Auto Show Outtakes: Shaky Hand Jim Attends The 1985 Los Angeles Auto Show

Let’s take a deeper dive into my cardboard box of old 35mm snapshots from my youth. Last week we looked at various sights along the highways and byways of California around my college years, now let’s go further back to my high school years.  This would have been very soon after getting my license, and from that time on the Los Angeles Auto Show was on my must-do calendar for many years.  I’m fairly certain this would have been the 1985 show, held in November of that year, but featuring many of the new 1986 models.  I seem to have 19 pictures and a roll of film was 24 (and not cheap to buy or develop), so there were probably already five shots taken on the roll.  Or I completely flubbed five at the show which could be the case as well.  So here are the 19 for better or (admittedly in some cases) worse.

Leading things off above is a good one that many of you may not recognize.  It’s the Nissan MID4, a concept that was a bit of a technological tour de force with a mid-engine layout featuring a quad-cam 24valve V6 (the VG30DE engine), all wheel drive, four wheel steering and all kinds of other tech.  There was a lot of talk of Nissan planning to produce it but in the end it never happened.  Still, this was one of the most exciting and talked about Japanese cars of the 80’s that has been a bit forgotten since.  The engine went on to be used in the 300ZX and various other Nissans after the MID4’s cancellation along with much of the technology that was showcased within it.

Here is the Dodge Lancer Pacifica, a turbocharged version of Dodge’s mid-size Lancer with a special appearance package.  I was suckered in by the all-white monochrome look which was definitely “a thing” back then for a few years.  But I always found this design to be one of the more attractive domestic offerings of the day and a stark contrast to the very boxy shapes that Mopar was peddling otherwise.  The Pacifica had a nifty little spoiler atop the rear window which along with the rest of the lower body kit set it apart from the regular Lancer Turbo.  I may have found the lady attractive as well if I’m being perfectly honest.

This was my favorite of the show, an Audi Coupe Cabriolet concept.  It looked completely production ready but Audi never did make it.  I was a big fan of this FWD Coupe at this time and red with white wheels was probably my favorite color combo.  Walter Treser, who was at one time heavily involved with Audi AG and the Quattro program, had gone on to form his own tuning company in Germany by this time and had developed a cabrio conversion for the Quattro, but having seen those cars, this one here is much more attractive.  Mind you, they never showed this one with the top up and since the Coupe is really a fastback design, it may have looked hideous with a completely different roof shape.  The 5000CS advertised by the huge sign is below in the background and not visible from this angle.

Heading over towards Mercedes-Benz, they had this wonderful 560SEC on display in a quite elegant color combination.  It would be a few years (decades) until I had my own Mercedes but in the end the wait was worth it.  This car always looked sleek and here it looks like it’s in motion even though it isn’t.  Like Mercedes itself back then, a very elegant and classy display for its flagship coupe.

Down on the floor, an example of what Mercedes could do with perhaps their top button unbuttoned, the 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth.  This car made quite an impression back in the day and I’d soon get to sample one as part of my valet job later that year.  I remember the dogleg first gear position just as much as I recall the red-faced man that started screaming at me when I jogged back to the valet stand as he had apparently noticed me departing in his car at what he thought was an alarming and entirely inappropriate rate of acceleration.

Chevrolet. Live it!  This was apparently their slogan this year and they had their Indy Pace Car in attendance.  I’m not a particularly huge fan of the Corvette in general but for some reason I found it worthy of one of my shots.  The convertible was new that year, right?  Perhaps that was the attraction as I didn’t usually watch the Indy 500 either.

I was a bigger fan of the Fiero at this time (but still thought the Toyota MR2 was hands and feet above it in pretty much all respects), however here I am taking a picture of my best friend Ken in this GT version.  There’s a T1000 in the background as well as what looks like a gold GrandAm (as well as another Fiero).

I must have started shaking with excitement when I saw the Saab 900 Turbo SPG in what looks like the Edwardian Gray color.  Ken is again inside the car and I managed to take a pic of most of it.  This one looks much better than the well-traveled example we saw in the junkyard a few weeks ago…

An absolutely horrendous shot of a great car, the Mitsubishi Starion Turbo, this one still excites me when I see examples on the street (or Craigslist).  One of the seminal 80’s shapes for me along with the Celica Supra and the Porsche 944, when the Starion gained the wide fenders it looked just right.

I wouldn’t get my motorcycle license for several more years but I knew what I liked at the time and BMW’s K100RS was it.  I never did end up with a BMW, either on two or four wheels, but certainly found it interesting.  Check out the inline-4 engine laid completely on its side here.

As a huge Group B rally fan, I certainly couldn’t let the opportunity to see a Peugeot 205T16 rally car pass by without a picture.  Seeing as there are no numbers or names on this one, it’s likely just a display car but exciting to see nevertheless.  Peugeot really changed the game in Group B with the introduction of this car a couple of years earlier with its mid-engine layout and the way the whole rear body half just lifts up and off the chassis and really brought the fight to Audi and their Quattro at the time.

Peugeot also brought their Proxima concept car to the show.  Keep in mind that in those days unless they had shown this stuff at other shows months earlier and one of the magazines had decided to cover it, this was all new material that nobody local had seen before, as there was no internet etc.  Nowadays the “concepts” are usually nothing new by the time the shows roll around to anyone who is interested in them.  There’s a 505 in the background as well.

I guess I really liked it but if I was at this same show today I’d be all over the gray 505 wagon to the right.  In 1985 Peugeot was still doing alright in California at least and there was talk of bringing the 205 over.  Of course, the only thing that ended up coming was the 405 and the whole thing fizzled out for good a few years later.

Ah, Porsche’s 959!  What a stunner this car was.  Why is everyone on the other side?  Oh, it’s a cutaway, the really interesting view is over there, you can see how only half of the body is there.  Still, I liked this side as well and even though I was standing managed to cut the front off.  With a tiny viewfinder in my Vivitar it wasn’t as easy as it is now (but yes I should have managed better, back then you didn’t really know until the pictures come back…)

Tucked away without an easy way to shoot the whole thing was Lamborghini’s Jalpa, which I generally thought to be a nicer shape than the Countach.  Maybe it’s the blocky fenders or the wheels but I’ve always liked this shape a lot, it’s just extremely 80’s but I still find it approachable.  Somehow it weirdly reminds be of the Citroen BX4TC Rally car of all things which, if anything, is even more esoteric than this car (and when I saw an example of THAT car at the Lane Museum I thought of the Jalpa in return…

I used to know what this one is, bit have since forgotten and can’t figure it out.  Any ideas?  (Update:  channaher corretly identified it as the Toyota FXV Concept of 1985 and included a link in his comment below.  Thanks!)

This one is Buick’s Wildcat concept and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it since, perhaps at one of the meetup museums?  Or a different automotive museum perhaps?  Maybe I saw it at some other random display such as one of the Monterey Historics, rare weird stuff shows up in that area all the time during that week.

And now we come to Bob Tullius’ Group 44 Jaguar IMSA racer.  This one too I think I’ve seen again, and most likely perhaps was at one of the Monterey races one of the years.  At the time I was at this show though, I can’t fathom why I chose to photograph this over a lot of the other stuff that must have been there.

Sadly we’ve reached the tail end of my coverage of this show, so there is no more fitting way to end it than with this tail end shot.  I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of what I saw at the show that year and if you were also there that year, you may well be somewhere in the background but I likely cut you off.