 New England 1000 Rally

My excitement was barely containable. For the FOURTH consecutive year, I would be driving in Rich and Jean Taylor’s wonderful vintage car rally, along with about 50 like-minded car enthusiasts. My good friend and rally partner Steve would again be joining the troupe, with one significant difference: we would each be taking our own cars. Steve would be teamed up with his girlfriend (now wife) Carol in their Sunbeam Tiger, and I with my fiancé (now wife) Margaretanne would drive our recently-acquired ’72 MGB. Oh boy.

Packing the Tiger's trunk: spare parts, tools, and the all-important wash bucket
Packing the Tiger’s trunk: spare parts, tools, and the all-important wash bucket

 

Cover page of our route instructions; the rally at this time was still sponsored by M-B
Yogi provides all the driving philosophy you need

 

They can’t say they didn’t ask for it. As alluded to in an earlier post, after three straight years of hearing us rave about the rallies, the ladies wanted in. We departed from Steve’s home in Morristown NJ and caravanned to the rally starting point in Lake Placid NY. My B, purchased just a month prior, was relatively untested, and I’ll admit to some trepidation about its roadworthiness (Lucas electrics and all that). However, Steve’s British car (aside from its Yank lump) had been a bastion of reliability all these years, so I did my best to cast aside doubts.

 

En route, the two Brit roadsters sit at a NY Thruway rest area
En route, the two Brit roadsters sit at a NY Thruway rest area

Arriving at the Mirror Lake Inn on Sunday May 20, the field of rally vehicles did not disappoint; if anything, this year’s variety of cars got more interesting. The number of domestic vehicles was greater than previously seen, and included a ’64 Corvette Sting Ray, ’70 Ford Mustang, ’63 Dodge Dart, ’61 Chrysler 300G, and ’62 Ford Thunderbird (ALL convertibles).

Nice overview of the parking lot, prior to the rally's start
Nice overview of the parking lot, prior to the rally’s start

The European sports cars continued to dominate the field, and we became almost blasé at repeated sightings of Mercedes 300-SLs, Porsche 356s, Aston-Martins, Jaguar XKs, and Ferraris. The BMW 507 seen earlier returned; and of special note to me, our friend Dave Allison, who had previously entered an Alfa Giulietta spider, a Porsche 356, and a Lotus Elite, showed up with a 1971 Austin Mini. His conclusion? Of the four, the Mini was his favorite to drive!

 

Aston, Jag, BMW (would make a nice collection for my garage)
Aston, Jag, BMW (would make a nice collection for my garage)

And drive we did; as always, it’s almost exactly 1,000 miles over four days (that’s why it’s called the N.E. 1000), not including our mileage up and back. Fears about the MGB were totally unfounded; we suffered no ill effects from driving an almost-30-year-old car (not counting a very fiddly convertible top). For my wife, truth be told, getting up early and adhering to a rigidly-scheduled day was not her idea of a vacation, but she did admit that the concept and the camaraderie made it fun.

Typical queue waiting for our time out
Typical queue waiting for our time out

 

And this was the line behind us
And this was the line behind us

 

The future Mrs. Reina takes her tun behind the wheel of the B
The future Mrs. Reina takes her turn behind the wheel of the B

The return trip was uneventful. I kept the MG for the remainder of 2001, but with the BMW Isetta finally being show ready, I wanted to focus on only one collector car. Besides, the newish ’93 Mazda Miata in the garage offered plenty of sporty top-down driving whenever I wanted, so in the spring of 2002, I sold the B for exactly what I paid for it.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2001 rally, Steve and Carol relocated to California. Due in large part to our geographical separation, it would be another four years before we again entered a vintage rally together, driving a yet-to-be-purchased vehicle. Stay tuned for that story.

Beautiful backdrop for classic car lineup
Beautiful backdrop for classic car lineup

 

Dave shows all of us what that Mini can do (he WON the competitive driving award this year)
Dave shows all of us what that Mini can do (he WON the competitive driving award this year)

 

Big Chrysler almost looks at home among the sports cars
Big Chrysler almost looks at home among the sports cars

 

Two M-B 300SL roadsters sit it out
Two M-B 300SL roadsters sit it out

 

The best of Britain: Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB-6
The best of Britain: Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB-6

 

Drizzle required top-up, no quick job in the MG
Drizzle required top-up, no quick job in the MG

 

Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa

 

Aston Martin DB-5
Aston Martin DB-5

 

Alfa Romeo GTV #1
Alfa Romeo GTV #09

 

Alfa Romeo GTV #2
Alfa Romeo GTV #39

 

BMW 507
BMW 507

 

Dave Allison's Austin Mini
Dave Allison’s Austin Mini

 

Jaguar XK-150
Jaguar XK-150

 

Ferrari 275GTB/4 NART spider
Ferrari 275GTB/4 NART spider

 

Porsche 356
Porsche 356

 

Hard to believe, but this Maserati Mistral just passed our MGB
Hard to believe, but this Maserati Mistral just passed our MGB

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.