The New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) is the oldest auto show in North America, with the first event taking place at Madison Square Garden in 1900. A total of 69 exhibitors were in attendance, with approximately 160 complete vehicles on display.
This year, Nissan is celebrating 50 years of performance at NYIAS with what it is calling a “Nissan Dream Garage”. While we wait for the dream to become reality, join us as we take a brief look at the history of North America’s first automotive exhibition.
More from NYIAS:
- Classic Mini Electric charges into New York
- New York Auto Show 2018: The best cars
- 2018 World Car Awards winners revealed in New York
Staged at New York’s Javits Center
Along with Madison Square Garden, early events were held at the Grand Central Palace. In 1956, the NYIAS moved to the New York Coliseum, described by mayor Robert Wagner as “one of the wonders of the modern world.” It remained at the 323,000-square-foot Coliseum until 1987, when it arrived at its present home: the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
NYIAS: the early years
At the first New York Auto Show in 1900 (the International part of the name didn’t arrive until 1956) the vehicles on display ranged from $280 – nearly six months’ salary at the average annual wage of $589 – up to $4,000. New York’s show followed in the footsteps of the world’s oldest automotive exhibition: the 1898 Paris Auto Show. At the turn of the century, there were fewer than 8,000 cars in the U.S., but a nation’s love affair with the automobile was beginning to blossom.
Evolved from bicycle shows
Auto shows evolved from bicycle shows, which were popular in the late 19th century. Indeed, the New York City cycle show of 1899 was the first in North America to use automobile in its title. It’s full name was the Fourth Annual Cycle and Automobile Exhibition. Development of the car was still in its infancy, as can be seen from this 1901 Renault.
First show held at Madison Square Garden
On show at the first New York Auto Show – held at Madison Square Garden were seven electric vehicles, two petrol-powered vehicles and a gasoline tricycle. This image shows an Australian bicycle from the period.
Curved Dash Oldsmobile
Making its debut at the 1901 New York Auto Show was the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the first mass-produced car. Around 425 units were built during the first year, extending to 19,000 by the time it went out of production in 1907. It was the best-selling vehicle in America.
Longest drive in the US
The first Curved Dash Oldsmobile was driven to the New York Auto Show by Roy D. Chaplin, who started his journey in Detroit. At the time, this was the longest journey ever completed by a car in the USA.
Toledo Model A
Another car to launch at the 1901 New York Auto Show was the Toledo Model A, which is widely considered to be one of the best American-built steam cars. The 6.5hp twin-cylinder vehicle could trace its roots back to a bicycle, but the writing was already on the wall for steam-powered cars. Gasoline was taking over.
Cadillac Model A
In 1903, the New York Auto Show played host to the birth of one of America’s most famous automotive brands: Cadillac. The Model A was Cadillac’s first car and this image shows a car from 1904.
The first REO
The first car produced by the REO Motor Car Company made its debut at the 1905 New York Auto Show. The REO was a 16hp two-cylinder car with a detachable tonneau. Much later, REO would build the Speed Wagon, which of course inspired the name of the rock group, REO Speedwagon.
1906 Ford Model N
We often read about the Model T, but there was life at Ford before the Tin Lizzy. The Ford Model N was unveiled at the 1906 New York Auto Show and was the realisation of Henry Ford’s dream of making an affordable car. Nobody could quite believe that Ford could sell the Model N for $500 and still make a profit.
First Chevrolet to wear the ‘bowtie’
In 1913, Chevrolet co-founder William C. Durant introduced the signature Chevy bowtie on the 1914 H-2 Royal Mail and the H-4 Baby Grand, centered at the front of both models. For most people, the 1914 New York Auto Show was the first chance to see this famous badge.
Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled
Not all automobiles go on to become greats. The Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled car was unveiled at the 1923 New York Auto Show and featured a unique non-radiator grille. According to Automobile Quarterly, “the car was introduced to an intrigued but dubious public,” but a lack of testing meant they were destined for disaster. All but two of the 759 air-cooled engines built were recalled and scrapped.
Chrysler born at the 1924 New York Auto Show
Another famous American brand to make its debut at the New York Auto Show was Chrysler. There are many stories surrounding the marque’s NY debut, including Chrysler being banned from the show because its automobiles were not available for purchase. But while the company rented space at the Commodore Hotel, Chrysler also displayed three models of the Chrysler Six – or B-70 – in the main exhibition hall.
Duesenberg – back for the 1928 New York Auto Show
The Duesenberg name was revived for the 1928 New York Auto Show and the first car to be shown was the Model J. It was designed to go head-to-head with the most luxurious cars of the era, such as those made by Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz. Sadly, this was just before the Great Depression and the Model J sold nowhere near as many as had been forecast.
The Cadillac V-16 – or Cadillac Sixteen – was one of the most luxurious cars in the firm’s history. It made its debut at the 1930 New York Auto Show and production would last right through the 1930s. Each one was custom-built to order.
Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
By 1933, America was in the grip of the Great Depression and the luxury car brands were struggling for survival. Pierce-Arrow needed a showstopper for the 1933 New York Auto Show, so it turned to Phil Wright who created this masterpiece – the Silver Arrow. As the slogan said, “it gives you in 1933 the car of 1940.”
The famous Chrysler Thunderbolt made its debut at the 1940 New York Auto Show. This was the era of flamboyant concept cars and the Art Deco-inspired Thunderbolt – with its retractable hardtop – was no different.
Shortly after being unveiled at the 1948 London Motor Show, the Jaguar XK120 made its North American debut at the New York Auto Show. It overshadowed many of the exhibits on display and – much like it was in London – the XK120 was a sensation in New York.
Ferrari 250 Europa Coupe
It’s arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever to wear a Ferrari badge and it’s almost certainly one of the loveliest cars ever to appear at the New York Auto Show. This unique 1954 New York Auto Show Ferrari 250 Europa Coupe featured exclusive Michelotti-designed Vignale coachwork.
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
In a break from tradition, Mercedes-Benz chose to launch its sublime 300SL Gullwing, not in Europe, but at the 1954 New York Auto Show. It was US distributor, Max Hoffman, who proposed an American unveiling. The rest, as they say, is history.
1956: a year of change
1956 saw a series of changes for the New York Auto Show. International was added to the name, reflecting the increasing popularity of European cars (photo shows the 1956 Geneva Motor Show). The New York show moved to the Coliseum.
Toyota and Datsun arrive
Toyota was the first Japanese carmaker to arrive in the US. In 1959, Toyota and Datsun made their New York International Auto Show debut. As history tells us, Japanese cars would go on to become incredibly popular in the U.S., causing many issues for the homegrown brands.
Jaguar E-Type rocks the New York Auto Show
In 1961, the Jaguar E-Type made its North American debut at the New York International Auto Show. It attracted record-breaking crowds, with 47,000 people squeezing on to the Jaguar stand on day one alone. Like it did at the Geneva Motor Show, the E-Type – or XK-E, as it was known in the U.S. – completely stole the show.
E-Type is joined by a Playboy model
A gold Jaguar E-Type coupe was joined on a raised turntable by Playboy model, Marilyn Hanold, who was dressed in a shimmering gown, long white gloves and a floor-length silk scarf. As can be seen from the image above, women and the E-Type would go hand-in-hand for Jaguar.
MG celebrated the 100,000th MGA by displayed a gold-painted version of an MGA 1600 MkII Roadster at the 1962 New York International Auto Show. It was transported to the show on the RMS Queen Mary.
The Studebaker Avanti was one of the most daring and radical cars ever to come out of America. Boasting cutting edge safety features, a supercharged V8 engine and a beautifully elegant body, it was the belle of the 1962 New York Auto Show. Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, ordered a black Avanti and shipped it to countries he was visiting.
Goldfinger’s Aston Martin DB5
And speaking of James Bond, the famous Aston Martin DB5 that featured in Goldfinger was on display at the 1965 New York International Auto Show.
New York gives birth to the MPV
At the 1984 New York International Auto Show, Chrysler showcased its new range of minivans – marketed under the Dodge brand – thus giving birth to what we now refer to as the MPV.
700 cars at the 1984 show
In fact, 1984 was a bumper year for the New York International Auto Show, with no fewer than 700 cars on display. The likes of the Honda CRX, Nissan 300 ZX, Ford Mustang SVO and Pontiac Fiero all made their debut at the show.
The move to the Javits Center
In 1987, the New York International Auto Show moved to its current address at the Javits Center. Over the years, the New York show has had its fair share of world debuts, not least because it’s the final event of the show season and showcases cars that weren’t quite ready before.
Mercedes-Benz had one eye on the American market when it launched the ML – or M-Class – in 1997. One half of production was destined for the American market and by the time the last of the first generation cars was built in 2004, 650,000 units had rolled off the production line.
Disabilities and lifestyle products
The 1997 New York International Auto Show featured a display of disability vehicles for the first time, whilst in 1998 we witnessed the changing face of the automotive industry when Mercedes-Benz and BMW showcased lifestyle products for the first time.
1999 Car of the Century exhibition
in 1999, the New York International Auto Show said goodbye to the last millennium with a Car of the Century exhibition. The display featured 28 cars, ranging from an 1886 Three-Wheel Benz Replica through to a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle.
Scion launches in the US
At the 2002 New York International Auto Show, Toyota launched its new Scion brand by unveiling two cars: the bbX and ccX. The aim was to appeal to a new group of motorists who weren’t interested in buying a Toyota.
Second generation Toyota Prius
The 2003 New York international Auto Show heralded the arrival of the “greenest production car on earth”, otherwise known as the second generation Toyota Prius. The green car sector has come a long way since then, but the Prius remains as relevant as ever.
Chrysler 300C Concept
Another car that’s still going strong today is the Chrysler 300C. Back in 2003, Chrysler launched the 300C concept in New York, a car inspired by the C-300 of 1955.
The most lacklustre year in recent memory
According to the New York Times, 2005 wasn’t a good year for the car industry. It called it “one of the most lacklustre years in recent memory”, but did admit the Shelby Cobra GT500 managed to brighten up an otherwise lukewarm New York show.
Suzuki Kizashi: 2009
We’ll now take you on a whistle stop tour of some other cars to make their debut at the New York International Auto Show, starting with this, the Suzuki Kizashi, which first appeared at the 2009 show.
BMW X6M: 2009
The 2009 show also heralded the arrival of the BMW X6M…
Land Rover Discovery 4: 2009
Along with the Land Rover Discovery 4 (LR4)…
Mitsubishi i-MiEV: 2009
And the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the first in a wave of new electric cars that would start to appear over the coming years.
Terrafugia Transition: 2012
One of the more unusual cars to make its debut at the New York International Auto Show was the Terrafugia Transition: a street-legal airliner that converts between flying and driving models in under a minute.
Nissan NV200 Taxi: 2012
The 2012 show also saw the unveiling of the Nissan NV200 Taxi, resplendent in its NYC yellow paintwork. Heralded as “New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow”, the NV200 was said to be designed using insight from NY cabbies.
Dodge SRT Viper: 2012
Billed as “America’s most important performance car of the decade”, the Dodge SRT Viper was unveiled at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, surrounded in a cloud of tire smoke and the sound of an 8.4-liter V10 engine. The GTS (shown here) followed a year later.
Subaru WRX Concept: 2012
Subaru hinted at the arrival of the all-new WRX STI when it launched the WRX Concept at the 2013 New York International Auto Show. Looking back, it remains a wondrous thing.
Jeep Cherokee: 2013
Jeep shocked the whole of America when it revealed the new face of the Cherokee in 2013. Six years on, we’re still coming to terms with the styling, but the facelifted version – unveiled at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show – is easier on the eye.
Jaguar XJR and XKR-S GT: 2013
Many years had passed since Jaguar stole the show with the XK120 and E-Type. Times change, so Jaguar went down the POWER route at the 2013 show, showcasing the 550hp XJR and 550hp XKR-S GT.
Nissan Murano: 2014
The American-built Nissan Murano was launched at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. It sits between the Rogue and Pathfinder in the Nissan SUV range, with prices from $30,800.
Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept: 2014
Also unveiled at the 2014 show was the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept, a car that previewed the all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Jaguar XF: 2015
Officially, the Jaguar XF made its public debut a week before the 2015 New York Auto Show when it was unveiled as part of a high-wire publicity stunt over the River Thames in London. It hit the floor – not literally – at the Javits Centre.
McLaren 570S: 2015
No trapeze artists or high-wires were required for the unveiling of the McLaren 570S. Six months after it was unveiled in New York we bagged a first drive. Our verdict: it drives wonderfully well and is heroically fast, but it’s the additional usability that will make the 570S.
Lincoln Continental Concept: 2015
Did the Lincoln Continental Concept upstage the 570S at the 2015 New York Auto Show? Sorry, McLaren, but we think so. Well, this is an American auto show. The best news of all: the production version is every bit as gorgeous and imposing as the concept.
Mazda Miata RF: 2016
Moving on to 2016 and it was the turn of Mazda to wow the crowds. The RF debuted a new retractable roof for the popular Miata and is now on sale with prices starting from $32,345.
Audi R8 Spyder V10: 2016
Lesson number one in how to make your new car stand out at an international auto show: paint it yellow. The Audi R8 Spyder V10 made a big impression in New York, and not just because it was the color of the sun.
Genesis New York Concept: 2016
The Genesis New York Concept previewed the future Genesis design direction and was powered by a 245-horsepower hybrid powertrain. As concepts go, it was OK. If it was really good, they’d have named it twice. That said, the Genesis New York, New York doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: 2017
If cars had egos, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon would have one the size of the Javits Center. The 840-horsepower, 770lb ft New York Auto Show star was banned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) for being too fast for the drag strip, giving it instant notoriety. It was the undoubted star of the 2017 show.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: 2017
They went power mad at FCA, with the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk taking a bow with what is essentially a Dodge Hellcat in an SUV suit. Soccer moms in a hurry rejoiced because this superfast SUV packed a 6.2-liter supercharged engine developing 707-horsepower and 645lb ft of torque: enough to take it from home to the school gate in 3.5 seconds.
Lincoln Navigator: 2017
Lincoln promised to elevate “family travel to first class” with new Navigator, which was rather apt given that this thing is the size of something you might climb aboard to take a transatlantic flight. It has everything you’d expect from a Navigator, including six USB ports, wireless charging, standard wifi, ‘Perfect Position’ seats and a massage function. So it’s a bit like a first-class departure lounge, too.
Range Rover Velar: 2017
The Range Rover Velar made its debut ahead of the New York Auto Show, appearing alongside new brand ambassador, Ellie Goulding, at Hearst Plaza. “I have always been a Range Rover fan,” said the pop star. “I have always been an Ellie Goulding fan,” said Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s chief design officer. Probably.
Toyota RAV4: 2018
Arguably the most important new car at the 2018 show, certainly in terms of sales, was the 2019 Toyota RAV4. Gone was the conservative styling of the previous model, with Toyota creating a bold and radical new look for its popular SUV.
New York International Auto Show 2019
The 2019 New York International Auto Show will throw open its doors on 17 April, with debuts including a new Hyundai Sonata, Lincoln Corsair compact SUV, Toyota Yaris and Mercedes-AMG A 35 sedan. We’ll be there to bring you all the latest reveals and the hottest concepts.