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The National Automobile Show...is a Big League event, a social phenomenon curiously and peculiarly American. For sheer interest and display it is a Broadway theater opening, a title boxing match, a pennant baseball game, a Presidential inauguration, and the first day of Congress all thrown into one.
Ever since the day at the turn of the century when the first rachitic horseless carriages were forced to prove that they could really run by puffing along a board track in Manhattan's old Madison Square Garden, the United States has awaited its new automobiles with breathless expectancy and has greeted them with fabulous ceremony.
The big show was traditionally the National Automobile Show—at the old Garden and then Grand Central Palace, until World War II erased the glitter. This week, for the first time in 16 years, the big show will be back, as glittering as ever, providing a comprehensive and comparative look at Detroit's new ideas. From December 8 to 16, on three panoplied floors of Manhattan's big new Coliseum, the shiny new goods that keep America on wheels (trucks included) will be on display.
It is an optimistic show—and with some reason. FORTUNE estimated that sales from 1957 to 1961 will average nearly 7 million cars a year, more than ever before. To sustain that figure, Detroit has done more than add chrome, push buttons and living room comforts. The new cars are lower (wheel diameter is down from 15 to 14 inches), better engineered (see page 57 for three examples), universally more powerful and, except for Hudson and Nash, more expensive. While styling changes in many cases presage continued extremes in that jet-fighter look, sports-inspired performance is catching up, and behind the gleaming paint and brightwork there is much for the keen motorist to look at. On this and the following pages the cars and their qualifications are listed with particular regard for the discerning motorist who this year has his widest choice yet among high-performance sporting U.S. automobiles.