The LA Auto Show’s Glamorous History

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It’s auto show season again, and we at are in SoCal covering the LA press days. The LA show has a rich history; January 1907 marked the first one, and back then it was dubbed “Pan Pacific”, because it was California’s first-ever major car show.

And of course it follows that the city that birthed Hollywood would create an car show that was like walking onto a larger-than-life movie set.


Cars were coming into being with the new century, and the numbers of new car owners in California and across the US was on its steep incline.

Mass production and Ford’s Model T were still in the future, so the first auto shows took hold with an upper-crust glamour that appealed to those who could pay the prices for those hand-built first cars.


The first shows were held in sprawling tents.


The tent idea didn’t go so well in 1929, when pretty much everything burned to the ground. No human casualties…


…but the cars really took it on the chin.


As with other nascent industries, the auto manufacturers were unbowed, and the next day found the show re-created in a nearby auditorium.


Still, the coziness of those tents must have been fun. The tag on this pic notes that there were zones of different color schemes to add some zing.


No phone, no computer – come sit in our mock parlor and sign up for your new steed. Quaint doesn’t cover it.


This ticket from 1916 would be $10.92 in 2014 dollars. The more things change…


Wide variety of manufacturers back then.


Promos were weird and vaguely menacing.

la_show_72As cars became more mainstream, car-show poshness faded a bit and the audience expanded. The fifties brought more plainspoken gimmickry as the appeal broadened.

la_show_3Will be going to the LA show, or one near you? Tell us in the comments – and happy auto show season!