Rx for Winter: Get out of your comfort zone at the Salon de l’Auto

photo credit: Nancy Berman

I’m sure that many of you wouldn’t think twice about attending a car show. But if you’re anything like me, going out of your way to fawn over shiny new motor vehicles may be a little outside your usual realm of experience. But winter is as good a time as any to experience new things, and the car show has one distinct advantage over more traditional wintertime activities: it takes place indoors! On top of that, it turns out that some cars are actually interesting to look at (especially the pretty yellow ones), and the car show is a great place for people watching.

Truth be told, before going I thought I would enjoy scoping out the people, whom I assumed would be primarily of the male variety, more than the cars. My friends had strange reactions when I told them I was going to the car show: one warned me the crowd would be dominated by bad boys, another said I’d be bored by all the car nerds, still another said I would only meet other women trying to pick up men. In truth, the male population probably did outweigh the female, but otherwise there was the usual cross-section of society: lots of young men drooling over engines and leather seats, lots of older men doing the same, some couples and families checking out the storage space and gas efficiency of the latest models of family cars.

In fact the cars were more interesting than the people. There was the usual array of mid-priced vehicles—Fords and Kias and Hyundais—as well as an impressive array of slightly higher-priced vehicles—Acuras and BMWs and Lexus—but since I’m not even in the market for a car I decided to spend my time looking at veritable objets d’art I wouldn’t normally get to see: Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Alfa Romeos, Jaguars, Ferraris, Aston Martins. These truly are aesthetically very pleasing, and I’m sure they go very fast too.

jaguar. photo Nancy Berman

jaguar. photo Nancy Berman

I was especially intrigued by the “Zone de Performance.” Unlike the rest of the exhibition, these rooms were not bathed in fluorescent light but rather were quite dark, with pounding electronic music blasting from speakers, and well-endowed women wearing skimpy dresses posing with the cars while men snapped photos with their phones. And in an instant I understood several things about men and cars and curves and the objectification of women, but we’ll leave that for now.

Lowrider. Photo Nancy Berman

Lowrider. Photo Nancy Berman

The Performance Zone features modified cars, cars that truly are works of art inasmuch as they are individual forms of self-expression, rather than assembly line reproductions. I spoke with Jeff Leroux, a member of the multi-chapter international Luxurious Car Club. Jeff told me about the low-rider bike he had on display, a bike he had spent nine and a half years lovingly modifying, now worth approximately $132,000. The filigree metalwork, robin’s-egg blue body and beautifully stylized curves and proportions truly were stunning. Jeff’s passion for his art was impressive: when a 14-year old boy asked him if it was really worth spending over 9 years and $132,000 on a bike, Jeff exclaimed, “Does a sculptor waste his time? Or a painter? This is a passion, an art form, a labour of love!” And honestly, I did see his point.

 

The Salon de l’auto is at the Palais des Congrès, 1001 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, from 16-25 January. Tickets $16, students and seniors $13, children 6-12 $6, children under six free, family (two adults and two children) $38.

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