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Biggest Auto Show Of All – The Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall

Today’s feature is a series of photos of the 1960 Detroit Auto Show that was held at the new Cobo Hall on November 14, 1960. The facility was built on the shores of the Detroit River in the southwestern portion of downtown Detroit located between Jefferson and Washington Avenues,Michigan Highway M-10 passes under it.

The Convention Center was designed by architect Gino Rossetti and it took four years of construction to complete, it debuted in the fall of 1960. The facility was recently restored and expanded in size, with a name change to the Cobo Center.

The photos are courtesy of the Wayne State University Archives.

Detroit Auto Show Cobo Hall 1960-2

  • Based on the size of the crowds of people in the photos these images may have been taken on the opening day of the show for the public.

Detroit Auto Show - Cobo Hall - Chevy-1960-2

  • The display of the new 1961 Chevrolet models jammed with visitors – note the “Wheels of Freedom” display with various automakers cars on the unique stage on the upper left of the photo.

Detroit Auto Show - Cobo Hall -1960-3

  • Visitors exiting the highway at the show, with a commercial parking lot visible in the foreground.

Detroit Auto Show - Cobo Hall -1960-5

  • Stylists working on a clay model – note that unlike today all of the men are wearing a coat and a tie.

Detroit Auto Show - Cobo Hall -1960- 7

  • A portion of the trucks on display at the Auto Show.


38 responses to “Biggest Auto Show Of All – The Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall

  1. Of interest in the Lead Photo, behind the ’59 Mercury in the far lane a ’60-ish Simca Vedette.

    In Item 1 of 5, a ’60 Dodge Dart taxi on the left driving past a ’59 or ’60 Continental convertible with the rear of a ’55 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman seen on the right.

    In Item 2 of 5 on the “Wheels of Freedom” dais could be a white “short deck” ‘61 Cadillac Series 63 Town Sedan ahead of a ’61 Dart Phoenix convertible.

    In Item 3 of 5, a ’56 Lincoln Coupe on the side street. Up front in the row behind the ’59 Ford Ranch Wagon, sandwiched between a pair of Corvairs a ’60 Mercury and a ’59 Pontiac Bonneville, both 4-door hardtops…and a ’60 Valiant wagon in the row to the right

    In Item 5 of 5 a striped-roof Jeep Surrey.

    • Correction: in Item 1 of 5, the white Cadillac on the dais appears to have the wide C-pillar of a 60 Special Fleetwood…the short-deck Town Sedan as well as the regular Series 62 had a considerably narrower C-pillar than seen here.

  2. Interesting opening night shot . Nice Corvette, a pair of 1960 Pontiacs, a 1960 Bel Air 2door sedan with full wheel covers.
    Great photo of stylitis working on a clay model during the show. Judging from the Consumer Resesrch sign in the background, I wonder how much input from the public was taken seriously at the show .Last picture is interesting showing a full line trucks on display. Great photos! Thanks, John

  3. In item 3 of 5, the black sedan at the bottom right sitting in the parking lot and not fully shown appears to be a 1959 Buick and probably the new Le Sabre model. Four cars up from it is the less common Buick “flat top” design that looks like it is a 1960 model having smaller fins.

    • MP, I believe the black car in the lower right corner is a ’60 Cadillac Series 62 or de Ville 6-window 4-door hardtop…note the vertical fin with slim taillight and oval-shaped bumper cap on the corner. This roof on a Buick was only available on the C-body Electra models, not the B-body LeSabre or Invicta.
      The flat top 4-window hardtop, as seen on the ’59 Olds next to it and the ’60 Buick seen further down, was also available on the Cadillacs for the same price, but was considerably less popular; in ’59: 23K to 14K and in ’60: 27K to 10K.

      • Pat with all due respect that car cannot possibly be a Cadillac, as the four door 1960 Caddy whatever the model was an enormous car having a wheel base of 130 inches and a length of 225 inches. The black car in the parking lot is much smaller than that as you will note that it is virtually the same size as the Oldsmobile sitting next to it. And as for the model, I double checked on the internet and as far as I could make out the roof is exactly the same as the LeSabre (as well as the other) models. It looks like that car either had a really bad paint job or else got scraped up badly on its right side. I never cared much for that design and neither did the public, as they didn’t sell very well and in 1961 Buick completely redesigned all their models and with much better results. Thanks though for the input, it was appreciated.

      • I am with pat on this one. The fin and rear bumper can not possibly be a Buick. I don’t know or care to research rooflines on specific models but that back end is totally 60 Cad.

        • You may well be right, that car just seemed to be too small to be a ’60 Cadillac but looks -as far size – can be deceiving. sometimes.

  4. First photo, second car in the far lane is a Simca Vedette, with a V8 engine derived from the Ford V8-60. 1960 was several years before Chrysler bought Simca, so I’m not sure why it’s here.

  5. In the 4th picture [3rd expandable photograph], in the center of the parking lot & just beyond the man with a white shirt, is a 1960 VALIANT station-wagon. There is a 1958 CHEVROLET just beyond this VALIANT and a ’58 CHEVROLET Bel Air forward of it.

    • In the same picture, in the lower right corner, is a dark four-door 1960 CADILLAC [Six Window], either a Sixty-Two Sedan or Sedan DeVille.

  6. In the 3rd photograph [2nd expandable picture], on a turn-table on the far right, is a 1961 CHECROLET Impala Convertible which could be a Super Sport.

  7. I love that ’59 or ’60 Corvette with the optional hardtop. Notice the kids looking at it in their cool 1960 Chevy Biscayne 2 door. Even though it’s the base Biscayne it could be ordered with many options including a fuel injected 283 or the big block 348. I had the same Biscayne back in 1962 in black with the fuel injection V/8.

    • I’ve also noticed that unlike the popular “Ford” Thunderbird just about nobody ever says “Chevrolet” Corvette but just simply “Corvette”. It would imagine that the reason is that’s its really hard to put the high priced and classy Corvette in the same class as the low priced Chevrolet. But if you had enough money to buy one, the place to go would be your local Chevrolet dealer.

    • I did not know that Chevy had the fuelie 283 in 1962 or that they put that or, more likely, the fuelie 327 in the big cars. I was under the impression they were limited to Corvettes in the early 60’s. Could be wrong though. I also haven’t been able to find that option in the 1962 Chevy Brochure or even the 1961. I thought the higher performance options at that time were the 348 versions in 61 and bigger brother 409 versions in 62.

      • Mad Dog: Your right . Sorry my Biscayne was a 1959 283 with F.I. in 1960. Your right it was the last year for Fuel injection in the passenger car. The car was raced at both Islip and Westhampton L.I. tracks in the early 60’s.

        • Must have been pretty hot Keith! I have read that fuelie 327’s were replaced by the 396 for only a minuscule improvement in performance and much more weight over the front end. Finding someone to maintain the system was the key to long life as well. I liked the 59’s more than the 60 Chevies, good choice!

  8. Wow! How times have changed. Everyone dressed to the nines. You’d have to go to Pebble Beach concours to see classy attire at a car event today.

  9. Don’t understand the Jeep logo under the Japanese torii gate in the last photo.Maybe every so often a Sumo guy would hit it with a club and it would go BONNNGG!! and everyones attention would be diverted to the Jeep exhibit.
    Half the sale is first getting the customer’s attention.

    • Not a Torii. Just someone’s version of an oriental gong stand. Torii’s in front of Shinto Shrines have a bit different design.

    • Nothing quite that exotic. If you cast your eye over to the left side of the Jeep exhibit you’ll see signage for “Hong Kong,” a tv series starring Rod Taylor. Jeep was a sponsor.

  10. Interesting how many hardtops of both types in the views, and how few American Motors cars are seen. It looks like the optimistic times I remember, when Detroit could do no wrong. Naïve, weren’t we?

    Wonder if the Simca driver came over from Canada for the show?

  11. 2nd pic, it appears Detroit used 1960 Dodges for police cars. I thought that Simca may have been a Hudson. Naturally, the last pic is the most interesting to me. Way in the back, looks like a GMC bus, in the Ford/White area. Ford C series with the cab tilted. Coming closer to us, the focus was on panel van delivery and all the big companies made them including White and Jeep. I see a C series Dodge semi tractor, which would have been new for ’61, and a White ( or Diamond Reo with the older style cab). Jeep was huge then, and a rare FC too. Across the way, is an IH V 190. I’ve seen this group of pics before, and I believe the “Hong Kong” was some kind of trip giveaway. I remember going to the auto shows at Wis. State Fair Park with my old man, one of the few automotive venues he took in. It sure was an exciting time.

  12. About everyone being dressed up with cost and tie…
    The photos might have been taken on a day when industry-types were encouraged to attend (and therefore might run into bosses and colleagues), in other words, a day when you wouldn’t see casual attendees with families and kids having some fun in a weekend.

  13. 1. Photos taken different days. In 90s-00s, when I knew a big at a big, I was invited to Charity Previews. Detroit’s Oscar Night. Everyone drove in from Hills and Shores. Everyone drank/dined. Everyone dressed. If not like in ’61.

    2. Willys Surrey promo involved “Hong Kong” and “Maverick” on ABC TV. Kaiser Aluminum was the lead sponsor.

    3. Lack of AMC and of Studebaker on the street.

    4. GM didn’t help with the confusion. “Flat top” and “Sweep Roof” and 4-window hardtops with 4 and 6. And the short-deck business. Cadillac offered “extended-deck’ models in ’56-’57 (8.5″ longer), extended the decks of ’58s and then sold two short-decks (7” shorter) for ’61 ,down to just one for ’63 and then Park Avenue became a Buick.

  14. The “Wheels of Freedom” display photo shows a 1961 Impala convertible on a turntable in the background (right side). I believe it might be a factory custom job since it is displayed on a turntable, but perhaps it is a regular production car. There was a specially-built Impala convertible called simply the Impala Special that was displayed at that year’s GM Motorama. It was pearl white, had bucket seats, console, and wire wheels. I presume it was shown at other venues, too. The car pictured on the turntable is definitely not white, so that is not the Impala Special.

  15. In the 7th picture it show the Jeep display. Would there be any way to find out what color the Jeep Surrey is in the photo? I was told it was a yellow Surrey (1 of 1) How would I find out, or who may I contact for information? Thanks Rick

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