Marketing Material: 1986 LA Auto Show Ad
About a week ago my mom showed me something interesting she’d come across while sorting through boxes, including stuff from my youth.
This particular relic was a section of newspaper titled, “Special Advertising Supplement 1986 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show”.
In it, I found 24, slightly browned but well-preserved, newspaper-sized pages of automobile tidbits, previews and ads related to the show. It was good reading so I’ve put together some highlights.
The Los Angeles Auto Show started in 1907 with fewer than 100 cars displayed. After enduring setbacks and hardships, including its 1940 through 1951 hiatus, the Auto Show continued to grow in popularity and size. Last year’s event had over 1,000 vehicles on display.
Los Angeles isn’t far from my home town in Southern California but it’s not close either. Consequently, there were a number of shows I wasn’t able to attend.
Nevertheless, fanning the annual flames of desire were various promos for the show, like the one this post is about. It was a special advertising insert from the Sunday, January 5, 1986 edition of the LA Times. I must have stashed it seeing some kind of future interest in it and now I’m glad I did.
The cost for a ticket to the Auto Show in 1986 was $4 (in 2011 I paid $12) and granted attendees access to more than 500 vehicles, covering over 400,000 square feet of floor space.
Three concept cars made their debut in Los Angeles that year, including Buick’s Wildcat concept (which had already been previewed by magazines in late 1985). The Wildcat was featured on the front page of the advertising supplement (above right) along with one of the more peculiar vehicles on display.
To the left, I’ve enlarged the photo of what looks like a Lamborghini Countach. It’s not.
This limited-production two-seat car with the Lamborghini-look is a Carabo Turbo. In four short sentences related to the specialty car it is described as having a top speed of over 165 MPH and a list price of $55,000. Owners were treated to “an all-leather interior and overhead sound system.” If you ask me, those are curious features to mention in a limited-space photo caption. Unfortunately, despite searching the internet, I didn’t find anything else on the car. I’d be interested to hear from anyone that knows anything about it.
Although mysterious, the Carabo Turbo was far from the only auto of interest at the 1986 show which included many new models for the industry and even a new brand for the United States. That year Hyundai debuted their new (and only) US model, the Excel. It made quite an impact on consumers having been priced at roughly $5,500.
Chrysler pulled the sheets off its forthcoming two-seat convertible called the Q Coupe (later renamed “TC”). The car was developed and built under a joint venture with Maserati. The TC wasn’t available for purchase until late 1989 and only ran through the 1991 model year. Incidentally, all 1991s were actually built in 1990.
Meanwhile, Chrysler’s Dodge brand showed off its new midsize truck called the Dakota (which was just phased out of production in 2011).
Let’s take a moment for a word from some of the sponsors. Below are two, separate full-page ads from the supplement.
For 1986, Oldsmobile made some pretty big changes. For instance, the Toronado (pictured below left) had been dramatically restyled which included a significant loss of length and weight, 18 inches and roughly 550 pounds, respectively. Frankly, of GM’s 1986 E-bodies (Eldorado, Riviera and Toronado), I think I like the looks of the Toronado the most.
Oldsmobile also had an entirely new Delta 88. That car transformed from rear- to front-wheel-drive, lost 400 pounds and almost two feet of length (22 inches).
The third big news item for 1986 was that Oldsmobile’s N-body Calais could be had as a sedan (the model was new for 1985 but available only in coupe configuration).
The ad above plays on a “night and day” theme. The short blurb lists the new models but curiously neglects to mention poor Toronado. I have no idea why. It closes with, “The 1986 Oldsmobiles. Compared to the rest, the difference is, literally, night and day.”
Directly across from this ad in the paper is an article titled, “Oldsmobile offering 31 models for 1986.” It didn’t take long to realize the unnamed author had counted all of the models and their various configurations. But still, 31.
Continued on page 2, below.