For the self-confessed petrolhead, nothing can be more fulfilling than attending some of the planet’s best car shows. It’s an event where car manufacturers get to showcase their automotive engineering prowess. At the same time, they also get to gauge the excitement that their motorized wonders can generate from the crowd. But for the fan of the car, it is the chance of a lifetime. It’s pure bliss, where he or she can feast their eyes on curvaceous metal bodies made more stunning by the spotlights from the show area’s ceiling. It is also a rare opportunity to meet legends and legends-to-be, while appreciating the wonder machines we call cars. If you’re fascinated with automobiles, then you’ve got to include in your bucket list at least one of the world’s ten best car shows.
Frankfurt Motor Show
There is no doubt that the annual Frankfurt Motor Show is the undisputed king of car shows on the planet. However, do not get confused if auto fans call it the Internationale Automobile-Ausstellung or the International Automobile Exhibition. The IAA is the more official name of the Frankfurt Motor Show which features a very unique presentation of contemporary vehicles.
On odd-numbered years (like 2019), you can expect the organizers to showcase passenger vehicles. You will also head over to Frankfurt am Main for the event. And if you’re a two-wheeled fanatic, then this is your best chance to get a glimpse at some exciting new motorcycles and powerbikes. On even-numbered years (like last year, 2018), the show features commercial vehicles. These vehicles get showcased to the public in Hanover every other year.
The very first IAA was not held in Frankfurt, however, but in Berlin at the Hotel Bristol. Only 8 motor vehicles graced the floor of that very first IAA in 1897. From its modest beginnings, the Frankfurt Motor Show is now one of the world’s most anticipated motor spectacles.
Geneva Motor Show
From Frankfurt, we head to the Swiss Alps and partake in the Geneva Motor Show or the Salon International de l’Automobile. The Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles has been organizing the “Salon” every March since 1905. The show features hundreds of different cars and attended by hundreds of thousands of guests, spectators, and car enthusiasts.
The Geneva Motor Show showcases not only cars but also accessories and automotive engineering feats. There are 9 different sections scattered in strategic locations at the Palexpo. The main section showcases motor cars that have at least 3 wheels. Every single year, however, it is the exotic supercars that make their debut on the world stage that draw the most attention at the Salon.
There are prototypes, automotive technical breakthroughs, and new motoring equipment. There’s also a section for special bodywork, in case you’re into car design and engineering. Modders and tuners will love the custom cars section. Kids will have the best times of their young lives with the show’s attractions and animations. There is a section for everyone at the Salon.
Woodward Dream Cruise
If you’re into good ol’ American muscle cars or exotic street rods, then Woodward is the event to go. This is not a car show that you can line up together with the Frankfurt, Geneva, or Paris Car Shows. However, it has its own charm that draws an average of 1.5 million people every single year. What you have to understand is that this event only occurs every third Saturday of August. It’s a one-day, once-a-year event that happens only in Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan.
Not only are the spectators numerous. The Woodward Dream Cruise also showcases more than 40,000 classic cars. We’re talking about cars of the 1950s through the 1970s. There are custom cars, collector’s rides, and special interest automobiles on display. And take note. These rides do not only come from the US. Woodward is an international event. Hence, expect car fanatics and collectors from the far reaches of the globe to showcase their vehicles, too.
Anyone can join the Woodward Dream Cruise. There is only one fundamental requirement: you have a vehicle that is one of a kind or it is capable of making a profound statement for its part.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
You can always gawk at cars in dealer’s showrooms but nothing can match the thrill of seeing these marvelous machines in action. We’re talking about the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, of course. It’s not a car show per se, but a demonstration of a car’s fundamental trait – its speed.
Every late June of each year (sometimes early July), more than 100,000 people flock to the grounds of the Goodwood House in West Sussex in England. Organizers of the motoring event schedule the Festival every year so that it will not clash with the British Grand Prix of the FIA’s Formula One season. This allows spectators to take a very rare glimpse of F1 cars making a demonstration run through the hill climb track. Of course, racecars of the past also make the hill climb, providing car enthusiasts a rare view of historic speedsters.
There’s also the Soapbox challenge for those who have a fascination for soapbox derbies. Other fascinating attractions include the Forest Rally Stage, the Moving Motor Show, the Supercar Run, the Wacky Races cars, and the Cartier Style et Luxe.
Most of us have this notion that anything made in China is inferior in quality. But we also cannot deny the fact that their economy is growing ever stronger with each passing year. They are churning out automobiles at a frenzied pace. There are also many Western companies that have their manufacturing facilities in China. As such, the Auto Shanghai deserves a slot in this list of the best car shows on the planet.
Founded in 1985, the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition is a biennial event, occurring every other year to give way to the Beijing Auto Show. Car enthusiasts look at the Auto Shanghai as a major auto show in the international scene. It is a member of the Union des Foires Internationales.
Auto Shanghai is a test bed for European and North American automobile manufacturers. China has the largest population on the planet and many of them are joining the elite circle of millionaires and billionaires. Auto Shanghai is a barometer for car manufacturers to test their concepts, whether they would appeal to consumers on this side of the globe or not.
Paris Motor Show
The Mondial de l’Automobile is the automotive equivalent of the Paris Fashion Week, except that the Mondial only occurs once every two years. It is one of the oldest automotive shows on the planet, almost a year after the 1897 inauguration of the Frankfurt Motor Show.
In 2015, the Mondial welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors, besting both Tokyo and Frankfurt. That year, the Paris Motor Show 8 different pavilions that housed 260 different automotive brands from all over the world. The event also welcomes at least 10,000 journalists from more than 100 countries. Of particular importance are the more than 10,000 test drives performed on a variety of hybrid and electric cars.
The October 2018 edition of the Mondial was unique in that, for the first time, there were 3 shows that wowed the crowd. There’s one for automobiles, another for motorcycles, and one dedicated for new types of mobility. It may have not overshadowed the 2016 event for attendance, but it sure did usher in a new age of automotive shows. We’re almost in the middle of 2019, so better prepare for the 2020 Paris Motor Show.
North American International Auto Show
In addition to being the home of the famous 1-day Woodward Dream Cruise auto festival, Detroit also plays host to the North American International Auto Show. The United Press International considers the Detroit Auto Show as the foremost venue for manufacturers of automobiles in North America to unveil their latest designs and creations.
The inaugural Detroit Auto Show occurred in 1899, a year after the Paris Auto Show. However, the first decades of the event featured only regional automobiles. By 1957, it has grown to include the vehicles of brands from other parts of the world. In 1987, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association proposed for the Detroit Auto Show to become international. Two years later, they renamed the show as the North American International Auto Show.
Since its internationalization in 1989, the NAIAS was always held every January of each year. Beginning in 2020, however, the famous auto show will move to the middle of the year in June. The show continues to gain worldwide recognition as it is the only car show in the US that has the official blessing of the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles.
Tokyo Motor Show
A member of the elite Big Five of Car Shows (Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva, and Detroit), the Tokyo Motor Show is an event that petrolheads go to once every two years. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association hosts the show that the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles recognize.
Knowing the innovative spirit of the Japanese, you can expect the Tokyo Motor Show to be anything but ordinary. As a matter of fact, if you are into concept cars more than production vehicles, this is the show to go. The inaugural show occurred in April 1954 where a record 547,000 visitors graced the show grounds over the course of 10 days. There were 267 vehicles from 254 exhibitors at the inauguration; not bad for a country that saw utter destruction at the end of World War II.
The 2007 Tokyo Motor Show was unique in that it opened the doors to the electric and hybrid vehicles segment. From concept hybrids to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the 2007 show is best remembered as the event when Toyota unveiled its 1/X. The 1/X doubles the fuel economy of the Prius while slashing its weight to about a third.
British International Motor Show
Some people have a fascination for Mustangs and Broncos but there are also those who would give up anything to drive a Vantage or a Superleggera. There’s also the Speedtail and Senna from McLaren and luxurious rides from Rolls Royce, Jaguar, and Bentley. Of course, we’re talking about the British here. And it would be a shame if we don’t include the British International Motor Show in the list. After all, they make some of the finest and most evocative rides on the planet.
While the British Classic Motor Show is not a member of the Big Five, it is one of the oldest. Inaugurated in 1903, it predates the Geneva Motor Show by 2 years. It started in Crystal Palace before moving to Olympia, Earl’s Court, the National Exhibition Center, ExCel, and Battersea Park. Every May of each year, British and international automobile makers get to showcase their stuff.
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Have you ever seen a 1938 Phantom Corsair or a 1929 Duesenberg J Murphy Convertible Coupe? How about a 1930 Bentley Speed Six Nutting Coupe or a Bertone Berlinetta Aerodinamica Technica? Well, if you head to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, you may find these rare gems and many others.
You should know that the Concours d’Elegance is the French way of saying you’re competing against the most elegant and most beautiful cars in the world. We’re not talking about how many horses you have under the hood or how many seconds you can get your ride to 60 MPH. What only matters here is if your ride is worthy enough to be adjudged as an authentic, historic, stylish, and functional prewar or postwar collector’s vehicle.
The Concours is the show segment of the Pebble Beach Road Race, together called the Monterey Car Week. This is a charitable event and is famous for being the most prestigious ever. For obvious reasons, this is an event that is not for fans of the future.
Visiting any of these 10 car shows is one of the best things that any car enthusiast can ever have. Whether it’s from the Big Five or the other 5 on this list, it is going to be an experience to remember.
- 10 of the World’s Biggest and Best Auto Shows – Motor Biscuit
- The 10 Best Classic Car Events in the World – Motorious
- Top: The Biggest and Best Motor and Car Shows in the World in 2019 – TradeFest