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For car lovers, it's showtime in South Florida

        For car nuts like myself, few things can top the glitz, glamour and horsepower that is the South Florida International Auto Show.

        One of the earliest shows of the season, South Floridians get the first look at the newest and most innovative vehicles coming down the road for 2009 -- and beyond. Nearly 1,000 vehicles from some 40 carmakers will glisten under the lights of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Sit in them, caress them, smell them and dream about them. And, this year you can test-drive some of them, too.
        The show opens its doors at 5 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday, Nov. 16. (Click on sfliautoshow.com for hours, admission fees, directions and all the other boring details.)

        I've been a fan and visitor of this show for more than 20 consecutive years and promise you it is well worth the visit. What? Not with this economy, not with these gas prices, you say?

       Whoa, this year brings more gas misers than ever to this 38th annual show. This is the best place to figure out how to beat the oil companies. Explore the technology that is the plug-in electric Chevy Volt, not yet ready for prime time but waiting in the wings for the 2010. It can run for 40 miles on pure electric, but has a 1.4-liter gas engine if you need it -- and to charge the lithium-ion battery pack.

       A plug-in Prius -- there will soon be a Lexus version, too - is on the horizon from Toyota as is a battery-powered Jeep, sports car and minivan from Chrysler.

       Honda will show you its FCX Clarity fuel-cell concept car. And new "clean diesels," now passing emissions tests in all 50 states, are being offered up by Mercedes (Bluetec -- look for a review in a few weeks), BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Acura. With the new lowest-sulfur diesel, it's a cleaner alternative than you ever imagined.

       This year, for the first time, test drives are offered by GM and Hyundai. Try out GM's new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and GMC Yukon hybrid, or Hyundai's Genesis, Sonata and Veracruz. You'll need to sign up at their displays inside.

Show_car_2010_camaro_2        A glimpse at the show car alone (pictured) is worth the trip: The 2010 Chevy Camaro, pictured here, is due out next year. Baseball's Cole Hamels, of the World-Champion Philadelphia Phillies, just received one for his perfect MVP performance. The redesign has all the DNA of the '60s version, but all the technology of today, including Brembo brakes, six-speed tranny and a 422-hp V-8 engine.

       When you're done with that, check out one of the earlier Camaros at the Memory Lane exhibit: a 1980 Chevy Camaro Z-28 Coupe. Mel Mann, a past president of the Antique Automobile Club of America's South Florida Region, orchestrates a tremendous display each year of some of the finest classics and antiques in the country.

1952mercedesbenz300        The collection -- a fresh group is displayed every year -- features a 1930s Ford Model A, a '63 Corvette Stingray and a 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer sedan, also pictured, known as the premier Mercedes after World War II.

       Over at the Million Dollar Alley exhibit will be a phenomenal super car truly inspired by the jet airplane. It is the Spyker, and you'll read more about it here next week. Yes, it bears my name but, more than that, its kin can stake a claim in the first six-cylinder engine and first all-wheel-drive vehicle way back in the early 1900s. The company many years ago also built aircraft engines and Spyker's wheels bear that out: They are supported by criss-crossing propellers.

       See you at the show. You know you can't avoid it, tight economy or not. The allure of shiny steel is too strong. And there are $2 discount tickets at all McDonalds and most car dealers across South Florida. Pick 'em up on the way and enjoy the ride.

   

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Clovis Seeman

My wife and kids love going to auto shows. It's actually one of our treasured bonding moments. Yes, car aficionados would love this car show. These photos alone can certainly make them excited. There's nothing like looking at beautiful old cars while going on a trip down memory lane.

Clint Moore

Whether it's a show to unveil the latest models, or a celebration of the classy vintages or the creativity of art cars, it's great to see a gathering of cars. And perhaps it's one of the closest things to a gathering of robots... like the Transformers, in their car forms.

Mike Cornelia

I live in South Florida and absolutely love my Jeep Wrangler. It is the perfect car for this type of climate and terrain. I just had some Chrysler Jeep Service done and it runs better than ever. It is one of the most durable cars I have ever been in. I would recommend this car to anyone who lives in this region or something similar to South Florida.

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