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Glimpse of the future keeps Chicago Auto Show fans coming back

When Fred Cleary first began visiting the Chicago Auto Show back in the 1970s, he’d enjoy getting a peek at the futuristic concept cars on display — he just never thought they’d be built.

These days, the auto show veteran finds such space-age concept cars are either in the works, or they simply need an enthusiastic response from someone like Cleary to become a reality.

“It kind of gives you that feeling like, you know, your input means something,” said Cleary, 63, of Evanston.

A glimpse of the automobile’s future again lured crowds to McCormick Place for the end of the 2016 Chicago Auto Show on Sunday.

People packed into the convention center’s North and South halls to savor automobiles of all colors, sizes, shapes and prices. Many stood in lines to take test rides or sit behind the wheel of luxury brands.

Engines revved in the background. Camera phones were always at the ready.

One concept car on display — the Toyota FV2 concept car — promised to connect physically and even emotionally with its driver, gauging the driver’s mood and suggesting destinations.

Toyota FV2 concept car. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Toyota FV2 concept car. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Sandra Travis of Harvey said she hadn’t been to the auto show in 16 years. But concept cars like these helped lure her back.

“I enjoyed it 16 years ago, and I thought it was time for me to see it again,” Travis said.

The last time Travis visited the auto show, she said she wound up buying a new Monte Carlo.

Mark Bilek, a spokesman for the auto show, said that’s not so uncommon. In fact, he said 68 percent of the people who attend the auto show will wind up buying a new car in the next year.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

2017 Fiat 124 Spider. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Bilek declined to talk about attendance. But he said exhibitor offerings such as test drives, virtual reality goggles and a glimpse at upcoming technology make the auto show a great family experience.

“People think ‘auto show,’ they think cars on carpet,” Bilek said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth in Chicago.”

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Car enthusiasts packed the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Sunday, the last day of the show. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Car enthusiasts packed the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Sunday, the last day of the show. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times