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Published: Sunday, 1/16/2005

Function, practicality attract some to Detroit auto show

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
First-day crowds gather around Ford Motor Co. s low-slung Shelby GR-1 concept car at the Detroit car exposition. The auto show in the Cobo Center runs through Sunday. First-day crowds gather around Ford Motor Co. s low-slung Shelby GR-1 concept car at the Detroit car exposition. The auto show in the Cobo Center runs through Sunday.
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DETROIT Chad Smith once owned a Jeep Cherokee, but the Swanton man has only driven four-wheel-drive pickups since, because he wants a bed for hauling outdoor gear and other items, a feature lacking in current Jeeps.

But if DaimlerChrysler AG decides to reintroduce a pickup to the Toledo-born brand s lineup, Mr. Smith said he would consider giving up his Dodge Ram and buying a Jeep again. Mr. Smith yesterday attended the first day of the North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit so the off-roader could get a good look at the Jeep Gladiator, a concept pickup Chrysler unveiled last week and is considering for production.

I came up to see the Gladiator and the Hurricane here, Mr. Smith said yesterday while admiring a second Jeep concept at this year s show, an extreme off-roading vehicle further from the realm of reality.

The Cobo Center show, which runs through Sunday, gave spectators yesterday a chance to see the newest models such as the 2006 Dodge Charger favored by Mr. Smith s Swanton friends, David Marvin and Kevin Onweller and popular concepts such as the Ford Shelby GR-1.

John Kissh, of Findlay and his son, Alex, both were fans of the Saturn Sky, a roadster slated for production next year that is expected to be priced under $25,000.

That company really impressed me, said the elder Mr. Kissh, who also liked some Pontiacs and Aston Martins on display at the show.

Chad Smith of Swanton is a pickup fan, and he finds the Jeep Gladiator behind him to his liking, because he could transport his outdoor gear and other equipment in its bed. Mr. Smith said that he would consider giving up his Dodge Ram to buy a Gladiator. Chad Smith of Swanton is a pickup fan, and he finds the Jeep Gladiator behind him to his liking, because he could transport his outdoor gear and other equipment in its bed. Mr. Smith said that he would consider giving up his Dodge Ram to buy a Gladiator.
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The Aston Martin DB9 Volante convertible was among Paul and Jim Carlson s favorites yesterday after the Eagan, Minn., father and son made their third annual pilgrimage to the Detroit show. Cheri Bruff, of Owosso, Mich., said she liked both Mini Coopers and Nissan Pathfinders.

It s just very functional and cute, she said of the Mini Cooper. I go for function No. 1, not what it looks like.

Matt Demko, of Essex Junction, Vt., a Purdue University student who has been a regular at the show since 1995, said he is considering a Nissan Titan pickup, but comes to the show to let his imagination run.

I like seeing all the new concepts, he said. Some of them are just unbelievable, but I guess you ve got to try something to find out what people like.

The Jeep Hurricane concept and its various four-wheel steering capabilities is not anything Bill Johnson would like. Instead, the Detroit man would want a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Corvette, he said.

Zero to 60 in four seconds that s impressive, Mr. Johnson said of the Corvette.

Still, both the Hurricane and the Gladiator concepts drew attention yesterday, and people lined up to have show photographers take free pictures of themselves with the vehicles.

Former Jeep Wrangler owner Tim Twiss of Ferndale, Mich., who now drives a Dodge Dakota, said he would consider a pickup such as the Jeep Gladiator.

I m a [pickup] truck fan and a Jeep fan, and it s a good combination of the two, he said.

Findlay s Alex Kissh said he too may buy a Jeep pickup depending on the price. The Infiniti G20 driver favored the Gladiator concept s use of a side-mounted spare tire like that found on the first Jeep pickup, the Willys, but was puzzled by the half-door access to the rear cabin on the driver s side.

It seems like kind of a waste of money, unless you have little dogs, Mr. Kissh said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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