I was there in the years when it was ridiculous, when automakers drove cars through windows, brought celebrities out on stage, gave out more stuff than people could carry, and you could go across the street afterwards to a repurposed firehall and drink yourself stupid on Daimler's dime. Then the recession hit, and I was there in the years when it was like a funeral and you went hungry because there was nowhere to get lunch. Now it's about halfway in the middle: the mood is upbeat, but the belt is still a bit tight.
Some manufacturers weren't there: Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and of course Saab, which won't be anywhere anymore. Coda, a company that makes electric cars, had a surprisingly large booth. Craftsman debuted a lawn tractor in the mezzanine. Yes, really.
There were some surprises. The new Ford Fusion is stunning. Yes, you read that right - it's that photo up there, and it's just beautiful. I can hardly wait to drive it. The Dodge Dart looks like it really could have what it takes. The VW Bugster is cute as ... well, you know. The Lexus LF-LC concept wins the award for poorest name and best design. When the wraps came off the Acura NSX concept, journalists cheered. Save for when Ford packs the stands with dealers and employees for reveals, I've never heard cheering at an auto show before.
There were some ho-hums. I'm not too sure about the Honda Accord concept, which is amazing from the rear and kind of strange from the front, and with a side profile lifted straight from the Crosstour. The Prius c looks like an electrified Matrix. The Mini Roadster is cute, but it's really just a convertible missing its back seat.
And me being me ... the car that really caught my eye was up in Lincoln's booth. Henry Ford's son Edsel loved good design and he sometimes had the company produce one-off cars for him. One of those was a 1934 Lincoln Model 40 speedster, and it was on display. Oh my. They really don't make them like that anymore.