Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep at the 2015 New York Auto Show

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Maxwell Motors launched an advanced new car, priced in the “moderately premium” range, at the New York Auto Show, back in 1924. In recent years, the company has usually shown at least one new car, truck, or Jeep at the show — but this year was an exception, with the pipeline temporarily dry. Instead, Chrysler had executives available for media interviews on the first day, then relied on its new cars and concepts from recent shows, and a couple of interactive experiences, to get attention.

racing simulator

We were offered a drive back to Penn Station in a black car. Though it had official TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) tags, the price, on inquiry, was $20. A taxi cost around $4.50 (even with a generous tip, far less). Likewise, one cart demanded $5 for a hot dog, relenting after a brief argument and giving $3 change. It’s usually better to avoid the “black cars” — and definitely avoid them if they do not have official license plates.

We tried out the racing simulator, which used a real Dodge Charger body that had tactile feedback through various motors, pumps, and such — including raising the rear end when one hit the brakes. It was still an unreal experience, not because of the three-paned viewscreen, but because the car, as programmed, had surprisingly little traction, a nonfunctional speedometer, little steering feedback, and not as much audible feedback as one would like. The top scorer had played a number of times to get a feel for the setup; on first “race,” though, finishing was hard for all of us. Harder, indeed, than driving a Hellcat Charger on a real rainy track — especially since the real Charger recovers with surprising speed when one lets off the gas.

TJ in the simulator

Before trying that out, we did the 200 “immersive experience,” using Oculus headsets. This was rather fun and well done; the resolution was old-television-quality, but it was a true full-range setup, so after a minute or two of acclimatization, that faded into the background. The system took apart the car, virtually, to show the frame; and you could look to the right (oddly not seeing the passenger who was definitely there in reality), down (through your legs), up, and behind. Our main disappointment there was having more lead-in and lead-out and less actual watching the experience of seeing the body put together and welded, then cleaned and painted. It was, overall, a unique experience, though some of those leaving seemed rather disappointed — perhaps they were expecting HD, or the full 200 construction video without any sales chatter.

dodge area

Upstairs, Chrysler brands were in the back left corner; this year, Chrysler and Dodge sat next to each other, with Maserati and Alfa Romeo having neighboring spaces on the opposite side of Kia and Chevrolet, quite a distance away.

Chrysler came first, followed by Dodge. Each brand had a large monitor against the wall showing recent videos, including the popular “Dodge brothers racing each other in increasingly new muscle cars” spot — enjoyable even if you know that the cars they made were far from speedy even at the time they were made (the 1922 Dodge Brothers car we tried out, for example, had a top speed of around 35 mph, and did not like being there).

maserati

Maserati’s display was similar to Chicago, but seemed larger in New York, which is odd since the Javits Center is, while larger than in years past thanks to the new North Hall, still much smaller than McCormick Place. The most popular Maseratis are now loosely based on the large Chryslers, though with many differences, including just using a (loosely Pentastar-based) twin-turbo V6 or modified 3-liter VM turbo on the Ghibli, and a completely different front suspension.

maserati open top

At the risk of alienating those who are waiting for the Rams and Jeeps, we’re going to take a look at some of the Alfa Romeos on display. Missing in action are the cars that Alfa Romeo was perhaps best known for in this country — the Milano, with its crooked nameplates, and the Spider, with its fine record of sitting around for months at a time waiting for new parts or just the right state of tune. The new Alfa Romeo will be nothing like the old one, and the company would probably like us to forget most of its exports to the United States.

alfa 28

Certainly, these cars show the sportiness of the older Alfa Romeos, which is expected to be reinforced not only by the revolutionary lightweight 4C but also by the upcoming midsized rear-wheel-drive lineup, reportedly made possible through platform-and-architecture sharing with Dodge. Dodge will, we suspect, not get any credit for this — which would eat into Alfa Romeo sales. Expect any publicity to say that Dodge using Alfa designs, with no mention of “shared development.”

1965 alfa romeo

1968 alfa romeo Tradale

As usual, every brand had a little stand of related accessories. This Alfa Romeo keyboard caught our eye. It appears to be Apple-ready, though Windows-capablle as well, with both alt and option keys and command and Windows keys — arranged in the proper Mac order.

alfa romeo keyboard

Getting back to the Mopars, there were a few third-party companies showing off Chrysler Corporation and Group products, including a couple of Jeep Wranglers and these vintage Mopars. The JTM ’Cuda boasts a 526 cubic inch Hemi V8, with a twin-turbo setup, capable of no less than 3,000 hp.

JTM 'Cuda

What’s different about this classic “pre Coke bottle” Dodge Charger? It has to be the 392 Hemi V8, not the original but the modern version, pumping out more power than any vintage Hemi ever did (certainly more than any first-generation Hemi), at least in factory tune. From the outside, there’s little hint of the smooth-running, fuel-efficient (for the class) engine under the hood.

charger 392

Fiat was all the way in the North Hall, past Subaru — which had the choicest displays — and Scion. Here are two of us, with the 1957 Edition Fiat 500 which Allpar will be reviewing some time in 2015.

Fiat

Ram was right by the far-left downstairs entrance, a prime spot, with Toyota taking the dead center; GM was in the center but deeper in. Ram Commercial was being highlighted, (more on that in our Bob Hegbloom interview), with the pickups clearly being highlighted; two new Laramie Limiteds were shown, along with a Power Wagon and numerous other pickups (no Rangers special edition, though it may have been delivered after press days).

ram area

One could also see the Ram display through the glass upstairs.

ram setup

It wasn’t all pickups, with several ProMasters and ProMaster Citys on display. ProMaster had two different interior upfits, with different shelves, bins, and sliding drawers to show the usefulness of the van for different groups.

promaster upfits

And then there was Jeep, which showed their entire product line, albeit with just one Patriot sitting lonely in the back, all by itself, waiting for Renegade and the new Compass to replace it. Patriot remains a good buy if you don’t pay list price, and don’t go nuts on the options. Just don’t try to buy one used, since they have surprisingly good residual values, at least in our area.

Jeep’s wallpaper is a carryover from last year.

patriot

A Jeep Willys was shown along with an “offroad modified” Cherokee with a topographical/street map of New York City on the hood decal. The Moab concepts were absent.

willys jeep

One section not to be missed was the New York City Police Department display all the way in the back of the lower hall, dominated by Fords until the department switched to Mopars — and didn’t switch back until they had to, after 1989 (even then, waiting as long as they could).

police equipment

Cases of police memorabilia were present for those who wanted to see more than cars.

Plymouth police car

Even in the early days, the New York City police weren't all Ford, as this Plymouth makes clear.

1971 Plymouth Fury

The 1971 Plymouth Fury I (the lowest trim line) was notable as the first to use the Signal 377 High Skirt revolving “bubble gum” lights, designed to be easily viewed from the front. The colors were green, black, and white, a color scheme originally created in 1938 and well out of date when it was retired in 1972. Precinct cars were slant sixes, rather underpowered but since they didn’t need to go especially fast, sufficient for the task; highway cruisers had pursuit V8 packages. A special Stewart Warner speedometer had both miles and kilometers per hour showing (precinct cars just had miles per hour).

police radio

These cars were all automatics and, not surprisingly, used Motorola radios — the slant six was usable because “you can’t outrun Motorola” (officers could radio for help to catch a speeder in a hot car).

1973 plymouth Fury

dashbaordThis 1973 Plymouth Fury, with the 400 engine and automatic, was notable for a few reasons: it was the first year of the famed (and much more modern) blue-and-white paint scheme with snazzy wide stripes; it was the first year for air conditioned patrol cars; and it used electronic sirens, with both hi/low-toned and “yelp” sounds. They were also the first ones not marked with precincts or command numbers, though these returned for 1978. Again, highway units used special speedometers with miles and kilometers per hour, and precincts used mile-per-hour gauges. They had more modern light-bars on the roof to go with the new sirens and, as usual, Motorola radios.

police volare

A New York City Police Plymouth Volare was also on display. This package was more popular in Canada, presenting the polive with a smaller, lighter car that was much more fuel-efficient. It was replaced by the rather similar but far more popular Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury, which became the standard New York City police car until production ended in 1989. Then the Caprice took over, long after the “M-bodies” were no longer made, and when the Caprices finally quite, the department went to the sole traditional police car available, the Ford Crown Victoria. Today, New York City uses a variety of police cars, following Mayor Bloomberg’s dictate that fuel mileage take greater precedence.

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Overall, FCA did a very credible show, aided by third parties who showed off custom cars. While the company may be integrated, the brand images are far apart, and it made sense for Fiat to be banished to the North Hall with Scion, Subaru, and Mitsubishi; and for Alfa and Maserati to take their place among the premium cars, alongside Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac, and McLaren. Since most visitors had to pass “Camp Jeep,” Jeep’s position in the back of the basement was less important — most Jeeps were out running the course in full sight of the public, who could engage in the roller-coaster-and-jiggle rides (see our video).

Camp JeepCompetitors • Al Gardner (Chrysler) • Bob Hegbloom (Ram)Press Kits

The New York Auto Show is held at the Javits Center, which is around six blocks from Penn Station, four from the midtown ferry, and one from the M42 bus line, though we don’t recommend that for out-of-towners. The adventurous can also try to reach it by subway, and you can catch a taxi from Penn or the Port Authority bus terminal (please tip well for the short trip). Public show dates are April 3-12; the show opens every day at 10 am, and closes at 10 pm except on Sundays (7 pm). The cost is $16 anyone 13 and older, $7 for children under 13; there are discounts for adult groups of 20 or more, and for child groups of 10 or more. At the outside carts, hot dogs should be $2 and chicken kabobs, $4. Annual public attendance is over one million, and the display area is now 950,000 square feet.

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