Shane Thompson was in his happy place.
The resident of Zimmerman, Minn., was at the Twin Cities Auto Show earlier this week. The annual show, which continues through Sunday, is a can't-miss item on his social calendar.
"I come down every year," he said.
Thompson takes his cars very seriously — especially the 1986 Camaro that he calls "my baby." And he does baby it.
"If I have to drive it down a dirt road, you're going to be late," he warned. "I go slow."
He drives it only in the summer. And although the snow has melted early this year, his baby remains snugly tucked away in the garage.
"I won't take it out until after there's been a hard rain," he said. "I want all the salt washed off the road."
Thompson was waiting for a chance to test drive a Jeep Gladiator, one of a dozen vehicles available for patrons to take on a quick spin through the neighborhood around the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"It was a fun little drive," he reported when he finished his trip in the pickup truck. "It was nice and smooth — although it was a little weird to have the engine turn off" every time he stopped for a red light, an antipollution feature increasingly turning up on new cars,
Tim and Tina Shinko from Hudson, Wis., also took a ride, but they never left the building.
The show includes two indoor tracks — one for Jeep Wranglers and the other for Ram pickups — on which professional drivers take passengers around a course designed to demonstrate the vehicles' off-roading capabilities.
Two weeks ago, the Shinkos bought a Ram 1500 Limited, so they really didn't need a test ride. But part of the Ram track involved driving at a slow speed along a wall that was pitched at a 30-degree angle. If a truck was going to tip over while trying to cling to the side of a steep incline, they figured that it might as well be someone else's truck.
"I didn't know my truck could do that stuff," Tim Shinko said after his ride. "I learned some things about operating my truck by watching" the demo driver.
The annual auto show — No. 47, for those who are counting — includes more than 600 cars representing 35 domestic and imported brands. The prices of the cars range from $14,000 for a Mitsubishi Mirage to $236,000 for a Bentley Continental GT. (Or, if you're on a tight budget, there's the Bentley Bentayga for $400 less.)
Speaking of Bentleys, if you're looking to pamper yourself, there's Luxury Lane, featuring such other prestige names as Alfa Romeo and Maserati. If you want one of everything there, bring a check for $2 million.
New this year is Truck Country. Set up in a ballroom that is off the main display floor, it is exactly what its name says. Car show organizers report that 82% of the new vehicles sold in Minnesota fall under the truck designation, which includes pickups, SUVs and crossovers (an SUV built on a passenger car chassis). So don't be surprised if the room gets a little crowded.
(There are plenty of trucks in the main show, too, plus they're lined up in the halls. If you can't find a truck cab to climb into, you're not much of a Minnesotan.)
Speaking of getting inside cars, a display sponsored by the State Patrol provides a look at the inner workings of a trooper's vehicle. If you're going to see the inside of a cop car, this is the way to do it.
Other areas focus on classic and antique cars, electric vehicles and accessories, from cleaning products to caps promoting your favorite manufacturer.
And while it doesn't have anything to do with cars, as part of a national advertising campaign involving dogs, Subaru is hosting a pet adoption area, which is particularly popular with youngsters. Even if you don't leave the show with a four-wheel-drive truck, you still can go home with a four-legged best friend.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392
Twin Cities Auto Show
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sun.
Where: Minneapolis Convention Center.
Admission: $12, $8 for ages 11-15, free for kids 10 and under.