CHICAGO - For the first time in its 120 year history, the Chicago Auto Show is opening in July.
That is just one of the many changes car enthusiasts will find when the McCormick Place doors open on Thursday.
A small army of workers Wednesday night put the final touches on the car displays and polished the latest models to a perfect shine.
It will be the first Chicago Auto Show since before the pandemic. Last year‘s version was canceled. And this year‘s was delayed, consolidated and moved to McCormick Place West.
"So we got smaller," said Chicago Auto Show General Manager Dave Sloan. "This is about 500,000 square feet. And shorter. Five days instead of 10. And moved over here because we love the proximity to Indiana Avenue, to take advantage of the summer temperatures."
For the first time, the auto show will spill outdoors, with test rides and a nighttime street festival on Indiana Avenue.
Both Ford and Jeep have built giant rugged outdoor test tracks and steep hills for rides in their off-road vehicles.
"It’s a game changer," said Raj Register, who heads Ford’s Global Brand Experiences. "We took this as an opportunity, as a brand, to be disruptive and take advantage of the beautiful weather, take advantage of this beautiful city, and create these immersive experiences."
But with new cars in short supply, and a chip crisis slowing assembly lines, it may take you a while to get what you see at the show.
"To be honest with you, we even had trouble getting cars for the auto show," said Nissan Auto Show Manager Casey Kilmer. "So that’s how difficult it’s been. The dealers do have some inventory, and we encourage you to reach out. We have a whole list of dealers."
And the return of the Auto Show is a lifeline for scores of McCormick Place union workers who have been unemployed since the pandemic started.
"A lot of our guys really struggled. Really bad. So to get back to work now, we wanted nothing more," said Jim Harty, a union rigger for Local 136.
Doors open Thursday morning at 9 a.m., and you will need to buy your tickets online. No tickets are being sold at the show. And if you are planning on taking a test drive, you are asked to bring a mask.