If you care an ounce about cars, this is going to be your new event calendar. Car shows all over the world are where the auto industry debuts their latest and greatest rides and collectors display their most precious possessions. These aren’t just next year’s upgrades — we’re talking high-tech concept cars that push the envelope of transportation as we know it, as well as classics painstakingly restored to utter brilliance. In this feature, we’ll spotlight the ten essential car shows you need to hit before you die.
Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance
Pebble Beach, CA; August 18, 2013
Possibly the most prestigious collector car show in the world, the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance has been assembling incredible rides for public adulation since 1950. The event sees nearly 200 classic vehicles on display every year, with an incredibly in-depth judging system that rates cars on authenticity, function, history and style. These are the best of the best — super-luxury vehicles that have been painstakingly worked on to look like they just rolled off the assembly line. Since the event only lasts a single day, if you miss it you’re out of luck for an entire year.
Geneva Motor Show
Geneva, Switzerland; March 6-16, 2014
One of the longest-running auto shows of all time, the Geneva Motor Show has been featuring some of Europe’s best since 1905. Back then, steam-powered and benzene-powered cars went head to head with gasoline engines, and now the latest innovations in hydrogen fuel cells, hybrids and more amaze the world. It’s considered one of the best shows for supercar debuts, so if you’re a fan of big power and serious speed, head on over to Switzerland in March. Some legendary cars that made their first bow in Geneva include the Alfa Romeo SZ and the Jaguar E-Type.
Detroit, MI; March 8-10, 2014
Detroit is the still-beating heart of the American auto industry, so it’s only natural that a can’t-miss car show is there. The first Autorama was held in 1953 as a fundraiser for the Michigan Hot Rod Association to build a drag strip in Detroit. Over the years, it’s become one of the biggest events for car customizers, with a focus on American muscle machines tricked out with crazy paint jobs. It’s also an incredible place to see scratch-built rides made from the ground up by some of the country’s best mechanics. The Ridler Award, which goes to the best vehicle in show, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013.
Essen, Germany; March 26-30, 2014
Most car shows have a pretty strong American presence — we are the ones who invented the automobile, after all — but if you’re really going to sample global car culture, you need to head to Essen, Germany, for Techno Classica. Held every Spring, this is an insanely huge show, with 1.3 million square feet of display space. Over 2,500 automobiles are on display, including entries from super-obscure companies like Borgwald and Hansa. There’s also a humungous marketplace with specialist vendors selling parts, manuals and model cars. One of the coolest aspects of Techno Classica is the presence of car clubs from all over Europe.
Los Angeles Auto Show
Los Angeles, CA; November 22 – December 1, 2013
Ten days might seem like a long time for an auto show, but you’re going to need all of them to take in everything at the Los Angeles Auto Show. From its humble origins with less than 100 cars in a skating rink in 1907, it’s grown into a can’t-miss event where manufacturers from all over the world debut new vehicles and technologies that will change the world. Since this is California, many celebrities bring prize rides from their personal collections to show to the world here as an added bonus.
Ultimate Motorhead Show
Bloomsburg, PA; May 2014
While most of the shows on this list are incredibly exclusive, we thought it’d be cool to include one that broke the mold. Held every May in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, the Ultimate Motorhead Show is the people’s car show, open to anything with a motor. And that means some truly unique and bizarre vehicles show up, including a street rod custom-built from an actual casket and a variety of monster trucks. The UMS also hosts a variety of events and races outside of the norm, including performances by a flamethrower car group, burnout competitions and lawnmower races.
Tokyo Motor Show
Tokyo, Japan; November 22 – December 1, 2013
What makes the Tokyo Motor Show earn a place on this list is that more concept cars are launched here than at any other car show in the world. First held in 1954, the show started out mostly spotlighting commercial vehicles, but as Japan moved to a position as an automotive powerhouse, the show began to evolve into an occasion for car makers to unleash technological breakthroughs. Held every two years in the Makuhari Messe in Chiba City, recent shows have focused on alternatives to the traditional internal combustion engine, with hybrids and full electric vehicles that really push the envelope.
Paris, France; February 5-9, 2014
One of the best European vintage shows is Retromobile, a celebration of automotive history that brings some of the most cherry old-school automobiles into the public eye once more. With almost 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, there’s plenty to see during this five-day event. Five hundred cars are on show, but the big draw is the Artcurial auction that closes the show. This is one of the best opportunities to get into the European collector car scene, with painstakingly refurbished classic rides offered for sale. The show also hosts special exhibitions each year — 2013 notably saw a retrospective of amphibious cars.
Chicago Auto Show
Chicago, IL; February 8-17, 2014
The largest auto show in North America draws over a million visitors each year to Chicago’s spacious McCormick Place. The convention center has over a million square feet to play with, and with all that room, car companies tend to get creative. Chrysler once built an entire test track in the convention hall to let people test drive SUVs, for instance. The show is also a great place to get first looks at some of the American auto industry’s latest efforts, as well as meet some of the biggest names in customization and collection.
Next: 10 Cars That Changed The World
Top Marques Monaco
April 17-20, 2014
The thing with auto shows is that they’re a great place to see cars when they’re not moving. But that kind of misses the point of cars, right? Top Marques Monaco takes a different spin on the car show concept. Sure, inside the Grimaldi Forum is the traditional exhibitions from some of Europe’s most influential and innovative car manufacturers, but the real action happens outside on the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 circuit. Supercars are driving through the city at breakneck speeds, letting you see the muscle underneath those perfectly sculpted hoods.