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L.A. Auto Show for dummies: A guide for the vehicularly challenged

I’m not a car guy.

I check the air pressure on my tires every once in a while and change the oil whenever the folks at Jiffy Lube tell me I’m due. I drive a Toyota Corolla because it’s a simple, dependable car that gets good gas mileage.  I don’t need, or care for, much more.

But this week, the Los Angeles Auto Show came to town and I'm helping to cover it. The show at the L.A. Convention Center opened to the media on Tuesday and opens to the public on Friday.

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But what’s a non-car guy supposed to do at the biggest car event in Southern California -- the car capital of Earth? Here's what caught my eye, which might provide a guide for the vehicularly challenged.

1. See muscle cars

Even people who are not car people know a muscle car when they see one. I may not know what torque means (and I admit that I looked it up while I was at the show) but I know that muscle cars are a big deal to auto enthusiasts. And I know that Mustangs and Challengers are a big deal.

Ford has an exhibit to celebrate nearly 50 years of the Mustang. Nine versions of the pony car are on display, including a 1966 Mustang Shelby GT 350.

The exhibit also included the Mustang from the upcoming "Need for Speed" movie. Fans can take a picture with it.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A. Auto Show 2013

Dodge did not fall behind. It had a muscle car display of its own, which included a bright orange 1970 Dodge Challenger, a vintage “shaker.”

It also included several modern versions of the Charger and models dressed in 1970s-like attire to complete the throwback feel of the exhibit.

Even if you aren't a muscle car fanatic, you'll enjoy seeing the evolution of these classic cars.

2. Obscure cars

Walking around the L.A. Auto Show, there are a couple of cars that make you look twice ... or maybe three or four times.

The Youabian Puma is a strange kind of convertible. It’s more than 20 feet long and has monster-sized tires. It looks like a sports car, but then it’s length just throws you off. And so does its $1.1-million price tag.

Directly across from the Puma was another eye-catching exhibit courtesy of Campagna, a Quebec-based company that makes three-wheeled vehicles that are a cross between a motorcycle and Formula One cars.

The company has been around since 1995 and has sold 1,700 vehicles. They make between 150 and 250 cars a year, said Michel Paquette, vice president of sales and marketing. Their two models the T-Rex (name inspired by the first "Jurassic Park" film) and V13 start off at $57,999 and $53,999, respectively.

3. Quirky designs

Muscle and obscure-looking cars were an easy find, but I also found some cars with interesting modifications.

A car with wings, for example. Smart displayed the Jeremy Scott-designed edition of its popular energy- efficient car. The Smart Forjeremy is powered by electricity and gets just more than 60 miles on one charge. The limited edition design will be available in fall 2014 and starts at $25,000.

Toyota had some interesting designs of its own. The 2014 Toyota Highlander display had a SpongeBob SquarePants theme and included a fish tank inside the car.

The fish tank stretches the length of the car behind the two front seats and holds more than 20 species, including a starfish to represent the popular "SpongeBob" character Patrick Star.

The theme attempts to cater to the family aspect of the vehicle.

The fish tank was designed by Wayde King and Brett Raymer, co-hosts of the popular Animal Planet show  "Tanked," in which they build custom, usually larger-than-life fish tanks. The show, which will feature the building of the tank for this car, will air March 2014.

4. Race car simulators

Ford had a race car simulator, complete with three screens and seats that reacted to the action on the screen. When you go off the track or bump into your opponent’s car, your vehicle shakes as well.

For those of us who will never drive a race car, the simulator is a fun way to get a small taste of the experience.

It even comes with a countdown at the start of the race, with red lights flashing above you until they turn green and the race begins.    

Nissan also had a race simulator to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Gran Turismo, but the advantage goes to Ford’s ST simulators because of the reactive seats.

So I'm not a car guy. But a day walking around the L.A. Auto Show made me think maybe I just hadn’t given cars a chance. Most of the time I just admired the design of the cars and how they gleamed. You may not be into cars either, but no doubt you've heard of Lamborghini, Porsche or Maserati, and at this show you can stand closer than you ever will to some of these exquisite machines. That’s reason enough to go. 

Twitter: @James_Barragan

james.barragan@latimes.com

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Auto Show for dummies: A guide for the vehicularly challenged

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